Overdrive PC Review
by Andres Kello
Disclaimer: This review is based on my opinions and experiences.
The following is a review of, and details of my experience with, an Overdrive PC from www.overdrivepc.com.
I expect all of the above from a $600 computer, not a $4,600 computer.
In the end, this 9- month drama cost me $1,630 (return shipping + transformer + 20% they did not refund) and all I have to show for it is this page.
Verdict: I cannot stress enough how much I recommend you not buy an Overdrive PC. There are several more reputable Custom PC companies, including Alien Ware and HyperSonic, that don't treat their customers like this.
Here is the full story (it's a very long read):
After my dreadful experience buying a $4,600 computer (note: that does not include monitor, keyboard, or any peripherals), I felt compelled to warn potential customers about what they will be getting themselves into if they buy an OverdrivePC.
Towards the end of 2005, I was in the market for a new computer. Having been a student previously, I was accustomed to buying laptops. However, this time around, I wanted something a lot more powerful, so I decided to go for a desktop PC. Since I was looking to make a long-term investment, I wanted to go with the best of the best. After reading countless reviews about the benefits of custom-made PC’s, I decided to take a risk and purchase my first PC from a custom manufacturer (as opposed to one of the big players like Dell). Since I had never heard of any custom manufactuers, I had to do some reading, and read countless custom-PC review from magazines and users.different PC companies. One company caught my attention with some very good reviews: Overdrive PC. They were expensive, but seemed to be the most powerful, and therefore my best investment. After a month of researching, I finally made my decision and called Overdrive PC in mid January to order my computer. I talked to “Ryan” on the phone who was very helpful in helping me design my custom PC. Since I was aware that the custom-made PC’s by Overdrive took a full month to build, I stressed to Ryan on the phone that I would need the computer by no later than the 6th of march since I would be moving countries after then. He confirmed and guaranteed to me that the delivery date would be met. I paid half of the cost, $2300, and the building of my PC began.
Skip ahead a few weeks, and in mid-February I send OPC an e-mail to confirm everything is on schedule. I’m informed that “Everything looks fine for your unit’s ship date “.
Skip ahead a few more weeks, and towards the end of February I shoot off an e-mail to OPC to again confirm that my PC will be delivered by March 6th and Mario, the owner of the company, to my complete surprise, tells me “as of right now, no”. At this point I’m extremely concerned because if it arrives after March 6th, I have no way of taking it with me.
A few e-mails later and I find out that my deadline was “forgotten” because Ryan, the employee I had talked to, had quit in late February. A few e-mails later, and Mario confirms that my computer will arrive on time, although it leaves me with an uneasy feeling that my computer will be “rushed” to meet the deadline. A few days later I get an e-mail from Mario saying the computer has shipped with “110% perfect operation at 2700MHz”. I’m relieved…
Skip ahead a few weeks…After having ordered my Overdrive PC in late February, receiving it in early March, moving down to Australia, moving in to a new apartment, setting up my home office, and once and for all opening the Overdrive PC box and taking out the computer and setting it up for the very first time, it was all working well, as expected. But a few hours into the computers first breaths, I was testing out Battlefield 2 (a very cpu-intensive game) and my computer froze. After forcing the computer off by holding down the power button (my only recourse), I restarted it and Windows would not load. Doing a check disk warned me that “The volume appears to contain one or more unrecoverable problems.” You cannot begin to imagine how distressed I was feeling that my brand new $4600 computer was broken the first day I took it out of the box. At this point, I was obviously not very happy or satisfied with my OPC experience. I quickly shoot off an e-mail to Mario, letting him know what happened….and this is where it all began…
After a few e-mails attempting to diagnose the problem (which is next to impossible via e-mail), I suggest to Mario that I call him. He agree’s and I give him a long-distance call.
One of the first things he tells me is that I do not need to remind him that I paid $4,600 for the computer because he knows how much his computers are worth, which, he claims, has also earned him the right to be arrogant because he knows how good his computers are. None of this really mattered to me at the time because I had a $4,600 box that didn’t do anything. Anyway, we run a couple of diagnostics (which took a couple of hours), and Mario is concerned with the Voltage difference in Australia and how it’s affecting the Overclocking of the CPU, and he tells me I need to restore the system using a Backup DVD (using Norton Ghost) that came with the computer and to go into the BIOS to turn off the Overclocking and return to Stock speeds to try and isolate the problem. By now I’m feeling like I’m a tech support guy in Bangalore and Mario jokes that I know enough about this computer to be one of their tech support guys. I laugh uneasily still remembering the $4600 I paid for this Ferrari that is giving me problems straight out of the box. Anyway, the computer loads with a fresh restore and at stock speeds. I’m simplifying all of this of course, this all took several hours. Once the system is restored, he asks me to run some PRIME torture tests on the CPU to make sure everything is OK. I comply, and everything passes and he tells me to continue using the computer to see if it crashes at stock speeds.
