If I were to judge a person's value by how much time I spend watching them on Youtube, Lisa Gade at mobiletechreview.com should rightly be a billionaire. Without fear of contracting myself later, I'd say she's pretty much my favourite internet personality. Over the last few years, she's the only person I listen to when it comes to buying new hardware or, much more likely the truth, lusting over new hardware.
I noticed the other day that she's just reviewed the new Dell XPS 13. She liked it, said good things about it, and did all the things you'd expect in a quality review. It made me sigh a little as I watched the review and realised that I've been going far too long without a working laptop. However, there's no way I can afford a new laptop and, in truth, even if I did have the money, I'd much rather improve my cartooning by upgrading my Samsung Note to a Surface Pro 3. Yet, I do miss writing when I'm away from home and that's how my eyes came to fall on the dark lump of plastic sitting on the shelf.
I'm currently away from home and typing this on a previous generation Dell XPS 13 after spending most of today reviving it.
I'd previously abandoned this laptop for reasons I couldn't recall until I'd reinstalled Windows and started to use it again. I'm about an hour into this renewed relationship and I can say that at this point I'd happily take a divorce. I'd throw it in the bin except it cost me more than I could afford at the time and now I can't afford to replace it with anything better. It also reminds me why I'd be an idiot to ever again trust Dell. Much as I trust Lisa Gade, nothing on this green earth would put the Dell badge back in my lap. Let me explain why.
The Dell XPS 13 1340 is a cankerous boil of a laptop. Worse than that. It's the kind of machine that could leave you with cankerous boils where your wrists have come into contact with its blisteringly hot body. It's a machine that's legendary in the ranks of horrible machines. Reviews on the internet will still say it's a great machine yet you only discover how astonishingly bad it is after a month or so of use, by which time it's too late to get your money back. I should know. I tried to get my money back. Some people argue it had a design flaw in the way the lid opens and blocks the vents at the back of the machine. Other people will tell you that the vents have nothing to do with it and the problem stems from a design flaw inside the machine that restricts airflow. Others simply point out that the graphics chip was one of Nvidia's worse and was notorious for overheating.
I don't really care about the cause. All I know is that I've never owned a PC, Mac or toaster that gets quite so hot quite so quickly. I'm working on the laptop now and my wrists are already hot and sore where they've been resting on the front of the machine. At the back of the machine, it's already so hot that it's not comfortable to touch for more than a few seconds. I bought a thermal cooler to rest it on but the thermal cooler does nothing to improve matters. It just makes more noise. And all this heat and noise is being produced when the machine is in power saving mode and all I'm doing is editing this document in Open Office.
This particular machine has already burnt out one graphics card which I had replaced under warranty after the machine started to issue a smell indicative of melted plastic. I don't know how much longer this current card will last but when it goes, this monstrous heap of junk will be dead and I won't pay to recover it. The whole thing has been an absolute waste of the 800+ of the extremely hard earned pounds I paid for it.
That wouldn't be so bad but the XPS range has always been Dell's top of the range laptops. They're supposed to be the best they can produce and give the best experience. My experience has been one of abject misery. Consider the four laptops I've owned and how useful they've been.
My first was a monster back in the day when laptops were the size of suitcases. It was a brand whose name I can't even recall and the laptop probably weighed more than all my subsequent laptops put together. I wrote all my degree essays on it but it was a nightmare to lug around.
When I finished my degree and moved on to do an MA, I bought the one laptop I've only ever loved. It was an absolutely beautiful tiny Sony VAIO. It was simply the best laptop I've ever owned and, in all likelihood, will ever own. It had a magnesium body and weighed next to nothing. I wrote so much on that small 10 inch screen. I edited at least three academic books on it. I edited countless volumes of a literary journal. I wrote both my MA and my Ph.D. on that machine. I loved it. And then an anthology of romantic poetry (edited by Duncan Wu) fell on it from a high shelf and it was never the same. I was devastated. Utterly heartbroken.
I couldn't afford another quality VAIO so I bought a cheap plastic-bodied Sony. It did its job. I wrote about three books on that laptop including many of the 600+ Stan Madeley letters that become 'Second-Class Male'. I blogged on it for a few years. It was a good machine but when I started to work in Manchester and needed to travel, carrying it started to hurt my back so I sold it and bought this Dell.
On this Dell I've done absolutely nothing of note. I've owned it as long as my original VAIO but it's so unusable to be practically useless. I could have written a couple of books in my downtime had it been usable. But I've not. I can't take it into quiet study rooms in libraries because the fan start spinning and annoyed people begin to look my way. The battery life is so poor that it's pointless taking it to a coffee shop to do a little writing or light web surfing. It's only useful if you're in a noisy environment and near a power supply and you can endure the misery of hot wrists. Just writing this has convinced me that it's going back on the shelf. I notice one is currently selling for £50 on eBay but I'm not sure I could bring myself to wish it on anybody. I should in all honesty just dump it or give it to a charity shop because it's so bad. However, I just can't bring myself to do that. After all: it's my laptop.
All of which brings me to my point. Why are companies are so happy about pissing off their consumers by stubbornly refusing to acknowledge bad products? Dell knew about this problem years ago yet they did nothing to rectify it when I complained. I just got passed between a succession of Indian telesales operators. What would it have cost them to replace it? Since then, I've lost count of the number of times I've been asked to recommend laptops to family members and friends. I've always been the 'go to' guy when people need PC help so I now only recommend Asus and Lenovo, usually based on Lisa Gade's reviews.
Like I say, there's nobody I trust more than Lisa Gade when it comes to hardware reviews but even she can't persuade me to look again at Dell. My wrists are hot. I'm publishing this and shutting this machine down. Not sure I'll ever find a reason to turn it back on.