Saturday, 2 January 2016

Dell Laptop Drama - Buyer Beware

I just wanted to list my experience with a new Dell laptop.

I decided to replace a laptop with a brand-name one. It seemed like it would be the best option for future-proofing things, and giving reliable quality for peace of mind. So I bought a brand new Dell Vostro Core i3 laptop a couple of weeks ago, as a present for my girlfriend.

The second time I used it there was an error message, something like "Your system will operate slower and the battery will not charge. Please connect a Dell AC adapter for best system operation." It was a Dell power adapter, the brand new one that came with the laptop! Then the laptop rebooted, got caught in an endless cycle of tests and screen flashing and incredibly loud beeping. We had to quit out of that. Later we risked the power adapter again and it was fine. But it got me really worried about the new laptop. Should I return it? Then she'd be without a laptop for who knows how long.

I started looking into it, and why a Dell laptop might be bothered about who made the PSU it was connected to, and how it would even know that. I was irritated by what I discovered. I find out that Dell add chips and a fragile pin to their PSUs, so if it isn't a DELL PSU the laptop knows. Why? So that if you aren't using a Dell PSU their laptop actually disables battery charging, and slows the PC down significantly. Incredibly mean-spirited, forcing you to keep buying their own PSUs if you don't want the laptop to work at a fraction of its potential. And the power adapter cable has a thin pin in the centre. I'd never seen a power cable like that before. It certainly didn't seem as sturdy as the ones I was used to, that were just a thick, unbreakable tube. And I was right. Online comments showed that the pins bend and break easily. They, in conjunction with the adapter's identifying chip, are a weak point, a designed failure point. It is something I abhor - inbuilt obsolescence - designing things so they are prone to breaking, forcing you to buy more premium-priced replacement PSUs, increasing a company's profits at the expense of product quality and the environment. Or the pin can break off inside the laptop power connector, meaning a very expensive repair. Comment boards show all sorts of problems with Dell PSUs, often ruining the laptop. I didn't know any of this beforehand, or I'd have never bought a Dell laptop. It was only after the error appeared that I Googled it and found pages and pages of unhappy customers. Some took to the level of removing a chip from a Dell PSU and soldering it to the laptop motherboard to try and get round at least some of this attempt by Dell to cripple their laptops. It is wasteful, dishonest, unethical behaviour and I am really disappointed in Dell. I had thought a branded laptop meant quality, but it is actually just greed.

This is further illustrated when you try to get support. If a company had faith in their products they would offer support without question, for the lifetime of the product, or at least for 5-10 years. Not so with Dell. They won't support you unless you enter individual codes from underneath the laptop, so they can then cut off support after a short period. They don't trust the quality of their equipment enough to just support it, implying they know it will have problems and they want to cut support off as quickly as possible.

I should also add that the laptop included lots of installed software I don't need, including services running in the background. I looked into some of them and they were Intel spying services - things to enable backdoors into your PC, but which Intel won't talk about. Basically spyware for media and IT corporations, and enabling DRM so they can do things to your PC and its software. I think "Intel Content Protection HECI Service" might have been one of them, of which Intel famously said: "we cannot give any information regarding the Intel Content Protection HECI Service, and Protection FW Intel Integrated Clock Controller. It's an Intel policy." Of course, Intel are known for building DRM into their hardware for the big media corporations, but it is annoying to buy a new laptop with that crud enabled and running secretly.

1 comment:

Päivi & Santeri Kannisto said...

You are much better off formatting your laptop and re-installing it from the scratch without using the malware Dell is providing. We did it with our Dell Vostro 14 5000 Series laptop and it's working very well.