Dennis Comes Home

October 30, 2006 at 6:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

As I noted a couple weeks ago, I decided to buy a laptop. It arrived on Friday, and although I haven’t had nearly as much time to play with it as I would have liked, I want to tell you about it, and about my experiences with Dell and UPS.

I decided to buy a laptop for a few reasons. First and foremost, my desktop is getting old. It is aging nicely, and I’ve only needed to make a couple upgrades (RAM and hard drive). But it’s over four years old now, and I’m ready to move it out of primary status. I opted for a laptop over a desktop for the simple reason that I would like my data and programs to be more mobile. I’m doing a lot of freelance web work these days. I need to stay as connected as possible, and I need to minimize downtime (e.g. the bus ride to and from my day job) to get everything done.

I conducted a lot of research before buying, and I ultimately determined that a Dell Inspiron E1705 was the best fit for me. It is an excellent balance between power and affordability, especially when you apply Dell’s ubiquitous discounts and coupons, along with the additional discount I received thanks to Dell’s relationship with my employer.

(I should note that I came as close as I have ever come to going Mac for the first time. More and more programmers and web developers are using Macs these days. But I’m a creature of habit, and I’m much too busy to have to learn new Mac-based habits right now. Besides, the Windows environment isn’t hampering my productivity in any way, or at least not in any way that a Mac would improve on. And I’m way too square to join the Mac hipsters.)

Anyway, here are the specs I settled on:

  • Dell Inspiron E1705
  • Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 (2Ghz, 4MB cache, 667 MHz FSB)
  • 17” ultra-sharp wide screen UXGA display (1920x1200)
  • 2GB DDR2 SDRAM at 667Mhz
  • 80GB 7200RPM hard drive
  • 8x CD/DVD burner
  • 256MB ATI MOBILITY RADEON X1400 graphics card
  • 80 Whr 9-cell battery
  • 3 year warranty (I got a nice warranty boost thanks to Dell’s relationship with my employer)

I placed the order for the machine on Friday, October 13. I should have known that was a bad idea. The order itself went through fine, but that afternoon I received an e-mail telling me that I needed to call Dell regarding some financial issue. Fine. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive the e-mail until after the business hours during which the e-mail said I should call. I figured, Eh, what the heck, I would call anyway. That was a mistake. It should come as no surprise that the 24-hour generalists at Dell’s call centers aren’t as well equipped to handle some questions as the 8-5 specialists. Long story short, I got sent on a wild ride through call center hell that lasted eight phone calls and one online chat over three separate days. Half were short, inconsequential attempts to see if I could get lucky and get an especially competent person on the line (I failed, not so much due to the other person’s lack of competence, but because Dell call center employees tend to stick to the script very tightly). The other half were genuine pain-in-the-butt, let-me-transfer-you calls that I gave up on. In all fairness, something about my order was genuinely screwed up. But if that was the case, I should have been handed over to a supervisor immediately.

By Monday morning—after two more failed phone calls, one of which involved “Paul” accidentally (?) disconnecting me at a critical point in the conversation—I was just about ready to cancel the order. But for some reason I thought to myself, “You know what? I’m going to have some fun. I’m going to torture myself so that I can tell my story online”. And so I called in that spirit. I ended up on the line with Stephanie. Stephanie sounded very nice, and I was very nice in return. I told her my story with only a touch of melodrama, and she promised to help. I was skeptical. She took my information, ran it through her computer, and came back with bad news: she would have to transfer me. I said, “You know what Stephanie? I’ve already been transferred. I don’t want to be transferred any more. If you transfer me, I cancel my order.” She didn’t even flinch, and said, “I understand. I’m so sorry. I’ll get this taken care of for you.”

And she did. It took 45 minutes, a canceled order, a new order, and special involvement from a manager, but she did it. And because of my troubles, now my computer was even cheaper than before. I would have preferred to avoid the hassles, but the new, lower price was hard to complain about. I never did find out exactly what the snafu was, but clearly it fell in an area that Dell’s staff aren’t trained to handle. (Odd, considering how they appear to be trained to death. Maybe that’s part of the problem…)

Once all of that was out of the way, things went swimmingly. My order was processed and built that day (Monday). It was tested and boxed over the next few days. On Thursday morning it left Dell via UPS. It arrived at my door at 5:30PM on Friday.

Which brings me to my praise of UPS. I love how easy it is to track your shipment online, and UPS has always delivered packages to me exactly when promised. I also love that I paid exactly $0 for 3-5 day shipping, and I received overnight shipping. No complaints there.

And now for the unboxing. The computer arrived in a very sturdy box:

Once opened, the first thing you see is a poster explaining the basic parts of the new computer. Packed snugly along the side was my new laptop case.

Inside the large box were three smaller boxes: one for the laptop, one for the wireless keyboard and mouse that I ordered, and one for the AC adapter, software, and manuals.

Here’s my new keyboard and mouse. They were even smart enough to include batteries.

Software I’ll never use and manuals I’ll never read.

Here’s the laptop. It was packed snugly in its box with the foam supports providing cushion. It was wrapped in this plastic bag, which contained a lovely icon warning against the dangers of suffocation. Honestly, I think that is my new favorite suffocation icon.

Meet Dennis the laptop. This sucker is huge. I don’t think I really appreciate how big a 17” laptop could be. Not that I’m complaining. I didn’t buy this baby to be ultra-portable; it will be a desktop that moves with me.

Opened up for the first time. Say hi to Daisy. (See her?)

Robert really wanted you to see how reflective the screen can be. If you read around, you’ll see that some people love this screen, and others hate it. I happen to like it, but it is a little weird being able to see yourself when the objects on the screen are particularly dark. You don’t notice it during most tasks.

Fired up for the first time. I looooove having all that screen real estate, but it will take a while for me to get used to having it.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the purchase. It’s hard to be bitter at Dell, considering they did what I asked to make the situation right. And with the exception of all the crappy software Dell preloads—almost all of which I uninstalled in the first 30 minutes—everything about the machine is exactly what I wanted. I still have a lot more testing to do—I will fire it up on the bus for the first time today, for example—but right now I couldn’t be happier. The Missus, on the other hand, may not like the fact that now I can work on the computer and watch TV at the same time, but hey, at least I won’t be holed up in the office as much any more.

Reply to this post

The Comments

Swid October 30, 2006 at 7:47pm

For me, it was (and still is) somewhat disconcerting to have a laptop that destroys the performance of my (not-very-long ago) high-end desktop tower.  (In my case, it was a MacBook > Power Mac G5.)

Core 2 Duo, 2 gigs of RAM, gaming-class graphics card…nice.

beerorkid October 31, 2006 at 2:33pm

nice.  the motherboard Chronicles is a horror story about dell from an awesome book (I am listed in the credits).

Glad you got it all fixed though.  Looks like a killer machine.

beerorkid October 31, 2006 at 9:59pm

Figguring you might like this:
internet help desk

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

The Blogs

Syndication icon

Toolbox