Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Dude, You Just Got a Flaming Pile of Crap

I have a Dell notebook. Like most people who choose Dell, I didn't buy one because its computers are the best, fastest or even the nicest-looking. Hell no, I bought a Dell because of the bottom line. Basically Dells give you the most bang for your buck.

Sadly, that fact is now truer than ever, since Dell batteries have a tendency to blow up:

Dell Inc. said Monday it will recall 4.1 million notebook computer batteries because they could overheat and catch fire, in the biggest recall in its 22-year history.
How lovely. Thank goodness my battery isn't on the list. But this news from Dell isn't surprising. Chalk it up to another side effect of cutting corners and saving dollars. Sadly, my own computer is a victim.

First off, if your Dell ever has a problem, you can kiss off calling tech support for help. There's a 98% chance you'll connect with someone from New Dehli, who's more concerned with selling you a longer, more expensive warranty than trying to solve your problem.

One would assume Dell's tech support would be top-notch, considering how crappily its notebooks are built. For starters, they have a lot of flex, meaning there's a good bit of wobble to the aluminum frame. Dell's are known to break somewhat easily. The keyboard also feels especially loose. So loose, in fact, that my F1 key decided one day to make a break for it. Literally. I had to shoe glue that sucker back into place.

Terrible tech support and a flimsy design. Okay, two big strikes, but nothing really bad, right? Right?

My notebook is the Inspiron 600m. It's kinda in the middle between performance and portability. It doesn't do anything great, but it does everything well (at least, it's supposed to). It has a 1.6M Pentium processor, 768 RAM and a 32-bit ATI graphics card. It's not going to blow anyone away, but it can hold its own. Allegedly.

Anytime the 600m does anything really intensive (i.e. video games), the system becomes hot. Very hot. Hot enough to scald you if you touch the bottom. It gets so hot that it will adversely affect the computer. So how did Dell decide to combat their own faulty cooling design? By making the whole damn computer throttle down. Basically what that means is the system powers down to 600MHz so the components have less electricity flowing into them and can cool down. That's all well and good... except it KILLS performance. Imagine you're sitting there playing a game, then all of a sudden, everything starts to become choppy and slows down to 5 frames per second. That's throttling for you. It happens about every half-hour of gaming, and it lasts for ten minutes. So even after you exit the game, the computer's still throttling. If you open a web browser or try to listen to some music, everything is still super-slow. It's like running today's programs on a computer from 1998.

How could Dell let this happen? And it's not just my computer, it's all the freakin' 600m's!

So when I want to play a game or something, I have keep my Dell on top of a big book so air can get into the sucker. I also have to run all these third-party programs to regulate the fans. Big freakin' hassle. Enough of a hassle to make me never want to buy a Dell again.

I mean, I don't hate my notebook. It does things like surfing the web and writing stut just fine. But the next time I get a notebook, "Dude, I'm getting a ThinkPad."

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