I just wanted to share my experience with Alienware, mostly so you don't make the same mistake I did.
First let me start out by saying I am not a troll or someone advocating one type of system or another. I'm a consumer who decided it was time to upgrade my computer, and my first choice was Alienware. I had seen their systems reviewed, and frankly they were the only high quality custom manufacturer I considered because I had the perception they were the best in the business (in every way, from hardware quality to service). This was probably due to their ads and reviews I had seen.
The first thing I did was visit Alienware's website and take a look. Pretty well done, and nice looking systems. I dabbled a bit in system configuration, and came up with a few questions about some of the components. I then found their e-mail address for sales and e-mailed them, asking those questions. There was no response. I can't say whether I waited one day or two, but after a while I just decided to call and ask them directly. The fact that they ignored my e-mail sent up a few red flags, but minor ones. I should have ended it then and there and realized they didn't want my business.
Anyway, I called, and after a fairly brief hold time, got a representative. The person I talked to seemed to know what they were talking about, and I soon after ordered a system from them over the Internet. I also called, confirming it, and going over my system configuration. Things seemed fine, though I was a bit bummed out that there was a 3 week wait time for the system.
I will give Alienware some credit here. I *did* make several changes at different times to the system (changed the soundcard, then the OS, dropped the monitor, and added RAM). Each time I did this, they said it would take longer - in some cases an extra week for the system. I thought this was a bit unreasonable, but at the same time, since I wanted the changes, I decided with their number of orders, that's just the way things were.
However, what I was *NOT* happy with is, with two of these changes, I called back later, to check status, and they were not even in the system. Period. They were completely lost. This set the system back even more, though I did learn after the first time (which was the same day luckily) to check back quickly to make sure changes went through.
Also, regarding one thing I was still working out, I was transferred to my sales agent's voice mail. I was told to leave him a message, and he would call me back promptly. I left all the appropriate information, and got no response whatsoever. I eventually called back and straightened that out too.
If this wasn't bad enough, I also found out that what sounded like knowledgeable information actually wasn't. Several of the things they told me were *NOT* true. For example, they told me that having an IDE controller card would boost my performance a great deal, even if I only had one hard drive. This turned out not to bt the case, and only is helpful if there are two or more. I also asked whether the motherboard (based on Intel i850 technology) was upgradeable to Northwood later. They correctly told me that it was *NOT*. HOWEVER, they told me that there were no motherboards on the market that currently supported Northwood. It *is* possible that they meant the processor wasn't out yet, but I don't think so - it sure sounded to me like they meant the motherboard, and that's what I asked directly about. At any rate, it really made me angry when I found out this was untrue. Why would I want to buy a motherboard that wasn't upgradeable when I could have one that was? Perhaps this is why they didn't want to tell me about it.
To their credit, I will say they told me I didn't need a few components I was thinking about, but still, I was being told different technical things and opinions by different people (such as that IDE controller - ONE of the techs told me honestly it wouldn't improve performance, while the rest of them [who I had talked to first] told me it would help).
After all of this hassle, I decided to check up to see Alienware's track record. Upon checking the newsgroups and forums here, I was horrified. I found virtually no really good service reports on Alienware. In fact, most were horrifying and detailed the months it took to get replacement parts. Search for Alienware in Google Groups or here and you'll see what I mean.
At any rate, I cancelled my system from them (which they tried to talk me out of...a lot...and actually had a somewhat irritated tone). I feel slightly bad that I did it while the system was in production, but after finding out it wasn't really upgradeable in the future, a change I wanted to make (with a part that other places had already but they didn't) would cost me at least an additional week, the service would be awful post-purchase, and just plain and simple they weren't responsible or organized, I gave up on them. They made me feel more like a problem than an opportunity to please a customer.
