Dell build quality

I’ve always been a bit of a Dell proponent, but recently I’ve been given several reasons to be dubious of the build quality of Dell systems. During my time at LFRS, I received a great deal of kit from Dell; all of which had to be tested before being recorded in the inventory system. I must have tested at least one hundred PCs during my various stints there, and never once did I find a fault with a new PC. There was one incident where a user plugged in a 95W charger (instead of the usual 65W one), and damaged the laptop, we had a technician arrive at the IT office the very next day to repair it.

In 2006, one of my friends bought a Dell laptop (an inspiron 630m), and when I saw the offer, I decided to buy one for myself too. The sales people were helpful, and I was happy with it when it arrived. I elected not to buy the optional 3-year extended warranty, as it was far too expensive for my student tastes. In March 2007, the charger broke (yes, the actual charger unit), fortunately, my lappy was still under warranty, so I got a new one. Kudos. Around a month later, my friend’s laptop developed a problem: the spring underneath the left mouse button broke — the button itself was still usable, but no longer had any sort of haptic response. Unfortunately, that was about a month outside of his warranty (as he bought his about a month before I did). Almost exactly another month later, the exact same problem happened to me. Dell has refused to repair this for free, even though it is obviously a build issue. Liam’s laptop has gone on to develop issues with the display, which I’m thankful to say that mine hasn’t (yet).

More recently, though, is the order that arrived at work on Thursday: bit10 had ordered brand spanking new PCs for the Dev team (yay!). The task of setting them up fell to the bit10 sysadmin (Les), Ross, and myself. Everything seemed to be going swimmingly until we lifted one computer out of a box… we set it right way up to remove the packing foam, and heard an ominous *clunk* from inside the box. Les and I removed the side from the case only to find that Dell had neglected to screw the CPU heatsink onto the motherboard! Surprisingly, the PC booted, but reverting to on-board graphics processing; the heatsink must have damaged the graphics card during transit (I’m just amazed it didn’t knacker anything else [as far as we can tell]). Writing it off as a freak incident, we reached for the next box. Inside this one, we heard more of a rattle than a clunk. Opening this one up, we saw that one of the PCI blanking plates was knocking about inside the case — fortunately, this one appeared to have done no damage.

It is my opinion, that Dell values its smaller customers less: LFRS will, in an average month, probably place around two or three orders with Dell. To my knowledge, this was the first order with Dell from bit10, and it was certainly my first order. I would like to be able to get onto my high horse and say that I won’t be using them in the future, but frankly, Dell does have very good prices, and it’s not feasible to build a laptop from scratch. I shall certainly be keeping my eyes open for alternative vendors, though.

3 thoughts on “Dell build quality”

  1. I have had a terrible time with Dell over their build quality. I purchased a new dimension 9200 last year (cost £1,110) and since then I have had 6 (six) hardware failures… in the end Dell responded by saying “electronic equipment and software may occasionally fail like any other electronic appliance or manmade component. Unfortunately, there is no way to test every hardware or software configuration in the market place”
    I asked them if 6 hardware failures was normal for a machine in less than 18 months, they wouldn’t say…probably because if it was normal then they’re admitting their systems are shoddy and if it wasn’t normal, then their admitting that my particular build was sub-standard (something they don’t want to do.)
    Oh one last point…I told dell that I would be posting the email transcripts of all our dealings and was wanred that they could be used in evidence!…how’s that for customer service.
    Don’t buy Dell if you expect your system to last more than a year.
    John Taylor

  2. Having seen the construction of “low end” Dell laptops, and experienced their customer service, I’d never buy one again and would consider steering clear of their desktops too just for the customer service reason.

    3 laptops we had, 2 of them failed within the year’s warranty (different faults), and then 1 failed again with the same fault after 13 months. Their customer services people tried to tell me the warranty had run out, but I said that either they expected their machines to fail within a month of the end of the warranty, or that they didn’t. If they did expect them to fail then I’d never buy one again, if they didn’t then there must have been a fault on that particular one and things like the Sale of Goods to Consumers Act would apply (fitness for purpose, merchantable quality, etc). Unfortunately businesses aren’t covered on this point of law but after a lengthy hold and the agent “speaking to their manager” they would “as a gesture of goodwill” repair this laptop on this occassion. Probably to avoid the Small Claims Court action I was looking forward to starting (and getting Trading Standards involved for good measure).

    Most of the problem seems to stem from CS agents not knowing that a warranty is in addition to statutory rights – and I guess most people will just give up after being told the warranty’s run out (albeit making a mental note to never buy, in their opinion, shoddy Dell equipment again).


  3. Oh and I and my friends have been pretty pleased with Acer laptops for build quality, price, and performance :-)

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