Why I won't buy a Dell next time
Or, Reason #11 to buy a Mac
Comment I recently bought a "Vista capable" desktop PC from Dell. It was a good opportunity to play the secret shopper and report the experience as an ordinary consumer, instead of reporting as a tech journo reviewing hardware supplied by the maker and tweaked to perfection before delivery.
I had bought a PC from Dell years ago and had a good experience overall. Its prices are high, but I was impressed with the after-sales service. About three months after delivery there was a problem and I had no trouble persuading Dell's tech support folks that a component had failed. A replacement part was dispatched immediately, along with a pre-paid return shipping label for the defective one.
It was about as painless as I could have hoped. So, yes, the kit was expensive, but I found that I had got something of value for the money. And an experience like that does tend to build customer loyalty - which in fact led me to buy another Dell machine about a month ago.
Fit and finish
The new PC, a Dimension 9200, has a few problems. One of the more frustrating concerns is the media-card reader assembly, which is loose and buzzes loudly. The noise is intermittent, but quite distracting.
Dell sent a technician to look at it and he determined, first, that a screw which guides the assembly into the bay had been put in the wrong location, and second, that the assembly itself had been fitted into the wrong bay. There is a plastic stop in the upper bay that catches the screw. On my machine, the assembly had been installed in the lower bay, which lacks a plastic stop and is most likely intended to accommodate an optional floppy drive. So, with the screw inserted into the right hole, and the assembly inserted into the right bay, the technician expressed hopes that the noise problem would go away.
I will allow that it's no longer as bad as it was. But it's still there, despite my having stuffed bits of cardboard around the assembly to isolate it from the chassis. Dell has decided to replace the entire PC, because it'd like to examine it and learn if there's a design issue with the 9200 - a potential problem for others - or if my machine simply didn't get put together right at the Limerick plant. If it was assembled on a Friday, well, that's all I need to know...
The 9200's case and chassis seem lightweight, flexible, and rather tinny compared with my old Dell system. I sense that the new one is made of thinner-gauge metal and is fitted together less solidly, allowing it to flex and creak under gentle hand pressure. The old one had, I believe, thicker-gauge metal that was nicely fitted together and bonded to a plastic sheath that dampened noise and vibration. Nothing inside it moved, and the chassis didn't flex, rattle, or buzz. It was silent, solid, and looked and felt as if it would survive a fall down a flight of stairs without the slightest internal harm.
Meanwhile, I have a hard time imagining the 9200 surviving a mere fall off a desk without serious internal damage. So there has been a paradigm shift in the philosophy of PC cases. Previously, the case was meant to protect the internal parts; today, it is meant merely to contain them.
The video card, an Nvidia GeForce 7900, seems loose. There appears to be a friction fit on one side, where not long ago there would have been a screw fastening it to the chassis. The technician said it appeared to be fitted correctly, and I believe him; but the cable connecting it to the monitor is exceptionally beefy and able to apply a great deal of leverage to the card, which looks to me like an opportunity for someone to do expensive damage just by picking up their computer and moving it.
Finally, for a bit more evidence of possible carelessness at the Limerick plant, I note that the speaker set came fitted with the ubiquitous Europlug, which, admittedly, fits a broad range of electrical sockets, except those in Ireland and the UK. Dell has agreed to rectify that minor issue as well. It's not a major inconvenience - adapters are readily available - but it suggests slackness, which, in combination with the other "fit and finish" problems, gives me a poor impression of the unit's overall quality and durability, and the diligence of Dell's factory staff.
Next page: Backward compatibility
Why buy Dell?
To some extent, I have to agree with the author. Dell's service has gone downhill. I used to work for a company that bought only Dell for PCs and x86 servers, but we had a couple of bad experiences with them.
1. we bought a server from them with linux on it - their approved version of RedHat at the time. We had an issue with the network card, called in for support and they told us to go talk to the NIC vendor, as it wasn't Dell's problem. We had to fight to get support.
2. bought a Clariion disk array upgrade from them. They sent their 'Professional Services' in to do the work, and put the wrong firmware on it and totally hosed the array.
Dell's other problem is the model they use. They don't really do much R&D. They are more of a systems assembler than anything else - they source the parts from the cheapest place available and do little to no design themselves. That's how they're able to offer stuff at low prices and still make some money - put the cheap low quality crap in the box and pass it off as decent.
