Sort of a long-winded rant here (I can see some of you fleeing for cover now).

First, let me start off by saying that until about a year and a half ago, I had never bought a prebuilt computer, even a laptop. I bought separate components and assembled them myself.

Last summer I saw the Dell XPS Generation 2 laptop with a Geforce 6800 Ultra and 17" panel and I was in love. For an obscene amount of cash, a week or two later I had my shiny new laptop and the relationship since has been very good. No problems with anything, really. It's got power to run about anything I want to run, about as much battery life as I'd expect from something with a desktop-class video card and a 17" screen, and pretty good sound.

Then, on Saturday evening, a vertical yellow stripe appeared on my screen and won't go away. This laptop has never so much as been nudged the wrong way, let alone dropped or subjected to any form of abuse. It literally gets polished once a week or so and rubbed down with microfiber cloths.

And, wonder of wonders, the warranty expired six months ago. How convenient.

At first I pretty much assumed I was screwed and would have to buy a new screen since it was out of warranty. I searched around for a few minutes on Google to see if it was a common problem and what the repair costs were, and found quite a surprising number of people with the same problem. Oddly enough, virtually all of them bought their systems around the same time I bought mine (within two or three months either way). The problem typically does not appear until 15-18 months after purchase, so virtually all affected owners are out of warranty (does anyone really spend $200 to extend their warranty for a year?). The problem affects mostly 17" laptop panels manufactured by LG/Philips sold by Dell between February and July 2005, though some cases occur outside of these boundaries.

See Dell Vertical Line.com. This is a relatively new site and "only" has 121 people registered with this problem at this writing, but searching Dell's own support forums with the terms "LCD vertical line" produces nearly 900 hits, and after spending entirely too long looking over them, I can state that the vast majority are posts about this specific problem.

Despite all that, as well as the presence of numerous threads describing the problem on other sites such as Devshed.com, Dell states it's "not a known issue" and therefore they don't want to do anything about it.

Now, to even get the chance to explain the problem you have to wade through three tiers of progressively less unhelpful techs, usually get disconnected at least three times (tip: first thing you do when you talk to a tech, ask for the direct number to that department so that WHEN (not if) you get disconnected you can at least pick up from where you left off - think of it like playing Doom 2. Save frequently!), and finally end up talking to someone who says they don't have the authority to do anything about it. Ask who does, and they say they might know someone, and you get transferred to the "Escalation Department". There, they will also tell you they don't have the authority to do anything about it. So you ask them who does and they essentially say, "Dunno." One guy I spoke with said "Well, Mr. Dell could probably do that." So I asked for his number.

That didn't really work out.

After a forty-minute argument with a tech which essentially consisted of me saying "this is a hardware defect that affects a large number of systems" and him saying "I know but I'm still not going to fix it because the computer says I can't", he gave me a phone number which he said was Dell Corporate, and another which he said was the direct line to the Customer Care management area. "Great", I thought. I'm getting somewhere. Until I dialed the numbers and found that BOTH of them were simply alternate numbers for the normal Dell "order a new Dell" phone number, which is either an example of monumental incompetence or a deliberate slap in the face, or both.

I'm making this post not so much to ask for pity or whatever as simply to MAKE THIS KNOWN as a real problem affecting close to a thousand people SO FAR. It is my opinion that because of the way the Dell techs talk to you about this problem, many people probably got brushed off or discouraged and ended up just living with it, or worse, paying Dell for a new screen. I think that if this becomes somewhat more widely known, Dell will be forced to acknowledge the issue and do something about it.

It would have been nice if, based on the evidence I presented, they could've done the right thing and backed up their product, instead of maintaining that a) it was an "unknown issue (a lie - of the 900 or so posts in the Dell support forums, about 15% have responses from Dell techs) and b) essentially, "shit happens.", inferring this was a random failure not associated with a particular production run or particularly line of product, which is in direct opposition to every piece of information I provided them with. Which, I suppose, means I could also add c) that I personally am a liar, fabricating a widespread issue to avoid paying for a new part.

This has been my third consecutive bad experience with Dell support and, sorry to say, they're out. I will never send them another penny of my money even if they DO eventually make this right. Now I get to sit here for the next couple of years wondering if the 30" Dell LCD I bought for my desktop (since I was so happy with the XPS laptop), the 20" widescreen LCD I ordered for my father in law, or the 20" widescreen LCD I ordered for my mother-in-law are going to develop odd vertical lines in a few months when their warranties expire, and if I am then going to have to go through this entire process two or three more times, not to mention feeling like an ass for recommending this company's products.

When I mentioned the above to the last tech I spoke with and pointed out that I, personally, had been responsible for over $10,000 in revenue for the company between my own purchases and things I'd ordered from them for other people's systems I was building (mostly screens), he essentially performed a verbal shrug and said "Is there anything else I can help you with today?"

Incidentally, Lidge, consider my recommendation of the Dell 2007WFP officially withdrawn.