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Dell

A multinational technology corporation that develops, manufactures and sells computer products.

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Holy hell, friggin' Dell!

  • Jan 20, 2010
  • by
Rating:
+1
Today, boys and girls, I would like to discuss my love/hate relationship with the mighty computer maker, Dell. It's a tale of torment, terror and occasional excitement at insanely good offers around the holidays. A tale that has lasted nearly two decades from when I was a teeny little Brit pottering around London with a 486 under each arm. A tale of technological lust and temporary call center insanity.

I initially fell in love with Dell thanks to their unique (at the time) concept of building the computer you wanted without needing a second mortgage. They represented value and reliability, though clearly it was the value thing that got me because I'm cheap. I'm also a reasonably good techie, never shying from prying the RAM cards from a motherboard or throwing out my AGP card for PCI-Express, so I really don't need more than cheap and good. But I definitely don't need 'pain in the ass'.

Yet over the years, even though every single computer (except one) came from my favorite four-letter dot com, there have been a growing number of incidents that make me want to drop by the Round Rock HQ and "Yell At Dell" for a few hours. Specifically:

- Their call center staff in Ireland are unbelievably rude, for reasons that completely elude me. It's like they've trained every last shred of decency out of their workers.

- Meanwhile, the call center in India is a mixture of bureaucratic nightmare and single-digit IQ. I spent two hours on the phone once trying to get a replacement PSU, jumping through all their hoops about reseating cards and fiddling around. Ironically, the average person following their instructions would trash most of the computer. In the end, I went to Radio Shack and bought a PSU to save the hassle. Never again. (This guy got the US call center and completely lost it.)

- The Inspiron 1521 laptop is a horrendous piece of crap. The air intake fan is located under the machine. "Holy hell, are you serious?" I hear you scream, as you also realize that makes the machine dangerously overheat when left on your lap, sofa, bed or anything else that blocks the little spinny thing. If that wasn't bad enough, the SigmaTel sound card is like the technology they use in the underworld, since it's scientifically impossible to get the microphone and speakers working at the same time (check out the forums for people losing their minds on this one).

- My other Dell laptop has licked the serious overheating and lousy sound card problems and replaced them with new annoyances, my favorite being the F-keys requiring an 'ALT' button pressed at the same time to work. Why would they do this? Better yet, if you press the F1 key without the alt combination, it turns off the wireless connection. So I get calls every time my laptop is used by someone else, asking how to fix the wireless. Only Dell would think of taking the classic Help key, F1, and using it to disconnect you from all possible help. Well, maybe American Airlines would too.

- My newish desktop computer, an Intel Quad Core 6GB Windows 7 tank, isn't as fast as the same-priced machine I bought from Dell 16 months earlier. In fact, I switched over the hard disk and memory into the older machine, which bizarrely had a better graphics card than the new one. Even the new bundled screen wasn't as large as the bundled screen from the old PC. Yes, I know the deals vary, but an $800 PC deal compared year-on-year should still outperform the older one considerably. I now have a Frankenstein computer.

- The Dell Mini, yes the beloved one, is a technological marvel with two stupid, stupid flaws. The first is the mouse pad that requires you to type with hands dangling in the air, lest you move the character cursor randomly around the screen. The second is that the Dell Launcher supplied with Ubuntu Linux hogs 90% of the CPU all the time, and unless you do a "top then kill" in the terminal, everything else runs slower than a lunch break at a paint-watching convention. Added to that they use a non-standard distribution of the OS which is really unnecessary (and, by the way, it doesn't come with the machine so don't delete the OS).

On the upside, Dell computers are infinitely better than HP in every possible respect, including the whizzing sound they make when thrown out of the window. HP should stick to printers, since every PC experience I've had with them is an unmitigated disaster. And Dell sometimes has discounts that don't make any sense from a corporate profitability standpoint, but if you catch them they're a steal (18 months ago: mid-spec PC, 22" flat screen, free Mini, free memory upgrade, free shipping ,all for $799 - yes, my friends, yes). So I can't stay mad at them - I just want my next Dell purchase to make me think happy and positive thoughts about rainbows and moonbeams rather than waterboarding my motherboard and going Jack Bauer on my mouse.

PS - If you wonder why I buy so many PCs, that's very complicated.