I wouldn't touch Dell with a pole these days - much better to go HP in my opinion, if you're going for a windows PC. HP has far superior support. You could as the author suggests get a mac - they're pretty decent, with the nice front end on top of a solid stable UNIX environment that is easy to support and just works. The equipment is also very elegant looking and no longer way more expensive than a std PC.
Some good -- some just silly
While some of the complaints were valid, the whine about the broken buzzer is silly -- and harms the writer's credibility. Alllowing content blaming Dell for the author's inability to RTFM casts a poor light on the Reg's editors.
Some good, lots bad
No offence mate but while I agree with several points that you made in this review and I too will never buy Dell again I believe your review reflects an unreasonable level of expectation from Dell or any company.
You ordered product X, you wanted product Y and Dell shipped you product X. Not Dells fault! If you had particular requirements then you should have checked the unit you were buying met those requirements.
Delivery, I agree with you that in Ireland Dells courier service is pretty poor on giving out delivery information and order tracking but I've found they do deliver on schedule. Though I've had issues with how they store some items, I once got a laptop and the case was in a separate box which was delivered first thing one morning and when it was taken out of the van it was covered in frost so it had obviously been stored out doors. I wasnt happy. That said I never expected them to ring me after all if they start that they would spend hours sitting in vans waiting for people to come back from the shops. Also its totally unreasonable to expect them to some how know your doorbell didnt work, which you knew it didnt work yet you appear to have done nothing to get it fixed, nothing to inform those calling at your door and nothing to try and watch out for the van yourself. Could you not have worked in a room with a view of the path to your door?
Build quality, this is why I wont purchase Dell again. The build quality and reliability is woeful of late. I had a Dell Inspiron 5150 and the bits just didnt fit together properly, even when I tried unscrewing them and putting them back together the edges just would not line up at all. Compared to my current Sony Vaio the Dell was designed by amateurs. It is currently a shell of a laptop having died from a faulty power connector on the motherboard shortly after my warranty expired. I gave up on Dell and switched to Sony. Where I disagree with you is blaming a particular plant for quality or Friday syndrome. Once off things can be put down to individual workers. Dells problems seem so wide spread that it's a corporate level issue and changes in quality must be driven from above if they are to mean anything.
Finally this "Vista Capable" lark, I blame Dell and other PC manufacturers for putting the stickers on, but I blame Microsoft for the poor state of their OS.
We're not all "tech journos"
To me the author's stance seems perfectly reasonable. He ordered an expensive product from Dell as an average customer - the fact that he is a technically minded journalist has no bearing on whether Dell's service is good or not. I'm a programmer and have built countless PCs for myself and my work in the past, but I would never recommend that a non-techie (Dell's target audience, remember) build their own or try to decipher the spec sheet, as either of these tasks would take weeks to get right for someone with little or no experience of computer hardware. The average customer buys a PC from a reputable company like Dell because they're hoping it will work by and large the way they want it to. I'd say that for the average user, a Mac will fulfill that want better than a PC.
As for the specific complaints, I agree fully with Pat's post above. I don't know anybody that doesn't have a firewire port on their computer, so I would expect to get one when buying myself. The machine has a floppy connector and not IDE - I don't believe there's more demand for 3.5" floppy support than IDE hard drives today, so Dell's made a bad call including one when they could include the other. In that vein, I'm buying from Dell, not their suppliers, so if components or drivers aren't up to scratch then Dell's at fault. If I paid 2000 euros to Dell, I'd expect them to make an effort to contact me if I didn't answer the door - the delivery is by Dell's contractor, not mine, so their mistake is Dell's mistake as far as I'm concerned. My local dealer would at least text me in similar circumstances, so there are suppliers out there providing a better service than Dell; besides, if you went to a friend's house expecting them to be there to return a book you'd borrowed, would you call them when you found they weren't there? It's common courtesy, and Dell are being rude if they don't extend that courtesy to their customers.
USB2 is utterly worthless?
I dont think the point was firewire is almost double the speed of USB.
The point is read the specs b4 you purchase and dont whine when something isnt included even if you thought it should be.
And I dont think USB2 is utterly worthless as the previous poster seems to believe.