After Hours

Packard Bell lives!

A recent poll of TR members voted Packard Bell the worst PC manufacturer of all time. Surprise! Packard Bell is still alive in Europe and is now part of Acer.

A while back I did a poll of TechRepublic members to see who they felt was the worst PC maker ever. The results weren't even close. Packard Bell won in a landslide, with 52% of the vote.

At the time, I mentioned that I was going to exclude companies that were still in business, which meant that I left off companies such as HP, Lenovo, and Acer. Well, it turns out that we may have to redo the vote, because Packard Bell still exists too.

TechRepublic member devlin-X brought the sad news in a comment left on the original blog post:

Hate to break it to you but...
Packard Bell is still a computer manufacturer. They just don't sell systems in the United States.

http://www.packardbell.com

Funnier still I just did a search and guess who owns Packard Bell now? Acer!

http://crave.cnet.com/8301-1_105-9881145-1.html

Sure enough. I checked the site, and Packard Bell still lives. They retreated from the U.S. market and sell PCs almost exclusively in Europe. The Packard Bell Web site shows that you can even find retailers for Packard Bell products in Argentina and Chile.

Here's a look at one of the twenty-first-century Packard Bells:

What's equally interesting is that, as devlin-X says, Acer recently purchased Packard Bell. When Acer bought Gateway, it obtained the first right of refusal in any purchase of Packard Bell. Acer was very interested in obtaining Packard Bell to keep Lenovo from buying it and gaining a stronger foothold in Europe.

The irony lays in the fact that if I were going create a list of the Top 3 worst PC makers ever, I'd probably rank them

  1. Packard Bell
  2. Acer
  3. Gateway

And now they're one big, happy family.

39 comments
paulnkathy
paulnkathy

My Freind has a Packard Bell Legend 300 cd that he will not give up. I am supposed to back it up weekly but it doesn't have a usb port. Can I safely install a two port usb card in his machine without burning it up? The data on his machine really is irreplaceable. Paul paulnkathy@hotmail.com

garibaldi69@
garibaldi69@

My first computer was a laptop running, brand new, just out! (circa 1990) Dos 4.01. The laptop was a Roadrunner 386sx25. Had so many hardware problems I returned it for a full refund. My next real computer was a CompUsa 386DX25 with 1meg ram and a 40meg HD. How things have changed. I personally never owned a PB but supported many of my friends who purchased them. They were solid (Heavy) cases with crappy monitors. As long as you didn't try to get support from your local CrapMart they ran OK for their time. I have worked with all the major computer makers and really don't have a preference. I think all computers are over priced. If I buy a computer for work though I always buy the 3 or 4 year warranty so they HAVE to fix it if anything goes wrong. I have had Dell & HP fix many laptops after 2.75 years. I also have worked on Emachines (I will never own one of those machines) Talk about cheap parts, they make all others look like solid gold. And my Brother-in-law loves selling Acer laptops. He says not one of over 500 sold has been returned or had any hardware failures in the past 5 years. I usually look at the user before making up my mind on a manufacturer. Oh and I will never Buy a segate HD. I own only WD and yes I've had some problems but they have never argued about an RMA. Well my 2.5c

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

Acer's arent as bad as some people think. However, in a more critical role I dont think that they would top my list. Acers are a bit cheaper, and most will last a good amount of time. And coming to think of it, there are a few lines of 'bad' computers from other manufacturers that I have run across as well. Even in the business line of systems, and not cheap ones at that. If I were looking for a lower cost system, I would consider an Acer. Otherwise I prefer HP brand (just funny that way). I have noticed though, on many models the HP brand and Compaq brand appear identical, however the HP brand pulls in an extra $20-$50??? Same MB, Proc, video, Sound, etc..

seanferd
seanferd

I don't remember if I caught on to the idea that the vote was for extinct companies. I had to cruise all over PB Europe to try and support some older machines. They still had some relevant downloads and info, but it was far from pleasurable searching. What I didn't know was that Acer had finally acquired PB. Thanks.

mgoss
mgoss

Packard Bell was the VW of computers, as long as you don't go digging inside and mess around, for the most part they were as reliable as any other on the market at the time. Obviously back in the day I used to sell, PB, IBM, HP, Compaq , clones, as the 'Consumer-masses' PC that it was designed for it was a good box.

tyyggerr
tyyggerr

What, none of you have heard of Amstrad, also known as Amscrap? Appeared to me to be a PC-based Atari ST clone, bundled with Digital Research GEM in an upgrade-proof hardware package.

