Rich Warren | Maximize the life of your devices

Rich Warren | Maximize the life of your devices

This simple reader question warrants a complex answer: "Can you tell me if iPads wear out? Mine is acting up, and friends are telling me it wore out. It's about 6 years old."

I can't diagnose the problems with your iPad. Six years is a good run.

Treated properly, the electronics and display of your iPad should not wear out. Unfortunately, that does not apply to the battery, which may last from two to six years. You could have the battery checked and replaced, which might increase the life of your iPad for several more years.

All computer and cellphone manufacturers sneakily obsolete their products. They continuously update/upgrade the operating systems to improve performance, increase the number of features and close security gaps. Apple is pretty generous in providing upgrades for about five years, depending upon the product. Most Android phone manufacturers cease updating their products after two years. Microsoft has traditionally supported each version of Windows for over a decade, but that may be changing.

Returning to the iPad, assuming the battery continues to charge, it could work for 20 years if treated gently. At some point, you would no longer be able to download new apps or update old ones.

Recently, Apple changed to an exclusively 64-bit operating system for the iPad, meaning that older 32-bit apps would cease to function. I have a treasured 32-bit app that cannot be replaced, so I opted not to upgrade to iOS 11.

As far as ultimate longevity, let's use the Bose Wave Radio as an example. Before Bose added a CD player, making it the Wave Music System, it simply was a very good sounding, elegant radio. I have a couple going on 22 years old that still work flawlessly. The minute you add something mechanical, like a CD or DVD player, life expectancy plummets.

I was very fond of my Bose Lifestyle Home Theater system, but after about a decade, the DVD player failed and couldn't be repaired/replaced. While it works as an amplifier and radio, it no longer plays DVDs and CDs, defeating the original purpose of this compact stylish system. The new Bose home theater systems no longer include a player. You choose your DVD player and plug it into the system.

Sticking with Bose for a moment, there's a good chance its speakers could last for 30 years or more. However, if you purchased the flagship 901 model, it relied on tape inputs and outputs on the stereo receiver or amplifier for its essential equalizer. Electronics manufacturers eliminated tape inputs and outputs over a decade ago. So if you upgrade your electronics, you'll have to consider a complicated work-around to keep enjoying the 901s.

I continue using a 35-year-old Threshold preamplifier. This audiophile company long ago hung up its capacitors. I suspect my preamp will outlive me and whoever buys it for $20 at my estate sale. It even still has tape in/out. Eventually, the capacitors will dry out and fail, although they may be replaceable. Regretably, fewer and fewer people know how to repair conventional electronic products.

When it comes to TVs, an LCD TV with LED illumination should last at least a decade. An LCD TV with fluorescent tube (properly called "cold cathode") illumination will start growing dimmer after about five years, depending upon how much TV you watch. The new OLED TVs also will grow dimmer with age. There's no definitive prediction on this because large-screen OLED displays only have been in use for a fairly short period of time.

Here are three ways to maximize the life of your electronics: keep all ventilation holes/slots/ports clean with a frequent gentle vacuuming. Keep electronics cool below 85 degrees. Finally, if AC powered, always use a good surge protector with a voltage regulator. (This also applies to microprocessor controlled washing machines and refrigerators.) While nothing lasts forever, you might be surprised.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. Email him at hifiguy@mchsi.com.

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