Some Dell XPS M1330 Updates

I called a Dell rep tonight to inquire on the status of my laptop (the first time since ordering) and was told it will ship on August 3rd. That’s quite a bit ahead of the August 22nd estimate my invoice gave me, so I’m decently pleased. After the call, I found out that the same configuration of the M1330 is now $40 cheaper. Dell will be getting another call tomorrow for that $40. I figure if it’s taking them this long, I might as well be entitled to the price fluctuations while I wait.

Not Quite What I Meant: Dell XPS M1330 Delay Part 2

Seems like I was right and a lot of people are interested about the long lead times with the Dell XPS M1330 laptop. I got the impression speaking with the customer sales representatives before my purchase that it’s been very, very popular and I got the same impression when I spoke with a senior manager at Dell corporate. Yeah, that’s right. I’ve been in contact with someone there, who happened to have a previous article on the XPS M1330 forwarded to him. I’ll be the first to say that I was shocked that Dell is taking such a proactive stance to customer service. In retrospect, it is in line with their recent track record of being much more connected with customers. We’ve traded emails back and forth a few times and he was very receptive to the comments and suggestions I had about improving the dialog between Dell and its (potential) customers.

One of the suggestions I made was regarding the post over at Direct2Dell about the XPS M1330’s order status. This was prior to the recent update to that post. Although it was promised that systems would be shipping out and estimated ship dates updated, neither of these seemed to have materialized and customers were getting frustrated. Just like the customer service reps who promised the standard 10-15 day turnaround on the laptop, something was promised but not delivered upon. The estimated ship dates on the customers’ orders became irrelevant – although most of them were still out into the middle of August, that post bumped up everyone’s expectations of an earlier ship date. After all, Dell typically does ship systems ahead of its rather conservative estimates.

Still, I suggested that we be kept in the loop, whether it be on the Direct2Dell blog or by another channel. My comments were forwarded on to Lionel Menchaca, Dell’s Digital Media Manager. A day later (I’m not saying it was due to my nudging; Lionel did say there would be updates when they became available) an amendment was made to the post. The laptops were actually not shipping and most likely would not ship prior to those estimated ship dates, which were typically 30-45 days from the order date.

Update: 7/13: My apologies—I misinterpreted some of the information I received, so wanted to clarify. We expect existing orders to be delivered by the date given when you ordered. Because we have a backlog of systems to work through, we don’t expect orders to ship ahead of their current scheduled dates. We’ll work to ship systems quickly, and look forward to any feedback you might have on it.

Although the correction was attributed to misinterpretation, it’s difficult to see how it could go from, ‘they’ll start shipping immediately and your ship dates, as a result, will probably improve‘ to, ‘sorry, we’re not shipping them yet and don’t expect them to ship before your estimated date‘. That’s almost a complete 180 degree turn – not exactly a slight misinterpretation. The worst part is that there is still no good explanation behind the long lead times for everyone. If it is indeed due to some parts shortages (the LED backlit display and the 2.0MP camera available with the non-LED backlit display were cited, making up most of the orders) you’d think at least some machines would have shipped before the parts dried up. That is if there were any machines and/or parts available at all. My guess is it was a paper launch, in an attempt to have the XPS M1330 release alongside the Inspiron lineup, clearly garnering a lot of press for Dell.

When I suggested more updates and information regarding the Dell XPS M1330 lead times, this isn’t quite what I meant. A complete about-face and a relative lack of information doesn’t instill in me too much confidence. After all, managing customer expectations is a major part of customer satisfaction. And as of right now, those up and down expectations are not being met.

Update: I wrote a comment over at the Direct2Dell post on the XPS M1330’s order status. I thought I’d share it with you here as well. It’s currently in the moderation queue over there, but will appear later when they approve it.

The M1330 has been one heck of a ride. First, promised the regular 10-15 day wait time for a Dell system, then seeing the 45-50 day estimated ship date on my invoice. Reading this post and getting my hopes up that it’ll get here sooner, and subsequently getting those hopes crushed by the update a few days later. It’s all about setting expectations that can be delivered upon. That certainly has not happened.