Skip to the next day…
The computer crashes a second time and it won’t start again. I do another restore from the image on the other drive, and windows won’t load, I get the dreaded blue screen of death. I try another restore from the master backup DVD, running at STOCK cpu speed, and I get the same blue screen saying how windows won’t load to avoid damaging the hardware. (Note: Each of these restores takes a pain-staking amount of time). My mine is going crazy at this point, I’m thinking I just wasted $4,600 because there’s obviously something more serious going on.
I tell Mario I’m going to call him about this and considering how he kept telling about how voltage, hertz, and currency differences can affect the “delicate” system, I decide, on Mario’s advice, to shell out $200 for a massive 1000W 220 to 110 converter to eliminate that as an issue and hope that is the magic fix.
I call up Mario and after a few more hours of diagnosing and testing, he seems to think the TV tuner card is the problem (which I never got to work even when the computer did manage to boot the very first time before doing any Restore, so this made sense). He asks for my address and tells me he’s going to send me the tuner card free of charge (which is the least I’d expect considering I paid an extra $300 for a 3 year warranty). Anyway, after some hard drive testing and swapping and restoring and removing the TV tuner card, I am able to boot the computer again, and run more diagnostic and torture tests and everything seems ok now at the full overclooked 2700 speed, so it must have been the TV tuner card all along. I’m relieved again.
Skip ahead about 4 days, and boom, another crash. The computer crashed while watching a video in Windows Media Player. Hours of BF2 testing didn't crash it, but a video in WMP did. I restarted after the crash, and it got as far as windows, but a high-pitched shriek was coming from the speakers and it froze up again. After restarting it a 2nd time, I got an error that windows was missing a critical file. So I decreased the speeds to 2640 and re-installed the backup from Ghost successfully. I guess it just can't handle 2700. I will keep testing it at 2640 and see what happens. I should get the transformer this week, so that will hopefully help. Also, in BF2, when I try to select the X-fi sound card in the Sound options menu, the game just quits to the desktop, so their may be an issue with the Sound card as well. At this point I’m just completely immune to any more problems with this computer as I’ve come to expect a crash every few days. I’m not even upset anymore, I’ve just stopped caring and wrote of the $4,600 investment a long time ago. Mario tells me to reduce the speed to the lowest overclocked spped, which is 2640, and conveniently adds that this is well within their guaranteed speed increase. Funny how I don’t remember seeing that on their website, it must be hidden somewhere, but like I said, at this point I din’t even want a fast computer, I just wanted a computer that would turn on and stay on. He tells me to continue testing at this reduced speed and things appear to go smoothly…in the meantime, I’m awaiting my transformer which I am hoping is the holy grail…ignoring the fact that if changes in voltage and stuff can be so detrimental to an Overdrive PC’s health, why do they sell their computer internationally and why don’t they warn about this at all on their webstie?
Skid ahead a few days…I was testing BF2 and it crashed again...and then Windows wouldn’t start again. I’ve heard of games crashing all the time, but I’ve never heard of a game crashing and taking the whole system with it every time. So I’m thinking there is still something up with the system. At this point, I haven’t been able to run any other type of software because I’m waiting for a router to network my laptop so I can copy over all the files, so I don’t know if other software programs (ie. MS Office) will have this same problem. And there is obviously no way I will settle into this computer and risk losing work. Anyway, I do a Ghost restore from the other 2 hard drives, annoyed that I have to keep doing this every few days…it becomes too high maintenance and time-consuming and I’m trying to break a world record and settle into a new country.
This seems to be getting worse every time and by this point I don’t know what else to do. I’ve wasted so much time with this computer (at least 30 hours of reinstalling, diagnosing, test, etc. by this point) so I hope my frustration is understood.
A few days later I get the transformer that cost me $200 and I’m amazed at the 20 pound beast, but it makes me feel confident this heavy duty equipment will do the trick and have the computer running smoothly with the right voltage. I connect the computer directly to the wall outlet, change the voltage back to 110 on the computer, hook it up to the transformer, beef up the speed to 2700, but, low and behold, it crashes as soon as I started loading a level in BF2, which is fully updated with the latest patch. Great, it crashes even with the transformer…my dreams and hopes are shattered…I just want a PC that DOESN’T crash, is that TOO much to ask for $4,600 ??? Actually, make that $4,800 with the wasted transformer…Clearly, it is not a voltage issue and I just wasted another $200. The Hyperclocking on this computer has to be flawed to some extent, but at this point I’m happy if the computer runs at 2640 without ANY problems. Mario tell me to lower the hyperclocking to 2640. I tell him I will keep testing at 2640 with the Transformer. I also tell him that if this computer fails even once at 2640, then we're going to have to start talking about an exchange or refund because I cannot work on a faulty/flawed system, as I'm sure anyone can appreciate, but they illicit no response from Mario…I find that disturbing. With all the problems I've been having, I feel like I have a used computer, and I'm not happy about that I also still do not understand how they were able to successfully test at 2700 before shipping, because ever since I took it out of the box, it just won't do that speed...even with the faulty TV tuner out and the voltage at 110v. By the way, this entire time the computers have been running witht eh RAID not configured because that was causing another problem that had me literally inside the computer plugging and unplugging the smallest of cables, something I had never done before. Obviously, all of this has made it impossible for me to settle in with my computer.
