Thursday, March 01, 2012

Laptop Drama

Approximately 6 years ago I purchased a Dell Inspiron 1300 from a local rent-to-own store. The only reason I purchased another computer was out of necessity because my Dell desktop I had owned for 7 years decided to shit itself. All the warning signs where there, but without the finances, I tried to make it last as long as I could. I went to the rent-to-own place because I didn't have the money to purchase another machine without financing, and my credit is less than stellar. So, I ended up paying triple what the machine was worth by the time they added all the financing charges into the price. I say triple what it was worth because it was an older model, Dell was making the Inspiron 17. But it fit my needs at the time so I was happy with my purchase and it was, like I said, my only option. In the past few months it has become increasingly slower, started to develop a ticking noise coming from the hard-drive area, and checking e-mail became a 20 minute process. So, it was time for a new laptop and I had enough money to make a purchase thanks to my tax check.

I knew what my price-range was and went on-line and shopped around. The best deal I could find was at Walmart, but I also had a friend of mine do some price checking around town as well. After comparing prices and taking into consideration that I had brand loyalty to Dell, I decided to purchase a Dell laptop from Walmart. Now you notice I said I HAD brand loyalty to Dell. You might be wondering what happened to my brand loyalty. Well, keep reading my dear... All will be clear in due time. Patience is a virtue. 

It should be noted that I am reserving the overly technical product spec details for later in this blog. For now, all we need to know is that I purchased a Dell Inspiron 15 with a 500 gb  hard-drive, built-in webcam, Windows 7 Home. I took the laptop home and within the first hour of being out of the box a problem surfaced. It locked up on the Windows password screen. I re-started and it went smoothly the second time and continued to run without any problems until 3 days later. It locked up on the Windows password screen again. After a restart I noticed it was running a bit odd. I wasn't quite sure what was wrong at that point but it was only a sign of things to come. The next morning I heard the dreaded high pitch whine noise that every person with even limited computer knowledge dreads. Later that evening the ticking noises started which were accompanied by "program unresponsive" and "cannot read" errors. Dell includes a pretty awesome program called Dell Support Center that is full of diagnostic tools you can use on your laptop. It should be noted that initially, in the first 2-3 days of owning the laptop, it passed all the diagnostic tests without a problem. But on day 6, after hearing the dreaded noises and receiving impending doom messages, I decided to run some more extensive diagnostic tests. I used the Dell Support Center, Windows ScanDisk, and a third-party software. Windows ScanDisk found errors on the drive and attempted to fix some clusters and sectors. Dell Support Center said there was an error reading the drive and wanted to perform more testing. After running the additional testing, the drive failed a Smart test and a Targeted Read test. The third-party software found bad sectors that were unable to be repaired. In short, a hard-drive failure was in the very near future.

After visiting the Walmart website again I discovered that someone had written a customer review on the laptop I had purchased. It wasn't there when I did my research because if it was I would have seriously thought twice about purchasing the Dell. Basically it was a review about how disappointed they were. They had purchased 3 laptops for their children. Each one of them had a failure of some sort, 2 were adapter failures and 1 was a hard-drive failure. These all happened within the first few weeks of purchase. The review also explained what a pain in the ass it was to deal with Dell on the warranty issues. So, after discussing the matter with my brother and reading that customer review, I decided to return the laptop to Walmart for an exchange. It was within the 15 day of first purchase limit and the customer service representative my brother spoke to said it wouldn't be a problem at all. 

So, I arrive with my defective Dell laptop and go straight to Electronics. After explaining why I am there the sales associate blinks a couple of times and then says "Oh crap. Another one?" Well that sounds promising, doesn't it? Well, just when I thought that it couldn't possibly get any worse he then proceeds to tell me that they do not have any of that particular Dell in stock. But not only do they not have any in stock, there aren't ANY in stock within a 60 mile radius. He called every store personally. He even checked with the warehouse, which told him there were none in transit and they had no idea when they would be sending any on the trucks. Incidentally, while this product is still listed on the Walmart website, the product availability is now listed as "In stores" and the price is "Prices may vary". Oh, and they are out of stock in just about every city I could think of too. But back to the exchanging of the Dell... It wasn't going to happen. So, the sales associate told me I had a few options. I could: A) Get a full refund. 2) Take home a laptop in the same price range with similar specs (if one was available). or C) Pay the difference on a laptop that had the same specs but was not in the same price range. So, I took option B (or was that 2), and made them look to see if they had a product available in the same price range with the same specs. As it turns out, they did... Well almost. Check this out...

**WARNING: Here comes the technical product specs I was talking about.**

Laptop 1 - Dell Inspiron 15R (Or as I have named it: Dell Defecto)

Processor: AMD Dual-Core A4-3300M Accelerated - 1.90 ghz, 2 mb cache
Memory: 4GB DDR3 SDRAM
Hard-drive: 500 gb SATA hard-drive
Connectivity: Wi-FI/Ethernet
Display: 15.6 HD WLED
Grpahics: AMD Radeon HD 6480G
DVD/CD Drive: 8x CD/DVD burner

Additional features:
Built-in Webcam
3 USB ports
1 HDMI port
8-in-1 memory card reader

Laptop 2 - HP Pavilion g7 

Processor: AMD Quad-Core A6-3420M Accelerated - 2.40 ghz, 4 mb L2 cache
Memory: 4GB DDR3 SDRAM
Hard-Drive: 500 gb SATA hard-drive
Connectivity: Wi-FI/Ethernet
Display: 17.3 HD+ BrightView LED-Backlit
Graphics: AMD Raedon HD 6520G
DVD/CD Drive: SuperMulti DVD Burner

Additional Features:
HP Built-In webcam
2-in-1 memory card reader
3 USB ports
1 HDMI port
1 VGA port


So, seriously?!? I believe all things happen for a reason. The HP was not available the day I purchased the Dell. If it had been then this blog would not be called "Laptop Drama" it would be called "I LOVE MY NEW LAPTOP". I mean seriously... I believe that this was fate, or the universe, or a higher power (depending on what your beliefs are) telling me that I should have never bought the Dell in the first place. The HP is hands down a better machine than the Dell was and I'm totally satisfied with my purchase-exchange-purchase.

So, there's the drama... 

Peace out!