PCs

Poll: Does Dell deserve its tarnished reputation over faulty PCs?

A newly revealed lawsuit charges Dell with knowingly deceiving customers about a defective line of PCs. Read the details and then take our poll.

These are dark days for Dell. The company lost its top spot in the global PC market to archrival Hewlett-Packard in 2006 and then lost the second-place slot to Acer in 2009. As the computing market has moved toward smaller, more portable devices such as netbooks, smartphones, and tablets, Dell has struggled to keep pace. The company has continued to do pretty well with enterprises, but enterprises have not been buying many desktops in recent years.

Now, there's new evidence coming to light from a three year old court case that claims Dell knowingly sold millions of faulty computers to enterprises from 2003 to 2005, and then had an organized campaign to cover it up and deceive customers about the problems. You can read more about the case here:

We have to remember that we haven't really heard Dell's side of the story yet. And, there are those who will say that while the quality of Dell's PCs have gone done, so have nearly all of the other PC makers as well, especially as consumers and businesses have come to expect sub-$500 computers.

That said, I know one medium-sized enterprise that reported a nearly 50% failure rate for Dell laptops in the mid-2000s. That was nearly twice as high as both the company's previous provider, Compaq/Hewlett-Packard, as well as Lenovo, the vendor that they used to replace the Dell machines.

What do you think about Dell? Answer our poll and then join the discussion.

Take the poll

About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks (bit.ly/ftgeeks).

120 comments
wrdrn
wrdrn

much so. when i see overalll improvenent, i will consider another dell. until then, it is hp for me

mickeysail
mickeysail

Really bad tech support... nobody seems to know how to operate a computer, let alone give support over the phone... they sound like they have taken lessons on what to say to the American consumer and are reading from a script... what a waste of time! Have a nice day!

rroberto18
rroberto18

I ordered a "custom-made" Dell for my small biz in 2003 through the separate marketing unit they still maintain for this market. I still have the REPLACEMENT PC I received from them up and running, but only because of a 24/7 onsite parts & labor warranty they no longer offer. The first Optiplex desktop they sent me shut down by itself randomly, and the new SATA drives they had at that time were the reason. I literally "burnt through" over a dozen in a week (PC has 2 internal hard drives). I got the name and number of a REAL customer service rep from a Dell employee who felt sorry for me. He upgraded everything in the PC free, but with my experience with their bad lot of SATA drives, I insisted they "downgrade me" to ATA. So glad I did. My warranty still was required for the new system to function as over the 1st year, virtually every part EXCEPT the ATA HDs -- but including the motherboard, on-off switch, DVD drives, power supply etc -- was replaced at least two times. They cancelled the warranty after year 5, but thanks to all the replacement parts I went through till I got "good ones," the PC is not yet a paperweight. Now I know I was one of the lucky ones.

sonicsteve
sonicsteve

If I had $1 every time I've seen a bad capacitor I'd be thousands of $$$ richer now. I've seen them from many makers from Asus, Dell, Acer, and others. It was common for the boards made from 2001-2005. The jury is still out on the newer boards. I'll tell you in a few years. I found certain boards to be worse than others. I have many Asus boards P4s533 types still running strong. While Asus P4P800 line were plagued with bad caps. Just depended on the types of Caps they used. All the makers deserve any bad press they get on this. They tried to undercut the competition by buying cheaper parts from unknown vendors. I'm not convinced that they haven't just traded better caps on the new boards for some other mainboard part that will come to light in the next few years.

eM DuBYaH
eM DuBYaH

Based on Dell's attempted cover-up, I would vote for Dell getting a bad wrap. They force their enterprise customers into not being able to trust them. They deserve their 'bad wrap' in that department. We do not use Dell computers where I work, however the Dell printers we have are for lack of a better word - lousy. Good thing for warranty replacements, which seems to happen often. My only experience with Dell computers is my trusty little D430 subnote, which I love very much. About the size of a netbook, with the cojones of a real laptop.

gjiro BBN
gjiro BBN

they pissed me off in 2009 with two laptops i purchased from dell. Horrible computers and then the chargers stopped working..called, redirected, called and then redirected..i wanted to strangle someone...when I think about I am still pissed off...

savedad
savedad

I have had 100% failure rates with Sony, 75% failure rates with HP. However, over the last 6 years, I have yet to have any failures with any of the 6 Dell Servers, 75 Dell Desktops, 15 Dell laptops or 4 of the Dell Printers I have purchased.

