One of my favorite possessions is a 1974 Jacobsen GT14 Hydro tractor. I don’t even need it with the amount of grass I have, but hey… it was free.
Free, because it wouldn’t start, and the owner was tired of it collecting dust in his garage, and too lazy to fix it. $7 later and the electrical problem was resolved. This thing is a beast, essentially the Bentley of tractors back in its day. It sits outside all winter under the snow and ice, and on the first day of spring when I need to fire it up, I turn the key, and it just… starts. This is from “back in the day” when “people used to know how to build stuff.”
Enter my brand spankin’ new shiny 2016 Alienware 15r2. All the fixins on this bad boy… 4k screen, 32gb ram, 6th gen i7, dual solid-states, 3gb discreet graphics, not to mention the external graphics amplifier with an Nvidia GTX 970 in it. I mean, as far as fanboy gamers and brand-whores go, this thing is the Bentley of gaming laptops, right? Weird thing though- when I press the power button, it doesn’t just… start.
Imagine, if you will, the sound of a fan trying to spool, and then abruptly failing. Then, it spools and fails again. A third time with a spool and an abrupt stop, and finally we see startup. The Alienware logo graces us with its presence, we wait for Windows to start, and 20 seconds later, we have liftoff.
For comparison, lets walk through the startup sequences of my other two machines:
Dell Latitude e5430 (16gb ram, i5, 256gb SSD) – Push power, immediate Dell logo, Windows in 7 seconds. It’s a little over two years old.
MacBook Pro Retina 15” (16gb ram, i7, 256gb SSD) – Push power, Apple logo and chime, OSX in 5 seconds. It’s 2 years old.
So okay, maybe I got a lemon Alienware, right? Being very familiar with the support process due to my prior life as the ‘Dell guy’ who would come and replace your faulty motherboard, as well as my current job in IT service delivery, I contacted Alienware support (which does NOT have chat, just a phone call option) and spoke with a lovely lady named Dani. After I gave her my typical spiel of I don’t need level one support, I’m certified in this and that, blah blah blah, she determined that I needed a BIOS update. BIOS update complete, and the issue persists.
We escalate this to engineering (is that like… tier 4 support?) and then I’m told the following: “I checked several machines in the lab, and tried powering them on. This is just normal behavior. I even spoke with our best engineering guy, and he says the same thing.” Let me tell you what years of working on and managing help desks has taught me: That is not an adequate answer. My brand new expensive machine is the equivalent of a dusty 70’s Camaro that hasn’t been started in years, and needs some gas sprayed down the carb to turn over and then warm up, all while spewing black smoke out it’s ass, and yet the answer from engineering is “Oh, that’s normal.”
This is strange to me, because I specifically remember dishing out quite a bit for this color changing wonder of a laptop. Now, I press power, and then boot up one of my other machines to surf YouTube ‘Related Videos’ about cool CNC machining just in time for the login screen to pop up on the 15r2. SO, if this is supposed to be the flagship gaming line from Alienware, then shame shame shame. I was informed I could send it in for depot service, but they would “more than likely not find anything.” Furthermore, I cited several times that others in my company who had Alienwares did not have this issue, though they were not the exact same model. Yet, nothing.
I’m not one to toss away a challenge, so I will continue to pursue this. However, consider this a PSA: Alienware 15r2’s are “supposed to” fail starting up several times. This is, according to them, by design. IF I can refrain from pouring coffee or bourbon through the fan ports, I will post an update when I find a solution. If I do the pouring thing though, I will definitely post a YouTube link.