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  1. #1
    Contributor ydenys
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    Short guide for buying PC from Dell <updated 30/01/07>

    Oh my, received some money long overdue from rpoints – checked my status... They should’ve removed/unsticked this post years ago.

    Skype/pm me if you need any free+unbiased advice re buying/fixing/claiming under warranty (and breaking) any pc/dell or otherwise – i’ll reply to all those i remember - i’ve updated my email.

    Was a great community once – pls moderate the rest...

    Purpose – to make people aware of their choices and avoid Dell marketing plots to get the best value for money.

    Briefly about Dell Inc. - #1 PC manufacturer in the world [offering best v4m assembled PCs/packages on UK market] (ahead of HP and Lenovo) with head office in Round Rock, Texas and manufacturing facilities in Americas, Europe and Asia.

    Most of the parts for your new Dell PC (purchased in the UK) are manufactured in Asia – (Taiwan, China, and Malaysia) and PC is assembled in Limerick, Republic of Ireland. (All notebook PC assembly is rumored to be moved to Malaysia in near future). Monitors use parts from Asian manufacturers as well but can be assembled (depending on a model) in Europe, Asia and even the UK (mostly in Malaysia now).

    Dell uses in its tower desktops BTX Intel/Foxconn/third party- proprietary (non –standard made to Dell's specs) motherboards NOT interchangeable/upgradable with third party open market-ones. (unless you also wish to replace case and CPU cooling or willing to go for a heavy DIY) – This is not true, however, for Dell XPS 710 and some older XPS models no longer sold, where motherboard can be replaced with similar third party BTX one. Dell now uses standard-design ATX power supplies with all its tower non-slim models.

    Dell support/customer services call centers are based in India (not so bad if you talk slowly or to the supervisor).

    Desktop choices (home user only):

    E5XX : E521 models - very good value4money, relatively easy to upgrade, somewhat limited upgrade options, not suitable for heavy gaming (@ resolutions above 1280x1024). E520 is a better choice due to Core2Duo.

    C521 models - not bad value4money, relatively hard to upgrade, very limited upgrade options, not suitable for gaming

    9200/XPS 410 - the best value4money Dell currently offers, easy to upgrade, hardly limited upgrade options, suitable for heavy gaming

    XPS 210 - the worst value4money Dell currently offers, relatively hard to upgrade, not suitable for heavy gaming (resolutions above 1280x1024), comes with no monitor as standard

    XPS 710 - bad value4money, very easy to upgrade, nearly unlimited upgrade options, suitable for heavy gaming out of the box, comes with no monitor as standard

    Configuration choices:

    - The higher CPU – the better obviously. AMD Live/Intel Viiv-edition for Windows MCE (PC should be configured with a TV tuner/remote or these are intended to buy afterwards – otherwise MCE is hardly useful)
    - OS - only pay premium for XP pro if you are a power user (stop reading this now) needing a genuine copy of pro+media or a Business edition of Vista later. MCE – see above or if you have a nice Monitor/TV and planning to use your pc for watching videos on those.
    - Support Services – choose 1 year CAR if possible – it is ALWAYS cheaper to purchase an extended/upgraded warranty later if you need it.
    - Monitor Depending on whether you can sell the offered monitor it may be cheaper not to upgrade – do your own research. 1600x1200/1680x1050WS – acceptable gaming resolutions available from 20” UltraSharp.
    - Memory – the more the better obviously but not from Dell unless it is on a SO. IGNORE 667 memory – you CANNOT change FSB speed in Dell so on 266 your 667 memory would still run on 533 – there is no point to pay more money. It is just a marketing ploy to sell 667 memory (533 becomes more scarce) Dell is aware of this so if you purchased this upgrade – complain and get the difference back. Make sure you have free slots to upgrade – normally at least two out of four are free anyway.
    - HDD - same as with memory, but you have only TWO slots (more with DIY/internal enclosures). Ignore RAID setups – (apart of using all 2 available slots) minor boost (if any) in performance does not represent nearly acceptable value4money in RAID0, RAID1 is twice as secure as a single drive and 4 times as RAID0, but home user hardly needs it and again terrible value4money. By the way some of E5xx models are incapable of RAID0 contrary to Dell’s advertising.
    - Optical – get two only if you do a lot of D2D OF copies. Beware that to upgrade later you would need to buy a SATA optical – pretty rare here in the UK. Again upgrade option with IDE DVD ROM is untrue as all new 5xx and 9200/xps models support only SATA.
    - Graphics – ALWAYS cheaper to buy elsewhere.
    - Printers – elsewhere, unless free.
    - Sound – it is worth to upgrade to MB-integrated SB Audigy + Soft for £12, and X-FI Extreme BUT only if you need it.
    - Speakers – A225 set is good for making beeps only. Upgrade to A525 or buy elsewhere. Quality of sound with Audigy is very good and as Dell is a quiet machine and you can enjoy surround speakers fully - not only headphones. Therefore you can spend some extra on a good set of speakers.
    - Keyboard – it is worth to get an Enhanced USB Multimedia one.
    - Mouse – optical (if free) or a good optical/laser elsewhere.
    - Floppy – elsewhere, card reader is okay if you need one – proprietary connection to MB - you cannot install third party ones without rearranging pins.
    - Modem, soft and everything else – elsewhere

    Later upgrades:

    Only unbuffered, non-ECC memory is supported. Slim cases obviously need low-profile graphics PCI cards. PCI-E graphics only – PCI is possible but not worth it..

