This review covers the positive and negative aspects of Dell's ISP, DellNet. Like most ISPs, DellNet offers "extras" as part of the basic Internet connection. DellNet is a pay-for service which means it costs you money to access the Internet. Free services exist (Alta Vista, Juno, FreeLane) that provide Internet access that is paid for by advertisers. Instead of paying for your service in money, you pay for it in screen space, where ads are displayed while you are connected. The review is organized according to the following points.
Recommend this product?
The DellNet ISP Connection
Your Own Web Space
The DellNet Start Page
DellNet's Pay ISP, or Free?
My Dell 4100 was sent to me faster than I expected, and so I was caught unprepared. Specifically, I hadn't created an installation disk for my current free ISP, Winfire. When the Dell arrived I dismantled my old machine and hooked up the Dell. After checking out a few things I decided it was time to connect to the Internet and realized I had no free ISP software installed, and nothing to install. Fortunately, there was a DellNet Administration icon on the Desktop. I clicked it and registered for Dell's pay ISP, knowing that the first thing I would do when connected would be to download Winfire's free ISP. Yet surfing the Internet without an ad banner showing was surprisingly pleasant, so I kept DellNet's service until today.
The DellNet ISP Connection
When reviewing an Internet Service Provider, there really isn't a lot one can say about the service itself. It either connects reliably, at good speeds, or it doesn't. In the case of DellNet, I have found a reliable connection at the top speed my phone line will allow. Connection has always occurred on the first try, and occurs within 20-30 seconds of clicking the connect button. I've never been disconnected abruptly, although it will disconnect after 15 minutes of inactivity. Some other aspects of the DellNet connection are:
(1) Registration was easy and consisted of the basic points of filling out name, address, and payment information. Then selecting your local ISP phone number and being assigned a dial-out ID and password. The ID and password are not chosen by you, but are assigned by Dell and consist of something like ID = firstname.lastname@example.org and password = Rt33sWWbm451. If this information had to be typed in every time you wanted to access the Internet, this would be a huge negative. However, the DellNet connection software can be configured to remember your ID and password.
(2) The cost of DellNet's ISP (at the time I registered) was either $14.95 a month or $99 per year ($8.25 a month). Since I knew I would be canceling my DellNet account, I opted for the $14.95 plan. With either plan, the first month is free so you can try it out, and both plans have a limit of 150 hours per month. That would cramp some heavy Internet users out there.
When you register for your DellNet ISP, you are given a POP3 e-mail account at email@example.com. The POP3 account means that you must configure your e-mail software (such as Microsoft Outlook) to access the DellNet server. This means it will be difficult to check you e-mail from another computer. A call to DellNet's tech support suggested that it can be done, but their support web site indicates that the ISP connection must be made through DellNet's ISP. Thus, the support web site suggests that you can NOT access your DellNet POP3 account from your friends computer unless (1) they use DellNet's ISP and (2) you reconfigure their e-mail software to access your account instead of theirs.
An alternative to this hassle, is to use DellNet's free web-based e-mail service, DellMail. DellMail functions much like Hotmail or Yahoo in that you register for an account and then simply log on to the DellNet web site to check your mail. Mail messages reside on their server instead of on your hard drive. Having used DellNet's DellMail account, I can easily say that Hotmail is more functional and user-friendly, and has many more options than does DellMail. You do not need to use DellNet's ISP to have a DellMail account (simply go to www.DellNet.com and register a free DellMail account), but I can't imagine why someone without DellNet's ISP would want a DellMail account given that there are better free web-based e-mail options available.
Your own web space
As part of DellNet's ISP service, you are given 12 MB of free web space on which you can create your home page, upload pictures, and the like. In reality, Dell has simply partnered with Homestead.com to provide the space for you. Regarding the web space, you can get everything that Dell is offering by going directly to www.homestead.com and registering a personal account there.
