Next, I recall that this machine was labeled "Vista capable" on the Dell.ie website when I bought it. I installed Vista on it, and filed a couple of reviews, here and here, registering my various disappointments and doubts regarding the new OS. The machine might be ready for Vista, but Vista clearly isn't ready for it.
Creative Labs still has no decent Vista drivers for the X-Fi card. They work up to a point, but I've had problems with one speaker dead, and the whole sound system disabled when certain options are chosen in the Creative Audio Console, requiring the driver to be re-installed.
But Dell's own Vista X-Fi driver was a complete disaster for me. Installing it blue-screened Vista and required a cold restart, after which the audio was again disabled. I re-installed the latest Vista X-Fi driver from Creative, and now have a semi-functional sound system again. Needless to say, the sound card works beautifully with XP.
I have doubts about Nvidia's Vista driver for the GeForce 7900, too. The Nvidia Control Panel hangs and fails to apply changes when one adjusts desktop colour settings. The graphics card fan runs continuously under Vista, causing unnecessary noise and distraction. Yet the fan works as it should with XP, coming on as needed to cool things off and shutting down (or going very quiet) soon thereafter. But I wonder whether this is a driver bug, or whether Vista consumes so much GPU power for its little shiny icons that the fan simply has to run continuously. If so, the few improvements in Vista over XP aren't nearly worth the cost in loud, irritating fan noise (to say nothing of the cost in sticker price).
I bought the machine just before the Vista roll-out. Microsoft's untimely delay in launching the OS was a blow to the OEMs' Christmas shopping extravaganza, and this concern spawned the stopgap solution of labelling pre-Christmas PCs "Vista capable", loading XP on them, and issuing vouchers for Vista upgrades.
The voucher gimmick has been plagued with problems, especially inadequate fulfillment resources, but also varying prices for shipping and handling depending on the OEM's arrangement with Microsoft's grossly overextended fulfillment partner, ModusLink. I never received a Vista voucher from Dell, but with the Irish Post being what it is, it's entirely possible it did send me one.
Now, admittedly, I have all of these problems, and a couple more, running the machine with Linux. The X-Fi card is completely dysfunctional: I have no sound at all. The video card fan runs continuously at its highest speed, making the noise absolutely intolerable. The machine is useless to me with Linux. But we all know that device makers rarely concern themselves with the needs of Linux users; and besides, this PC wasn't labeled "Linux capable". It was labelled "Vista capable". And so it is, I suppose, if "Vista capable" means merely that the system has the raw computing power, RAM, storage capacity and graphics capability that Vista so unreasonably demands in exchange for a little bit of eye candy. But most consumers will interpret "Vista capable" to mean that all of the hardware will work as it should, and that simply has not been my experience.
The not-quite-Christmas Vista roll-out has got to be a disaster for OEMs, which are stuck between their need to placate Microsoft and keep its advertising dollars flowing, and their need to ship computers that work properly to their customers. However much trouble Vista causes, MS makes money because OEMs are stuck buying and installing it. The OEMs get customer complaints about the voucher gimmick, increased support calls when things fail to work as advertised, and a blow to their reputations when customers sense they just paid a great deal of money for something that isn't quite right.
Next page: Minor irritants
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.