Dell: vertical lines, what vertical lines?
Er, the dirty great big one on my Inspiron...
Dell seems to have got its sizeable knickers in a twist over where it stands with the recent heavily bemoaned vertical line problem affecting several of its notebook models.
As we reported in January, the firm had been hit by a fairly widespread problem with what looked to be a dodgy batch of LCD screens affecting some of its 9200 and 9300 range of Inspiron notebooks as well as its XPS Gen 2 systems.
The problem for customers was that the serious fault, where a pixel-wide line was visible down the middle of the screen, developed slowly over time.
So, although you might expect a laptop to have a shelf-life of around three years, the notebooks affected were rendered pretty useless much sooner.
What's the catch? Well, for most customers, their computer was already out of warranty.
Online forums revealed the extent of the problem with close to 1,000 cases to date having been reported and 621 cases yet to be resolved.
In fact, frustrated Dell customers took the matter into their own hands and created a website dedicated to drawing attention to the hardware fault.
According to the website, Dell has now completed a fairly lengthy investigation and "identified an issue that potentially affects certain 17-inch displays".
The computer giant redirected customers to its own Direct2Dell blog where further information about resolving the issue was said to be available.
A statement said: "On some 17-inch LCD displays shipped with Dell Inspiron 9200, 9300 and Dell XPS Gen 2 notebooks, a one pixel wide vertical line may develop across the LCD screen over time. Systems that may be affected by this issue shipped from Nov 2004 through Oct 2006.
"Here's what we're doing: for affected systems, Dell is offering to replace any LCD that develops a vertical line within three years of purchase, at no charge for parts and labour. Also, Dell will offer refunds to customers who paid Dell to replace defective LCDs with this issue."
However, a Reg reader called the firm's support helpline only to be told "that the direct2dell website was a third party website" and therefore Dell "wouldn't be able to replace the screens".
So, employing the Dire Straits technique, El Reg put a call into the helpline to see if lightning could strike twice, or if our reader had simply been fobbed off by a poorly informed Dell staffer.
A chipper chap at the other end of the line listened intently as I told him about my LCD screen fault.
I explained that I had bought my Inspiron 9200 back in April 2005 but was hopeful, having read the statement on Dell's blog, that the issue could be easily resolved without putting me out of pocket.
I was kept on hold while he consulted his supervisor. The stuttering song "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" merrily played in the background before he returned with the news that "there are no known issues with that model".
He went on to explain that he needed to look at the Direct2Dell website, and oddly said he didn't even know it existed.
I was promised a quick response, but several hours on, Dell is yet to return my call.
If this experience is typical, it seems affected customers can expect a long wait. ®
It's not just the 17-inch screens...
My girlfriend recently purchased a Dell Inspiron 6400 with a 15.4" widescreen display from an "official reseller for reconditioned Dell machines" (or somesuch) via Ebay. The same pixel-wide white line appeared on her screen after a couple of hours' use. She contacted the seller and an engineer came out inside two days and replaced the display... better service than if she'd bought a brand-new one from the sound of things! He told her he was doing ten or more replacements a week; and took the opportunity to offer an extended warranty - exactly the same as Dell's but at half the price - while he was at it.
It appears that Dell are perfectly aware of the problem and are even continuing to sell laptops with displays from faulty batches, on the grounds that many people won't bother to replace them or will be put off by the customer service tomfoolery!
D2D site is correct
I work in support for Dell in the US and I can tell you that my department, at least, was informed about the issue. The information given on the Direct2Dell site IS correct, at least in the US. The issue is being covered under warranty for up to 3 years from the invoice date even if the warranty has expired and customers who have already paid for the repair can get refunded. I would assume that the same applies for other regions outside the US as well but I can't be certain.
My advice, if you get someone who seems clueless about it, is to have them ask their coach about it. Even if the tech isn't aware of it, the coaches should be. Worst case there is a link for unresolved issues on Dell's support website. Fill out the form there and someone should get back to you on it.
Apple PB 17s have this Problem
I can't believe Dell is getting heat for a problem like this:
Apple Powerbook 17s - one batch of them, all with serial numbers beginning with w85, have had the exact same issue - pixel-wide lines appearing about 1-2 months after the warranty is up, laptop being rendered unusable shortly after - for months now.
Apple has deleted every thread that's started about it on their 'discussions' site and each time any user reports this to them, customer care pretends to start an 'investigation', then claims they find no evidence that it's not an isolated problem. Bring up the many threads posted on their own discussion site or the websites and Youtube postings about it and they'll tell you it's against their policy to look at the web. Hence every case they see is 'isolated'.
That may sound like some kind of joke, but it happened to me personally (I have the name and e-mail of the CS rep I dealt with) as well as many others I know about.
Several owners have written the press about this but it hasn't come to wide attention. Why doesn't El REg break this story? I know that several affected users are in Britain.
Here's a site that was started in response to Apple's censoring of the posts on it's 'support' website:
This is not an imaginary problem, and I have a $3,000 piece of junk on my closet floor to prove it.
Dell has admitted that the problem exists and is at least talking about fixing it? They're way ahead of Apple.
Looks like I won't be buying another Dell
My Dell laptop is due for replacement, and I was considering another Dell.
I think I will try elsewhere!
Yes, Customer Service SHOULD Know!
With all due respect to our venerated first commenter, Dell's customer service people /should too/ be fully aware of this issue.
Every agent should have a comprehensive, searchable database of known issues. Even a Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet would be fine.
But there is no excuse for Dell not having completed a weekly update training of their telephone staff. And if they're not doing such training, well, then, they have no business even publishing a customer support or customer service telephone number.