Dell Woes

I've been a Dell guy for the last ten years. Over that time, I've had just one non-Dell machine and that's because it was purchased for me prior to starting a new job and the company was then standardized on IBM machines. That machine was a Thinkpad T series and it wasn't too bad a machine.

Otherwise, machines for home and business have been Dell boxes (one every couple of years at home and who knows how many business machines) and I've always suggested to friends and family that they go with Dell also. You get a machine that's ready to go out of the box and their prices usually compare well with other options-- assuming you don't want to go the build-your-own route. When it comes to my personal machine, I prefer a laptop so the DIY thing isn't really an option.

That allegiance is beginning to wane. About a year ago, I bought an Inspiron E1705 for my home/personal machine and it is pretty much loaded (at to the extent that an Inspiron configuration could be). Lots of RAM, fast disk, 1920x1200 17" display, DVD burner, NVidia graphics, and so on. Not a lower-end machine and not inexpensive either. It ran fine for the first few months but then the issues began.

It started at the end of last year when I noticed that it was running really hot. Areas on the bottom were nearly too hot to touch. Then early this year, it started randomly giving me the BSOD with a general hardware failure.

I had next-day warranty coverage, so I gave them a call... they decided it was the CPU burning out and sent another one out. This is when I learned that Dell's "next day" service really isn't "next day". What they mean is that they'll ship the part(s) out to some local contractor in your area and then the contractor should be out to fix it the "next day" after they get the part. So it's more like 3 days... whatever, I could get by with that and the CPU was replaced.

So far so good for a couple months... but then suddenly the screen would go black (as if the display shut off) when the machine was on AC power. On battery, it was fine. The machine was continuing to run and I could use Remote Desktop from another box to get into it even when it was on AC power. So another phone call... this time, they said they'd ship out a new "main system board". Three days later, a tech's out to replace it - but the problem isn't fixed.

So he calls Dell that day and they ship a new LCD panel out... another week goes by and then the screen gets replaced. Seems OK for a few days, but then...

laptopdarknessthumb The left edge of the screen begins to fade (see image to the left)... it's gotten more pronounced since that picture was taken, to the point that the fading now comes all the way into the middle of the screen. It also seems to get darker the longer the machine is on and, after 30 minutes or so, the left half of the screen is unusable. Another phone call... this time, they'll replace the LCD panel and the NVidia adapter ("just in case," says the tech).

All of this was frustrating, but now it's worse... because there's been no progress. After a few days, I don't hear from anyone. So I call to see what's up and am told the part is on backorder for a day or two and I'll get an email with a tracking number once it ships. Nothing for a couple days... so I email the tech, who emails a tracking number back to me and says the part(s) are on their way. However, Fedex doesn't recognize that number at all.

I emailed the tech again last week, along with the tech supervisor for the incident and the Dell Customer Advocate email alias... still no response.

I've got surgery scheduled for this week, but my wife will end up having to call them and nag again about getting this fixed.

I also have to wonder -- at what point does Dell declare this thing a lemon and replace it? This will be the FOURTH time in a few months that a tech has had to come out to replace parts on this machine. All these support calls, replacement parts, shipping, and paying contractors to come to the house -- that's gotta add up. I've got nearly the same machine at the office for business use, as do several of my colleagues,  and nobody has had any problems. Clearly this box has some problems.

In any case, their handling of this support problem may just be what changes me over to Lenovo... or HP. Or Toshiba. It's kinda ridiculous to think that, over the last few months,  my machine has been out of commission for weeks.