Over the years I have bought a lot of hardware even for a person in IT. I have bought new and second-hand mid-range parts for computers in an Internet café and I have bought a lot of high-end gamer hardware for personal use. One thing I have learned is that no matter how expensive and high quality hardware you get if you buy enough of it you will get a defective piece. I had parts of many different brands fail and I had parts of no-name brands work fine for decades. In my experience the more cutting edge hardware you get the more likely it is to fail. I have had an expensive high-end Asus video card fail and then its replacement fail again. This is why I am no longer impressed by people's stories about their ten year old laptops which still work fine. This is not interesting at all. The interesting part is what happens when the hardware fails because some hardware will fail
.Skip to TL;DR; if you do not want to read the full story
If you follow my website it should be obvious by now that the Dell XPS 12" Duo
I recently got failed. I want to point out that it is a wonderful machine and I stand behind every word in the original article. I still cannot find anything better on the market in terms of form factor although machines with Windows 8, 8GBs of RAM, SSD and touchscreen are now very easy to find.
The Saga Begins
After using the machine for a couple weeks I spotted a strange bug. Sometimes the touch functionality of the screen would stop working. It would not start working again unless the machine is put to sleep and then awoken (of course a full reboot would also do the trick). To me it was pretty obvious that this is a software problem, most likely drivers. I searched the web for other people complaining about the issue and found a thread
on the Dell support forums that discusses the issue. I jump in just to confirm that I have the issue too so this is not an isolated case. A Dell support representative contacts me and says that the fix for the bug is to replace the screen (according to their engineers) and asks for my address so he can send it. The bug is pretty minor (I actually had a full month without it happening) but I figure out that it cannot hurt… what a mistake. Turns out Dell's support network is really large and extends to Bulgaria including Plovdiv where I live. At first they called me from Sofia (capital city) and said they could send a technician to my place (as the warranty implies) but they and they have not seen such a machine before so they prefer to have it in their office where all their tools are. I tell them that I am in Plovdiv they apologize for the mistake and send the parts to Plovdiv. Support contractors in Plovdiv (Lirex
) call me the next day and tell me to bring the machine for screen replacement which would take a couple of hours. At this point I know I can demand they come to my place but I am actually so impressed that the support network comes so near me that I am happy to bring the machine over. Note that this kind of support is not common in Bulgaria.
The screen is replaced and everything looks fine but after a week the bug happens again… what a surprise it is not a hardware bug. It is a bad sign that Dell's approach to diagnosing issues seems to be "replace parts while it works". After a few more days I notice something far worse – the new screen manifests screen burn-in. When bright images on dark background stay for a while and then you switch the picture to another dark background the bright images are still on the screen. The ghost images are subtle but what has been seen cannot be unseen. My eyes are always looking for those images and soon I can see my whole desktop projected onto the Windows 8 start screen. The same problem in Macbook Pro Retina screens
is what got Apple sued by their customers.Turns out it is pretty hard to take a picture of a computer screen.Note how the tray icons are clearly visible.
I procrastinate for a couple of weeks and do not call support and just when I am about to do it I am in for a surprise. The laptop does not boot at all. I take it easy because I know all hardware fails. A lot of my stuff is in the cloud and I have a backup although it is somewhat old. I call support and tell them about both issues but they say that they cannot order replacement screen for a machine that cannot boot at all because they cannot verify the problem. I figure out this is OK after all it should take no more than three days (this is how long the screen replacement took to ship) to get a replacement motherboard and then they will see the issue and order a new screen, right? Yeah, right!
Dell have a support system where the customer can track where his parts are. Problem is someone is not filling all the fields but still after a week I see the support request turn from "Parts Dispatched" to "Delayed". I call Dell support (not the local contractors but actual Dell phone support) and ask what is going on. The guy is extremely polite but cannot tell me when the parts will arrive. After a week and several more calls he finally tells me that I will have to wait for the parts for two more weeks. Dell's "Next Business Day" warranty turned into "Next Business Month". I am still taking it easy maybe it is just an exception.
The new motherboard finally arrives and my machine is fixed. The motherboard is refurbished. Some people get angry when they do not get a new part for replacement but I do not care how they are going to fix my machine if it works. I show the guys the screen problem and we order replacement. I turn the machine off and go home. At home it does not boot and produces four beeps (RAM problem). Obviously the refurbished motherboard (RAM is soldered onto the motherboard) is not fixed well. I am furious. I do not call support. I cannot wait for another motherboard for another 25 days. I call the online store which sold the machine and ask for complete replacement. At this point I have already talked to the guy from the store several times about the issues and the possibility of replacement but this time I formally request it. I even throw some threats at the guy despite the fact that he has not done anything wrong up to now.
After about 10 days I get a replacement machine and it seems like it is working fine. For a while I was worried that all screens of this model may have the same defect (remember Apple's Macbooks had this problem en masse). The time it took to get a replacement is not impressive but is reasonable. I am quite happy with the guy from Vario.bg
(the online store) and can recommend them if you are buying a machine in Bulgaria. He did not try to send me to Dell support and agreed to replace the machine at once. In fact I do not have many complaints about the local people I talked to (the local support contractors Lirex and the local Dell phone support guy). It is the international corporation Dell that failed to deliver working motherboard in timely fashion. That being said I am not happy with the fact that neither Vario nor Lirex were able to connect my hard drive to another machine. The hard drive uses mSATA. I have not even seen an mSATA slot but there should be a way to connect it to a normal computer with a special cable or something but it did not happen and I had to use the old backup to restore my stuff to the new machine.
I have worked in the USA for several months when I was a student. I was selling pizza on the airport. When ANYTHING failed we gave the food for free and gave coupons for free food to the customer. Sometimes we even did it if nothing failed but the customer declared he was not happy for some reason like if he thought the pizza was not done although it was completely standard. The Dell support did not offer any compensation for my trouble. If they did I would still not buy Dell again but at least I may have skipped writing this article.
To sum it up I will not buy Dell not because their hardware failed but because of their support. Their support network may work for super standard mass hardware that has a lot of parts in circulation but they failed to provide parts for a cutting-edge machine.
After several months the screen burn in slowly reappears. I am scared to ask for a replacement because I am scared what they might bring.TL;DR;
I will not buy Dell because:
- Their diagnostics consists of random parts replacement even when the issue is obviously software
- They cannot provide replacement parts in a timely fashion
- Their replacement parts (both of them) were actually defective and in the case with the screen they replaced a working part with a faulty one