Well, it’s starting to look like I should stop recommending Dell computers when people ask me which system they should buy. Chris Pirillo of TechTV’s show Call for Help has a video clip of a Dell laptop totally spazzing out in ways I didn’t think were possible. Saw this first over at Robyn’s site where she details her own decision to dump her Dell laptop for an Apple iBook. Not that I don’t have my own reasons to stop touting Dells as my own work as a PC Systems Administrator has given me plenty to bitch about.
You see, I don’t buy pre-built systems anymore and haven’t ever since I bought my first (and only) Compaq back in 1996. That was a Presario 4712 and it wasn’t a bad machine per se until you wanted to upgrade it in some fashion. It all came to a head when I attempted to use a new video card I had purchased. In theory upon inserting the new card the BIOS would deactivate the on-board video card and everything would be wonderful. Windows still detected the on-board video card, however, and that would conflict with the new card I had installed. Manually deactivating the card didn’t help. Thus started yet another long and tedious attempt to get technical support from Compaq. For the sake of brevity I’ll just say that, in the end, the new video card never did work properly in my 4712 and I gave up on trying. I swore that day that I would never purchase another Compaq product for as long as I lived and would encourage as many people as I could to consider gnawing off their left arms before allowing themselves to be talked into buying one as well. Not that the hardware is bad, pretty much everyone sells you the same crap as everyone else, it was the truly pathetic support I received from the company that made me curse their very existence upon this Earth.
My own experiences with Dell since our company upgraded their machines this past winter have shown that their quality has gone down considerably. The small footprint Optiplex GX150s we got in have been just one hardware failure after another with the most problems being with the hard drive. Heat appears to be the main culprit as the machine only has two cooling fans and the HD is mounted right next to the heat-sink for the CPU. The HD is the same model I have had in my own PC for a couple of years now without any problems so I am inclined not to think it’s just bad HDs. The Dell C600 laptops we’ve had haven’t been much better. We just had a user’s C600 HD crap out on us today and it gives every appearance of being heat related.
This isn’t so much of a problem for a big corporation with a major purchasing deal with the company providing them the hardware. We call it in and it is replaced. It’s annoying and time consuming, but the service is rarely difficult to obtain. Funny how much pull major corporations can have.
Consumers don’t often have that kind of pull, though, and word going round is that Dell is becoming less helpful and more like Compaq. Four years ago my mother-in-law purchased a new Dell at my recommendation and, aside from a modem that was DOA, the system has been rock solid since she got it. Today, I don’t know if I would recommend she buy a Dell. Hell, today I’d just build her something nice myself.
There are advantages to buying a pre-built system. The most obvious is the fact that you can call someone and bitch at them about it when it doesn’t work right and hopefully they’ll get you up and running again. The less obvious reason is all the free software you get with your system such as the current version of Windows plus either Works or Office and some other random packages. It’s one thing to provide support for family members, but most of my co-workers would rather have a big company they can call and complain to when things go wrong.
So I try to stay up on which company is giving the best bang for the buck in terms of hardware as well as the best technical support. Of the two, the support is more important than the hardware. Up until recently, that company has been Dell. Now, though, I’m beginning to wonder if I need to go do some more research.