Thunderbolt / 24″ ACD Issue – My resolution

September 19, 2011 at 7:15 pm Leave a comment

Here’s my experience, and my resolution.

To recap the issue:  Whenever a 24″ ACD is attached to a Thunderbolt port, strange issues start.  The screen blacks out for a 1/2 second or so at random, there are graphical glitches, and other snafus.  This may not sound bad, but it’s so amazingly annoying.  I don’t know if you can actually understand how annoying it is, until you’ve experienced it yourself.  Some report only seeing the problem occasionally.  Other reports seem to indicate that the problem gets worse over time.

What I did:  I opened a ticket with Apple about the problem.  Since my 24″ ACD is over 2 years old (and therefore too late for support), I made sure that my engineer understood that the 24″ ACD works fine on my old iMac and on another Mini, and that only when it is combined with my new 2011 Mac Mini does it have problems.  I actually had my 24″ ACD on an older model Mini for about a week after I first experienced the problems with my 2011 Mini.  The engineer went after the 2011 Mini as the problem, which works since it’s still under support.  He went down the path to do a hardware capture on my Mini (send a new machine to replace my “bad” machine).  I knew that wasn’t going to help, but let him go with it.  Before anything was to be shipped, he had me run a program on my Mini to collect data about it, and they sent the data to the engineering department to get approval for the hardware capture.  Initially, it sounded like he expected to hear back quickly, but it actually took almost a week before he heard back.  The time waiting was a bit frustrating as I wasn’t hearing anything back from the tech, even when I was leaving voice mails and sending emails.  I ended up calling in to support again, talking to another tech, before finally hearing back from my original tech with the engineering news.

Newsflash from Engineering:  They are aware of the issue and they don’t want to do a hardware capture, saying they are working on a firmware fix. I was told that there was nothing Apple could do for me.

Beta Firmware rumor:  I mentioned the beta firmware that people have mentioned on the support forum, and was basically told that AppleCare doesn’t have access to beta firmware.  (Perhaps the two people reporting the beta firmware were given it by engineering?  This option wasn’t offered to me.  I’d hate to think they were just trolling, though.)

My reasonable request:  I told the tech that I was very unhappy to have an extremely expensive monitor that was essentially unusable to me.  I wanted the problem to be gone, and I didn’t care if I had to spend a little money to get it that way.  I offered to pay the price difference to upgrade to a 27 inch ACD, as that model isn’t known to have this problem.  He couldn’t authorize that, but he offered to contact Customer Care and discuss the situation with them.  When he called me back, as a good-will gesture, Apple offered to credit me my original purchase price, and allowed me to pay the price difference to upgrade to a newer display.

My result:  Overall, this has been very frustrating, but I think that I’ll ultimately be happy with my end result.  I’ll have a brand new, top-of-the-line 27″ Apple Thunderbolt display for a net cost of about $200, plus the trade-in of ole’ blinky.

Side note:  Until I attached my 24″ ACD to my 2011 Mac Mini, it had been an excellent monitor, easily the best that I’ve owned.  Prior to this, the only issue I’ve had with it has actually been an audio problem when attached to my iMac.  In that case, the audio started getting distorted after several minutes of playing.  When on my 2011 Mini, or another Mini, I never had that problem.

Remember, AppleCare Techs are people too:  They are technically minded telephone support people.  They probably spend hour after hour every day on the phone dealing with fairly common problems.  This problem may be the most interesting one they hear about all day.  You may be awesome enough to disassemble and reassemble an iMac blindfolded with no tools, but don’t try to take the drivers seat in troubleshooting.  If you come across as someone unwilling to listen to their recommendations, they will be less willing to help you.

If you are having the Thunderbolt/24″ ACD blink problem:  My advice is to keep calling Apple and stay friendly.  Be willing to work with them, even if you know what they are suggesting won’t fix the problem (but don’t tell them what you think)!  Be patient with them.  This will probably be a multi-week process.  Don’t try to come off as if you know more than they do (especially if you do)!  After going through the steps they ask of you, and allowing them to come to the conclusion that they can’t fix the problem right now, then you can ask for a concession.  Let them know you are frustrated by the issue and tired of dealing with it, and offer to pay to upgrade to a newer monitor.  They almost certainly will tell you that they can’t, but ask if there is anyone else they can get with about it, like customer relations.  If you’ve worked with the tech in good faith, been friendly about it, and ultimately have a request like that, they are much more likely to try to accommodate you than if you come across as unreasonable, demanding know-it-all.

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Entry filed under: Mac.

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