Friday, 21 December 2012

Dell Charger vs "Dell" Charger

Not all chargers are created equal.
--- A drinking cat

My 3-year old Dell charger had cable issues for a while now. The inner wires of the cable that goes from the charger to the laptop are exposed. The cable from the mains to the charger also broke once, but that part is easy and cheap to replace.
Exposed wires on the charger.

I did not worry too much about it until, one day, I had to fiddle the wires to get my laptop to charge... I got afraid that it would stop working without warning, leaving me with 1 hour of battery life, and then, no computer to work (and play, and blog ,-)).

I immediately contacted Dell warranty support, but I was surprised by their answer:
I am sorry that, the broken adapter with wire exposed issue is not covered under warranty.
For the replacement, it will be billable. 
Did a bit of research, and apparently that's Dell's policy... Not impressed, considering that Apple replaced my Macbook charger for similar issues 5-6 years ago.

Well, I decided to turn to eBay. Found this charger. It looks ok, a Dell charger. Not the same slim form factor as my original charger, but as long as it works... I asked (and paid) for faster-than-usual shipping. Received it a week later, and it seemed to work well. My laptop can charge. The charger makes a little buzzing noise at times, but it works.

After using it for a week or two, I realized some strange things: The touchpad of the laptop, which I rarely use, would not work properly when connected to the charger: the mouse pointer jumps around randomly whenever I use the touchpad. Also, when charging my cellphone through one of the USB ports, the touch screen would not be useable (again, random inputs).

These are consistent with high noise levels from the power supply. This prompted me to start looking at my charger more closely. Overall, it looks genuine. A Dell logo, a serial number, the usual CE signs, etc.
Left: original charger. Right: eBay charger (click on the image for higher resolution)
But when you carefully look at the logo, it becomes clear:
Top: Original logo. Bottom: eBay charger logo.
The "E" is badly drawn... the font is wrong, and the aspect ratio of the logo is off. Also, the serial number is identical to the picture on the eBay page (while the seller sold 30 of those)...

Well, I wonder what I was expecting for 11$, but, if it says "Dell", I expect it to be an genuine charger! That is, I wouldn't have bought a "random-Chinese-company-name" charger. And now I end up with a counterfeit one...

I haven't made up my mind if I want to file a claim on Paypal/eBay. According to eBay policies, I would have to cover the cost of shipping back the item to the seller, and that would be almost as much as the cost of the charger...

In the end, I found another seller (30$), who carries genuine chargers. I received the charger today, it works fine, and looks genuine.

Morale of the story: you pay for what you get. And next time, I'll just get it straight from Dell, ~50 US$, next day shipping: reasonable, I'm not even sure why I bothered looking elsewhere...