Sometimes you just have a bad day, or a run of them. Last Sunday, my Dell laptop died, Tuesday night, my Apple iPad died.

These were two totally unrelated problems, and thankfully both were covered under warranty. The iPad has the standard Apple 1 year warranty, my Dell had 2 year Complete Care. I thought it had 3 years, but evidently I only ordered 2. Both the iPad and the Dell warranties expire before mid-June. I’m pretty happy they both died this month and not next.

Now, keep in mind I’m a pretty big Dell fan. I generally recommend their laptops to people, and the Complete Care warranty they offer is no small part of that recommendation. Computers all break eventually but desktops much easier to fix, laptops break more often,and are a lot harder to fix. With Complete Care it doesn’t matter who’s fault it is, Dell will fix it. It’s as much an insurance policy as it is a warranty. Dog eats it, 2yr old jumps on it, lightning strikes it, it’s covered. You get the idea.

This provides me with a great opportunity to compare support side by side.

 

Here’s how each service call went.

 

The Dell Experience

I called Dell support on at the number listed for my model under the support section of their website. After about 5 minutes of navigating voice menus, I spoke with a technician. He was unable to help me, evidently I called the wrong number. He helpfully transferred me to where I needed to be. I’ll spare you the painful details, but suffice it to say after 3 hours of troubleshooting they authorized dispatch of a bunch of parts, none of which I figured would fix the problem. They decided I needed a motherboard, ram, cpu and ac adapter. The problem is no video display on the LCD or output to an attached monitor. My notebook has discreet SLI video cards that are not part of the motherboard.

Note I said authorized dispatch, they did not actually send the parts until Tuesday afternoon when I called to find out why I had not heard from the technician. I do, after all, have next business day on site support. The technician had not called because Dell had not shipped him the parts.

Wednesday, the technician arrives. He’s well groomed, personable, seems competent, and most importantly he’s carrying 2 large boxes of parts. He sets about skillfully replacing my motherboard, ram, and ac adapter. Dell evidently decided I didn’t need a new CPU after all. I described this technician in detail because these details do not always apply to Dell’s onsite technicians. As expected, none of his parts actually fixed the problem. He asked me if I’d prefer if he called Dell for more parts or if I wanted to; I opted to let him. Dell historically gives more weight to their technician’s requests than their customers. He said I should hear from him in a day or two.

I know it’s not even close to this guy’s fault, and he has no control over it at all, but you’ve just got to love Dell’s idea of NBD service. Truth is, right now I have no pressing need for this machine for about another week, and I don’t care if it’s tomorrow or not, it just chafes me that it should have been fixed yesterday.

 

The Apple Experience

I logged in to their website at 6am, scheduled an appointment at the Genius bar  at 10:10. I walked into the store at 10:00 and explained my problem (my iPad would not charge, would not sync with PC but otherwise was working). The technician looked at my iPad, put a meter on the charge line (it registered no current draw), tried and failed to restore the firmware (I guess Macs aren’t magical enough) and then handed me a new iPad. I asked to see my old device to wipe my data, he handed it to me and it was already wiping itself. At 10:20 I was in my car returning to work.

 

Conclusion

I understand that the iPad is a mass produced commodity piece of hardware and thus easy to keep a few on the shelf for replacement (actually, if my math is right there are currently 24 unique iPad SKUs that each store has to stock replacements for to pull this off) and my XPS notebook is not. Even considering that and comparing the overall experience of the two service calls, which company would you rather deal with?

No wonder Apple is gaining market. They may keep their customers in a small tightly locked cage, but it’s very well gilded.

I have faith that Dell will in fact eventually fix my notebook. It’s just a matter of me staying on their case long enough to make it happen. My guess is it will be at least another week before they finally get their act together.