Care for another?
So, what went right? Well, the PC was shipped ahead of schedule. It would have been a pleasant surprise if my buzzer had been working, or if the Dell.ie website had offered up-to-date information, or if the driver had troubled himself with making a ten-second phone call.
The machine also functioned very well as shipped, that is, with Windows XP installed. It certainly runs my applications well. It's not a gamer's box, but its performance is quite good doing the things that I use it for.
Internally, it's modular: the sub-assemblies are easy to remove and replace, and things are fairly well laid out for those who like to tinker.
I have not experienced the reported Intel RAID controller issue with Vista, for which I'm grateful.
I opted for the Dell 2007-WFP 20in widescreen monitor, and I'm very satisfied with it. For reasons already mentioned, I use a resolution of 1280 x 768, and big, sans-serif fonts. Images are clear, characters are well-defined, edges are smooth, and the screen is evenly lit; it's really quite pleasant to use. The black could be a little blacker. Other than that, it's fabulous.
The WL-6000 5.1 speaker system that I ordered is reasonably priced and not at all bad. It doesn't fully exploit the X-Fi card's capabilities, or the new audio capabilities in Vista, but it cost only about €150, so for an inexpensive system, I can't complain.
Since I reported my difficulties to Dell, after-sale service has been very good, just as it was the first time I bought a Dell PC. However, I did identify myself, because I needed to ask questions related to this story, and people generally deserve to know if their answers are going to be published. So, in seeking support and asking for explanations, I wasn't playing the secret shopper as I was when I bought the unit. I'm not implying that a computer outfit would necessarily be more attentive to a tech journo than to another consumer, but it's worth noting that such a temptation certainly exists.
I must disclose that I received one consideration that I suspect is atypical, although I think that disclosing it specifically would be unfair to Dell, on the fly-in-the-soup principle. I will say this much: there is a component in my original order that I would replace with a different, but largely equivalent one. Since the company offered to take back my noisy PC, I've asked for this substitute component in the replacement unit. This consideration is of little or no monetary value, and it does not involve any effort on Dell's part beyond putting a PC together, which they've already offered to do. So it is not an attempt to corrupt me with feelings of gratitude. Nevertheless, I'm not so sure that every person whose defective PC is replaced will be entertained when they say, "and while you're at it, I really wish I'd ordered it with the XYZ gizmo instead of the ABC one".
So, it has not been all bad. Would I buy another PC from Dell? That's easy: No. I bought a second one because of a largely positive initial experience. I won't buy a third, because of a largely disappointing experience now.
Actually, I think I'll take our Tony Smith's advice to heart. My next system is almost certain to be a Mac.
Why I won't buy a Dell next time
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.