Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Dell’s intentionally cripples the GPU of Alienware m15 R5 laptop leading to a lawsuit against the PC maker

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Dell’s Alienware m15 R5 laptop was supposed to be the flagship offering of the company. However, it seems that the PC maker messed up with its flagship offering. Earlier it confirmed that it intentionally crippled the GPU on its enthusiast laptop. The revelation led to one user even filing a lawsuit against the company for false advertising.

The news goes as follows, last week, it was discovered that the much-advertised Alienware m15 R5 laptop which comes with the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Mobility GPU only featured 4608 CUDA Cores compared to the 5120 cores which is the official offering of the GPU.

In Dell’s defense, however, the company stated that it did this to conserve power and meet the thermal limits of their M15 R5 design. However, many users who were quick enough to find the issue, fixed it by flashing the bios from the Alienware m15 R4 laptops that aren’t affected by this issue.

However, those users who were unaware of the issue and were using the Alienware m15 R5 were getting 10% lower performance than what they should’ve gotten if their GPU was not crippled in such a manner.

“We have been made aware that an incorrect setting in Alienware’s vBIOS is limiting CUDA Cores on RTX 3070 configurations. This is an error that we are working diligently to correct as soon as possible. We’re expediting a resolution through validation and expect to have this resolved as early as mid-June. In the interim, we do not recommend using a video from another Alienware platform to correct this issue. We apologize for any frustration this has caused.”

And to add to Dell’s troubles, the company didn’t even mention the GPU specifications anywhere under the listing page for its m15 R5 laptop. NVIDIA has made it clear to OEMs to list down TGPs and clock speeds of the GPU to provide users the correct information of products.

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To increase Dell’s troubles even more a user who purchased the notebook has filed a lawsuit against Dell for false marketing of its Alienware M15 R1 notebook. In the lawsuit, it is stated that Dell’s marketing team claimed the laptop to offer, quote, ‘unprecedented upgradability’ (later proved knowingly false).

Following is the full quote from the complaint:

  1. This Complaint is necessary to redress the greed of Defendant, Dell Technologies (“Dell”), practiced to the detriment of its consumers.  Dell intentionally misled and deceived the public to create a competitive advantage based on false representation to boost sales of its flagship gaming laptop, the Alienware Area 51M R1 (“Area 51M”), in the intensely competitive gaming laptop market segment.
  2. It did so by affirmatively and falsely misrepresenting characteristics and qualities of the Area 51M that it knew did not exist, to lure unsuspecting customers to pay a higher price for the Area 51M than it merited without the represented qualities and characteristics, and to choose the Area 51M over other competing products, which might have been chosen had Dell accurately, and truthfully described the quality and characteristics of the Area 51M.
  3. Most prominently, Dell falsely advertised to consumers that the Area 51M’s core hardware components, its Central Processing Unit (“CPU”), and its Graphics Processing Unit (“GPU”) (CPU and GPU are at times collectively referred to as “Core Components”), were fully upgradeable to future Intel CPUs and NVIDIA GPUs.
  4. Core Components across different brands of gaming laptops are virtually identical with all manufacturers offering the same Intel CPUs and the same NVIDIA GPUs. For this reason, manufacturers are forced to differentiate and market their products based on other criteria such as price, aesthetics, and/or other unique features.
  5. Core Components act as the central and graphics engines of a computer and are responsible for gaming performance. Unlike desktop computers, laptops have traditionally been built with permanently affixed CPUs and GPUs, making them impossible to remove and thus to upgrade. As a result, consumers are unable to swap their laptop’s existing Core Components for faster, more powerful, next-generation CPUs and GPUs. Rather, consumers must purchase an entirely new laptop when seeking an upgrade to next-generation Core Components powerful enough to play the latest, and more technologically demanding, computer games.  This quality, in particular, limits the usable life, and consequently, the market value of gaming laptops.  Dell’s representation that Area 51M had “unprecedented upgradeability” appeared to remove this limitation on product life and market value.
  6. To the gaming consumer, this “unprecedented upgradeability” as Dell described it, i.e. a laptop that is upgradeable like a desktop, is the elusive holy grail of mobile computing. Dell went as far as to call the Area 51M a “mobile desktop” to further cement its alleged material capability that the Area 51M is upgradeable in the same way a desktop is upgradeable.
  7. The Area 51M was released in the Summer of 2019, about a year before the end of the life cycle of its Core Component offerings. NVIDIA was set to release and did release, its updated, more powerful, mobile GPUs, the RTX 2060 SUPER, RTX 2070 SUPER, and RTX 2080 SUPER in or about June 2020, and its highly anticipated next-generation GPUs, the RTX 3000 series in the fall of 2020, which is released in September 2020. Additionally, INTEL was set to release its 10th generation CPUs in or about the second quarter of 2020. As such, without the represented “unprecedented upgradeability,” consumers had little incentive to purchase the Area 51M, which cost upwards of $5000 when fully optioned, knowing that its Core Components would become outdated in less than one year.
  8. Dell knew it had to address consumers’ hesitation to purchase the Area 51M shortly before its Core Components became outdated. To that end, Dell represented that the Area 51M’s Core Components were upgradeable, thereby addressing any hesitation or apprehension consumers had regarding its soon-to-be outdated Core Components.
  9. In reality, Area 51M’s Core Components were not upgradeable. Dell has admitted that. Dell falsely told consumers that the Area 51M’s Core Components were upgradeable to motivate buyers unwilling to purchase a gaming laptop near the end of its Core Components’ generational life cycle and to create a significant (though false) competitive advantage against other gaming laptop manufacturers, as no other company offered a laptop with such capability at the time the Area 51M went on sale.
  10. Plaintiffs, therefore, seek restitution from Dell for violation of the False Advertising Law and Unfair Competition Law, damages for fraudulent misrepresentation, and injunctive relief according to the Consumers Legal Remedies Act.


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Avatar of Nivedita Bangari
Nivedita Bangari
I am a software engineer by profession and technology is my love, learning and playing with new technologies is my passion.


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