If I went with longer titles, I might have called this post Why I’ll Never Buy Another Dell Computer! Or I could have gone for the much shorter Dell Sucks! But I can’t resist a good pun or play on wyrds, so Bummer it is.
About a year ago I replaced my aging Sony Vaio laptop with a Dell XPS 15. The Sony taught me some hard lessons about buying a laptop online, one of them being “you’ll be sorry if you buy a Sony” — it had many annoyances, not the least of which was the wireless never worked. And it had a literal bug in it! The Dell is better in many ways, but,… well,…
Dell you disappoint me. Let me count the ways…
There were issues and annoyances from the beginning, but it was the last week or so that caused me to vent my frustration here. I’ll get to that.
When I decided the Sony had to go (being way past its prime), the first consideration was whether to buy a desktop or laptop (or both). I don’t really need a laptop — most of my computer use is at home in my “office.” I have an Apple iPad that meets any computing on the go needs, such as they are.
But a laptop offers the advantage that I can take it into the living room and do stuff while I watch TV.
Which sort of works out, but battery life is so bad on this thing that I rarely bother. (Plus it involves unplugging the external monitor, drive, and audio.)
Granted, the sort of computing I’m likely to do while watching TV (generating fractals or rendering 3D scenes) is CPU — and thus battery — intensive. Still, I was surprised, the first time I did this, at how rapidly the battery icon changed.
Mostly I treat it as a desktop with all the externals plugged in.
It was the Dell externals that immediately gave me grief.
Firstly, I bought a Dell “Premier” wireless keyboard and mouse. I was really excited to try a Bluetooth setup — no more wires!
But they were a problem from day one. For the first six or so months, about once a week, they’d both stop working.
So I’d go into the Windows Bluetooth settings, and every time there would be two instances of the keyboard and two instances of the mouse. Both of which claimed they were connected, neither of which worked.
Deleting one or the other didn’t help. Despite the settings looking okay, neither device worked. (And I tried deleting the first or second. Didn’t matter.)
It required deleting all four instances and then doing the connection dance again to get new working instances. (Which is a pain with the keyboard, since you have to type in a code to confirm the connection.)
I had to go through this about once a week. Sometimes more than once in a week; sometimes I got a week-and-a-half before they crapped out.
An update somewhere along the line seems to have fixed that, and I haven’t had to do the dance in months. Yay!
The keyboard and mouse are physically a disappointment, too. They’re both light-weight and flimsy. The keyboard has low-profile keys, and I can barely feel the “home key” nubs. I find I make a lot of typos with this keyboard.
The keyboard seems to eat batteries (two AAA cells). I’ve had to put new ones in about once a month. And I’ve learned that it gets “hinky” once battery power is around 50% — it stutters and pauses.
I’ll be typing along and suddenly nothing happens onscreen for a moment and then it catches up in a burst of characters. This usually throws me off so badly I’ve created typos I have to correct.
Occasionally, a character repeats — I’ll get a dozen of the same character. I seem to do a lot of backspacing and correcting with this keyboard.
The mouse is practically featherweight, and it took months to get used to such a flimsy, light mouse.
It also takes a pair of AAA cells, but I get maybe two months from the mouse. (Which is odd since it’s slightly further away from the laptop than the keyboard. Apparently the battery drain isn’t from the radio?)
What annoys me most about the mouse is that it apparently goes to sleep if you don’t use it for a few seconds. For instance, if you’re typing or reading a page.
Then when you go to use it, nothing happens at first (for a good second or so). I have to wave it around a bit before the cursor finally starts moving.
And the scroll wheel makes me absolutely crazy. Even with constant use, say while reading a long page, it stutters like the keyboard. It’ll go from several smooth scrolls to one that pauses… and then scrolls a bunch.
Poorly designed physically, too. There are “back” and “next” buttons on the sides. The “back” button is right under my thumb, so that’s okay.
But the “next” button requires either moving my middle finger from the right mouse button, or angling my ring finger out in such a way to get leverage on the button. Since the mouse is so lightweight, this moves the cursor and is hard to do in the first place.