Next day….my computer doesn’t turn on. That’s the last thing I needed at this point. Long story short, it seems that the transformer blew a fuse in the computer. After a few more hours of phone diagnostics, Mario decides to send me another internal Power Supply for the computer, free of charge (again, the least I expect). For the next few days, my computer is completely unusable, which I, strangely enough, find somewhat relieving because I get to ignore this massive headache for a few days.
Skip ahead to April 20, by now I have the new power supply and tv tuner card. Mario tells me over the phone how to install the power supply. After a few more hours, the computer turns on, so it must’ve been something with the power supply. By now I have the new TV tuner card which Mario asks me to install….thinking that that will finally fix my computer, although not really since it wasn’t working 100% even without any tv tuner card, but at this point I’m delirious anyway.
I installed the new TV Tuner and restored the computer to the clean original and I get the same “exclamation” symbol on the PCI-to-PCI bridge in Device Manager. When I double-click on it, I get a window that says,
“This device cannot find enough free resources it can use (Code 12).
If you want to use this device, you will need to disable one of the other devices on this system.”
So we’re not at the finish line yet. I just want go get this over and done with so I can get to work. What do we do next?
Mario tells me he will have to look into Nvidia about this, and I tell him that I want this $4,600 computer functional once and for all so that I finally get to work! Mario asks me in a somewhat patronizing way if I need the TV tuner card to do my work. Obviously I don’t, but I inform him that I am afraid of settling into this new computer, installing all the programs I use, configuring everything for my exact taste, and setting everything up just the way I like it, only to have to do another restore for, literally, the 20th time (I’m not exaggerating, by now that’s how many restores I had done on this computer…20 give or take 1) He tells me we’ll work on it over the next few days and that I CAN SETTLE INTO THE NEW COMPUTER BECAUSE THE REMAINING FIX'S WON’T REQUIRE A FULL RESTORE. With this green light in my head, I finally feel relieved that I can settle into my new computer, copy over all the files from my laptop and begin configuring everything just the way I like it…mind you that this is over 4 months after I paid for this computer.
Skip ahead to April 24, and Mario wants to see what devices I have in the Device Manager, a few screenshots later and hel tells me “I know what to do but I have to try and get you to call me in a few hours when I am back at the shop. I will e-mail you shortly.” At this point I obviously don’t believe him because he’s said this at least 15 times before with a promise of the next “real fix”…but whatever, I just want this stupid computer to work so I don’t feel like I completely wasted $4,600….
Let it be known that by now there has been about 20 hours of long-distance phone conversation, ALL PAID FOR BY ME….Mario never once called me, I had to call him every time.
Skip ahead to early March and still no fix for the TV tuner card (no surprise), so I begin to focus on the sound card issue and why I cannot select it’s maximum features when in BF2 fox exmpale…what’s the point of a top of the line sound card if you can’t use it’s top features? (hmmm…I should be asking that about the computer itself….actually, I have…several times….and of course, there is no point). Mario sends me a link to a patch he thinks should fix the sound card issue (hey, at least he searched for one)….i install it and….of course, It doesn’t fix anything…because I don’t think the issue is software anyway, but hey, that’s just me.
Skip ahead a few days and Mario tells me on May 6 that he has replicated my system setup and will now attempt to work backwards to find the problem with the TV tuner card and sound card. I’m done settling into my new computer have start using it as my main computer, with all new work being done on it.
On May 7, I get this e-mail from Mario:
OK, so were’ close to fixing the TV tuner at least…or I hope….but I casually and curiously ask Mario that if the problem was with the Ghost backup that I was using to restore my system, how was this not caught BEFORE my system was shipped? I beging to wonder back about whether my PC was indeed rushed to meet the deadline….in this first instance, Mario ignores this question. In all honesty, I don’t even believe this because the TV tuner did not work even BEFORE I installed the first Ghost backup…this just seems like a convient excuse to say “the computer shipped fine, the problem was only with the BACKUP DVD”….in reality, I know that the system was shipped and that this was overlooked…but Mario would dare never admit that, he’s to proud and arrogant to admit that.
Skip ahead to May 16, and I get an e-mail from Mario with the following subject link: FOUND IT !!!!
