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 Post subject: "Wake-From-Sleep" Problem With Alienware Area-51 m
PostPosted: Sat Dec 20, 2008 7:28 pm 

Joined: Wed Jun 18, 2008 10:00 am
Posts: 4
Location: Seattle, WA USA
My new Alienware Area-51 m15x won't wake from sleep. I don't mind its sleeping, but I have problems when it remains comatose.

A couple days ago I received the tricked-out m15x I ordered a couple weeks ago. (MAXIMUM PC's review giving it a 9+"Kick Ass" rating earlier this year was a major factor in my deciding to buy this computer.) I also Googled the m15x and at the time, didn't find any significant recent problems with the company or its computers.

I was extremely impressed with the computer iinitially, and finally quit playing with it early yesterday morning when I was simply too tired to continue. When I went to wake it from sleep (or hibernation of whatever state it had put itself in overnight), it didn't do anything. (I'd kept it on AC power all night, but its batteries had been fully charged before I left it the night before. There were no power failures, thunderstorms, or anything else that could have caused it problems overnight.) I pressed and tapped several times the Alienhead (power switch), various keys, mouse clicks, combinations of keys and mouse clicks, and everything else I could think of before pressing the Alienhead for the requisite 4 seconds to turn the computer completely off. When the computer booted it noted that it had experienced a shutdown and went into recovery mode.

I went to the Alienware site, and discovered that my problem with my m15x had been mentioned as far back as February 2008. I tried every "fix" mentioned on the site. I thought perhaps its BIOS hadn't been set correctly, only to find that its BIOS is next to useless. It doesn't offer any options for troubleshooting, restricting them to a choice of boot order devices! I next tried to boot into "Safe Mode", only to find out that while "Safe Mode" boots up correctly (showing "Safe Mode" in each corner of the monitor), the computer is set up to not do anything in "Safe Mode". It's not even possible to restart it from "Safe Mode", leaving the only option to turn it off with the Alienhead switch and do a warm boot. I consider these to be serious shortcomings of Alienware computer software design. The available documentation is similarly lacking in detail as hardcopy, the PDF documents that came with the computer, or online.

When that didn't work, I called Alienware Tech Support. After waiting on hold for 45 minutes, I got to talk to a technician. I told him what problems I had encountered and what I had done about it. (He and I eventually agreed that the best interim fix was to keep the computer from sleeping at all.) He mentioned that this was a "known issue" and was due to a problem with "memory voltage". I don't know if the voltage to the memory being out-of-spec is the problem, or if the voltage requirements of the memory are out-of-spec.

I've e-mailed Alienware Tech Support (not patient enough now to want to wait another 45 minutes to talk with a technician), requested new replacement memory, and an RMA for the memory currently in my computer (if they want it back). I'm going to go online to Crucial and get another 2 GB of RAM to fill out the computer's capacity (when I get the replacement memory from Alienware) and as an interim replacement to get my computer running as it should.

If this is a "known issue" and has been a problem for nearly a year, Alienware should noit be shipping computers with memory that is either defective or inappropriate for the machine. I strongly suggest anyone planning to buy an Alienware computer to wait until Alienware fixes this (and any other "known issues") with its computers before buying one.

Alienware needs to:
    (1) fix the "wake failure" problem (whatever is causing it);
    (2) make sure any "known issues" aren't specific issues with each computer it ships;
    (3) burn-in memory modules (and any other suspect hardware) before installing;
    (4) spiff up its documentation so it's worthy of the name;
    (5) give experienced users the option of flashing a more capable BIOS and enabling full "Safe Mode" functionality.

I'm actually happy with my m15x. However, for what I paid for it and Alienware's general reputation for the quality of the computers it ships (at least to reviewers), I expected a company fully as capable as its machines are reported to be. At least I expected my computer to work fully and correctly out of the box. In decades of working with computers, this experience is a first for me. I hope it's also the last.


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