I never use the “next” button. It’s just not usable.
Clearly neither the keyboard, nor the mouse, were designed for a serious computer user.
Fine for the occasional or light user, but a real nightmare for someone like me.
So much for the “Premier” keyboard and mouse — the 27″ Dell monitor (S2719H) is also a major disappointment.
For one, I was very surprised that the highest resolution this 27″ monitor is capable of is 1920×1080 — the same as the laptop’s 15″ screen. That really floored me. The end result is that I need to monitor pushed as far back on my desk as possible, since everything is too big.
Physically, the monitor’s mount is flimsy. Just touching the monitor causes it to move back and forth, as if on springs. Very bad design!
My desktop wallpaper looks pretty decent on the laptop’s monitor. But that same image looks washed out on the external monitor. It can’t accomplish deep color, let alone black, and no combination of brightness and contrast (the only controls available) makes it any better. (They can make it a lot worse, though!)
It’s either that the backlight is too bright, or that the LCD components don’t block light very well. Certainly not as well as the laptop’s monitor!
There are some presets available: “Standard,” “Comfort View,” “Movie,” “Game,” “Warm,” “Cool,” and most of them look like crap. The “Comfort View” and “Warm” especially — they turn the whites yellow.
The “Movie” setting is okay for movies or YouTube videos, but (as with the “Cool” setting) is unusable for writing or reading (which is mostly what I do).
There is a bit of Dell software, the Display Manager, that really adds nothing to the mix. Most of the same controls are available via the monitor menu.
It does have some features I don’t use, and it has the annoying property that the window closes itself if you leave it alone for a bit. (And it’s not because you clicked on something else — apparently it just gets bored and closes itself.)
I discovered a funny thing the other day. I was poking around some of the technical monitor settings and saw something labeled: DDC/CI (Display Data Channel/Command Interface).
If you turn it off, it disables the ability to control the monitor using software. Since the Display Manager doesn’t really offer me anything, I turned off that setting to see if the display got any better.
Then the Display Manager started complaining I didn’t have a Dell monitor plugged in.
Apparently without the DDC/CI, the software can’t even identify the monitor.
Seems kinda lame to me. A Dell laptop can’t identify a Dell monitor on it’s own?
But mostly the screen looks like crap, and the monitor’s mount is badly designed — so wobbly! (In a dark room, with the screen set to black by the screensaver, the monitor acts like a bright night light there is so much leakage.)
So I’ve had a low-level disappointment from day one. On top of that, there is the annoyance of constant Dell updates.
I’ve noticed that, often when the computer starts acting weird — especially if the weirdness is network related — and I reboot, I get a notice of a Dell update.
I’m not sure if the update is applied on the reboot, and the weirdness is related to just receiving the update, but it seems that way. Something about the process of receiving the update seems to freak out the computer.
And there sure has been a lot of them recently. Often once a day.
At some point, I started getting an Intel Optane Memory Pinning error every time I launched Chrome.
I assumed it was a Chrome thing, but then I saw it once when I launched Windows File Explorer.
So I poked around the internet and, on the Dell website, in the user forums, discovered that it’s some combination of a Windows update and something Dell didn’t do right.
The advice was to uninstall the Intel Optane package, which fixed the problem, but also removed whatever capability that package gave Windows.
One more Dell frustration.
There was also the frustration that the Dell-supplied “Killer wireless” software, at some point, decided that, every time I boot the machine, it needed — just absolutely needed — to send me a pointless notification.
Clicking on the notification didn’t open the app, and I had no interest whatsoever in setting my internet speed limits anyway.
I was able to make that go away by turning off notifications for that app, but of course that means I won’t hear from it if it has something legit to say.
And wireless (WiFi) has been another sore point, but that’s a post for another day.
(I’ve been able to eliminate the router as the problem by getting a new router, but apparently am suffering from interference from neighbor WiFi systems… or something. I’m not getting anything near the bit rate I actually have coming into the router — nearly 100 mbs, but I’m lucky to get 35 mbs over WiFi.)