    Good things - Tower cases are easy to open. Easy diagnostics. Very quiet.

    Beware - E5xx models have only 305W PSU – unsuitable for high range graphics. Upgrade it if you want something higher than 7950 GT. 9200 – 375W suitable for up to 8800 GTS but may be unstable with it + two hdds + two optical + extra pci cards + usb powered staff.

    All new 5xx and 9200/xps models support only SATA – you cannot use your old IDE optical/hdd unless you buy a converter.

    Also quietness of your Hell can be compromised by adding a noisy graphics card - try to get one passively cooled (all tower BTX cases are more than capable to cool it) or use aftermarket silent cooler.

    Warranty – buy an extension if required around a month-two before your 1 year CAR expires. Over the phone only, haggle hard.


    Notebooks

    Simple and straightforward – for ‘home’ use laptop choose 6400 package if you are happy with 15” screen or 9400 if you want 17”.

    Basic

    Inspiron 1300 - very cheap, but with Celeron CPU hardly worth attention and represents very low v4m, bulky case, suitable only for light use.

    Inspiron 1501 – moderate v4m, in cheap plastic uninspiring case, but competitive (with dual core Turions) – choice of Semprons should be ignored due to low v4m, consider buying at least 1GB of memory (not from Dell) as 512MB would bottleneck due to integrated ATI’s HyperMemory graphics (if configured to use full 256MB), VGA out port can be used to connect to TV.

    Inspiron 6400 - same bulky-ish case as 1501 but with front multimedia controls and more expandability, S-Video and firewire ports, good/very good value for money with Core2Duo processors – better than similar priced 1501s considering expandability, integrated Intel graphics is a bit slower than 1501’s but they both are unsuitable for 3D gaming. (with ATI’s x1300 graphics you may actually be able to do some light 3D gaming if you choose). See above re shared memory.

    Portable

    Inspiron 640m - 20 mm smaller (diag) but fatter than 6400 and only ½ kg lighter – hardly portable in my opinion – see it as a lightweight version of 6400 with lower v4m.

    XPS M1210 - very good portable package, a bit overpriced but still hard to beat, Dell’s power on the move choice if you are happy with 12” screen. Better value than 410 business notebook.

    Latitude D420 - Different class laptop – business, though sold in home section. The best Dell’s notebook design in my opinion – on par with HP and IBM/Lenovo. Portable, expandable, overpriced. Hard to compare v4m as this is a business laptop – just to say similar spec can be found up to 30% cheaper elsewhere.

    Desktop replacement

    Inspiron 6400 see above

    Inspiron 9400 - that ugly 6400’s case got even bigger, better expandability and a lot of functions, nice screen (if you choose UltraSharp that is), very good v4m for 17” home desktop replacement, with Nvidia’s 7900gs suitable for heavy gaming (even on an external monitor with AGR via DVI).

    Laptop upgrades – it is always worth upgrading screen; battery – if you planning to use it - is a second must, HDD and graphics if needed (7200rpms HDD will improve performance slightly), put aside some funds for the memory if you have only 512Mb pre-installed in your chosen package – it will improve performance significantly (obviously cheaper elsewhere).

    Important – there are no PCMCA card slots in new Dell home-user laptops – they all use ExpressCard slot.

    There are also on-going issues with Dell’s UltraSharp 20+” monitors, where current best-in-class S-IPC (Super In-Plane Switching - LG.Philips see here ) panel being quietly substituted by cheaper and much worse PVA (Samsung’s Patterned Vertical Alignment) one. I am yet to hear low quality Dell UltraSharp monitors received by UK customers, but if you did get it – fight. There is a clear description and tech. specification on the Dells website in documents section (that is until they pull it out) so you have good grounds for complaint (PVA simply cannot physically produce quoted viewing angles) – if you cannot find it now/need an old copy – pm me. Read/test your panel here [url].

    SEE BELOW FOR UPDATES.

    DO NOT USE ABOVE LINKS TO PURCHASE FROM DELL – YOU WILL NOT GET POINTS

    To get cashback please purchase through links provided in offers posted - see ST’s summary here or use my Rpoints link to Dell’s site.

    Updated 30/01/2007
    2250 points on car insurance and 5500 on home insurance from Barclays with “£50 guarantee”

  2. #2
    Contributor Olliex
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    Nice one. Do you happen to have any advice on which Notebooks are good/poor value for money? Fairly clueless when it comes to Laptops, and I'm considering getting one once Windows Vista comes out at the end of next month (I'd prefer a fresh install, without having to upgrade), and am looking at the Inspiron 6400.

