Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




To all those who berated Dell in an earlier thread

who, in your opinion, is a better company to deal with for desktop hardware, either as a consumer or a company?

Personally I think Dell is groovy for the home user (me).  I haven't got much base for comparison, however.

muppet is now from madebymonkeys.net
Thursday, June 24, 2004

Buying the parts and building to your own needs.

Fothy
Thursday, June 24, 2004

We've used Dell desktops for probably 9 years now.

Support isn't quite as good as it was 9 years ago, but  I suspect that all companies have cut back on that as the industry matures.

Dell sure was better than Micron 9 years ago (on support and reiability) and better than our local  pc store.  That place was a joke. Went out of business, not surprisingly.

Mr. Analogy
Thursday, June 24, 2004

*Fothy*

Absolutely, and I used to do this, however, I'm no longer much of a gamer, and this really isn't necessary.  A self built computer (if you properly license the OS) is about 20-25% more expensive than an off-the-shelf unit.  And frankly, in my old age, I can't be bothered :)

The scope of this question is complete system vendors.

muppet is now from madebymonkeys.net
Thursday, June 24, 2004

I have built my last three PCs but now that off-the-shelf PCs are so cheap the price differential is not really large enough to justify the headaches that happen when parts break. I hate having to deal with four or five different hardware vendors if/when a part breaks – not to mention the compatibility headaches and little bugs that crop up because revision XYZ of part ABC has problems with motherboard DEF.

As such, I would agree that Dell is the way to go. Prices are comparable with home-built systems. Replacement hardware comes in a flash and doesn't require you to ship the part to them first like most manufacturers require, and stability and reliability is increased due to significant testing.

The one thing, though, is that I’ve found it best to reformat the hard drive and install a clean copy of $your_favorite_os. The default builds are buggered up with all sorts of Dell-branded crap and extras that tend to decrease the software reliability. This may make getting software-level support difficult, but if you’re posting here chances are you’re at least a little tech-savvy and the Tier-One folk at Dell aren’t really going to be of any help.

Captain McFly
Thursday, June 24, 2004

We use HP, and most of the time buy off the shelf. Their support is amazing, though we've rarely needed them. their prices are usually in line with Dell, I feel that their designs are a bit more robust, and I just respect them as a company more than Dell.

Dell's only innovations are in methods of cost-effective mass production. They haven't ever bothered to innovate or invent any of the technology that they sell. That, and their support is typically a joke unless you're a corporate customer or buy their extended support, increasing the total price. At least that's been my experience.

  --Josh

JWA
Thursday, June 24, 2004

> That, and their support is typically a joke unless you're a corporate customer or buy their extended support, increasing the total price.

I bought extended (3 year) support for my Dell laptop, and they were willing to replace the HD after 1.25 years when the HD was dying.

I didn't buy extended support for my mum's laptop ... and they (thankfully) were still willing to fix it free of charge after 1.1 years, when it started to blue-screen to such an extent that I could no longer reintall its O/S.

Christopher Wells
Thursday, June 24, 2004

Wait, sorry, my mum's laptop is a Toshiba.

Christopher Wells
Thursday, June 24, 2004

Would you guys/gals mind specifying what country / region you're in? Although I would not expect the level of support of, say, Dell, to vary much between countries, it is possible there is some variation.

Let's not draw global conclusions from our local experience.

Spider
Thursday, June 24, 2004

I agree with those who assert that building one's own PC is no longer cost effective.  I built my last home brew box a year ago, and I did actually save money over a comparably equipped box off the shelf, but that was because of coencidence and luck as much as anything.  What I didn't save was any headaches with subsequent issues, that have cost me a few hundred dollars over the course of the year, eating up the savings.  My next machine will definitely be off the shelf.

As for buying off the shelf, I have no complaints about my experiences with Dell, but if I was looking for a high-end workstation or gaming machine, I would consider buying from Falcon Northwest or Alienware.  Both are going to cost a little more, but they offer more choices.  In the case of Falcon, they state on their site,

"You get the full version of Windows on every Falcon system, complete with an original CD. No 'hard drive only' installs or those so-called 'special deals' that leave you short- changed. The full version of the OS and nothing else."

And,

"Falcon PCs ship 'clean'. We don't ship unnecessary software and utilities you don't need. We clean up your temporary directories and you will not find advertising, online banks, or lame internet offers on a Falcon machine. Absolutely no crap!"

I will pay more just to support a company that believes in those two things.