bclomptwihm
bclomptwihm

The end result of this will be the "plaintifs" will get a coupon for $100 off their next Dell purchase while the Sleazy Lawyers will walk away with $20,000,000 of Dell's money

tsnook12
tsnook12

My experience with the Dell optiplex capacitor problem was pretty common with my client,Dell support was just replacing the motherboards with another one. They never acknowledged it was a problem. But when the first question was "tell me if the motherboards caps look swollen" at what point should a recall been done, certainly a costly mistake to sell about 1.8 million desktop pcs and jeopardize customer loyalty. Dell had it coming to them on this issue.

pomahonysr
pomahonysr

Did Jason Hiner mis-type "gone done" vs "gone down". -- We have to remember that we haven?t really heard Dell?s side of the story yet. And, there are those who will say that while the quality of Dell?s PCs have gone done, so have nearly all of the other PC makers as well, especially as consumers and businesses have come to expect sub-$500 computers. -- patrick.omahony@gmail.com

bbetlej
bbetlej

Our experience with Dell is FAR better than our experience with HP. We had 100% failure rate with the HP laptops we ordered. That's right - every single one of them failed and required a new motherboard. Half of them more than once. We only had trouble with the GX270 desktops from Dell, seeing about a 10% failure rate. And since Dell replaced every failed board in addition to extended our three year warranty another couple of years how can you say they were covering it up?

reisen55
reisen55

I have had limited issues with Dell systems and as an independent consultant, it is my job to resolve them and usually it is a faulty part such as power supply or hard drive, the latter the manufacturing concern of anotther company entirely. I stick with what I know too.

.Martin.
.Martin.

apple is doing this with the iphone 4, yet it is ok for them...

xander crews
xander crews

Every manufacturer gambles. A warranty is all they have to honor. That time around Dell lost the bet in a big way. Our company purchased hundreds of PC's from dell during that period. 20% failed before the warranty ended. 30% failed within the fourth year of service, just out of warranty. We saw this coming. Support refused to proactively replace the caps. It is clear Dell did not handle the quality issue in an honorable way. The best recourse we had was to hire an assembly tech to solder new caps. We were able to stretch the repaired units another two years. Corporate policy dictated that all new units were to be purchased from Dell regardless of quality. It's a gamble. Dell's way of handling it was questionable. Where is the apology?

john3347
john3347

IF Dell (or any other company) is actually guilty of KNOWINGLY selling faulty merchandise and presenting it as first quality they should be severely penalized and should be forced to make restitution to the victimized parties involved. The penalties for such activity should be great enough that it would be very impractical for a producer to engage in this practice because the potential penalties would be so much greater than the potential rewards.

jmdiazarg
jmdiazarg

I'm not a complainant but very tolerant. I buyed two inspiron 1525 two years ago, one with custom color and one standard. I say this because i think the assembly process does different steps to finish. The standard one was very poor finish while the other one was impeccable. The borders don't fit, the battery charger has a pin that indicates to the motherboard that it's an original charger, then the battery charges. Well, one day it stopped charging. Now i have to plug it in a certain way and keep like that 5 secs for the battery to charge. Some plastics has poor quality and are kinda twisted, even those that hold the screen. That causes the screen to scratch. Well that was my experience. I just comply with assembly, the casing quality and some parts like the charger (i think these days we all deserve a plug like the one on those Macs :) ). The internals are superb.

tedB
tedB

Between 2004 - 2007 I was IT Manager for a small company and purchased Dell laptops. The only major problem we had was when Dell changed out the HDD from Hitachi to (I think) Maxtor which had a 60% failure rate. Dell relatively quickly went back to Hitachi and the problem went away.

painn3ck
painn3ck

Still use Dell for the business side... but can never recommend them again for home users. They get the worst rep because of their HORRIBLE customer service and tech support.