And then there’s the MaxxAudioPro, another Dell-supplied software.
The website for the maker brags about the software, but the Dell website forums are full of people who wish they could uninstall it because it over-processes the sound.
I thought it was just me; my ears are seriously defective. I was born with defective hearing, and decades of rock-n-roll has made them worse. (I’m probably close to being “legally deaf” if there is such a thing.)
I hated the way the sound sounded, but I never know if that’s me or not.
Apparently it’s not all me.
Notice in the screen capture that, despite saying the EQ is off, the EQ sure doesn’t seem to be off. If I select an EQ preset and then go back to OFF, the EQ settings flatten out.
There does seem to be something going on with screen handling.
Microsoft has some known issues (like orange screens!) in their latest Windows update, so I’m not sure if certain weirdnesses are related to that or related to something Dell’s doing.
I use the Windows Task Manager fairly often, especially to check on my WiFi.
But lately, when it first comes up, it’s showing me the CPU graph even though I have WiFi selected (in the left column). If I select something else and then come back to WiFi, I get the graph I expect.
This might be a Windows thing, but last week I also got a Dell update for the video software, and this has been happening ever since.
Which brings me to this past week and the final straws.
There was a Dell update that was for the Killer Wireless and the video software. It required a reboot to complete the install.
But the laptop never rebooted. Blank screen, keyboard backlight on (never went out), no buttons did anything, even if held down a long time.
I finally called Dell. Spent an hour or so on the phone, most of which was a waste. The agent (“Charlie”) told me to hold down the power button (which I’d done repeatedly before calling), and this time it worked — the laptop rebooted.
(I’ll mention that this sort of lockup had happened a few times before early on, but each time I was able to find some magic combination of the only two buttons available to reboot it successfully.)
Then Charlie went through the excruciating hardware test, most of which (like 40 minutes worth) tests the 3D graphics cards. About which I couldn’t care less, since I don’t play games (ever).
The thing is, when our call first started, my router crapped out in a way I’d never seen before. Both incoming DSL lines went red. Rebooting the router brought it back, but I’d never seen that happen before.
Not sure there was any connection, but a strange coincidence indeed if not, especially as the update involved the wireless software. (But how that update took out the router, I can’t explain.)
Other than getting the machine to reboot, nothing was accomplished in that call.
After that, due to the issues, I was more sensitive to how the WiFi was doing, and it was doing really, really badly.
I got the telco guy out, and he gave me a new router and also took it off auto and set it to use the best channel he could detect.
This post has gotten long, so I’ll leave that for another day. Suffice to say I went from really awful — and extremely inconsistent — results to a more stable result, but one that’s just barely adequate (25 to 30+ mbs).
Charlie wanted another go at trying to improve the WiFi, but another hour phone call just involved a lot of flailing around, re-installing drivers, killing various applications to see if that helped, but all to no real avail.
I finally told Charlie I’d had enough, and thanks, but we’re done.
A few days later I got an email from a Dell guy who wrote that he was “doing random audits on cases our agent had handled and I happen to come across your case.”
He wanted to offer assistance (after Charlie told me further efforts would be chargeable) regarding the “issue” I’d reported. (No real indication he even knew what that was.) He wanted to know when he could call.
Think about that for a moment.
If it really is random, then, what, I just happened to luck out somehow?
If it isn’t random (because Dell knows I have a blog and I told Charlie I was likely to be writing a post about my issues), then this attempt starts with a lie (about the worst thing you can do).
I sent a long email back explaining all my issues.
No reply so far.
I’d really hoped for better. I try to buy American (or at least as American as possible these days), but this has been a disappointment.
Suffice to say I won’t be extending the Dell support nor buying anything from them in the future. If I live long enough to need a new system, there are many other fish in the sea.
I will say that technology companies in general don’t seem to live up to very high standards. And I know how corporations behave. I’ve sat in meetings where the topic was the minimum amount of quality customers would tolerate before leaving.
It’s a pity we’ve come to this, but as my mom used to say: “This is where we are.”
Stay outraged, my friends!