I had a wretched time learning the computer's service tag number. The label on which it's printed features minuscule white characters virtually invisible on a silver background, and to top that off, my eyesight is poor. Attempting to read it was a real struggle for me, and mildly humiliating. But it looked like C88402J. Or CSS402J. Or something like that. And maybe the C was a G, and maybe the numeral 0 was a letter O. I couldn't tell. I wanted to find the Vista drivers for my machine from Dell's website and try them, but every likely combination of letters and numerals turned out wrong. The technician, whose eyesight (apparently) is normal, read it for me when he visited. Turns out it was CSS4Q2J.
I couldn't use Dell's handy online service tag checker, because I had already installed a regular, retail version of Vista on the machine and did not have Dell's original software and utilities installed. But I did learn that the service tag is fairly legible in the BIOS setup screen, which should be a comfort to other folks suffering from poor eyesight.
Furthermore, the Windows authentication code label on top of the unit, near the service tag label, also features near-invisible tiny characters, although not quite so bad as the inexplicable white-on-silver business. Is there some reason why Dell finds it advantageous to humiliate its visually-impaired customers? I mean, if you're already stuck with two ugly labels on your PC case, why can't they at least be legible?
Dell told us: "Thank you for this feedback. We will pass this on to our manufacturing teams." Please do, before I go blind.
Delivery proved to be mildly comical. The system arrived ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, I had no idea that it had arrived (even though I was home at the time) because the shipping status information on Dell.ie's website was inaccurate and quite sketchy, and I was expecting delivery a day later. Oh, and because the delivery man never rang me when he arrived; nor did he leave a note advising me that he he'd been by. On the following day, I was again at home, expecting the delivery. But when I went downstairs to collect the mail, I found a note telling me that the driver had already attempted delivery on two occasions, the day in question, and the one previous.
You see, the buzzer downstairs had been out of order, and that was quite enough of an obstacle.
The shipping information on Dell.ie's website was inaccurate and inadequate. Inaccurate because it indicated the wrong date to expect delivery, and inadequate because I couldn't find a working contact number for the carrier. Even the carrier's own website had confusing contact information.
I also inquired about using Dell Financial Services - CIT Group Finance, actually - to buy the PC on credit. The sales person at Dell could not answer a simple question about the terms, namely, is there a penalty for early repayment, ie. do they charge more interest than you would otherwise owe at the time of repayment? "Ideally, no," he replied. But he suggested that I go ahead and order a system, and we would learn about the terms in due course. I explained that I really needed a clear answer to that question first.
So I rang up Dell Financial Services (CIT). It turns out that there is no interest penalty, just a modest service charge, so that was good news. When I bought the PC, Dell.ie was advertising on its website a three-month period without payments, which was also tempting, especially in view of the early repayment option. But CIT didn't know anything about the three-month offer. So communication between the two outfits is perhaps not "ideal", and the Dell.ie website doesn't always have the best information.
Next page: Care for another?
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.