  3. #3
    Rpoints Elite evilsly
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    stickied this for a while, as it's excellent

  4. #4
    Contributor rach64
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    So are you saying that mobos are not easily replaceable on E5** systems?

    Sorry if Im repeating what youve stated, but id like to make sure!

  5. #5
    Rpoints Elite evilsly
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    Dell have long used their own custom MB's and PSU's which have made them not easily replaceable.

  6. #6
    Rpoints Elite Imoutofherefornow
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    I been looking for a refurb lapton on dell.. but people use scripts to buy them of there webiste.

  7. #7
    Contributor ydenys
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    Oh yeah, there are also laptops Dell sells - very good for watching movies while in the bath.

    Pretty much straightforward – i’ll update it sometimes later – have to answer to some posts elsewhere and run out of cold beer.

    ES, thanks for making it sticky - may actually do some good.
    2250 points on car insurance and 5500 on home insurance from Barclays with “£50 guarantee”

  8. #8
    Contributor andy_H
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    Quote Originally Posted by evilsly@Rpoints
    Dell have long used their own custom MB's and PSU's which have made them not easily replaceable.
    Tell me about it!!

    My sisters Mobo and CPU went kaput so we had to get new case! new mobo and CPU wouldn't fit.

  9. #9
    Contributor ydenys
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    Updated due to my mistake – apparently Dell’s PSUs are much underrated and do not quote peak (as most other manufacturers do) but rather typical wattage. Opened my wife’s 9150 (375W) and tested it with 1950 XTX and 8800 GTS – see below.

    In standard configuration (no additional 3rd party internal or out-of-the-case high power consuming devices – just up to Dell’s highest specs. - 2 HDD, 2 opticals, etc) 305w Dell PSU (E520/521) can power up to GeForce 7950GT (reliable info from one of tech mods from Dell’s forums), where 375W one (9150/9200 models) can handle up to 8800 GTS – tested it myself with two HDDs, two opticals, floppy, card reader and added USB-powered HDD and two USB fans for stressing – plays Oblivion/burns DVDs/runs 3DMark and Everest’s/various stress testing progs with no issues.

    Therefore PSU upgrade for 9200 is only needed when you are planning to use the highest range graphics – nVidia’s 8800 GTX (taking into account £400 current price – very unlikely – you will need at least E6600+/2+GB of RAM/24”+ display to benefit from its capabilities). E5xx, however, needs a new PSU if you want to put 19xx XT/XTX (ATI) or anything higher than nVidia’s 79xx GT. XPS has a SLI-certified PSU so is okay for now.

    There are also on-going issues with Dell’s UltraSharp 20+” monitors, where current best-in-class S-IPC (Super In-Plane Switching - LG.Philips see here ) panel being quietly substituted by cheaper and much worse PVA (Samsung’s Patterned Vertical Alignment) one. I am yet to hear low quality Dell UltraSharp monitors received by UK customers, but if you did get it – fight. There is a clear description and tech. specification on the Dells website in documents section (that is until they pull it out) so you have good grounds for complaint (PVA simply cannot physically produce quoted viewing angles) – if you cannot find it now/need an old copy – pm me. Read/test your panel here http://www.hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1111100.
    2250 points on car insurance and 5500 on home insurance from Barclays with “£50 guarantee”

  10. #10
    Contributor ydenys
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    Small update 30/01/2007

    Dell is currently trying to get rid of older lower capacity hard drives in RAID 0 configuration with all its mid-high range desktops, sometimes (as with 9200) giving consumer no choice of a single drive/non-RAID 0 configuration. Let me explain why it is not a good choice:

    + of RAID 0

    Slightly (insignificantly to be precise) improved performance with large files

    -

    Loss of performance with small files

    As only two HDD slots are present and both are in use - no easy upgrade options

    Compromised reliability – if one of two drives in RAID 0 fails – you will loose all data on both

    Simply using two drives, where one would be enough – environmentally unfriendly – increasing noise....

    Typical ‘home’ PC HDD configuration would be to have one HDD for system/applications with a room to install second (may be cheaper and inferior, but lager capacity) for data storage once the need arises. It is always a better v4m choice than using external drives for such purposes (much slower data transfer rate, unless you opt for E-SATA, which requires expansion card and so far much more expensive than USB-ones – no firewire with most Dells). Therefore to save yourself time and trouble i would call Dell (01344373727) once the order is processed [in pre manufacturing stage (cashback tracked)] and request to make it non-RAID machine with all soft installed on one of the HDDs and the spare one left clean. Quote compromised reliability and complain a lot – there is no way they can refuse it. Note person’s name and email – insist on giving you the case ref # and emailing a confirmation. Once received double check. In my experience it does not affect your cashback claim- i have replaced keyboard/mouse over the phone with no consequences to the tracked/paid amount.
    2250 points on car insurance and 5500 on home insurance from Barclays with “£50 guarantee”


 

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