Faith in Mankind Restored – For Now

xps420 Loyal blog readers know I haven’t been exactly kind to Dell over the years.  The ridicule has been focused primarily on the lame GPU in my Latitude D820.  I’m over that now.  The machine is three years old so the rant can be put to rest. 

It’s also no surprise that on the internet you tend to hear more gripes than accolades.  Duh.  That’s pretty much human nature.  We are usually on the bitter end of the “I got screwed” stick.  But on occasion people get delighted.  It isn’t often that customer service is good, and they exceed your expectations.  Apparently someone at Dell cares.  And I care they care. 

What Happened ???

At 8:15am on the morning of June 8th I hit the power button on my Dell XPS 420.  Bad idea.  The power supply began arcing badly and I swear it seemed as if fire erupted from the backend of the machine.  Smoke billows.  My wife and I almost have heart attacks as this machine is making a terrible sound and having an electrical exorcism. 

She rushes into my office and makes an attempt at help.  I do my best non politically correct version of the Jedi mind trick, “You don’t want to come in my office and help kill the exorcist beast”.  I’m basically trying to triage fire, a severe electrical issue, smoke and possibly burning the house down at sub nanosecond speeds.  She catches the look on my face and backs off.

I get things shut down and pull the plug on the volcanic bastard.  Unfortunately I am headed out of town for the next five days so all I can do is set the smoldering hulk of XPS 420 in the middle of the floor and hope I resolved the issue.  I’m sad.  I love the Dell XPS 420.  So perfect in every way.  Beautiful case.  HDTV recording capability.  Eats HD video for lunch.

Help Desk Time

It’s now a week later and time to call the help desk for the first time.  Nope, scratch that.  Time for the Dell Support chat session to India.  I wonder what that is like.  Actually, I have a pretty good idea.  Like many of you, I’ve been on the ugly end of the “on call” support line.  It must be an amazingly fun thing to field the complaints from dissatisfied America customers in India.  I digress.

The folks on the chat were very professional.  I think they got a little nervous when I mentioned electricity arcing from the machine.  I told them all I needed initially was a replacement power supply.  I knew it was toast and figured we’d find out after it’s replacement what else got fried.

They were having nothing of it.  They indicated to me this would be a full machine replacement because they don’t like to risk such matters.  Probably a good idea.  But I knew there was the problem.  They haven’t made the XPS 420 for months.  And I’m not particularly relishing the idea of a lame refurb for a machine replacement, when the machine being replaced isn’t even a year old.

It Gets “Better”

You know how this goes right?  I have the overnight business support warranty.  The actual brand name for the warranty changes but I’m thinking overnight means overnight.  Wrong.  Overnight is true for stuff like a video card or something, but a full machine replacement is 7-21 business days (as I was informed).

This isn’t my first goat rodeo.  I knew that was coming.  So I didn’t let my blood pressure pop a vein in my forehead.  As I get older I am more at peace with things out of my control.  People that know me are probably laughing hysterically right now.  But it’s true.  I maintain my kewl and figure we’ll see what happens. 

Fast forward one week.  I decide to call Dell and no sooner do I start digging out the email with the chat session transcript and the FEDEX truck arrives.  Timing is everything and I am already thinking the timing is beyond fascinating.

dell xps 630 Delivered

The FEDEX guy starts walking up the sidewalk and as usual I meet him at the door.  The box has a big Dell XPS logo on the side and the FEDEX dude makes some comment it means Extreme Framerate Server.  I told him he got that right and say thank you.

I’m right in the middle of my fiscal year end reporting so I don’t have time to unpack the box right right then.  I do however have the smarts to rip the packing slip off the box and throw it on my desk.  Time to make a quick sandwich.

Curiosity kills the cat.  I peek at the packing slip.  I notice something odd.  It says NVIDIA GTX 285.  That was a mental train wreck right there.  I’m thinking, “Isn’t the NVIDIA GTX 285 one of the hottest video cards made right now???”  I smile and think, wasn’t that cool?  Dell threw me a bone on the replacement XPS 420 refurb piece of crap they sent me.  That was so far from the truth.

Wrong, So Wrong

Much to my surprise, I didn’t receive a refurb at all. I also didn’t receive what I figured they might send if I was lucky, the Dell XPS 435.  Instead, they sent me the Dell XPS 630i.  I didn’t really know it at first.  I pulled it out of the box and there was no Zune or PMP bay in the top so I knew something was fishy.

Yep, after checking online, this is the XPS 630.  One of their top machines.  I start checking the specs.  750 watt power supply.  Uh oh.  My electricity bill is going up. Then I start thinking…  does this bad boy have the OCUR BIOS I need to use my ATI Digital Cable Tuners and record HDTV from FIOS TV?  Nope!!!  Crap, now what do I do?  Uh, hello?  Use the other XPS 420 you have.

So the net net is that I burned up a Dell XPS 420, and nearly my house, but Dell did a great job of fixing the situation and sending a machine in less than a week.  The customer support folks on the chat session were very professional. The replacement unit I received exceeded my expectations even though I lost one of my favorite XPS 420 features. I have used the machine now for four days and so far I am very happy with it.  It’s very quiet and a solid machine for expandability in the future.  I’ll do a much better review in a few weeks.


Way to go Dell.  I didn’t request anything special and you certainly exceeded my expectation on the handling of this case.  The only thing I would say that needed improvement is the bad news your CSR’s deliver to customers.  Instead of telling them it could take up to 21 business days, you might want to emphasize it could be a lot less.  I can’t imagine how pissed I would be if they informed me of that if I had one laptop and it was dead.  21 days would have meant a laptop rental in that case.  Anyway, I am happy how this turned out.  Thanks for not screwing your customers.  I’ll keep my Dell stock a little longer.

Comments (2)

  1. Jon says:

    Reading your blog was one of the reason i got my XPS420 .. Still love it .. About your Digital cable issue .. it may be sketchy but you should read this ..

    It may work

  2. Keith Combs says:

    Thanks Jon.  I doubt I am going to screw around with any hacks to the machine.  I still have a working XPS 420 and now have both of my digital cable tuners on it.

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