I just ordered a system from www.gamepc.com and so far I am *very* pleased. They offer a huge selection of parts and different motherboards - more than Alienware - so I was a bit confused, but I decided to test something. I e-mailed them, recounting that I wasn't happy with a competitor and asking them several detailed questions I wanted to know to choose components. Within 24 hours (I e-mailed them at night, and they got back to me early afternoon the next day), I had a detail response, and I sent 4 follow up e-mails of questions, getting a response for each one (within minutes) with plenty of detail and all my questions answered *accurately* (I checked) and truthfully.
They are more expensive than building your own from scratch, but not too bad, and they offer a lot of options (including to put together your own, though I'm not quite ready for that yet, and there are more guarantees if they do it). If you get the parts only, they ship 24-48 hours after purchase, and with a full system including burn-in, it's only 7-10 days (compared to Alienware, that's incredible)! At any rate, from research on newsgroups, their after-service support is as good as their before-service support, and the few inconsistencies in good service (the one I can think of reading about involved one manager and a walk-in when they're really an internet retailer) are few and far between (and I imagine remedied as well).
All in all, at least so far (without seeing the machine yet, though I hear they're awesome) I would definitely recommend them, but I'm sure VoodooPC and Falcon-NW (as well as maybe Hypersonic - dunno much about that one) are very good choices. I've heard great things about them all, but for my needs, I thought GamePC fit them best. Regardless, if you are getting a specialty shop PC, I would definitely stay away from Alienware!
I'm sorry that your experience with the company was a bad one, even if it was nothing more than I expected. The problem is ... it may not be over yet.
I don't know what kind of financial arrangements were made for your system. But if the order was placed on a credit card, then you should be made aware that Alienware has already charged the card.
Most companies don't place the charge on a pre-order until the unit ships ... but not Alienware. They would have charged your credit card the day you made the order. That's their standard policy.
Keep a close eye on your bill. Don't let them give you any bull about cancelling the charge. And do <b>not</b> allow them to stick you with a restocking fee, especially when you didn't even have the computer shipped.
Good luck on the new system. Come back and tell us about it when you have the opportunity. It would be nice to have a detailed review of the machine after you've had to chance to evaluate it.
Thanks a lot for the warning. I'm well aware they charged my credit card, and I called them twice (oooh boy were they annoyed the second time, but I don't take any chances with these guys anymore). The last guy I talked to told me there would be a credit to my account within a few days. I'm going to keep checking, and if I don't see it, I'm really going to let them have it. There is no way I will accept their system. I talked to two people (different times) on the phone, making sure my order was cancelled, and I also e-mailed them (not that they check their e-mail) to confirm it. The first guy I talked to kept saying stuff like "Your system could ship any day now. You don't really want to cancel, do you?" He also tried to convince me of how "helpful" he was and told me I should reconsider because he was so committed to cancelling my order if I wanted. He even told me he'd sticky note the cancellation on my sales representative's monitor to make sure that the cancellation didn't get lost in the system (which I brought up). His point was how "helpful" he was...heh. They better not try anything. I'm just glad I don't have to deal with them if part of the system went bad, and I'm *really* sorry you had to go through that experience, Toejam31. I've only been dealing with them a few weeks and already my perception as done a *COMPLETE* 180 degrees. *ANY* system can go bad, but I truly believe the company I'm dealing with now (GamePC) will fix it pronto if it does because of what I've heard from others who have bought from there. I'll be sure to post a review of the system here after I get it and test it too. If it's half the system I think it will be, I think the company deserves some press. They're pretty unique in that they don't go for magazine reviews and press and they mostly advertise via word of mouth. What's also intersting is, they have a separate section that's almost like a computer magazine with reviews on their site ("In The Labs"). I looked through it expecting to find real biased material, but what shocked me is they are honest reviews - not fluff. I'm actually pretty glad this ended up this way because I doubt I would have found these guys otherwise (and while VoodooPC and Falcon-NW both look great, these guys seem to have parts that fit me just a tiny bit better and their lead times are excellent as well). I think I'll be really happy with it. Fingers crossed anyhow! )