George in Providence
George in Providence

I'm still very happy with Dell. My predecessor at my current office bought a lot of HP stuff, and some of that, including a few servers, has been unreliable, and the support not nearly as good as Dell's. I've been a loyal Dell customer for about 16 years, right up to the present, and have been mostly very pleased with both the products and the support. There were some consistent, though relatively minor, problems with some of the Dell laptop lines in the early to mid-2000's which they stubbornly refused to acknowledge being widespread, though they did always honor their warranties, so I couldn't be *too* unhappy with them.

maxwell edison
maxwell edison

Yes, (it deserve its soiled reputation over faulty PCs), and I never bought Dells (regardless of the pressure from others to do so.)

jjvolk
jjvolk

Yes they do deserve it because they knew about the defective motherboards but tried to blame something or someone else or just ignored the hue and cry of their customers. Customers are what made Dell and customers are what will destroy Dell. A company lives and dies by its customer's confidence in the brand. Shame on Dell for being deceptive (sounds like Toyota!).

sub_techrep
sub_techrep

We have customers who purchased Dell equipment during the period in question and even purchased OptiPlex desktops. Our customers do not appear to have been affected by the capacitor problem however those who purchased cheaper, lower end products have certainly seen a difference in quality and reliability. This is most evident in the laptop area. If people want cheaper products, they should continue to push the manufacturers to lower their prices but please don't complain when the quality drops, too. If you want good gear, pay a reasonable price.

charliet69
charliet69

As someone who physically performs Manufacturer repair work on all major MFG's, I strongly believe Dell is more customer-centric and customer-conscious than any other PC MFG right now. I have seen Dell as a company go well above and beyond to take care of customers, where HP and ACER have the "oh well" attitude. Dells customer focus mentality and quality control for their parts exceeds all other major PC manufactures. Unfortunately, most end-users are not aware that their Dell parts have a higher quality-control standard, and most end-users only know that when they call Dell they get someone not here in America for support... Yes, Dell may have faltered in the past, but from someone on the inside, who sees what Dell is doing to ensure their PC's operate correctly, and whom sees what the other Manufactures DONT do to take care of their customers; I am always impressed with how Dell seems to go the extra mile for the customer right now.

charliet69
charliet69

As someone who physically performs Manufacturer repair work on all major MFG's, I strongly believe Dell is more customer-centric and customer-conscious than any other PC MFG right now. I have seen Dell as a company go well above and beyond to take care of customers, where HP and ACER have the ?oh well? attitude. Dell?s customer focus mentality and quality control for their parts exceeds all other major PC manufactures. Unfortunately, most end-users are not ware that their Dell parts have a higher quality-control standard, and most end-users only know that when they call Dell they get someone not here in America for support? Yes, Dell may have faltered in the past, but from someone on the inside, who sees what Dell is doing to ensure their PC?s operate correctly, and whom sees what the other Manufactures DON?T do to take care of their customers; I am always impressed with how Dell seems to go the extra mile for the customer.

ITTechAdviser
ITTechAdviser

Anyone whose Enterprise Deployed Dell Optiplex GX270 and GX280 machines knows the problem these systems had with blown capacitors on their system boards. Later Optiplex machines have not faired much better. I hate to agree with the sentiment that they earned their soiled reputation, but they have when it comes to the Optiplex brand. This is not to say that Latitude and Inspiron systems are in the same boat as the Optiplex for they are not. I had an Inspiron that I threw around for over 4 years and treated with total disregard and it performed excellently until the Hard Disk went dead on me. I would consider that performance as good as can be expected from a laptop system. The Enterprise I work for has also had good overall performance from its Latitude Laptops. Dell Support for these systems is also generally very good. Therefore, the Poll question may be a bit broad. Dell had some bad luck or bad Engineering with a series of Motherboards on the Optiplex brand and the brand in general is a low end machine that is not very reliable or high performance. However, Dell is still an iconic brand that has inovated in the industry, especially on the business end, and although many enterprises have moved away from the brand, rightfully so in many cases, I think the company is still making worth while products in several areas.

Hobbits
Hobbits

Even in the private sector Dell has deceived it consumer customers. with faulty mother boards and bad hard drives as well as burnt ram. several of my friends thought they were getting deals by going with Dell only to spend hours on the phone trying to get problems solved. One woman had the hard drive replaced 3 times and the motherboard replaced once. I do light PC repair and i will advise against anyone buying a Dell as i have seen those problems arise continually. i build my own systems and don't rely on the prebuilt systems

wlportwashington
wlportwashington

I have used Dells for years and will continue to do so. I have found them to be reliable and the tech support (US Based) as the best in the biz. I have had more problems with HP than anyother brand and their tech support adn customer service to be the pits. On the performance end, Dell blows HP away. The real criminal in all this are the factories that supplied the faulty capacitors in the first place.

