Dell Acknowledges NVIDIA GPU Defect with ‘Fix’

Having a laptop (Dell XPS M1330) equipped with an NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GS, I was understandably curious about the reports of widespread defects in the die packaging of the G84 and G86 discrete video chips. That means all 8400M, 8600M and 8700M video cards are included in this issue. NVIDIA reported they would be taking a $150 to $200 million charge related to the repair and compensation to hardware manufacturers for the defects. It was that number along with some more recent reports that really put the extent of the problem into perspective.

A couple days ago, Dell officially acknowledged the problem with a post to the Direct2Dell blog. Along with the acknowledgment were ‘fixes’ for the problem for various affected laptops, in the form of BIOS updates. Now I say ‘fixes’ in quotes because these aren’t fixes. The defect centers around weakness in the die packaging. Packaging material is failing at a higher than expected rate due to both temperature variations and high temperatures. For laptops, poor thermal conditions and temperature fluctuations are a sure thing and Dell’s solution is to run the fan longer and harder, in an attempt to maintain a more constant, lower temperature. However, this has the side effect of degrading battery life and increasing noise. These are hardly things we, as customers, should have to bear due to a known manufacturing defect. Why should we be the ones to pay for their faults? The BIOS updates are mere bandages designed to control the amount of problems encountered.

We’re not talking about early adopter issues like with the Phenom’s TLB bug. These NVIDIA mobile chips have been selling for more than a year and it has only recently become apparent that the problem is quite extensive. Whether NVIDIA and/or the manufacturers were aware of the problem earlier is a whole other can of worms I’m not quite ready to open yet.

Dell says they’re going to work with each issue on a case by case basis. From my point of view, that means if you’re out of warranty, you’re screwed unless you complain a lot. But I don’t want to have to jump through hoops to get service on an acknowledged issue. After learning of the problem, I preemptively called into Dell, with the goal of extending my warranty. My standard 1 year warranty is up in a couple weeks’ time and to save myself the hassle of a possible issue down the road, I wanted to cover my bases. However, after being quoted $300 for a single year’s extension or the ‘promotional price‘ of $550 for 2 years, I decided to take the chance and go warranty-less from here on out. If I have to fight tooth and nail for the issue I hope I never have, you can be certain I’ll do so.

I applaud Dell for acknowledging the issue that NVIDIA’s been somewhat cryptic about, but at the same time, I cannot condone the ‘solution’ that’s beeing offered to customers. Running the fans more is not a solution to a hardware problem. How about offering warranty service for customers who run into the problem down the road, even if it’s outside of the standard warranty period? It seems to me the level of defects are outside of normal levels and that would be a fair tradeoff. Read: Xbox 360.

Lionel over at Direct2Dell has made it clear that there will be more updates as they become available; I’m certainly interested in seeing what more Dell is willing to do to address the issue.

Some Resolution to Rogers’ Online Billing?

I was on the phone with Rogers a few days ago, attempting to pay my bill, as the online bill payment system was once again not working. After wrapping up the payment, I decided to inquire about the issue with my online payment page. I didn’t have much hope – the problem seems to affect a large number of people and it didn’t look like it was being fixed. I figured the most I could accomplish was to add yet another tick mark on a ‘system not working’ list at Rogers.

So it was with these low expectations that I was transferred to the department. I explained to the customer service agent that I hadn’t been able to pay my bills online for months. She asked me to stay on the line for a minute while she attempted to find the cause of the problem. After a few minutes, the girl told me that I had an old account on their system. It was this account that was causing issues with the bill payment system. I had used Rogers for cable internet during my co-op semester at Bell Mobility in Mississauga. Although I have since deactivated the service, the account was never removed from Rogers’ system.

I’m now happy to report that the online bill payment system (cross my fingers) is working just fine. For those of you frustrated with the same issue I had, see if you have any old, deactivated accounts. They may be the cause of all your bill payment headaches.

Logitech Customer Service Experience #2

I recently ran into some hardware problems with my almost one-year old Logitech VX Revolution mouse. It has accompanied my laptop almost everywhere it goes and even gets used at work, where everyone’s usually stuck with the regular 2-button optical mouse. A more functional (not to mention more comfortable) mouse like the VX Revolution makes my a bit more productive.

But back to the issue – the left click stopped working properly. One out of every 3-4 clicks was either not being registered or would act as a double click. Not registering a click isn’t nearly as bad as a double click – ever tried dragging a shortcut to the recycling bin only to have it launch the application instead? Very annoying to say the least. The problem made the mouse essentially unusable.

In the original review, I mentioned that there seemed to be some interference issues with the mouse, but it happened only on occasion. The problem now was much, much more apparent and frequent.

I got in contact with Logitech Customer Support by email this past Thursday, hoping my previous positive interaction with them wasn’t just a fluke. Oh, if anything, this was even better.

Thursday morning, I sent in a message with the symptoms. An hour later, I received a response stating a replacement would be issued if my mouse was still under warranty. That evening, I sent my shipping information along with my invoice. Not 10 minutes later, I receive a response stating a replacement unit had been set up and would be shipped to me.

The real kicker is, I am to dispose of the mouse as I see fit. Instead of making me pay $15 shipping to get it back to them and waiting for the replacement, the replacement is shipped immediately and I save my money. Of course, this relies on the honesty of the user. I don’t know if this happens all the time, so don’t start a warranty service request for a perfectly working mouse, hoping for a free replacement. If it comes time for the replacement arrangement and they request the unit be returned, don’t blame me. I can only vouch for my situation. If anything, that sort of dishonesty will only cost others the convenience of the current replacement arrangement.

