Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Dell and Purchasing a Notebook

I have been researching on purchasing a Notebook through Dell.

Does Dell change prices on a continous basis? I built an Inspiron notebook yesterday to price it in the shopping cart...and today when I came back and did the exact same build, the price had increase by $135.

I am a little out of date on the latest of Intel's technology. How suitable is a Mobile Pentium®4 Processor at 2.5 GHz?

I intend to use the notebook as a development platform - having Win Pro and Linux(Red Hat) on dual boot.

I will have IDEs such as Visual Studio.NET and Eclipse. And databases such as SQL Server and Oracle.

As the Notebook costs lots of $$$ - I would like this to last at least two to three years.

Will the above processor be fine for new software releases in the coming 36 months? Or each time Oracle 12G/SQL Server Yukon handles a transaction in 2005, my Notebook will make horrible sounds and slow to a grind?

With the unpredictability of employment at my present firm, I do not want to spend too much money. My goals of getting a Notebook is to use this when I am on the road to start learning other skills. We are limited by what we can install on our office supplied computers.

Ram Dass
Thursday, September 18, 2003

There are cheaper notebooks - shop around. But Dell is generally a rock solid option. I've also found that when looking high-end, Dell has cornered the market.

Make sure you get the on-site warranty. It's the difference between a guy coming out with the parts you need and having to mail the thing back for 1-3 weeks.


Thursday, September 18, 2003

I'll second Philo on Dell being a great laptop company.

Get extra Ram and you'll be set for VS.NET 2005.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Processor: Mobile Pentium®4 Processor at 2.5 GHz

Memory: 512MB (2 DIMMs) DDR 266MHz

Would the above Processor/RAM combination be acceptable for the next two or three years?

Ram Dass
Thursday, September 18, 2003

Looks good to me. I am using a Dell Latitude with a PIII at 500mhz and 256 mb of ram. Runs VS.NET just fine. Anything more is cake at this point, so you should be set for your future.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

What you guys think about Dell "Refurbished" Inspiron Notebooks? Any experiences?

Thursday, September 18, 2003

I've had an excellent experience with my refurbished laptop.

I bought an Inspiron 8200 (1.6Ghz, 512 MB RAM) about a year ago, and am very pleased.  It was about $1K lower than a 'new' one with the same config.  Can't tell the difference.

The only problem I had was that the mouse-thingie (tm) in the middle of the keyboard kept wandering away.  After a fairly painless tech support call they had me send it back to them (after removing the HD, CD-ROM, FDD and any cards I had).  The Airborne Express guy picked it up at my home around noon on a Friday.  I had it back Monday morning.  Weird thing is, it couldn't possibly be the same laptop because the turnaround was unreal.  Besides, the one I got back 'felt' new.  Know what I mean?  I bet they waited till the Airborne carrier took possession and them sent me another one.

ps I 'upgraded' to the 3-year in-home warranty.

Rick Childress
Thursday, September 18, 2003

I have said this time and again, the first thing you do when you buy a laptop is to get the maximum possible warranty.

Next, look on Cnet> product reviews.

When you customize your dell, there is an EvalueCode (something of that sort) - write it down in case prices change the next time you look at the website.

Extreme measures: take a screen shot of the webpage, after you customize it (got this idea from Giorgio on this forum)

Get the minimum possible ram, then go to crucial's website ( , and get the extra RAM from their website.

Since you want your laptop for 2-3 years, max out on the RAM,..I would say go for 2GB of RAM.


I have had a dell laptop for over 2.5 yrs, a while back I upgraded the RAM from 256 to 512. My power supply went dead after 2 years ($60 replacement from dell).

Make sure you spell out your name and other info correctly, it is impossible to get a name corrected, and invoice resent to you.

Dell has a pretty deccent knowledge base, you should check that out for current problems with certain configurations.

Dell has the best support in the business, but it SUCKS, all that waiting, and people answering your calls do not have any idea what you are talking about. THis applies equally to their US & India Customer support. I have no idea about the support of other companies, I have heard good things about Toshiba though.

I have mailed Michael Dell a few times, letting him know when the service was good, and when it far the good vs sucks ratio is 1:3.

I have wasted a lot of time calling up Dell, for a lot of minor inconivinces whihc should have not been there to begin with, aftere which I decidecd that my next laptop will most defnetly be a toshiba, their support is good, in most cases they trow in Free international support.

Note: I am talking about the Toshiba's sold in Europe/ Middle east... they throw in free 3 yrs international support. The other BIG advantage is that Toshibas sold in europe/ Middle east are made in Germany which is far superior to the ones made in China. THe reason being the workers in germany havee to produce X laptops by the end of the day, where as in China it is X laptops by the hour.

Enough said:-)

All the luck!

Prakash S
Thursday, September 18, 2003

Dell's prices change daily, sometimes twice daily.

Israel Orange
Thursday, September 18, 2003

Also check this
for promotions and coupons. You can shave an extra 100$ off your laptop if you are lucky.

19th floor
Thursday, September 18, 2003

Ram D.