The DellNet start page
This was a pleasant surprise. I have used www.snap.com for quite some time now as my start page. Snap allows you to customize news, weather, and most importantly, links, so that your start page has the appearance and features you use most often. Snap has recently converted to NBCi.com, but it still has the same useful features and appearance. Here's the pleasant surprise. When I went to www.dellnet.com, I saw my NBCi start page, with all of my customizations, and some additional menu tabs for accessing Dell information. Specifically, Dell seems to have partnered with NBCi to offer a start page, and previous users of NBCi.com (or Snap.com) will keep their customization. You can check out the features for yourself by going to www.dellnet.com and viewing the Home page, the MyDellNet page, and the E-Mail page. I can easily say (since I've used it for several months) that the customizable interface of Snap/NBCi/DellNet is easy to use and makes navigating the Internet from your start page an easy process.
DellNet's Technical Support
Your DellNet ISP comes with 24 hour toll free technical support (1-877-dellnet). However, only tech support is 24 hour. Customer service and account information is during working hours Monday through Saturday. I called tech support on a minor issue, just to see the timing and efficiency of service. On Saturday morning at 10:40 I receive a tech rep in less than 10 minutes wait time. He answered my minor questions correctly and then provided some other numbers to call for questions that were of a non-technical nature. I have no complaints about the service I recieved there. I also call Customer Service (at around 11:20 on Saturday morning) to ask questions and cancel my account. I talked to a live rep in less than 5 minutes this time. Because I didn't have my service tag number from my Dell machine, I was treated a little more abruptly, and it when I indicated I wanted to cancel my account, she bordered on rudeness. She wasn't outright rude, but upon hearing "cancel," it was clear she wanted to cancel my account and move on to a paying customer. If you are going to call Dell for ANY aspect of your machine, I highly recommend you have your service tag numbers available to make their jobs simpler and to increase the chances of them being able to help you.
DellNet also provides detailed online support for most major questions (like accessing your account information, changing your password, and setting up your POP3 e-mail account). The online support is easy to navigate and the directions are easy to follow. The link to DellNet's support page, in case you want to check it out, is
DellNet's pay ISP, or Free?
If you are looking for 150 hours of reliable, fast Internet access a month at a cost of $8.25 a month, then I highly recommend DellNet's $99 per year contract. The connection itself is solid and support is strong, should it be needed.
Another advantage to using Dellnet's ISP has to do with the concept of integration. Using www.Dellnet.com as your start page, you always have access to your own customized links, your Dell support page, your Dell e-mail account, and of course, your Dell advertisements (on the start page). There may be some who are into the "Dell Experience" enough that this integration is a plus for them.
However, the features that come with DellNet's ISP (e-mail, web space, customizable start page) can all be acquired through other sources (specifically, Hotmail.com, Homestead.com, and NBCi.com), and all for free. So what DellNet is really offering is just 150 hours of Internet access for as little as $8.25 a month. By using a free Internet Service Provider, you can get unlimited access (with tech support quality varying from company to company).
Should you use DellNet then? The answer depends on whether you are willing to "pay" the cost of free ISPs. If you go with a free ISP, instead of DellNet, then you pay for it by having an ad banner on your screen the entire time you are logged on. Some ad banners are huge (read my review of Freelane by Excite) and some are tiny (read my review of Winfire, my favorite free ISP). I personally have found free ISPs to be as reliable as pay ISPs, and Winfire's tiny ad bar is small enough to that it is NOT distracting. There is a lot I can do with $8.25 a month (movie, lunch, put it in my kids' college fund) and so I chose the free route.
If you choose to pay for your ISP, and you don't surf more than 5 hours a day, then take a look at DellNet. But don't be resentful when you see that I have all the same features as you (e-mail, web space, customizable start page), AND an extra $8.25 a month (and I'll try not to resent the fact that you have an extra half-inch of screen space).
I hope this information is helpful to you as you make your decision.
PS. Under the option "Recommend to a friend" I chose "No" because I tell my friends to use free services. However, I do recommend DellNet if you choose to use pay ISPs instead of free ISPs.
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