Ramblings of a Coder's Mind

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Dell Studio XPS 1640 Issues

Once upon a time, not too far long ago, I got a Dell Studio XPS 1640. I found that the laptop was great. I knew before I got it that it had a slight heating problem so ever since I got it, I would give it some cooling space. The performance on this machine was simply amazing but I had a few issues. Here are the issues I had:

  1. Didn’t receive any Intel Centrino 2 and Microsoft Windows Vista labels.

  2. Bottom (access) panel wasn’t correctly fit in.

  3. Left hinge on my laptop was incorrectly fitted.

  4. Broadcom Ethernet card was a 10/100Mbit card instead of a 10/100/1000Mbit card as promised.

Of all of them, the final issue was the most serious so that’s the one I took up first. The list however is the order in which I noticed these issues so I will continue this post in that order. It is my request however that if you’re reading this as a Dell Studio XPS 1640 that you please make sure you pay close attention to the last problem. If you have the same issue, I’ll let you know what exactly to do :) (Note: I’m writing this so that I can let other Dell Studio XPS 1640 users know what it is that Dell has done)

It is important to note that this isn’t something that I have against Dell exactly. I just think they could have handled this issue better. They did nothing for me for well over a month until my family members go tired of listening to the same old story every time, took the phone from me and started getting a bit more aggressive asking the case to be immediately elevated. So here is my story.

The day I got my laptop, I was in college and I got a call from my family about the package having arrived. I gave a call to the “service engineer” and asked him to come over to my place. Dell India has a policy of having them open the package and making sure everything is in there rather than us doing it since that prevents customers from making false claims of missing/incorrect received parts. So the guy came over on time as requested and opened up the package. The machine seemed perfectly fine but the labels were missing. Problem 1 found! We searched everywhere but it was no where to be found. So I asked the guy what the protocol was in case of a missing element in the package. We did make sure that the order list confirmed that the labels are supposed to have been sent. Since they were clearly no where in my package or by default stuck on on the palm rest. He asked me to make a note of this on the report sheet that he had. I did so in the customer comments section. He told me I’d be called back about this in a couple of days.. lol :D

Ok, I agree. Its something minor and picky. So I didn’t really worry about it. I was more in awe with the awesomeness of the machine so I just used it for a couple of days. The next morning I flipped over the machine and checked out the bottom. That is when I noticed that the bottom panel was incorrectly fitted. If you refer to the image to the right, you can see that the access panel was not properly fit in. Not a big deal, right? That’s exactly what I thought. I decided that I’d wait for the call that I was supposed to get for my labels. On getting the call, I’d simply ask them to send another one of their technicians to refit it. Sounds simple enough, eh? :)

So I opened up the laptop and started using it on the second day, not at all freaked yet.. other than about how great the machine was. Right then, I noticed something. The left hinge is incorrectly fitted :O I have attached at image of what I mean. Now that is something I don’t really fancy. This is serious. A machine hardly a handful of days old and it has a defect :O :(

At the time, I was a tad bit busy. A few important things had cropped up. Of course, this could wait a day or two, right? Sure it can :P

A couple of days later, I’m transferring files from my desktop to my laptop over wi-fi. I’m only getting about 5 MBps (obviously :P). Of course, if I were to connect using a cross over ethernet cable, I should get 1000Mbps because that is the card I supposedly have on my laptop and on my desktop as well :) So I get the cross over cable (a brand new one that I got with my newly bought router) and connected my desktop with my laptop. I then started the data transfer only to get about 10-11MBps. Wait. That’s the speed I get on a 100Mbit network too. Clearly, its time to do some troubleshooting. Is it the cable? No. I tried out an alternative cable that I had lying around. It clearly couldn’t be a switch/router of a lower rating because there is nothing between these two machines. Are one or both of the machines not set to work on a 1000MBit network? Well, last I checked my desktop was on auto negotiate mode. So I checked out the setting again and it was set to Auto negotiate. That seems fine to me. Now lets check out the settings on my laptop. Its set to auto negotiate. Lets ask them to force 1000MBit. So I set the option on my desktop. I click the drop down menu on my laptop and there seems to be no 1000MBit option. Oh jeez. This is a problem! I seem to have received a 100MBit card instead of a 1000MBit one.

To the left you can see a screenshot of my desktop’s network card properties. Clearly, I have an option to set it into 1000MBit Full Duplex mode. I was expecting the same for my laptop who’s screenshot is to the right. Now do you see the problem? Quite seriously concerned, I decided to contact Dell the next morning. But I then realised that it was a Friday night so I wouldn’t be able to call them until Monday. I was seriously pissed at the magnitude of the blunder that Dell had committed and I wanted to talk to them immediately. In came Dell’s award winning support website. I instantly wrote them a note using the site. I realised I’d have to stand the excruciating pain in my heart for the duration of the weekend but that is something I’d have to deal with.