Ask your firends and family if their work or educational inst. has discounts at dell. A lot do, so it might be worth a little extra work on your part. Have fun!

Thursday, September 18, 2003

The recommendations I'd make for a laptop that should last 3 years:

1. Make sure the display is high enough resolution for you. I'd say for dev work, 1400x1050 is a minimum, and more is better. You can get by with less today, but will you want to live with it for 3 years?

2. Make sure you can have at least 2GB of RAM. Today, 512MB is the min, and 1GB is more reasonable running 2003 and VMware (as some people like to do).

3. Get the fastest hard drive possible. I've heard that someone has a 7200 RPM hard drive for a laptops. That alone would make me strongly consider them. Make sure the hard drive is upgradeable.

4. Get the fastest video card available, or make sure it's upgradeable (Mini-AGP, I think it's called). For Longhorn, you're going to need a DirectX 9 compliant part. I _think_ the GeForce Fx Go 5600 is the only one that qualifies today.

The 2.5GHz Mobile P4 is good, but it's going to hurt your battery life compared to a Centrino (although I don't think any Centrinos go to 2.5GHz yet).

Brad Wilson (
Thursday, September 18, 2003

Make sure that the 512 MB can be upgraded to 1Gb with no hassle (i.e the 512MB is one module not two)

The main problem with laptops is the keyboard. Even though they are now good enough to use for a few hours you will find yourself with numbness in both arms , pain in the shoulders, and eventually carpal tunnel syndrome unless you use them with a full size (preferably erogonomic) keyboard. How long that will take depends; I was on holiday in Sri Lanka, and after six weeks of mild laptop use I had all the symptoms mentioned above except carpal tunnel syndrome. Returning to work in Saudi, and home and office desktops with MS natural keyboards, the symptoms have gone away despite 8-10 hours daily use for the last month.

I personally reckon that the tendency for developers to use laptops, will result in a complete reversal of the present problem of oversupply within the next couple of years.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, September 18, 2003

Oh, and yes, prices change constantly. They keep no stock. If the price on some component fluctuates, you're stuck with the new price, for better or worse (until it changes again in about an hour :-p).

Brad Wilson (
Thursday, September 18, 2003

You should strongly consider a Centrino-based system with a "Pentium M processor" (instead of a Pentium  4-M.)  They're usually found in thin-and-light to midsize models, including the Dell Inspiron 8600.

The Pentium M processors have much better performance than a comparable Pentium 4-M.  A Pentium M running at 1.7 GHz should be roughly equivalent in raw performance to a 2.5 GHz Pentium 4-M.  Plus, it'll have much better battery life.

Check out these links:,techsearch.2.103.1298.0.0.centrino.0,http%3A%2F%2Fcnet%2Ecom%2Fhardware%2F0%2D1027%2D8%2D20926222%2D1%2Ehtml

I think having more RAM (512 MB minimum, 1 GB ideal) and a good full-sized screen is more important than processor power for development.  My Dell 1.6 Ghz notebook from last year handles Visual Studio without a hiccup.

Keep in mind that very few applications except games (development applications included) really need anywhere near that kind of speed.  Two or three years from now, you'll probably still be running Windows XP or 2000, and your common productivity/development apps probably won't increase too much in terms of complexity.

Robert Jacobson
Thursday, September 18, 2003

I have a Dell Latitude C640.
Things I dislike about it:

- Keyboard, but I guess everybody has his personal taste in this
- Location of network connector: I am right handed, so my mouse (as for 90% of the user population) is on the right hand side. Which idiot puts a network port there? Couldn't they heve put it on the left r the back?
- Location of the USB: This they put on the back, so using a USB stick drive means standing up, lifting the machine balancing it with open screen on the front edge, pushing in(hopefully you have a slimm stick or it is going to get pushed up by the table), lower machine, sit down, ... Have the geniuses that designed this case ever used a notebook computer?
- Fan noise: I have a P4-M 1.8. It usually is running at 1.2 Ghz, and even then the fan comes on. When I actually am pushing the processor a bit and it has to run at 1.8 Ghz for half a minute, the noise grows to "vacuum cleaner on speed" levels.
- Disk noise: Please notebook people pay attention: The drive in the machine is positioned at just 50cm (20 inches?) from the users left ear. MAKE IT QUIT!

You can guess I am not realy a fan of the machine.

My personal favorite is still the Toshiba Tecra, but make sure you have a 3rd party onsite maintenance contract.

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, September 19, 2003

I've bought 2 Inspirons from the factory outlet. one at the end of 99 and one a year ago. The first one had to be sent back immediately (got a better one in return). Both have worked faultlessly since.

Both have been great and they were great value... Dell have various offers that seem to change daily so by watching you can find a real good deal. The last one I got was particularly good value, it was almost as if it had  accidentally slipped through at a much reduced price!

Friday, September 19, 2003

I have a Compaq Presario 2701US. I replaced the drive that came with it (30GB 4200 RPM) with an IBM (60GB 5400 RPM). It's very very quiet. I would highly recommend one of these drives, if you can't get the new 7200 RPM guys.

Brad Wilson (
Saturday, September 20, 2003

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home