An Ohio couple has sued Acer America Corp., accusing the computer maker of deceiving customers by claiming that laptops with just 1GB of memory can run Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Vista, according to court documents.
They have asked the judge to grant the case class-action status.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco last Wednesday, Lora and Clay Wolph said that the Aspire notebook they bought in April 2008 “would not run properly” and would constantly freeze or crash when they tried to run Vista Home Premium.
The Aspire 4520-5458 notebook, which the Wolphs purchased for US$586 from Wal-Mart, included 1GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce 610M integrated graphics chip set, which grabs some of the system memory for its own use.
“Acer’s defective notebooks are inherently defective in that they do not contain enough RAM to properly run Vista Premium despite being promoted and sold as a bundled product of both a notebook computer and a premium operating system,” the Wolphs’ lawsuit alleged.
“As a result, the defective notebooks experience serious problems, including, but not limited to, freezing during use, crashing, requiring frequent restarts and experiencing slow load times.”
The Wolphs said they had to upgrade the Aspire to 2GB of RAM at an out-of-pocket cost of $157 to make the notebook usable.
Acer technical support dismissed their problems, according to the Wolphs’ lawsuit.
“Acer responded: ‘If the system does not run properly, please note that Windows Vista recommended requirements for the memory is 1GB of system memory.
However, the minimum requirements is [sic] 512MB of memory in which your system is pre-installed with. This means that the system is still able to run Windows Vista properly.”
Some of the arguments made by the Wolphs have been voiced by plaintiffs’ lawyers in the ongoing “Vista Capable” lawsuit, which has claimed that the entry-level Vista Home Basic is not the “real” Vista.
“While a computer needs, at a minimum, 512MB of RAM just to install Vista (whether Basic or Premium), the additional elements of Windows Vista Premium, such as the Aero Glass interface (a key component of Vista Premium) and the Media Center, cannot function without additional memory,” the Wolphs’ suit said.
“As such, Microsoft provides ‘recommended minimum system requirements’ for Vista Premium so that users can experience the full functionality of the operating system and all of its components without experiencing problems.”
Microsoft’s recommended system requirements, the Wolphs argued, spell out that a machine must have 1GB of RAM and 128MB of graphics memory to run Home Premium.
But because the Aspire shares system memory with the graphics chip set, the machine has less than 800MB of free RAM to run Vista, which they claimed is insufficient.
“Acer’s defective notebook computers, which have a total of 1,024MB RAM and dedicate approximately 256MB of [that] to graphics, are left with only 768MB of system memory to run the operating system,” the Wolphs said.
Concerns about Vista’s memory requirements surfaced almost immediately after its January 2007 launch.
A Computerworld article, which was cited in the Wolphs’ suit, quoted an IBM consultant who said Vista would deliver performance inferior to XP with just 512MB of available system memory.
Microsoft’s on-the-box minimum RAM requirement “really isn’t realistic,” according to David Short, the Big Blue consultant who works in its company’s Global Services Divison.
He said users should consider 4GB of RAM if they really want optimum Vista performance. With 512MB of RAM, Vista will deliver performance that’s “sub-XP,” he warned.
Short has been beta-testing Vista for two years. His XP system has 2GB of RAM, which he calls the “sweet spot” for that operating system, but on Vista, 4GB of RAM may be closer to its “Nirvana,” he said.
That’s due in part to Windows SuperFetch, which takes data from the hard drive, stores it in the available RAM and makes it readily accessible to the processor.
SuperFetch depends a great deal on user predictability and takes snapshots of user activity. If SuperFetch determines that an application is launched at a particular time, it will have it loaded into the available RAM. With more RAM, there’s more caching and better software response, said Short.
Some computer makers, including Dell Inc., recommended 2GB of memory for machines running Vista.
Hardware vendors, of course, will offer systems built on Microsoft’s minimum hardware requirements called “Windows Vista Capable,” configured with 512MB of system memory and a processor that is at least 800MHz. But their heart may not really be in it.
For instance, Dell offers a Windows Vista Capable configuration that isn’t capable of much, according to what Dell says about it on its Web site: “Great for … Booting the Operating System, without running applications or games.”
Dell recommends 2GB of system memory.
Microsoft may be using PCs loaded with 4GB of RAM for some of its customer demos; At least that’s what Ann Westerheim, president of Ekaru LLC, reports.
A Microsoft representative recently demonstrated Vista on a system with 4GB of system memory to some of its customers, and the performance was so impressive that it drew some “ohs and ahs” from the audience, said Westerheim.
The Westford, Mass.-based company provides technology services for small and midsized business.
Westerheim said that for her personal use, she may configure a system with 2GB of RAM, only because of the cost of loading 4GB on a laptop.
Mueez Deen, director of graphics memory and consumer DRAM at Samsung Electronics, also recommends 2GB of RAM, calling that amount the “optimal density for the complete Vista experience — economically and technologically.”