Yes, I did notice that the device is called a “Broadband Netlink Gigabit Ethernet” card but I guess the word “Gigabit” had nothing to do with the actual device speed :( If you’d like to check out this on your laptop then click start, right click on my computer and click Device manager on the left side pane of the window which opened up. If you’re asked for elevation, please do allow Device manager to open up. Once device manager opens up, go to the Network Adapters section and expand it. Right click on “Broadcom Netlink Gigabit Ethernet” and click properties. Go to the Advanced tab and click “Speed & Duplex” and check the values you have available.

A couple of days later, I got a call from the people at Dell asking questions. For the next 2 weeks, I told them the same thing over and over again. I always gave them my system service tag number followed by a few details of mine for confirmation. Then I’d explain what my problem was and they would ask me the same set of questions for checking i know what I want. I knew it that they used to have logs of past customer interactions and so I was unsure why they would ask me the same questions over and over but being the guy that I am, I’d answer them perfectly nicely. Now I do realize the magnitude of the mistake here and how it could probably happen. Ethernet cards come along with the motherboard which is supposed to be an Intel PM-45 and is. I’ve checked :) How could the ethernet card be incorrect? My only explanation was that the manufacturer Dell gets their motherboard from, at least for this model might be incorrect. If that is the case, it isn’t Dell’s mistake directly but I would have assumed that they would check the system out before shipping it out. In the next few weeks, my interaction with Dell got them to conclude things along the same line. In the end, I was offered a motherboard change or a machine replacement. Now my question is, if your entire lot of motherboards is incorrect, wouldn’t the replacement be faulty too? Also, I don’t want you to open up a brand new laptop. The service tech agreed and decided to get the replacement over but it would take him a few days to get the permissions. So I waited another couple of days. Like all previously promised call backs, I got nothing! So I happened to call them back again for the millionth time and this time it went into the same type of conversation again.

At this point I must tell you that my brother works in the service industry and is used to talking to a couple of customers daily. He has a fair bit of experience in talking to service techies. Even though he doesn’t live with us anymore, I did keep him updated about what was happening. He happened to be in India on that faithful day when I called Dell. This would be the single longest tech support call I’ve ever been part of. What happened next was 2 hours of argument over the phone and it had nothing to do with the shitty service they were providing. I had been patient with them for well over a month and my brother was tired of listening to this entire thing go on and on. He took the phone from my hand and immediately asked for the lady’s superior. Eventually we reached the a senior on the Tech Support team at Dell (or at least their call centre) in Bangalore. I’d rather not take names so lets just refer to him as Mr. X. Now we didn’t just have Mr. X on the phone but also a certain Ms. Y who was the customer care representative who was handling my case. Both of these people were on the line conferencing with me and my brother. I was handling all the technical questions but all of this was after about an hour’s worth of telling them how they have handled the entire case quite poorly just telling me things were being done with absolutely no results. It seems that Dell wanted me to send my laptop back for a replacement, something I straight out denied. You don’t want to know what my brother did to them after this to show them why they were wrong when they asked me to do this. I was against the motherboard change since I thought it was a stupid idea (as explained earlier) and that the machine was brand new (who really wants to open up a new machine. At the end, Mr. X said that the problem seems to be a Broadcom-Vista compatibility issue. Oh God!

Are you telling me, despite Broadcom being a decently big sized company and that Dell being a pretty big company as well, never saw that Broadcom’s network cards didn’t work on Vista which I must say has been around for a couple of years now and has millions of user, didn’t give a 1000MBit option? I know, the number of people using 1000MBit networks is slim but its not that slim. And why didn’t Dell’s tech team check the system on a 1000MBit network while deciding to use a Broadcom card in their machine? Mr. X could only say “Sir, you’re the first user to have ever reported it to us” Oh. My. F*%$ing. GOD! So I just asked him what’s his next step? He replies that a patch should be out soon. Now this day was the 26th of March, 2009. He asks for time till the 3rd of April, 2009 which is a week away. I accept his terms. He promises to call back and I laugh at him telling him his organization’s pathetic call back record.

Surely enough, the third came and went and nothing happened. Now I’m pissed off. I call them back on Monday and ask to speak to Mr. X but he is apparently on another call, which seems to be Dell’s single most common excuse. I ask for his superior but all of them seem to be in a meeting. The guy on the phone how ever gives me an update about the case. Seems that the patch isn’t out, surprise surprise. Now I’m in the right mind to install XP one of these days and check out their theory of it being a Vista-Broadcom incompatibility. The guy says that Mr. X should be available some time later and that he can have Mr. X call me back. I let him know about how I never get a call back so I’d rather wait. The guy asks me if I have any other problems and them I realize I hadn’t brought up the other issues in ages. The hinge and access panel issue I’ve mentioned once or twice to a few other people but nothing was done (spot a pattern yet? :P). I told him how I’ve shown a couple of people including Mr. X the pictures that I have shown you guys a bit earlier in this post. He asked to see the images himself so I sent it to him as well. He came to the conclusion that the face plate and the access panel would have to be changed. Now, I thought the face plate means the thing which has the Dell logo on it because that and the silver metallic finish seem to all be connected in one piece. I was wrong, I got the entire monitor 2 days later. As for the access panel, I told him I didn’t really need a new one and that refitting should do but he sent me one (seems they replace such things so oh well.. who am I do argue? :))

