One Dead Laptop

dell_logoI’ve mentioned in recent Weekly Rewinds about intermittent problems with my trusty (now not so trusty) Dell XPS m1330 laptop. It seems I’ve fallen foul of the known defect in some of the Nvidia cards shipped by Dell. I’ve had my machine just about 18 months now and I’ve always loved it. In recent weeks though the screen started flickering randomly, I got funky blue lines all over the place that make you think you’re having an acid flashback, and finally it packed in completely. Dell released BIOS updates last year to try and limit the damage this problem would cause, I upgraded to them quickly but it seems it hasn’t saved me. Now when you turn on the power the display doesn’t really show anything, after a few mins you just get weird vertical lines on the screen. It can’t be used at all sadly. I thought about making a video of what it does but then I found there were already videos all over Youtube of the same thing. I’m naturally lazy and I’m not going to duplicate the effort, so you can see what happens in the video below.

Having read up a lot on the problem and seen many other people complaining on the net, I was confident Dell would fix it. They’ve extended the warranty on all machines affected by this problem for an extra year, which is just as well because being cheap I only paid for the basic 1 year warranty, and that ran out months ago. The free extended cover only applies to this one issue but I don’t think you can complain at that, and it’s a good response from Dell. So today I rang up their technical support to see what they could do. I was expecting to be kept on the line for hours at a premium rate while they established if I was smart enough to “press the big red power button” or something equally mind numbing. I was pleasantly surprised by the response I got. I simply explained that I knew it was the Nvidia defect, I’d done research and also knew about the extended warranty.

Dell Tech Support: “Ok, how about we send an engineer to replace the parts for you on Friday?”

Me: “Great, thanks… for free though?”

Dell Tech Support: “Yes, for this Nvidia issue. Any other problems won’t be covered free”

Me: “No I understand that, it’s out of warranty. Thanks very much”

That was it. I was on the phone about 5 minutes and this was virtually the first thing the girl said to me. It was quite late when I rang (about 6pm) and if I’d rung earlier they could have sent someone to my house the next day probably. I just wanted to share my experience quickly because many of us are quick to criticise companies (myself included) and call them out, but we don’t take the time to mention when they get things right. I was really impressed with the service and while the machine isn’t fixed yet  – I’m not counting any chickens – I certainly can’t complain. I’ll report back with how I get on after Friday but I hope to have a fully working laptop again soon, then I can get back to distro hopping and writing ASAP.

Normal service will be resumed shortly…

Posted in Update
19 comments on “One Dead Laptop
  1. Dell customer support is actually really good, if you pay for it or your still under warranty. I don’t understand why the get such a bad rep over it.

    Anyway, still a bit annoying but at least they’ve admitted the problem and started accepting repairs, better than some other companies out there.

  2. Herbie G says:

    ive lost count the amount of problems ive had with Nvidia cards ive blew loads of different parts on the cards for no reason when it should of been ok Heat sinks, built in ram, fans you name it if its made by Nvidia ive blown it. Its all made from cheap parts

    • Dan says:

      @Herbie – I don’t doubt you, but then I’ve seen what you do to computers in general. I think it’s some electronic field emanating from inside you 😀

  3. Dan thanks for sharing this with us,dell should be congratulated on their excellent customer service.

    we so often see negative things about computer companies and computer repairs so makes a refreshing change.

    i noticed sky had an article on their main news channel today about repair shops that hack your laptops,worth a read at http://news.sky.com/skynews/Technology thanks todders

  4. Dan says:

    @Andrew – Oh yeah, they’re sending someone out to replace the faulty part quickly. I can’t say fairer than that really. I was transfered to the Pronto department because when I gave the order number it obviously came us as out of warranty. They were hoping to charge me for a repair but as soon as I said it was this Nvidia problem they were nice as pie. Very good service so far. We’ll see what the engineer does on Friday.

