Daily Archives: June 29, 2007

Dell: over and out

[A note before I start: the impressions and opinions I’m expressing here are based on Dell’s offerings at the time I wrote this piece. Things will probably change eventually. I really don’t need someone to point to me that “Dell’s 1420n has discrete graphics”. At the time I’m writing this, the 1420n does not have discrete graphics.]

After nine years of being a Dell costumer, I’ve decided to switch. No, I have not switched to a Mac. A nice friend of mine lent me her Mac for the summer. I’ve tried it but did not see anything there that I need and was willing to pay for that Ubuntu on a PC does not already give me. So I’ve switched from Dell to Sager. The Sager brand is not as well known as Dell but I have no reason to believe that this will translate into problems for me. My problems with Dell can be summarized as follows:

1. Dell’s build quality has gone down over the years. I’ve owned 3 Dell laptops over nine years. The first one was very sturdy but the one I currently own had issues from the start and aged very badly. Most of the issues did not prevent me from getting work done but a few of them were major.

2. Dell’s Linux offering is still not to my liking. But Dell offering Linux is better than nothing, right? In theory yes. The problem is that all the laptops they offer with Linux (Ubuntu) preinstalled do not have the options I want. Dell can offer the same model of laptop for Windows and Linux but the Linux version is severely restricted as to what options are available on it. Now, I understand that Dell uses parts that perhaps Linux does not support. For instance, maybe they use a webcam that Linux cannot handle. Ok, what about switching to a webcam that Linux can handle instead of not making it an option on Linux systems?

Ever since I’ve started using Linux, I’ve bought computers that had features that Linux could not immediately use. Typically, a few months down the road an upgrade would provide all the necessary drivers and everything would then be usable. Is that ideal? Hell, no! The ideal situation would be to have everything work right from the start. However, Dell’s choice to achieve that goal is to decide that if Linux does not support option X, X won’t be offered. That’s the wrong solution to the problem. Dell should instead turn around and select brands that are supported by Linux or tell the companies that produce their parts that they have to support Linux or else Dell buy their parts elsewhere.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I sincerely hope Dell’s Linux offerings are good for a certain type of customer. I could see for instance, businesses that want Linux preinstalled but don’t want discrete graphics or webcams go with a Dell. For me, however, Dell’s warming up to Linux is too little too late.

3. If you buy a Dell you must buy an OS with it. If their Linux offering is not to your liking, you must buy a laptop with Windows. And they sell you a crippled license. Dell sells OEM licenses of Windows and those are not transferable to a new PC.

The Sager has all the features I need so that takes care of point 2, partially at least. I could not buy it with Ubuntu preinstalled but I’ve bought it without an OS installed so that takes care of point 3. For point 1, I have to rely on reviews and Sager’s reputation online. Only time will tell whether their build is better than Dell’s but I’m optimistic so far.