medfordmel
medfordmel

Once upon a time, I could always comfortably recommend Dell - for home use, for small business, for enterprises; it didn't matter. Dell had a superior offering at a reasonable price, and it would be reliable, and expandable. No more. A couple of years ago, I tried to add a SATA drive to a Dimension desktop, but found I needed a green plastic tray to snap the drive into the system. I called Dell to order the tray, but after two hours of telephone runaround, the answer was that I could not order the $1.83 part from Dell. They only ship with Dell hard drives. The reason? "People are using the trays for ILLEGAL purposes." I literally asked if they were being used in methamphetamine labs, or for what other illegal purposes they might be used. Her response? "People are using them to install their own hard drives into our computers." I promptly informed her that this was no longer Dell's computer, since I had purchased it from Dell, thereby relieving Dell of their ownership. I also explained how easy it is to obtain a larger, faster, more reliable hard drive, for less money, from vendors other than Dell. No dice. No tray. With that, I let Dell force me into ordering a Dell hard drive with the $1.83 tray. After placing my order, I politely congratulated the nice Dell lady, and informed her that the next time I needed to recommend a vendor for this client's $50,000 hardware purchase, Dell will no longer be my first choice. More recently, another client had a terrible time with Dell Precision notebooks. They experienced (and I witnessed) failure rates of over 50% within the first month (over 10% DOA), on both 2400's and 4400's. Dell used the "bad batch" excuse for RAM modules, hard disk drives, optical drives, system boards, and display panels. It was an experience. Those problems have subsided, however. The client was an early adopter, but no one should go through that. After all of that, though, I'm left with no reliable PC vendor. They're all terrible (although no one beats Sony's service & repair, in the category of worst available). Dell's no worse than any other. They're just no longer superior. They've simply decided to sit back, relax, and fit in with the rest. You'd think it would be easy for any competitor to seize the opportunity to take their place, but none of them seem interested enough to spend the money required to reap the profits that would result. The whole sector has gone complacent.

YourComputerDoctor
YourComputerDoctor

When they all compete on price, what do you expect. Quality and/or support has to suffer. In Dell's case their support never was good so the only thing left to cut was quality. Build your own (white box); that way you can select the components and if there's a problem, you caused it.

techrep
techrep

The measure of a good company is not zero failures - although that's highly desirable - it's the company's reaction to a problem in quickly resolving the matter and, where appropriate, being proactive in preventing re-occurence and/or the same problem affecting others. Cover-ups NEVER work in the long run and customers vote with their feet.

Smedley54
Smedley54

I advised dropping Dell as a vendor because they were beginning to delay warranty replacement motherboards. Their position was that if they ran out of that part, they had discharged their responsibility, while I believed that their responsibility was met when my user had a working computer. Management told me to "Work something out" with Dell, and I certainly tried.

theptsman
theptsman

I Have had a 90% failure rate and good luck trying to get replacements 50% have been replaced with DOA's and not to mention the shame when you have a company that sends out parts that are defective!

AdmiralTRW
AdmiralTRW

I have no problem with the Dell computer out of the box. I have a significant problem with their customer service. In addition, Dell hides behind their website. there is no way to contact Dell in Texas when the incredibly lousy customer support in southern India either cannot help or winds up screw up the machine trying to help. I tried to get signed drivers for the DVD in my laptop and they said because I didn't purchase Windows 7 upgrade from them, they would charge me $130 for the drivers. I just turned off signed drivers when I boot and everything works just fine. Computers are probably as good as the next one. Customer service is way past down the toilet.

kgerken
kgerken

YES. They brought this on themselves. If they would have been upfront with customers about the issues, offered better support and not lied on their financail statements, they would not have lost my trust. I have owned a Dell PC and laptop for the last 7 years, but they have lost my business on any future purchases.

RicoSpain
RicoSpain

In general, 1 in 4 don't work?! Wow. I wish 25% was acceptable in my job.

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

I use to work for a multinational and at the tail end of working there, I remember there was some talk of motherboard issues [this was late 2003]. Our desktops were all Optiplexes. Sometime at the end of the last decade, the company switched to Hp [that hurts when you have something like 50,000+ desktops and laptops as well servers "lost". Myself, I have stopped recommending Dell. The last 4 of 5 computers were from HP. The only exception was my sister-in-law's Dell laptop. But Dell buggered the order up by shipping the wrong model. [Dell was still trying to sell systems with Vista on them even though Win 7 was released for a few months already.]