JJPEngr
JJPEngr

My only experience with Packard Bell was a 386 desktop I had in the early 1990's. It was reliable and never failed, but Windows 3.11 sucked and Packard Bell support was non-existent. In 1995 I bought a Mac and have had Macs ever since.

cory.schultze
cory.schultze

I've heard a lot of negative comments about the following machines: Acer Packard-Bell Gateway Evesham eMachines Compaq Osbourne Tiny Mesh I absolutely despise Dell! I'm glad I bought my AlienWare notebook before they started using Dell parts! The PC manufacturers I would recommend are: AlienWare Asus CyberPower Cube247 Fujitsu-Siemens Toshiba Carrera Sony Rock Time (Yes, they're back!) DFI Apple (Not technically a PC) OK, so a lot of these are custom builders, but ain't it all about getting exactly what you want for your money? The manufacturers I've yet to hear feedback about are: Medion Advent Armari Viglen Elonex Big Red Akhter NEC If anyone has, or knows of someone who has; any of the above, please let us know what you think!

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

When we ran a poll of the worst PC maker ever, Packard Bell won in a landslide. I thought they didn't exist anymore, but TechRepublic member devlin-X pointed out that they do, as I mention in Classics Rock: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/classic-tech/?p=144 Not only do they still exist, they were bought by my other least favorite PC company Acer. (We had a bad run-in with Acer when I worked at the JCPD.) Because TechRepublic is worldwide and Packard Bell no longer exists in North America, I wondered if any TR members are using modern day Packard Bells and if they've improved any?

cory.schultze
cory.schultze

I had an Amstrad CPC-464 for about 9 years, then sold it when I bought my first Intel PC. So far, the person I sold it to hasn't said anything and it's been 6 years since! I miss it terribly - it had some great games on it which I'd love to play again; perhaps someone could redevelop them for mobile Java...

rhomp2002
rhomp2002

I have not owned one but my best friend bought one about 2 years ago. He has not had any problems with it at all and it just keeps chugging along fine. My worst experience was with an old Compaq computer. What a POS that one was. Never again.

cjshelby
cjshelby

I attempted to fix one of the newer, wide-screen Sony Vaios. Headphone jack was bad, killing the sound on both the headphones and speakers. The jack is very cheap and fragile, and it would seem that Sony thinks the remedy is a whole new motherboard! Some of us tech-folk still DO know how to solder! They also don't answer their tech support e-mails. Poor support for what is pitched as a high-end laptop.

MurphysAcolyte
MurphysAcolyte

Funny, in your group of negatives, half are now part of the same company. Gateway bought eMachines a while back. A long time ago, Packard Bell bought the NEC PC line if I remember rightly. Now Acer bought Packard Bell and Gateway.

Tig2
Tig2

SO has an HP as does his Mom. They both run tolerably well. I have one too. It's junk and HP failed to honor the warranty. I replaced the HP with a MacBook Pro (Intel). I use my very old Dell for Windows tasks and the Mac for everything else. I have found it to be versatile and easy to both use and support. Your mileage may vary.

dmstenhouse
dmstenhouse

Elonex are bust, why? because they made poor quality PC's. Same goes for Evesham. I haven't seem NEC PC's for some years now, not shore they are still around. Medion arnt bad, but finding drivers for there machines is a nightmare, same with Advent. But they are cheap. I think Big Red are bust as well. I've seen Packard Bell PC's in PC World and had a go on some demo machines, and I thought they where a load of rubbish, and very very expensive for what was inside them. Look nice but don't perform.

