My sister ordered a Dell Inspiron 700m notebook two years ago. At the time of its release, it was quite a desirable notebook. A bright 12.1″ widescreen LCD display coupled with some of the best internals that you could find in a thin-and-light notebook at a time made for an traveler’s friend. In the best interests of keeping this focused, I’ll avoid digressing into a full-blown review of the laptop. There are plenty of reviews out there, but here are a couple of quick ones just for reference:
About a year after purchasing the laptop, my sister found that its internal speakers had begun malfunctioning. At times there was simply no sound output. She was able to get the speakers to start working again by closing the laptop hinge, but even that failed to coax the speakers into working after some time. Audio out, however, was not an issue. Just to be certain that there were no software conflicts getting in the way of speaker operation, we reinstalled the audio drivers. I didn’t think to go trotting back to Dell to take advantage of the one-year warranty that came bundled with the notebook – after all, I’ve never had to resort to a product warranty.
Fast forward a year. In an attempt to get to the root of the problem once and for all, I unscrew most of the screws holding the Inspiron 700m together. This is the first time that I’ve tried stripping down a ‘modern’ notebook so I completely forget about the plastic housing that covers the laptop hinges. Some gentle lifting with a flathead screwdriver releases the tabs holding this housing down, revealing the following sight:
At first I didn’t think much of the four black and white cables that are pictured above. The cables had been severed with a very clean cut – so clean that I assured myself that this must have been a decision on Dell’s part. I found myself at a loss and looked towards some quick help from Google on what was wrong with the laptop. It turns out that a number of other users have reported the same issue with the Dell Inspiron 700m. Below is a selection of sites with information pertinent to this case:
Owners of the Dell Inspiron 700m report not only that the notebook’s speakers face inevitable failure after normal operation, but that the notebook’s audio in quality is unbearable. Heavy static and hissing when using audio in is commonly reported, perhaps explaining why Skype calls from my sister have always been accompanied by noticeable background noise. Complaints about the Dell Inspiron 700m were in fact so great that some users made a website urging Dell to recall the model. However Dell did not respond to these users and elected not to formally recognize the issue, unlike what it has done with last year’s battery recall program.
I called Dell Technical Support in Malaysia with a clear set of points. My sister’s issue was not an isolated one, as a simple search on Google for “Dell Inspiron 700m Issues” revealed. Similar searches for “Inspiron 700m Speakers” and the like turned up with a multitude of links to forum threads full of discontent consumers. Although my sister’s Inspiron 700m is no longer under warranty, I argued that Dell had sold laptops that were defective by design. The technical support representative that I was talking to suggested that she transfer me to another department to see if there was anything that could be done regarding the issue. I explained the problem at hand again to this new representative. Because the notebook was no longer under warranty, Dell was not able to provide me with anything beyond a quotation for a new LCD display panel.
Forgive me here, but what? The notebook has a perfectly functioning screen that my sister is very much satisfied with. The only issue here is a number of broken wires, wires that have been severed due entirely to faulty design. They snapped after regular use, and replacing the LCD display would do nothing to resolve problem. After all, it took only one year for the wires to snap the first time around. Just a single year of regular hinge operation, and the speakers had quit.
I thanked the Dell representative and informed them that I was not interested in hearing the quotation for a new LCD display panel. I pointed out rightly that the broken speakers could be fixed with a soldering iron. A pity that I don’t have a soldering iron, isn’t it? Twenty minutes of jostling with Technical Support to be told that because the unit was out of warranty, nothing could be done.
At least the first Dell Technical Support representative that I spoke to called back later that day to ask if things had gone alright.
In other news, we just ordered a Dell XPS M1330 for my brother a couple of nights ago. Built to order with an Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 (2.0GHz, 4MB Cache, 800MHz FSB), 2GB DDR2 667MHz, 120GB SATA HDD, 8X DVD+/-RW DL, NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GS 128MB, 802.11N, and a 13.3″ LED-backlit LCD display. All this for RM5891 – $300 USD cheaper than an identical model in the US.
And they couldn’t even offer to send down a guy with a soldering iron to fix up my sister’s Inspiron 700m.
I’m Feeling: Frustrated