Bruce.epstein2
Bruce.epstein2

I have 3 Dell PC the oldest one being 10 years old. I have never had a problem with any of them. I would buy a Dell PC anytime. I am also a Sr. manager with an organzation, we only buy Dell. We have never had any issues with the devices. All the issues we have had, were due to users, not the machines.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

But I have access to Dell Gold support. All American, all knowledgeable, all helpful. The only bad experience I've had was the first time I called; we were initially given the number for Dell non-warranty support.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

From 3Com to Zotac and everybody in between. I see fat and bleeding caps on Dells, HPs, ASUS, Alienware, MSI, Intel, and even on IBM POS mainboards. The problem is that the dielectric in the caps expands as it gets warmer.

jeffv96818
jeffv96818

Dell was one of the last US based companies to ship their manufacturing to Shenzhen China. Now that they have, they will be forced to deal with the same quality control issues as the rest. This is the same place that is famous for buying junk electronics from around the globe, scraping off the components and reusing them in new systems.

seanferd
seanferd

Why is it OK for Apple to offer a craptastic tech fail? Maybe I didn't get the memo. I'm so out of the loop. :D

seanferd
seanferd

when Dell is situated at the distal end of Killface's Annihilatrix.

larmbruster
larmbruster

I've been a Dell reseller for almost 11 years and in the computer business for almost 30 years. I still remember my $5,200 AST 286 with 128MB or ram and a 5 MB hard disk that weighed in at around 30 lbs. I started out selling $7,000 software that ran on Atari 400 computers. Back in 97-99 I was selling Gateways and Dells and they both had poor assembly and components. We began torture testing systems before delivery and fixed tons of things like cd's and floppies and even hard drives that were even connected. We found our share of DOA devices, but I'll state emphatically after sellings thousands of systems (servers, desktops and laptops) that it was rare to get a completely DOA system. We still torture test before delivery so our confidence level in the systems is very high at installation. Early on we sold the Dimension line to our clients. When Dell introduced the OptiPlex line we moved exclusively to Opti's with a few Precision workstations and laptops here and there. Inspiron laptops changed to Latitudes and we never looked back. We never experienced the high rate of OptiPlex failures (or any other models) during the 2003-2005 time frame stated in the Times article. As for service, we learned long ago to get the good warranties with Gold support. It was gimmick to get more warranty money from us, but at least the Dell techs could speak and understand English. When necessary we escalate to Level 2 support immediately after the first tech asks us if it's plugged in or turned on. Dell support has had it's good years and bad years, but all vendors have. We've touched pretty much ever brand over the years. I deplore the unethical side of Dell's behavior if what is stated is true (and it looks like it is), but I'll stick by Dell for now and wait for the outcome of the suit. Servers 5 years max and replace, workstations depending on the environment and software requirements 4-5 years and replace, laptops depends on how bad they are abused.

dougogd
dougogd

sometimes prevents programs from being shut down. You have to go to the task bar to shut it down or sometimes bring up the task manager just to shut down a program. I work on xp computers windows vista computers and windows 7 computers. I have the least problems with the vista computers than any other operating system.

dougogd
dougogd

Remind me to never deal with your company.

Bigbrim
Bigbrim

Not sure of the shutdown quirk, but I've deployed over 60 DT's with win732bit & many W764-bit. Not one issue other than problems with a Western Digital drive model that wouldn't partition/format properly. Many users of Vista had problems. During pre-release testing of W7, the install was a breeze. Didn't need to install dedicated drivers for ASUS MOBO's. We still have many XP DT's online and are using LAPLINK to do direct inline upgrades to Win7. Maybe the app's are causing the issue & not the OS.

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

You are the few that prefer Vista over any other OS. I used Vista for about 9 months and had no real compatibility problems or driver issues but the same can be said for Win 7. Sheeeeee-it. I'm even running PageMaker 7 [from 2001] in Windows 7 64-bit with no issues.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

How do you extract an ethical failing from six simple statements about his experiences with Dell?

dougogd
dougogd

and so on nothing else installed.

Editor's Picks