My Sony Vaio just caught fire

Much funnier when it happens to someone else

Sony logoTRUST ME WHEN I say that things catching on fire, like your laptop while you are in bed, are much funnier when they happen to someone else. I say trust me because my Sony Vaio laptop did catch fire while I was in bed about a week ago.

On Sunday, December 19, I was sitting in bed half awake, surfing the net instead of getting up and doing something productive. That is what weekends are for, right? My first clue was a large puff of grey-black smoke billowing up from the left side of the laptop. No, seriously, one minute lolcatz, the next OMFGfire!!!!1!!

As Richard Pryor said, “Fire is inspirational“, and he was right. Being surrounded by flammable materials, blankets, pillows, cats and the like, make it all the more inspirational. To say I leap out of bed would be an understatement, and I quickly yanked the power chord from the laptop, followed by pulling the battery out. It was unusually hard to remove, and the area around the power plug was so hot it was painful.

The smoke quickly subsided, and it was clear that with power removed, things were not going to escalate further. The aftermath was quite a bit shy of the Dell ‘Firebomb 3000’ models of the mid-2000’s, ironically caused by Sony batteries, but still scary. The hilarity of watching that story unfold from the inside at The Inquirer was lacking, replaced by a lot of adrenaline.

Melted bits

This should be a flat bottom

This part may not look that bad, but it is heavy plastic, and the whole thing is seriously distended and warped. The pieces right above the metal plate are warped and no longer fit flushly. On the other side, the seams between the plastic chunks have no gaps in them at all.

Battery melted

Note the battery damage

The scarier part is the battery, it fits in to the gap and presses right up against that spot. Remember when I said it was very hard to remove? The plastic of the laptop had warped enough to press against it, and things had gotten hot enough to melt the plastic case of the battery itself. Lithium ion batteries take to flame like barrels in Doom take to bullets. Really, things go boom awfully quickly. Had I not been around at the time this happened, say going to get a drink or breakfast, I probably would not have a house any more.

The worst part about this is that the laptop was on the proverbial hard and well ventilated surface, a Lapworks Furtura. Remember kiddies, when in bed, always practice safe computing. Always use a hard surface, and avoid Sony products if you value your house, cat, or children.

Funny as this may seem, from the outside, it gets funnier. The first thing I did was try to get in touch with Sony support to express my dissatisfaction. I got on their support web chat, and to say that the response I got was underwhelming would be quite the understatement.

The following is the chat transcript from the, err, totally unconcerned Sony representative. The only edit to it is remove one company name and information, the laptop was a review unit. Other than that, the chat log is unedited.

eSupport Chat Transcript

Shanon_ > Welcome to Sony Online Support. I see by your model number that your Computer is out of warranty.  
Sony phone support cannot provide you with any free technical support, but Sony has provided a way for you to
obtain 15 minutes of free chat support. We’ve been solving more than 50% of the issues during these free periods.
If your particular issue is more complex and can’t be fully resolved by the end of the free 15 minutes, then you will
have the option of paying to continue the Support session.
Shanon_ > Hi Charlie. I'm Shanon. Please allow me a moment to review your concern. Charlie Demerjian > How do you know my product is out of warranty? It wouldn't let me input a **** model #? Shanon_ > Thanks for waiting, Charlie. I’ll be glad to assist you with your concern. Charlie Demerjian > And phone support offers me a survey about my satisfaction when I call, then hangs up. Shanon_ > VGNTZ150N is the Model # of the Computer having the issue. Am I correct? Charlie Demerjian > No, it is a VGN-TZ22VN/X Charlie Demerjian > There was no option for that when I got on the web site Charlie Demerjian > It insisted I pick from a list that did not contain my model Charlie Demerjian > Irrespective of the model number, it really should not catch on fire. Shanon_ > Did you purchasse the Computer having the Model # VGN-TZ22VN/X in US? Charlie Demerjian > I was given it by [removed], the company that makes the [removed]. I have zero idea where
they bought it, but it was brand new, I opened the seal.
Shanon_ > VGN-TZ22VN/X Model # found on the Sony Europe website. Charlie Demerjian > I am in the US, and the product was given to me and used in the US Shanon_ > We are Sony USA, and we have information about the models manufactured in USA. Shanon_ > Sony in each country/region is responsible for the design, manufacture, sales and support of their own units. Charlie Demerjian > And why would this NOT be a US model? Charlie Demerjian > And how should I know what country it is from? Charlie Demerjian > And if it is not a US model, what should I do about that? Charlie Demerjian > You seem to be more concerned with the fact that the laptop isn't US based than the fact
Charlie Demerjian > Minor point, I know, but it does concern me. Shanon_ > Charlie, it is requried to contact the purchase country to get the issue resolved with the computer. Shanon_ > I would like to forward a link to a page where you can contact the purchase country. Shanon_ > When you receive the link, please let me know. Shanon_ > Charlie Demerjian > OK, so my laptop catches fire, and you are concerned with the country of origin?!? Really? Wow. Charlie Demerjian > That said, I got the link. Charlie Demerjian > It is not clickable Charlie Demerjian > And you can't copy and paste the text from the window. Shanon_ > I'll forward this chat transcript to your email ID for your reference. Shanon_ > Please contact the purchase country to get the issue resolved. Shanon_ > close3 Shanon_ > Good-bye and thank you for contacting Sony Online Support. Shanon_ > Analyst has closed chat and left the room
Email sent at: 3:34:14 PM, 12/19/2010

What can I say. Sony was 100% unconcerned that their products just caught fire while in use, had the potential to burn down my house, and caused me more than a little elevated blood pressure. Sony support however was extremely concerned that I might be trying to claim a warranty for a foreign Sony product in the US. So much for their claims about world wide warranties, eh?

In the end, “Shanon_” didn’t help at all, and cut me off after giving me a link that was not clickable, cut and pasteable, or much else. Really, Sony effectively hung up on me because couldn’t tell them what country the laptop, a review unit, was purchased in. Fire? Nah, not Sony’s problem.

Needless to say, the link above takes you to a ‘pick your country’ screen. When the US is picked, it brings me back to the same support site that introduced me to ‘Shanon_’. I had this sneaking suspicion that if I followed the same links, things would go recursive in short order.

Not wanting to take, “Ha-ha, we got your money, enjoy the smoke” for an answer, I decided to brave the rigors of phone support. There I got a whole different response. The people seemed concerned, and actually seemed to want to honor the warranty. Progress I think.

Sony Sucks 

Yes they do

I will keep updating this story with any updates, or lack thereof, about the laptop, and what becomes of it. I am documenting what was sent to them carefully, and we will see what is returned. In the mean time, I leave you with a picture of the case. I had “SUCKS” laser etched into the carbon fiber lid when parts started flaking off the machine after two days of use, something I don’t expect from a flagship model. With the events of last week, it has taken on a whole new meaning.S|A


Editor’s note:  All pictures copyright of SemiAccurate exclusively, AP, this means you, failure to comply with our copyright policy will result in contact with Righthaven’s more competent brethern.

The following two tabs change content below.

Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also available through Guidepoint and Mosaic. FullyAccurate