Parts shortages are fine and dandy, but how can that be the case when no one has gotten a M1330, aside from pre-production units sent to reviewers? If there is low availability of parts, at least the people who ordered very early should have received them or at least be close to receiving them.

The fact that no one has points strongly to a paper launch (release with no availability). That in itself is fine as well. Just look at the console world – announcements are made with no promise of immediate availability; instead dates are set for a time when production units are available. Pre-orders are popular for high demand products and lots of people are willing to plunk down money to be among the first to get them – but they are advertised as pre-orders. Setting customer expectations.

Instead, the Dell sales representatives we spoke to made no indication that there were long lead times, much less parts shortages (or non-existent parts for that matter). The rep I spoke to even explicity asked me if I was okay with Dell’s 10-15 day estimate from the time or order to delivery. Oh would I ever be. Nothing like the actual 45-50 day lead times if the estimated ship dates are accurate (and would seem to be, considering you now do not expect to ship orders before the estimated date). Setting customer expectations.

Chalk it up to misinterpretation or whatever have you, but a complete about-face on this matter is painful, both for the person delivering the less-than-great news and for the customers. I believe much of the grief could have been avoided if only communications were better, right from the point of purchase. I know the reps are there to sell product, but promising one thing and delivering another is hardly the path to customer satisfaction. Tell us the truth, set the appropriate expectations and far fewer would be complaining.

Update 2: Read the comments over at Direct2Dell’s post. The tone has changed quite quickly from one of acceptance to anger and frustration. Already, several people have either canceled their orders or at least threatened to cancel. One of the big contributors is the recent change to many Europeans’ estimated ship dates. Instead of ship dates in the next few days, they’re getting pushed out up to a month. That’s ticked a lot of people off – overall, less than great execution by Dell on this one. It’s such a waste to mar what should be a spectacular laptop with such issues.

What’s With the Dell XPS M1330 Delay?

I bet that question has been running through a lot of your minds. Dell launched the XPS M1330 alongside the the Inspiron notebook refresh and desktop lines on June 26th, 2007. While early-bird buyers of the new Inspirons have had their laptops go through the production process already, just waiting to be shipped, all but a few M1330 buyers are still in the pre-production stage, meaning parts are still being acquired. I ordered my M1330 approximately one week after the initial annoucment and my estimated ship date is August 22nd. Earlier buyers in North America are looking at a late July, early August ship date.

I can say, almost without a doubt that the whole launch was quite a success for Dell. The XPS M1330 really generated a lot of buzz around the internet, typically reserved for launches from the likes of Apple or Google. While the M1330 brought a lot of general interest to Dell, it also brought significant orders for itself. Just take a look over at the Notebook Review Forums. The number of viewers at any one time on the Dell subsection of the forum has almost doubled since the announcements on the 26th. If you delve a bit deeper, you can see just how many people are talking about, and more importantly, purchasing this specific laptop. Being the flagship and torch-bearer, the M1330 has served its purpose and more – it generated plenty of views (and subsequently purchases) at the Dell website and sold itself more than adequately.

I called in to several sales representatives at Dell Canada and immediately got the impression that they were swamped. Without any prompting by myself, the reps I spoke to told me how insanely popular the M1330 had been. While the reps are typically okay with some haggling and have a few options to use to help close deals, none of them made any indication that they were willing to negotiate on this specific laptop. It only makes sense that in the currently supply-constrained environment that they make as much money as they can. There’s no sense in negotiating a deal with a customer when it means that someone who is willing to pay full price must wait longer for their order. I bit the bullet and ordered it off the Dell Canada website without any concessions from the sales reps. And am I ever lucky that I didn’t wait another couple days. The mystery coupon promotion that the M1330 qualified for was eventually pulled for that laptop, but remains for the other Inspiron laptops. What other evidence does there need to be that the M1330 is hugely popular?

