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Why I won't buy a Dell next time

Or, Reason #11 to buy a Mac

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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.

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