Dell sued over Alienware laptop’s ‘unprecedented upgradeability’ claims

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Dell is being sued in California for claiming its Alienware Area-51m R1 laptop would offer “unprecedented upgradeability”. Tom’s hardware reports. Alienware customer Robert Felter has accused the company of conducting a “false and deceptive” marketing campaign, promising that the laptop’s core components, including the CPU and GPU, could be replaced with more powerful models. A year later, the successor to the Area-51m R1 was announced with new components not available as upgrades to the original model.

“Consumers were misled by Dell’s false and deceptive marketing campaign and paid a significant premium for the Area 51M R1 in the mistaken belief that this ‘unprecedented upgradeability’ would save them money in the long run by allowing them to upgrade the core components of their laptop rather than having to buy a brand new, upgraded laptop,” the indictment states.

Dell announced the Alienware Area 51-m R1 at CES 2019. The laptop offered a variety of 8th and 9th generation Intel CPU options (including the i7-8700, i7-9700K or i9-9900K processors) and graphics cards, including Nvidia’s RTX 2070 and 2080. However, when the Area-51m R2 was announced in May, it offered 10th Gen Intel CPUs and new GPUs, including the RTX 2070 Super and RTX 2080 Super that were not available as upgrades to the R1.

If you go back and look at the specific promises Dell made when it announced the original laptop, it doesn’t seem to be technically one of them broken. It said the laptop would only support Intel CPUs that used its Z390 chipset, which was compatible with the 8th and 9th-generation processors in the original R1 laptop. However, when Dell announced the R2, the new 10th Gen Intel CPUs used a new 400 series chipset. Since it was Intel’s decision to change its chipset, this decision was arguably outside of Dell’s hands.

Meanwhile, when it comes to upgrades to the laptop’s graphics card, Dell shared: The edge at the time of the R1’s announcement that he “would like to be able to say yes” [to new GPU upgrades]; at the moment we have no idea.” In fact, customers could upgrade a lower version of the laptop to a more expensive model, but only within the same generation of components. That meant that customers who bought the top model were out of luck as a new generation of components rolled around.

Dell’s marketing promised “unprecedented upgradability” for the laptop.
Screenshot: Dell.com

The lawsuit alleges that Dell should have known that Intel and Nvidia’s unannounced products would not work with the laptop. It claims that Dell works closely with both companies and needs to know the specifications of their products before going public. “But despite being in possession of such designs and with full knowledge that the Area 51M R1’s design could not handle future NVIDIA and INTEL chipsets, Dell launched a global campaign to mislead the public that the Area 51M R1 51M R1 could be upgraded,” it says.

The question now is whether that’s Dell’s claims of “unprecedented upgradeability” (which are: still live on its website) were misleading. “Dell’s public ad placed no restrictions on the laptop’s upgradeability,” Felter’s attorney David W. Kani told me. Tom’s hardware. “They also never disclosed that those with the highest CPU and/or GPU that their device cannot be upgraded.”

Dell declined to comment on Tom’s hardware to the lawsuit, and did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The edge. In the filing, Felter is requesting damages, relief, and attorney fees for himself and other affected clients.