Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Dell Venue 8 Pro: Ups, Downs and In Betweens

Shortly after it became available I purchased a Dell Venue 8 Pro. I partly blame Ed Bott, who had one at MVP Summit and it was a lot of fun to play with. The form factor is great for consuming content and playing games and I thought it would be great to keep at home so that family members would stay off my work-issued Surface Pro.

Setup was quick an easy, as it is for Windows 8.1 and my Mac-loving hubby enjoyed using it for about a week. The screen is awesome, the battery life is great and it’s small enough to use comfortably when reading in bed or as a “coffee table” device.

Then one evening when I wasn’t home, I got a message from my husband about it being stuck in Narrator mode (where it reads the screen if you are visually impaired).  I assumed he turned that on my accident and he left it aside for me to fix when I got home.

When I had time to look at it, I started out to fix this, the device was acting a little sluggish and I was having trouble navigating. I mostly blamed this on not being familiar with dealing with Narrator and decided to simply restart the device.  It was prompting for updates at the time, so I selected to install them and restart.

At the next restart it presented me with BSOD. It didn’t recover after another reboot and then attempted to self-repair. No love.  I tried a few more reboots without much success and resigned myself to contacting Dell Support. I used the “chat” method of contacting Dell, which is serviceable, particularly for me since I really don’t want to be tied up on the phone.

The representative had me want through the diagnostics testing, with no real issues. I got a complaint about the battery, but the device was likely not fully charged and wasn’t plugged in at the time. (To get into that menu, press the Volume Up key before the Dell logo appears after a reboot. Once in the menu, the Volume Down button acts as the Enter key.)

He suggested resetting the device and the unfortunately there isn’t any way to kick off that process from the diagnostics menu. The recommendation was to restart the device twice, each time after I got the spinning wheel at the boot screen, which did eventually kick off the Windows Advanced Repair options. I selected to “Reset” the OS, which was going to wipe everything.

Because Window 8.1 tablets are BitLocker protected by default, I was prompted to get my BitLocker recovery key. The Dell representative asked me if I needed a Product Key.
Our conversation went like this --

Agent: "Is it asking for a product key while resetting the system?"


Jennelle: "It's asking for the recovery key (Bitlocker)"

Agent: "I see. Let me check what best we can do for you in this case. May I please place this interaction on hold for 3-5 minutes; I need to do some research on this issue?"

Jennelle: "Sure."

Meanwhile, I recovered the BitLocker key using the Microsoft ID system.

Agent: "Thank you for staying online. I appreciate your patience."

Jennelle: "I got the key myself. It's currently resetting my PC."
Agent: "May I know from where did you get the key?"

Jennelle: "With Windows 8.1 the devices are already encrypted and it's tied to your Microsoft Live ID. There is a website you go to and can recovery the key there."

Agent: "Okay."

Jennelle: "I'd be surprised if you'd have a way to get that for callers, but it can be challenging if you have to explain to someone else where to get it."

Agent: "I appreciate your expertise in resetting and getting the key, Jennelle.
Please let me know the current status."

Jennelle: "It's 64% done on the recovery. If the OS doesn't work properly or it crashes again after this recovery I'll just contact support again.

The agent assured me that I’d get a follow up call the next day and I continued on with the process. Once it was working again, I ran all the current Windows Updates and it crashed again.  I tried starting another recovery, but couldn’t get it to kick off properly and sent the device aside for the day.

The next day I did get a call back from Dell. I reported that the device was continuing to have trouble recovering the operating system and the representative immediately made plans to send me a replacement, which should arrive this week.

So while I’m not impressed with the knowledge level of the first tier support when it comes to BitLocker and Windows 8.1, they do want to make sure customers are happy and taken care of.

Stay tuned.  There is a lot I like about Dell Venue Pro 8 and I’m hoping the replacement will work without issue!

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