Tuesday, February 14, 2012

XPS15z: USB 3.0 incompatibility and problem with external hard disks

Dell XPS 15z laptop's USB 3.0 ports does not work with at least one USB 3.0 external hard disks out there; Toshiba Canvio 1 TB USB 3.0 portable external HDD.

Check the Dell forum for the details of the problem.
XPS 15z laptop USB 3.0 problem

The hard disk works fine with the USB 2.0/eSATA combo port at USB 2.0 speed. (~30MB/s). The hard disk is not recognized at the USB 3.0 port. When I plugged it, the hard disk blinked with blue light continuously and nothing happened. The same HDD gives around 90 MB/s data transfer speed in my Desktop's USB 3.0 port indicating that the hard disk works fine.

So far, the mother board has been replaced and that didn't fix the problem. A newer laptop also had the same problem. It appears to me that the USB 3.0 port does not provide sufficient power to such external hard disks. To test this, I purchased a cheap USB split Y power adapter cable and plugged the external hard disk to both of the USB 3.0 ports at the same time; the additional plug is expected to provide the extra power to the hard disk. My suspicion was right; now the hard disk is recognized by Windows. Since the split cable I bought supported only USB 2.0, I get only about 30 MB/s speed. 

Now one option for me is to get a USB 3.0 power adapter split Y cable if I need the super speed with this hard disk, which is about three times of the USB 2.0 speed in real life. Three times speed is useful if you have huge data to transfer; say you'll be done in 20 minutes instead of 1 hr.

Is it a design flaw from Intel in manufacturing such a motherboard? Is it Dell's fault in not disclosing this potential incompatibility to the customers when advertising USB 3.0 as a specification of the laptop? Or is it a problem from Toshiba in making a power hungry external hard drive? Who sets the standards for USB 3.0 power specification and requirements? (if there is such a standard).

I've no idea.
Update on April 18th 2012

Previously, I reported that the drive works with USB 2.0 Y split cable. It could transfer files in USB 2.0 high-speed (~30 MB/s) from that connection. But to get the USB 3.0 super-speed (~90 MB/s), I purchased a USB 3.0 split Y cable from Amazon.com. As I expected, the drive did work this time with USB 3.0 transfer rate. The problem is solved. But two of my USB ports are gonna be occupied if I want USB 3.0 speed. Well, at least it works. So finally, the problem seems that either the Dell XPS 15z doesn't provide sufficient power to the USB Hard disk or this specific USB hard disk is under powered from a single USB port. 

Hey, Dell, Intel, Toshiba....who is ready to take the responsibility?


Thursday, February 2, 2012

XPS 15z: Why you should not buy a premium Dell laptop

UPDATE: Please scroll down to the bottom for updates on my issue. Probably, I should change the title since Dell offered a satisfactory solution to me.

I recently purchased a USB 3.0 external HDD (Toshiba Canvio 1 TB USB 3.0 portable external HDD) and found that my Dell XPS 15z laptop does not recognize the HDD on the USB 3.0 port.  I called the technical support and they sent a technician. He came to my apartment to fix this issues along with a couple of other issues which included manufacturing defects of the laptop hinge part and the bottom casing. Well, yesterday I saw how poorly this laptop components are manufactured/assembled and how poorly the Dell technicians are trained. Unfortunately, the attempted repair did much more damage than any issues I previously had. See the pictures of my laptop after an attempted repair by a Dell approved technician.

Well, I thought Dell will take the responsibility to resolve the unfortunate situation and step up to support it's customer for the inconvenience caused; especially since I've purchased premium support from Dell and since I'm a Dell Preferred Account holder. But Dell telephone technical support in India has totally let me down today. It's quite disappointing especially since I considered myself loyal to the company products. If you read my older posts, you'll realize how much I liked my Dell XPS 15z. I've also posted helpful hints for fellow XPS 15z users since Dell Inc was incompetent to provide user friendly manuals for it's customers. In fact, some of my pages are on top ten hits for Dell XPS 15z related Google search for a reason; simply there is no other online resources available to the XPS 15z customers. 

My observations:
  • The XPS 15z casing components are very flimsy. It'll deform easily if not delicately handled. (Don't attempt to replace the battery or RAM memory or internal hard disk yourself unless you are skillful; it is such a mess to open the case)
  • When the technician opened the casing, I saw that many of the internal components were made by Foxconn, which makes parts for Apple MacBooks, iPhones etc. (Probably, that's why Dell chose to contract them for XPS 15z parts?)
  • The contract based technicians are probably not trained to open and handle XPS 15z
  •  The Dell telephone tech support teams were not friendly. They appears to me as adamant and unhelpful adhering to rules rather than trying to provide a good solution to the frustrated customer.
  •  I would really like to have a support team and shop in my city, so that I can drive there and get a solution from the experts rather than untrained contract technicians. But I believe I don't have a choice with Windows PC manufactures. I have to compromise on that.
 I'm awaiting for the solution by Dell and let me see how Dell will handle the situation. One thing is sure, I will not recommend a Dell product to anyone looking to purchase a premium laptop. I'm willing to pay more money for a better customer experience and product support. Dell is simply not the company that can provide you that. 

I wrote a clear e-mail stating my problems, my service tag, customer number, my contact number etc to Dell CEO Micheal Dell attaching the above pictures. Within 24 hrs, I got a call from Dell corporate office. They have acknowledged the issue and offered me a full refund or a brand new one at the earliest they can configure and ship. I opted for a new one. I think I'm satisfied now since they took effort to reach me and offer a satisfactory solution. I would still buy another Dell product if I find the product is worth my hard earned money. I'll update the story as it unravels.

I also want to know whether these USB 3.0 external hard drive configs match for the stated devices. I'm not sure at this moment whether it's a specification mismatch problem with my laptop or it's the external HDD. I would suggest you not to buy  Toshiba Canvio 1 TB USB 3.0 portable external HDD if you are a XPS 15z user. I'll update the issue as I have some.