  5. Darren says:

    I had the exact problem with my M1330. Had it repaired in December, and it is still working okay. They actually replaced the whole motherboard on mine.

    Crossing my fingers, it still runs rather hot when playing videos. I use one of those laptop travel pads to lift it off the desk a bit, which makes a big difference when running vmware, etc.

  6. Bernd says:

    Dell-Support is great. I had this Nvidia-issue with my Dell XPS M1330 a few month ago and Dell changed motherboard without any problems and very quick.

  7. elmargol says:

    Had the same problem. Dell fixed my problem just fine 🙂 DELL support is great! I upgraded my warranty to 5y after this…

    • Dan says:

      Thanks for the comments guys. I’m guessing they’ll swap the motherboard tomorrow and I don’t know if I’ll extend the warranty or not. I will need a new HDD and battery in the next few months but I’m keen on getting the parts and fixing it myself. Just for the technical challenge as much as anything really. I’m expected that to be straightforward to swap the parts. I can get a new 6 cell battery from eBay for £40. It’s only a generic and not the official Dell one but it comes with 1 year full warranty included. This laptop has served me very well and I hope it will continue to for a year or more to come 🙂

  8. Julian Aloofi says:

    What the heck!? I had _exactly_ the same problem on my Toshiba A210-1BX and the customer support told me it’s not a known problem, and asked me to update my BIOS.
    I think I’ll have to kick their asses and complain…

    • Dan says:

      @Julian – Nvidia shipped a lot of faulty cards last year it was all over the news, and I know both HP and Dell were affected. Sounds likely Toshiba were too. Good luck, give ’em hell!!

  9. Julian Aloofi says:

    @Dan Crazy enough that the customer support basically lied at me, it’s not even a Nvidia card. It’s a Mobility Radeon. I solved the issue about a week ago by buying a cooling pad, that really helped. But it’s a hardware defect anyway, I’m going to send them a mail. I’m just happy I can show them how it looks like now with this helpful Youtube video.

  10. Dan says:

    @Julian – Well I hope they accept it, but with this being an Nvidia card they might say it’s not the same problem. Probably made with the same chipsets though. I wish you luck 🙂

  11. Sam says:

    Sorry to hear about your troubles but see they’re in the process of being rectified via twitter (yes I know I should be on identica).

    I have an M1330 but opted for the Intel graphics because I didn’t need the performance, the chip uses less power and Intel have pretty reasonable freedom loving drivers.

    My friends at uni keep saying I should have got the nvidia chip but after hearing about this I rather glad I didn’t. That said, I do have nvidia cards in nearly every other computer I own.

    • Dan says:

      @Sam – Hi 🙂 The machine is actually fixed now, the engineer has just left this minute after replacing the motherboard for free. I’m really happy with it, the service was great. I’ll write up more about it at the weekend. I think the Intel card is a good choice and in my next machine I’ll be getting one myself, for the free drivers. I don’t do a lot of gaming or anything really but I wanted to make sure I could easily switch to external displays. At the time I bought this that really meant getting an Nvidia. Also the Intel card model was blacklisted by Ubuntu at the time I purchased, No compiz 🙁 This was the final deciding factor really. Thanks for reading and commenting

  12. Sam says:

    I had exactly the same problem with my M1330 – and while I must say, that the customer service at Dell is very good (and the service technicians are usually very friendly, too – still can’t get over my housemate’s excited look when she found a particularly good looking one leaving the house after one of my – far too many – laptop repairs.. haha.) – It doesn’t make up for the terribly bad laptop that made my life absolute MISERABLE.

    More about the fun I had with my XPS M1330 (and perhaps the things that you are yet to experience):
    http://www.simonwebbon.com/bun/wp/?p=37

  13. Just thought the headline looked like something else, and I thought “One dead laptop per child? Hmmm…”

  14. Dan says:

    @mjjzf – Hehehe yeah someone else made that comment. It wasn’t intentional but it does look like that 🙂

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