Extremely quick responses and an amazing replacement policy will have me buying Logitech gadgets and recommending them for a long time, given that the products stay at their level of innovation and usefulness. Customer service can maintain customer satisfaction and build loyalty. Logitech’s has done exactly that. I’d like to say thanks to the rep I worked with, Kunal, from Logitech’s North America customer support group. A job well done. 🙂

Logitech Customer Service is Top Notch

It seems like I’ve been on a recent writing binge of customer service experiences so I’d like to continue on that vein with one about Logitech, the computer peripheral company.

My Logitech MX900 Bluetooth mouse bit the dust a few days ago. After functioning well for the past couple years, it was suddenly no longer detected by Windows. On the Bluetooth charging station, the blue light that should normally light up to indicate a Bluetooth connection no longer did. The mouse was undetected, even after switching it to another computer.

I contacted Logitech support through their online support form. Although I entered through the Canadian portal, I was somehow redirected to the support team for Australia and New Zealand. The support representative told me, as is customary in the Pacific region, to take the defective mouse back to the point of purchase. Knowing that the point of purchase only typically covers warranty for the first 30 days in Canada, I inquired as to why I was put into contact with the Pacific region support group.

I received a prompt apology and without so much as a hesitation, my support case was continued by the same gentleman who told me he would personally liaise with the North American team for me. Now that’s seamless support! Every single one of my updates to the support case were answered within 24 hours. He requested that I provide the usual: model numbers, serial numbers, my address, as well as a proof of purchase (the receipt). I am the original purchaser of the mouse, but I definitely didn’t keep that Future Shop receipt from a couple years ago. I politely informed him that I no longer had the receipt but was well within the warranty period, if that was the intended reason for the proof of purchase. The MX900 has a 5 year warranty and was only launched in late 2003 so all mice should still be within the warranty period. Additionally, Logitech’s warranty requirements did not explicitly state that a proof of purchase was required (as far as I could find anyways).

I was told that the receipt is actually a requirement, but also that he understood my situation and would make an exception. On top of that break, I’ll be getting an MX Revolution as the replacement! I’ve already got its little sibling, the VX Revolution and it’s a damned nice mouse. I’m quite honestly very amazed at the service. Most companies would probably tell you to mess off, that it’s policy or what have you, but this exception makes me feel like I’m important. That’s what service is all about.

All I know about my rep is that his name’s Daniel S. and he’s part of the Australia/New Zealand support team. If you, by the wildest of chances read this, kudos to you, and thanks for all your help. You’ve got a satisfied customer here. 🙂

Dell XPS M1330 Fiasco

Delays? Check.
Canceled orders? Check.
Lack of communication? Double check.

Unlike wine, the problems with the Dell XPS M1330 order process only seems to get worse with time. Forgetting the completely inaccurate estimated delivery times set out by the customer sales representatives at the time of purchase and delays in certain parts of the world that have pushed back ship dates by a month, numerous people are now finding their orders canceled. The lucky ones have been notified and their orders re-placed – others have had no notification and their orders were not reinstated. This is not how Dell should be treating their paying customers.

I’ve been in contact with a Senior Manager at Dell corporate (Round Rock) who I’ve been feeding information and thoughts from various online communities. One of my major suggestions to him was to get someone in a knowledgeable position at Dell to visit these communities and post responses to popular questions and concerns regarding the new line of Dell laptops. Issues range from the delays and misinformation about the Dell XPS M1330 ship dates to improperly advertised NVIDIA 8600M GT video cards to poor quality control of the new Inspiron laptop line (grainy LCDs and noise from the headphone jack). Nothing on that front has materialized and the discussion on Dell has turned overwhelmingly negative in recent weeks. Product and service are tied together and despite a relatively good product launch, service since then has been abysmal.

Dell’s corporate blog, Direct2Dell has also been silent on the XPS M1330 issue since the last update a week ago (Edit: They’re now updated the blog, more at the end of this post), which crushed expectations. Although updates were promised, nothing new has been written since July 13th. Now, I don’t know how Dell’s internal communication system works, but one week should be more than enough time to find out some information about the status of a flagship product. If it’s not, then there are some serious issues at Dell, far more severe than the delay of one product. I honestly hope that this is not the case.

So why the silence, Dell? Is Dell harboring the mentality that nothing should be said until there’s something good to say? At this point, I think I’d rather the truth, thank you very much. If there are serious issues, I’d like to know about them and adjust my purchasing plan accordingly, instead of hanging in limbo. Dell has already lost many orders – even within the Notebook Review community, several people have canceled their orders. Others are planning to do so if they do not hear any additional updates, and soon.

I’m not even certain about the status of my order. A few days ago, my heart skipped a beat when my account page at Dell told me I have no recent orders. I suspected that this was the result of my order being canceled. However, my order status page still shows the laptop as being in production. It’s been ‘In Production’ for the past 8 days. I think it’s about time I called up Dell and gave them a piece of my mind.

Update: Well, Direct2Dell finally got an update on the M1330 a little after I wrote this. Gist of it is, systems are starting to ship – Dell ran into some production issues with the laptop – but the lead times are still in place due to low availability of certain parts, like the LED display, which is popular.