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Dell: vertical lines, what vertical lines?

Er, the dirty great big one on my Inspiron...

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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. ®

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