Lizzie_B
Lizzie_B

I'm quite happy with my Gateway notebook - refurbished MX6453, AMD 64X2 Turion (TL-52), 1.6GHz with 2 GB of ram/160GB HD/dual-layer DVD burner. It's been rock-solid - no problems in the year I've had it - and it was a decent deal at $600. On average, I'd guess it gets rebooted about once a week. My sister has owned a couple of e-Machines and has been quite happy with them, too.

ewi3020
ewi3020

My 2nd PC ever was a PB 486 DX2-50. I ran it for 3 or 4 years with nothing more than replacing a BIOS battery once. I finally handed it down to the kids when I moved up to a P3-450, which, just happened to be a Gateway. The kids ran the PB for years , until I upgraded again to my current Compaq AMD XP64 box. Then the kids took over the Gateway. The Gateway is still running fine, never a problem. The PB was finally tossed just because of being old and too slow and no use left for it. But it was still running fine to the day it was last powered off. I think a lot of PBs bad rep came from the places where it was mostly sold, retail stores with little or no computer support knowledge on site. So when people did have problems, support was hard to come by. I cannot comment on PB's own support; I never had reason to use it. And I remember back in the day (P3 and earlier), before the price wars killed Gateway, that Gateway used to be one of the best made, best performing machines out there. magazines reviews nearly always had Gateways as the top performers for a particular CPU class. If we want to talk worst pc maker ever, I think you have to go back to the days when Computer Shopper magazine was as thick as a phone book, and look at all the (seemingly) fly by night brands getting sold then. Here today, gone tomorrow. Say what you want about support, but at least when you walked into the store and bought a PB or a Gateway, you DID actually get a pc. Not like all those mail order only shops that may or may not have even delivered. And I suppose there are still some of them around still today. Oh, my FIRST pc? A 286 made by....are you ready for this....MAGNAVOX! It came with Geoworks, and this was BEFORE Win3 came out. I buddy of mine had an original Mac, which blew me away - having a GUI & mouse & icons and all, when everything else then was all DOS prompts. So having Geoworks GUI, and in color, made even the Mac seem old hat. Never had a hiccup with the Magnavox either, so I guess i've just had pretty good luck with all my machines over the years.

SKDTech
SKDTech

My only measurable experience with the PB line was a secondhand 8088(yes, I mean 8088 not 8086). It ran fine for my dad up until a virus killed the harddrives and by that time it was definitely time for a new comp(mid-late 90's). I have heard bad things about many manufacturers and a bad experience with a Toshiba laptop from circa 2002 almost completely turned me off of that brand but I am happily using the Toshiba brand as my third laptop, second was an Emachine that has been passed on to my father. As far as it goes, the brands I won't touch are Dell, Gateway and HP for various reasons mainly to include proprietary hardware requirements and extreme(IMO) bloat/crapware installation. Other than that I now prefer to build my desktop units.

wesley.chin
wesley.chin

The last time I used a PacBell was in high school. I think my father still has one lying somewhere. It had a Cyrix (now Via) processor. The last thing I heard was that limited support for it would be from Europe.

elangomatt
elangomatt

My first two Windows PCs were both Packard Bell. One was a 75Mhz and the other was a 166Mhz maybe. While I was using them, we actually never had any issues at all. When the 75Mhz got handed down to my college bound brother, it died and I couldn't bring it back to life. I was quite happy with them though most of the time once I managed to get that silly Packard Bell house interface to stop loading at startup!!

vicrussell
vicrussell

my PB was a rock solid workhorse. I cannot say anything bad about it - 100MHz, upgraded to a 1MB PCI Paradise graphics, added 16MB or ram (for $126 at CompUSA!!), added a 2GB drive for $224 around '98. Ran Win95 like a champ. The only negative was it weighed a ton - steel case (not Aluminum), heavy power supply.

