At CES 2019, Dell brand Alienware announced the Area-51M R1 gaming notebooks. While there is nothing unusual about Alienware announcing a gaming laptop, this lineup was special. The company promised the ability to upgrade various aspects of the computer, but Robert Felter believes that Dell misrepresented the upgrade path for these computers. As such, he filed a lawsuit against the company, looking for class-action status, alleging fraud and false advertising claims.
The company's promised big system upgradability, including the processor and video card. It is famously difficult and often impossible to upgrade the video card in a laptop, so this was a major selling point. But the promise was not nearly as exciting as Dell would have had you think. The laptops launched with Intel 9th Generation processors, and the 10th Generation launched with a new chipset, leaving the 51M R1 with no upgrade path. Also, despite Dell's proprietary Dell Graphics Form Factor (DGFF), the company created no upgrade path to the RTX 20-series Super cards that replaced the previous generation.
Dell has maintained that the part manufacturers' upgrade paths are outside of its control, meaning that they had no way of stopping Intel and Nvidia from changing the underlying technology to prevent them from offering their customers the ability to upgrade to the new generation. They also state that the details of the upgrade were advertised as within-generation, and never showed future generation capabilities.
However, Robert Felter disagrees. His attorney, David W. Kani, told our friends at Tom's Hardware,
Dell's advertisement to the public didn't place any restrictions on the upgradeability of the laptop. They also never disclosed that those with the highest spec CPU and/or GPU that their device would not be upgradeable.
The suit also specifies that Dell has insider knowledge about Intel and Nvidia's technology landmarks and whether or not hardware will be compatible. As such, the company knowingly advertised the upgradability of its laptops while knowing that they would not be compatible with the next generation of hardware from both partners.
Currently the suit is seeking class-action status, hoping to include customers from Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. He is represented by Brian Mahany, who argued the largest single defendant case in US history and class action lawyers Steve Hochfelsen and David Kani.