I would just like the report that the Alienware Corporation has been, at least with me, a history of useless lemonware that has been in "depot" for repairs for about as much time as it's been in stable use!
My instructor Mrs. Robin Morgan purchased the machine for me in my senior year of high school to assist me in pursuing the Digital Arts at Stetson University. The model was an Alienware Area51m, with the below specifications:
512 RAM, 40gig 5400RPM HD, Wireless MINI-PCI 802.11 AB Module, ATI 128MB M9000 video card, Intel Pentium 4. 2.66 GHz 512k cache 533MHz FSB, 3.5 Floppy Drive, 24x DVD-CD-R Combo Drive with 4 USB Ports, 1 Firewire, 1 Ethernet Port, 1 Modem Port, 1 SVideo Out, etc.
THE DAY I RECEIVED AND BOOTED UP THE COMPUTER, THE ENTIRE DISPLAY WAS FRIED. As it turned out, the whole rear port board was burnt, including the video card and SV-Out port.. I repackaged and sent the machine back with an invoice date of May 22nd 03, having to wait an additional 2 weeks turn-around before I would see the computer again in working condition.
It wasn't until two weeks into my Digital Arts 101 class (we were working with software such as Photoshop and After-Effects, the Macromedia Suite, MAX-MSP, etc) that THE DISPLAY CEASED TO FUNCTION. The invoice date for this one was June 20 of 2003, and the turn-around for repair was another 3 weeks (which had me scrambling to find alternative workstations for my DA assignments).
On March 24 of 2004, the hard drive blew out, erasing over 300 photos (taken at a convention that only occurs once a year) I downloaded from my camera a day before I was able to transfer them to my desktop! This resulted in another 2 weeks of replacing the hard drive, but not too soon before June 7 of that year when the battery died, and after that was replaced, not 2 weeks before the AC adapter failed on June 21!
And just yesterday, I switched on my laptop after having presented video presentation the past weekend for a critical event involving the incoming freshmen at Stetson, only to find that I'm in the same broken-display-situation I was about a year ago. Alienware's technical support expects a turn-around of 6-8 weeks for repairs THIS TIME.
My advice to anyone who is looking into new computers these days, AVOID ALIENWARE AT ALL COSTS. I'm not the only freak-case scenario. My girlfriend Jacqueline owns the next Area51m model above mine (the one with the alien head on the cover), and hers was shipped WITHOUT THE INTERNAL WIRELESS MOBILITY CARD!? AND IT TOOK THEM THREE MONTHS TO SHIP IT FROM FIRST PURCHASE! Yes, they didn't charge her for the part, but at the time, the website DIDN'T PERMIT THE OPTION TO REMOVE THIS FEATURE. It took her almost half a year to get an "onsite technician" to install the device after it was "lost" to shipment centers twice (she couldn't install it herself or else risk "breaching the warranty" per Alienware's customer-service-blanketed threats).
Her mother, owns a $10,000 maxed out desktop model from 2002. My experience with that equipment involved resetting the motherboard battery after 6 hours of sitting with tech support (this was their final conclusion) and coming back a few weeks later to endure another six-hour session that resulted in having the system sent back! DID THAT HELP THINGS ANY? ABSOLUTELY NOT... IT DIDN'T TAKE LONG TO ACHIEVE TODAY'S STATUS, SITTING IN HER LIVING ROOM INOPERABLE. If it weren't for her mom's construction business taking up her time, I'm sure she would have HURLED IT OUT OF A WINDOW BY NOW.
She bought her son, Andrew (my girlfriend's brother) a $7000 desktop model that had ridiculous issues with its PCI-card-linked dual hard drives. I must've generated at least 5 hours of overtime for one tech support agent as he had me reconnect and disconnect and reconnect and disconnect and fiddle with master/slave switches until he was satisfied the PCI card was the problem. BUT GUESS WHAT? HE WAS WRONG! After I installed the new card they shipped, it turned out the problem was actually one of the drives! And yes, we ACTUALLY SAT THERE AND WASTED OUR TIME WAITING FOR THEM TO SHIP NEW TWO NEW DRIVES. AND YES, WE WASTED OUR TIME PUTTING IN THE DRIVES. And yes, yes, YES! It wasn't the drives at all! So her brother packed it up and shipped it back?!
I DON'T KNOW HOW MUCH THESE ALIENWARE SYSTEMS MUST REALLY COST TO REPLACE AND REPAIR, BUT THEY CERTAINLY HAVE NO MONETARY HESITATIONS PAYING FOR THE SHIPPING OF 15+ LBS TOWERS BECAUSE OF THEIR OWN IDIOTIC TECHNICAL SUPPORT MISTAKES! Oh, and not that it matters now, but when the system finally came back, they did a half-assed job putting the 3.5 inch floppy drive back in properly, as it now hangs loose in the tower, rendering it useless as far as floppy disks are concerned.
I found it hard to believe myself that this was happening to my system, or to their systems. At the time of my instructor's purchase, Alienware was the best on the market for graphics cards. But all of this DID happen, and I've lost weeks and months of project time frustrated, set-back, or driving to Longwood to drop off a lemonware for Fedex so that they could return it to its defective masters. If you're not into building your own system, GO DELL... they have 256 MB cards now and half-decent machines (I've owned two in my lifetime and I've never had to call technical support).
You can contact me if you want invoice numbers, RMA numbers, or any proof you can think of in order to validate everything I've said here. There's not much incentive in me posting this (besides maybe knowing in my heart that I've diverted AT LEAST ONE VICTIM FROM BEING SCAMMED BY THIS HIDEOUS COMPANY), and I hardly imagine anyone will care aside from prospective buyers, especially students and educational facilities that depend on effective or reliable equipment. PLEASE PLEASE take what I say into consideration when you make your purchases.