TheChas
TheChas

I had some trepidation when I bought it, but I have found my ACER laptop to be very useful and working well. The most surprising feature is that it did not come loaded with crap-ware. As a plus for the way I use computers, the hard drive came set up with 2 partitions. Another plus is that even though it came with Vista, I was able to download a full complement of XP drivers for it straight from ACER. Chas

MGP2
MGP2

Back in '98, I bought a Packard Bell 225Mhz multimedia PC with Win98 on it. Not only was that thing reliable, it saved my XP machine on 2 occasions. The first time was when I installed SP1 on the XP machine and it whacked my tcp stack. I used my PB to download SP1A so I could fix the XP machine. Another time was when my NTLDR file got deleted and I had to use the PB to download the Recovery Console install files. As a matter of fact, that thing still ran when I just tossed it a couple of months ago during my city's latest e-cycling day. So, you won't catch me saying anything bad about PackBell.

mjd420nova
mjd420nova

Packard Bell made a large display unit with a multiple CD drive base that was sold along with a mfgrs library to auto dealers for parts look up and an infrared sensor type touch display. I'm sure that many have been replaced with more modern stuff but it was the hottest going then... Today I've not seen any cutting edge stuff by them and have stayed away from the Acer stuff due to its bad reputation in the service quadrant.

2WiReD
2WiReD

Sony laptops = bad news anything goes wrong with any of their shoddy parts, their solution is to replace the whole mo/bo, and charge you 500 for the pleasure, when the laptop itself cost 700. of course, they wait until you send the laptop off before they decide that...

paul.simmons
paul.simmons

In high school electric shop I built a couple of 5-tube superheterodyne radios from kits. I also had to diagram the wiring from memory. Maybe the people with bad PCs are just are inept at soldering;-)

joshiggins
joshiggins

We used to have an old PB "multimedia" system, 500mhz 128mb ram with TV out and a DVD drive - can you believe that? All I can say is its a complete piece of junk. The only well manafactured bit was the keyboard (which might not have been manafactured by PB anyway). If I hear someone say Master Restore I think I might scream....

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

Jason Hiner had an Acer Ferrari in the office for a while as a test machine and it seemed like a pretty nice little machine. I've always been a little concerned about Acer equipment because the ones we got at the Police Department were nothing but junk. Half of them arrived DOA and then we lost half of the remaining ones to failure within a year. That said, Acer is still around and maybe after buying Gateway and PB they've improved. They must be doing something right to be the third largest PC maker in the world. Even so, I'd have to think long and hard before recommending one.

nwalker11
nwalker11

My first computer was a 1990's PB running at 12mhz with a 40 meg hard drive and large & small floppy disk drives. I still have the darn thing and it's NEVER let me down! As it was one of their top computers, I got it at a Service Merchandise store for around $1,200 dollars at the time. Nope, you won't find me complaining about them!

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

Wow... PB's in the mid-late 90's were notorious for being less than reliable. It's nice to hear a story about one that not only survived, but was still alive and kicking. Too bad you pitched it. It would have been a good candidate for a TR Cracking Open. :)

seanferd
seanferd

when the only corporate office sponsoring the project dies in a plane crash. The way the project worked was totally at odds with the corporate culture, so no-one wanted to be there. Still, they were required to have something by the deadline. Thanks to all this, we have open architecture computers. The only proprietary bit was BIOS, but that got worked around.

rfolden
rfolden

From the previous entry: "Use the worst possible but workable design Have it made by the manufacturer with the highest failure rate In their worst factory Have it shipped by bash em and drop em shipping Put it to use in the worst conditions you can find" This almost exactly describes the "off-the shelf" parts assembly process and delivery of the original IBM PC. :)

dcolbert
dcolbert

And 90% of the machines that were going to have problems had problems within the first several weeks of ownership, across the board. Those that worked, kept working. Most electronic components, if you gave them totally clean electricity, operating at a constant temperature, would operate without failure for years. The components that have faults are going to fry quickly. Beyond that, failures are generally caused by environmental conditions. The exceptions would be mechanical components, generally hard drives. There are always exceptions - but those are so random. During the run of bad motherboard caps, the best brands and the worst suffered failures from using cheap tiawanese capacitors rather than the more expensive Japanese ones - regardless of the perceived quality of the brand sitting on top of the machine. And, finally, most components are based on reference designs by the actual engineering manufacturer. You can look at 4 different name brands of Nvidia card, and they're all identical. Same for notebook motherboards, which are often Intel reference designs. Ultimately, it is a crap-shoot. Still, the idea that you get what you pay for has a certain truth to it.