Another contributer to the delay seems to be with the LED backlit display. The LED backlit screen was one of the most touted features of the M1330 – one of the keys of making the laptop as thin and light as it is. As a result, it is one of the most requested upgrades. Customers who have ordered the regular display are expected to have their laptops shipped several weeks before the ones with LED displays. I’m sure Dell didn’t expect so many would upgrade to the LED display, which isn’t exactly cheap at $150.

I know it’s frustrating to many buyers in North America to have to wait so long for their laptops. Within a week, the lead time for this laptop has increased out to a month (from end of July to the end of August). It’s tough, but I’m willing to wait. I can only hope at this point that it’s worth it.

On a side note, buyers in other parts of the world don’t seem to have as much of a delay as we do here in North America. People in India, Austrailia and the United Kingdom who have very recently ordered their laptops are expecting them to ship within the next week or two.

Update: It appears as though people around the world are in fact not any luckier than us poor folk in North America. M1330s that were supposed to ship this week in places like Ireland and the UK have now been pushed back, in some cases almost a month. I’ve written a new post with some more developments, if you’d like to keep up to date. The atmosphere regarding the issue has turned from slightly apologetic for Dell to outright frustration and anger over the past week.

Dell XPS M1330 Ordered

I just ordered a new Dell XPS M1330 this evening. I’ve been on the lookout for a new laptop for a little while now and initially had my sights set on either the XPS M1210 or the Latitude D630. However, I heard rumors (and saw blurry pictures) of a very nice 13.3″ laptop coming out of Dell and decided to wait. I’m glad I did and the moment I saw it (and the not sky-high price tag) I made my choice.

Dell XPS M1330
Dell XPS M1330 Media keys

I also received a 15% discount coupon from Dell – unfortunately, I wasn’t able to combine that with the EPP discount that I get through Sybase. Since the 15% coupon was better than the EPP discount, I went with that instead. Here’s what I ended up getting. I didn’t expect to spend this much on a laptop at first (just something relatively cheap to complement my desktop).

  • Intel Core 2 Duo T7100 1.8GHz 2MB L2
  • Tuxedo Black
  • 2GB Dual Channel DDR2 667
  • 13.3″ LED backlit display
  • 128MB NVIDIA Go 8400M GS
  • 120GB SATA 5400RPM HD
  • 8X DVD+-RW Slot load
  • Intel 3945abg wireless (no Intel wireless-n in Canada)
  • 4 cell and 9 cell batteries
  • Fingerprint Reader
Dell XPS M1330

I’m excited to get it – the sales rep told me it should take only 10 days or so, but my order confirmation email states an estimated ship date of August 22nd… That’s quite a wait I’m in for.

ASUS Z71V Laptop Battery Issues

I was one of the early adopters of the ASUS Z71V barebones laptop. I’d been building desktop computers for several years at that point and I thought the level of customization that I could achieve with a barebone laptop would be nice. But being on the bleeding edge does have its disadvantages. The ASUS Z71 series ran into some major battery-related problems. Specifically, the batteries were defective and could not hold a full charge. It happened in varying degrees of severity, but my battery wouldn’t charge past 45% of its full capacity in less than 4 months of use.

I was able to cross-ship my battery with a new one from ASUS. The service was good and shipping was very quick. A check showed that the new battery was working fine and I thought my troubles were over. Unfortunately, the replacement battery started showing symptoms of the problem again late last year and early into 2007. Initially, I was worried that ASUS would leave me in a lurch. After all, it was outside of the 1 year warranty. My other options were to spend $200 on a new battery or have a desk-bound laptop, not terribly useful since I already have a desktop.

So, I was quite relieved when ASUS decided to replace my battery (again). I made it clear that the problem was the result of a manufacturing defect and not normal wear and tear. Even outside the 1 year warranty, something with a widespread defect should be replaced. Once again, shipping was quick and I now have, once more, a laptop that gets 3:30 battery life and not the hour or so it could squeeze out with a shoddy battery.

The whole thing does tarnish the ASUS name somewhat, but then again, almost every laptop manufacturer has had one form or another of a battery problem in the past couple years.