MacSqueeb
Thursday, June 24, 2004

It actually can still be cost-effective to build some types of machines, but a reasonably powered general-purpose desktop isn't one of them.

All I build for cost savings today are machines used as server appliances where something like a fanless or nearly fanless Via C3 provides all of the power needed.  In most cases you only need fans if the device contains two or more 7200 RPM drives.  It helps that I bought a lot of PC133 SDRAM when it was dirt cheap too.

These ought to work great for "cluster in a box" mini web farms.  This takes a little sheet metal work too of course, but it'd be fun.  You just need the right dual-supply tower case.  I suspect decent cooling would be a challenge for a horizontal case without spending more than I'd like.  Four motherboards in one tower should be feasible given some care about cooling using cheap MATX Socket 370 boards with C3s on them - and 3 in a tower should easily be practical.  That's about what a typical 1U server uses anyway.  Mini-risers can be used if the on-board 10/100 Ethernet isn't adequate.

About the only other niche left to system builders is in things like small form factor LAN party or home theater machines.

Bob Riemersma
Thursday, June 24, 2004

>>"A self built computer (if you properly license the OS) is about 20-25% more expensive than an off-the-shelf unit."

Not if you compare "Apple to Apples".  A self-built computer is actually cheaper.  But, it depends on what you want.

If the only thing you care about is price, then that $499 Dell is for you.  There's no way that you can build one for that price.  And if you're totally clueless and need that 24/7 tech support to hold your hand every step of the way, then Dell is OK.

However, if you care about other things, like power, expandability and quality, then you are a money-wasting sucker if you don't build your own.

I went to Dell's web site and tried to put together a computer with components comparable to what I'm using now.  When I was done, the Dell was over $400 more than mine-- and a couple of components on the Dell were still inferior to mine because they didn't have anything of comparable quality or performance.

A friend bought a $1500 Dell about a year ago and I was shocked at the cheesey low quality crap components inside.  The motherboard and power supply look like they come out of a Fisher-Price toy computer.

Made Up Name
Thursday, June 24, 2004

Made Up Name

my Dell is a laptop, something I can't easily build myself.  When I need a new tower, I'll be building one.

Still, an off the shelf computer is still nicely cheap, covered by warranty, and I don't have to wait for components to ship or squeeze through sweaty patrons at a computer show.

It's a tradeoff, certainly, but "money wasting sucker"?  I think not.  If all I'm gonna do is code and browse the web, then that $499 Dell is just fine.  Hell I even do Photoshop on my laptop with a minimum of fuss.

muppet from forums.madebymonkeys.net
Thursday, June 24, 2004

and don't forget that a retail copy of XP still goes for something between $200 and $300, depending upon whether you want to tolerate an artificially limited copy of Home or not.

muppet from forums.madebymonkeys.net
Thursday, June 24, 2004

OEM XP Pro ships for around $150, and obviously that is what you'll buy if you're bulding your own and feel sorry for Bill.

Normally you would take the copy of Win 2K from the old machine.

The thing that puzzles me is how people replace whole desktops; I just keep swapping features from the old machine (the floppy drive is actually 1998) and putting newer bits in. Obviously the motherboard and chip stay still last because they require a reinstall of the software, but the drives and power supply have all been replaced a long time ago.

Stephen Jones
Friday, June 25, 2004

Dr Frankenstein brand PCs rule! Nothing beats assembly from separate parts!

Igor
Friday, June 25, 2004

I build my own machines, and I'll agree that it's cheaper to buy, if you can find what you want on the shelf.

For anything approaching remotely custom, where you desire specific parts in specific configurations, it's cheaper to build it yourself.

The more important point is the cost of the SECOND box, not the FIRST one. The second one doesn't cost full price because you're going to bring some of the parts with you.

When I build a "new" box, that generally means: new CPU, or new CPU + motherboard, or new CPU + motherboard + RAM (depending on what can be moved forward). I'll always being my DVD writer, video card, sound card, and high speed hard drives with me. That means a "new" box now generally costs between $300 and $600 for nearly top of the line performance.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Friday, June 25, 2004

yes, yes, and I updated my last desktop in the same fashion, a piece at a time.

The scope of this post, though, was to ask for suggestions on off-the-shelf vendors, not a pro/con list of building your own machine :)

You're preaching to the choir in that respect.  I know it can be beneficial to roll your own, and I have, for many many years.

However, when I'm looking for a PC for the SO, or when I just want a coding/surfing appliance, it seems worthwhile to buy an off the shelf rig.

muppet from madebymonkeys.net
Friday, June 25, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home