Tearat
Tearat

Make a piece of hardware Use the worst possible but workable design Have it made by the manufacturer with the highest failure rate In their worst factory Have it shipped by bash em and drop em shipping Put it to use in the worst conditions you can find Remember this has to be limited to places and situations where pc?s actually work Not the bottom of the fishpond After all that Some of them will work and continue to work for years The funny thing is you will be able to find someone who loves to use it

lastchip
lastchip

I've found nothing wrong with my Acer laptop, other than Vista. Once I got rid of that and loaded PCLinuxOS, it runs like a dream. Superb little machine and very cheap.

dcolbert
dcolbert

That is my general impression of them. They're a "You Roll The Dice" brand. I think this generally translates into a higher failure rate than industry standard. Most of these off brands are like this. I took a gamble on a 15" GEM LCD years ago, it is still running strong - the 17" GEM I got a few months later died a year later. I just recently bought a Coby digital frame that had horrible reviews - but was REAL cheap. We'll see... On the other hand, there was a time when Seagate drives were some of the industry worst. Then for a period Fujitsu owned this title with their Deathstar line. At the same time, Thinkpad/Lenovo notebooks (each with a ticking time-bomb Deathstar drive inside) became the notebook of choice among business professionals. I owned an RCA projection TV that was infamous for dying, and sure enough, it died. I have a 32" Magnavox TV that has been going for about 12 years with no problem. I kind of wish it WOULD die so that I could justify a flat screen LCD in the bedroom. I also have an Xbox 360 that occasionally boots into the red rings of doom - but a reboot always clears it up (*knocking on wood*). And I just bought my daughter a core duo Acer notebook for $450 from Staples. It feels a little cheap, but has a lot of features that meet or blow away my 17" HP that I paid $1800 for. I owned a PB 486 DX2/66 years ago. It was cheaper than I could have made the cheapest DIY machine for myself at the time, it had decent specs, and it worked well during its lifetime. I sold it to a guy who used it for years afterwards in his insurance agency. I think that to understand PB, you have to think of them in the era of PC computing that they existed, and the market they targeted. Sears and Montgomery Wards - rural, older people. At the same time, PC DIY building and upgrading was a different beast at the time. We've seen the emergence of integrated on-board peripherals in the DIY arena since then, and at first, on-board video, sound and NIC met with a lot of resistance there. Things like IBMs PS/2 microchannel bus had been dismal failures because people insisted on ISA bus. PCI and AGP and USB and really, PnP OS solutions changed how PC users approached these issues. One thing that may have hurt PB more than anything else was their instisence on using ultra low quality monitors to drive price down. .41 dot pitch VGA monitors... they looked horrible next to .28 dot pitch monitors right next to them, and THAT is the visual interface that a person measures their PC experience through, to this day. There is no alternative to a pleasant visual experience when working with a PC. Keyboard and mouse are important and overlooked, too. But, like Gateway, Packard Bell was also one of the premier *choices* for a PC purchases during the period of time we're talking about - if anything, the demise of Packard Bell and Gateway illustrates how fickle and dangerous this industry is.

Tearat
Tearat

Are cheap The main reason they sell They also have a good distributor Funny thing about Acer some are good some are bad It depends on when and where they were made It the moment they seem to be ok One model you waited until it failed then sent it off to be repaired It came back stronger That was the power supply Damn that may have been made here in NZ

seanferd
seanferd

Still sitting in the corner, and I have the setup disks with the awesome PB Navigator desktop! Still runs, but it is already pretty much cracked open. I got tired of taking the case apart at one point, and just left the covers off.

mamies
mamies

I had a packard Bell in the late 90s and it was a dream. It would never crashed. Although their was one occasion where the Hard Disk Drive died but anything the rest of the machine was fine. It is a Pentium 3 with 512 MB RAM, I have also been able to install XP on it and use it as an XP machine but it runs best with 98. Ive heard they are bad but my experiences say that they are brilliant

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