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January 04, 2012
James, I enjoyed this one. I had huge problems with each Dell I have bought too! The last two buys (laptop/desktop) have been HP and this equipment offered better options for the build with better incentives and I have not had any issue with either device (year and a half for the desktop and six months for the laptop).
January 04, 2012
Thanks! HP has been doing a much better job since they got their machines into Costco, weirdly enough. I'm going laptop all the way in 2012.
 
April 18, 2011
Great review of the mighty Dell. My folks have one of there mid-size desktops I believe. It seems to be serving them well -- not too many complaints. I actually have a 13" HP Pavilion laptop and have not had any issues with it. Perhaps I'm in a minority? ;)
April 18, 2011
Thanks! As long as you keep your fingers crossed, the Pavilion should be fine. :-)

Talking of call center meltdown, I quite like this one too...

June 26, 2011
You cynic! ;-)
 
January 21, 2010
Yep, I had a nightmare with the Dell's Indian outsourced call center. I put in the order for Dell Mini in Canada but coz I've a foreign credit card, the order was put on hold although the money been deducted! Ended up calling the call center to find out the problem and hence the nightmare! To keep the story short, I canceled my order, lucky me! Now that i have read about Dell Mini from you, am I glad I bought my Toshiba netbook instead!
January 21, 2010
Yes, it's a clown-full nightmare of tech promises and failures. Dell is great - until you reach their Purgatory of Dell.
January 21, 2010
I hate it when they kept asking me to repeat the order number, then transfer me to another operator & asked the same again! It's just downright stupid & a case of merry go around! If Dell keeps on the same system with its customer service, it's bound to lose even more orders!
 
January 21, 2010
Hahaha, you're hilarious!  I have a love/hate relationship with Dell as well.  I've been inadvertently exclusively using Dell machines for the past few years.  3-4 years ago, I bought this gigantic clunker of a laptop, and I've been wishing that it would just poop out on me for the past few months or so, so that I have an excuse to get a new, improved one.  But this thing just wouldn't quit!  It's totally hanging on!   So reliable!

I didn't realize that they had a call center in Ireland, I've only worked with the one in India before, and though they're very nice, it's still really frustrating.  I once spent 8 hours straight on the phone with them.  I wish I was exaggerating.

Great review, James!  Looks like you're the Dell expert.  Can't wait to hear about your complicated relationships with PCs ;P
January 21, 2010
Hey I have a PC you can buy from me. It's *almost* brand new. :-)
January 21, 2010
Thanks, DL - my expertise is limited to SEO/SEM/Apps and other online stuff. I forget to mention how everyone asks me to fix their PCs which is both pointless and awful...
January 22, 2010
I'm actually fixin' to get a Mac when this clunker goes kaput.  The Macbook is in my Best Discoveries of 2009 list :)  Fortunately for me, my parents are the only ones who ask me for PC help.  I'm actually one of those who ask for PC help :x :P
 
January 21, 2010
entertaining write up...I actually own a HP PC myself, it was quiet as a mouse until I upgraded the graphics card LOL!
January 21, 2010
What happened after the graphics card upgrade? Do tell!
 
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Quick Tip by . January 21, 2010
Computer is good, call center is a horror! Buy it from the store if you've the choice. In some countries, Dell is available at the store!
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Wiki

Dell, Inc. is a multinational technology corporation that develops, manufactures, sells, and supports personal computers and other computer-related products. Based in Round Rock, Texas, Dell employs more than 76,500 people worldwide as of 2009[update].

Dell grew during the 1980s and 1990s to become (for a time) the largest seller of PCs and servers. As of 2008, it held the second spot in computer-sales within the industry behind Hewlett-Packard. The company currently sells personal computers, servers, data storage devices, network switches, software, and computer peripherals. Dell also sells HDTVs, cameras, printers, MP3 players and other electronics built by other manufacturers.

In 2006, Fortune magazine ranked Dell as the 25th-largest company in the Fortune 500 list, 8th on its annual "Top 20" list of the most-admired companies in the United States. In 2007 Dell ranked 34th and 8th respectively on the equivalent lists for the year. A 2006 publication identified Dell as one of 38 high-performance companies in the S&P 500 which had consistently out-performed the market over the previous 15 years.
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