At this point, I’m not expecting anything, really, I’m not. I’ve had my hope’s with this computer dashed so many times already that I’m not expecting diddly squat. In the e-mail Mario tells me:
Low and behold….I do EXACTLY that, and NOTHING changes…in fact, Now I have 5 exclamation marks in Device Manager, the 2 new ones are from “Unknown Devices”…this stupid computer will not allow the TV tuner to work.
Mario tells me he will continue working on a fix.
Next day, on May 17, I get the following e-mail from Mario:
Is he joking me???? He specifically told me this wouldn’t happen so I had been working on this computer for weeks, spent several DAYS setting up, installing, and configuring it for all my needs, and now I’m going to have to do all of that all over again? I tell him bluntly, “I’ve been using the computer as my main computer for several weeks now, with all the new data and programs installed on it. At this point, a fresh start is no longer an option. Too much productivity will be lost, which I can no longer afford. We will have to fix this as-is. Let me know when you would like me to call you.”
He tells me he will continue looking into it.
Over a week goes by and I don’t here form him. At this point, I’m fed up. So I write him a long and deserved e-mail:
To which he replies,
This back and forth continues, with my reply:
He instists on having the last word, to which he replies,
At this point, I’m completely pissed off, and shoot back,
He finally get’s the point, and replies with just
Two weeks go by and I get this e-mail from Mario:
This is going nowhere, so I tell him:
But it’s not reasonable for Mario, to which he replies:
I feel compelled to dissect his last e-mail and do whatever is in my power (read this e-mail carefully):
He’s not in any mood to argue (thankfully) and simply replies: “You will have your DVD before the 22nd.” This was on June 8, almost HALF A YEAR after paying for my computer.
But the story continues...
I get another e-mail from Mario telling me he's found a quick-fix that won't require me to restore the computer and re-install everything. I travel for about a month and when I get, my computer crashes approximately 2-3 times a day. Half the time it crashes when it is in standby mode after a period of inactivity (it won’t turn back on, so I have to turn it off and back on again), and the other half the computer simply freezes while I’m working on it (no particular program) and I have to restart. I do not know the cause of these new crashes since the computer was not used for over a month, but I’m hoping the fix Mario will resolve them as well.
I finally install the fix and...it makes things worse. It fixes the TV tuner problem but created several new problems with the Ethernet Controller, Packet Scheduler Miniport, among others, and it continued to have severe and violent crashes with major distortion coming from the speakers. At one point I managed to record one of these crashes, check out this crude recording:
Enough was enough. I told him I didn't want this thing anymore and that I wanted a full refund for all the trouble this had caused and the time I wasted on it. He wouldn't back down from the 80% refund policy after several more e-mail exchanges. And to add insult to injury, I had to pay for the shipping as well.
Long story short, I filed a complaint with the BBB and shipped the computer back to him on September 19, 2006 at a cost to me of about US$500. The computer case was damaged during shipping, so he said he wouldn't refund me for the case (luckily I had insured it). Believe it or not, this saga continues. Even though Mario had specifically told me the refund would take 1 week to process and that he would do everything in his power to get it to me ASAP, they kept delaying my refund, which only enfuriated me more, and even stooping so low as to blaiming the delay on "waiting for recent CC charges to clear our account still". I shot back asking what the heck someone else's payment had to do with my refund? Even then, he took a full month to refund me my money, which I guess I should have seen coming considering the past behaviour of this company.
All in all, this miserable experience cost me the 20% I did not get refunded ($930) plus the shipping (another $500) plus the transformer (another $200), for a total of $1,630. You read that correctly, this whole nightmare COST ME $1,630 and I have NOTHING to show for it except this page.
And do you know what the funniest part is, I had actually asked Mario way back in January before buying my computer, if he was willing to sponsor my record attempt by “donating" one of his Overdrive PC's, which he declined since they don’t do sponsorships. But here’s the real kicker, even if I had gotten this damn computer for FREE, I still wouldn’t have wanted it knowing what I know now…
If you have any questions about this, let me know. Whatever you do, and I mean this, do not buy a computer from Overdrive PC. The fact that I took my time to write this should be a clear signal. If I had been in the US, I would have filed a lawsuit against OPC, but I’m pretty powerless here in Australia, except for my website, of course. I cannot begin to explain how much time I wasted on this computer. The fact that other people have e-mailed me with similar experiences shows that I'm not the only one who's had an experience like this. If you've had a similar experience, I suggest filing a complaint with their local BBB. The fact that the company claims they only experience about 2 out of 1000 complaints like this, makes me wonder why they don't do Full Refunds. But the worst part is that they made off with $930 of MY dollars for putting ME through this.
I have since purchased a Dell Dimension 9200 and it's working flawlessly.
Let’s leave it at that.