Alienware sucks worse than MSI

Last year, my Alienware laptop died after 18 months of service due to a power-related failure. I replaced it with an MSI because I could order it quickly, but it came with problems. To summarize my main issues with the MSI - it only boots successfully about 50% of the time, and otherwise freezes while booting, so it's often challenging to get it started. To avoid this, I have to keep it running most of the time. In addition, the keyboard misses keystrokes, and has an exceptionally awkward layout. Among other things, pressing Home and End requires a combination with the Fn key. Overall, not great for work.

Because I really liked my previous Alienware, and my wife likes hers, I decided to buy a new machine sooner than I otherwise would have. I opted for another Alienware. Oh boy. That was a mistake.

Ladies and gentlemen, what I have in my hotel room, resting in a suitcase next to me, is a $3,720 paperweight. I'm still typing this on my MSI laptop, because the Alienware shipped defective out of the box. It does not run on battery power. The motherboard fails to recognize the battery. It does run on AC power - but that's not what a laptop is for.

Adding insult and increasing injury, Alienware's service has been inept. I called Dell as soon as I unpacked this glorified brick and discovered the problem. It took me an hour just to get the right person on the phone. About 4-5 people forwarded my call from one department to another, incurring a 10-15 minute wait each time, each one saying I got the wrong department. When I finally got through to Alienware Tech Support, it took another hour to work with them and go through the diagnostic steps. The problem was confirmed, the fault must be in either the motherboard or battery. This was last Monday; they scheduled to ship both parts to a Dell technician in the area, who ought to call on Wednesday or Thursday. Because I don't have a US phone number and I'm staying in a hotel, I provided Dell with contact information for the people who helped me order the laptop in the first place.

About an hour after the support call, I figure I can set up a Skype number so the technician can call me directly, and come to my hotel room. I send updated contact information to Dell. Oh, boy. What could be worse. Their process now requires them to cancel the initial service order, and place a new service order. This will now cause a delay of 1 - 2 days, even though I sent new contact info just an hour after the call.

On Tuesday, I get a call from Dell, and they're confused about who to call and where to send the technician to. I don't care, whichever address works for me, I'll bring the laptop where it's needed. Just get this done. OK, they decide, the technician will go to the original contact address.

Comes Thursday, I receive an email from them saying they've canceled the original order after all, and have to place a new order using the new contact information. Then a few hours later, they call to say it turns out that Alienware batteries are completely out of stock. They agree that there's a 50/50 chance the problem is with the motherboard, so I ask that they send just the motherboard, so we can try replacing that. They say OK, and confirm that their technician will now call early the following week. I'm leaving the US later that same week, so this is cutting it short now.

Next Monday arrives, and there's no call yet, so I send them an email asking about what's up. They reply they've now realized the motherboards are out of stock as well. They can do nothing to help, but they are very sorry. I should initiate an ownership transfer procedure so as to get warranty in Costa Rica. Then I should beg for help when I get there.

So what I'm left with right now is a $3,720 Alienware Paperweight™ which won't work on battery power. I can't return it, because that's a process that takes 2 weeks to complete, and I need to be home by then. It can't be fixed, because the parts are out. All I can do is beg and hope that their international division will be able and willing to take care of this problem at some point after I return to Costa Rica. Which I'm pretty sure they're only promising because that's how they can get rid of me, and they actually won't.

Update - August 4, 2014: They shipped the motherboard after all, and a technician came to try and replace it, but that didn't fix the problem. It seems to be the battery. The technician called a service representative, which promised without any doubt that they can send a battery, and it would arrive within 1-2 business days. At some expense, I extended my trip to the US to allow for the battery to arrive. The battery, of course, didn't. The representative was again completely uninformed about the actual status of their inventory, and the batteries appear to still be on back order.

I have since returned to Costa Rica, the laptop is with me, and its battery is still dead. It now rests on a shelf next to my other dead Alienware.

Update - September 19, 2014: It was the battery. As I predicted, Dell sent no response to my request to transfer ownership of the laptop to me in Costa Rica. Unwilling to deal with them any further, I first tried to order a replacement from a specialized battery website that listed it for under $140. The website turned out to be dodgy, they neither responded nor fulfilled my order, so after waiting a few weeks, I had to turn to PayPal for a refund. I then ordered through a third party seller that sold the battery through Amazon, which cost $240 to ship to the US, then another $50 to re-ship to Costa Rica (could not ship to Costa Rica directly), then another $145 of import duties in Costa Rica (yes, they are high).

All in all, an extra USD 435 - on top of all the hassle and expenses I incurred earlier. But, now it works with the new battery. Or at least, it worked one time so far. Knock on wood and fingers crossed that it keeps working.

Comments

Wei Dai said…
I had similar experiences with Dell tech support, although not quite as bad as yours. But returning the laptop was pretty quick and easy. Why did they say it would take 2 weeks?
denis bider said…
No idea. That's how long they said it would take. I don't get the impression that their left hand knows what their right hand is doing, however. :)

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