I also told him about the labels so he transferred my call to the missing parts team. Get ready, another problem to arise here. The lady on the other side, Ms. Z, noticed that it had been 37 days since I got delivery and that Dell only accepts missing/incorrect part reports for 30 days. Wait. I told your representatives a couple of times. None of them told me this was the wrong department to say this. Even Mr. X’s inbox has a mail with all the above mentioned issues when sending him snaps (he hadn’t done anything about it for over a week while the guy I was on the phone a couple of minutes ago, Mr. A, solved the issue in a couple of minutes). She just kept saying its their policy. I asked her if its my responsibility to know where exactly to complain. I also told her about the fact that I had made a note of the missing labels to the first Service Engineer who had come to my place when I got my laptop and that his report had a note of this. He was supposed to do things but nothing happened. She read out his report to me and told me it said nothing about the labels. I asked her to read my note. The funny part is that, she didn’t get the document I signed but an electronic receipt of the guy’s report. How sad. I told her to fetch the original report and read my note. This would take a day or so according to her so she gave me a case number and sent me back to Mr. A who had by this time finished writing up a request to get me the 2 things I needed. His work was done. About time someone solved one of my problems. Mr. A said that he would ask Mr. X to call me back the next day and that’s the best he could do since it was past their work time. I agreed and decided to call it a day.

2 days later I received my packages and got a call from the team in Mumbai asking when they could send a techie over. The issue was that I know that the package is at home cause my dad called me about it. I wasn’t at home. In fact, I couldn’t get home till 4 PM cause I was in college. They, it seems, didn’t have anyone who could come by then. What the hell? Their work timings are till 6 PM. I don’t stay out of the way in the corner of the universe. The previous techie didn’t mind coming over at that time for the system check up. I wasn’t in a mood to argue so I accepted the offer to have him come over the next day at 4. By now, its the 9th of April and the engineer comes over to my place. I’m out with a couple of friends so my parents over see the guy replacing the parts in question. A couple of hours later, I have a new monitor and access panel with my old one still lying beneath my bed. While he was working on it, I decided to talk to Mr. X about the driver/patch update that I was supposed to get. Excuses excuses.. nothing again. He now wants to get a guy over to give me a new motherboard and check it out. If that doesn’t fix it, he wants to keep waiting. I’ve told him that I’m busy next week but I will be calling him back on Monday telling him that if he wants to test on motherboards that he can get a spare machine (which I’m sure he does have already) and test on that. If he has a fix, he should let me know. If its hardware based, he can replace my motherboard. If its software based, I’ll accept a patch. He is still waiting for Broadcom to reply.

So this is what it comes down to. I’m playing hardball. I have exams till the 25th of this month and I hope they have a fix till then else I’ll be going out with this. I’m prepared to take this to the next level. Do I have a card capable of working at the promised speeds? If yes, why isn’t it? If no, why not? Either way, I want a fix. I’m a customer who has paid in full for a product and I accept my device to work.

This is where you come in. Are you a Dell Studio XPS 1640 user, do you have a 1000MBit Ethernet card on a Dell Machine of yours or do you have a Broadcom 1000MBit Ethernet card? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, you’ve come to the right place. Please make sure you have the right hardware that works at the right speeds. If you have the same issues as me, I urge you to call your local Dell support number and ask them what’ should be done about this. You can tell them that Dell India is looking into it and that they should do the same in co-operation with them. The quicker we get a solution, the better.

If you have any suggestions or thoughts, let me know. Have I gone wrong somewhere? Do you want help in looking if you have this problem? Feel free to ask me. Let your friends know. This is serious. You must believe that I am not looking for trouble or any freebies. I just want what I deserve and have paid for. I want the ability to use 1000MBit networks. I am a peace loving person which is why for the longest period, I was totally patient with them. They just took forever in my opinion. They’ve never shown that something is actually being done other than over the phone assurances. They refuse to acknowledge the existence of the problem on paper or e-mail. So this is where we are. Dell better fix this or I don’t mind wasting my time going through the headache of either publicizing this issue letting other Dell users (at least in India) know that they should look out for this issue or worse. I just hope it doesn’t come to that and I actually get this fixed soon. May be that’s just the eternal optimist in me speaking.

Updates: I shall keep updating this post regularly with the latest information.

10th April, 2009 @ 21:58 IST: Its been around 6 weeks since I got the laptop and made the complaint. This is when I’ve written this post up. I’m about to link people over on the Notebook Review Forum about my issues so that they can check their machines. I’d be glad if they’d tell me if they have similar problems and if there are any other places I can reach out to other Dell Studio XPS 1640 users. The label issue has apparently been investigated and according to the call yesterday, I’ll get the labels by the 15th pending an approval from the managers of the department which I hear I should get. I hope that’s the case else I’ll be calling them all over again. Thank god for Toll Free numbers :)

Created: 10th April 2009
Category: Review
Tags: Broadcom, Dell, Ethernet card, Gigabit, Rant, Tech Support