Thursday, April 21, 2005

An Apple a day keeps the Dell away...

So I have a little dilemma, or maybe it's a DELLemma...

Years ago I purchased a Toshiba Satellite Pentium 4 laptop that has upset me ever since. It had four damaged pixels (which is within Toshiba's pixel quality standards, so there was nothing I could do about it) and had a DOCUMENTED feature of turning off unexpectedly whenever it overheated, which it does all the time. Toshiba tells me I'm supposed to save my data frequently and that this has been a feature of all Satellite's since the 486 series. Moral of the story: Don't buy Toshiba, and if you do, don't buy Satellite (and if you do buy any of these things, expect customer service to give you funny answers like these).

So I figured I had been very happy with the Dell I use at the office (a Dell Precision workstation: dual Xeon system) so maybe I'd try Dell at home.

[ Note: This idea of buying a computer from a company is foreign to me. I've always built my desktop machines, but I can't really do that with a laptop. I just feel like laptops have the potential to take advantage of me... ]

Now, I need a performance workstation. Dell's Precision M70 looked like a good buy for that. It only had a 15.4" screen, but it was a WUXGA screen, so I get a really sharp 1900x1200 resolution. Yes, everything's tiny, but I can fit so much on the screen! It's really great. Unfortunately though, when I got the laptop on 3/29, Dell screwed up some of the order, and they're not going to be able to get the replacement to me until 4/29 despite me calling customer service on 3/29. To keep a long story short, Dell has really upset me. The customer service people themselves have been OK, but the actual problem resolution capability of the company itself is poor.

So this month I've been using the machine (it's not complete, as explained, but I can still get work done on it) and I have been happy with it. I like the feel of the keyboard. I like the layout. I wish there was a volume control (perhaps an analog control) on the side of the laptop so I didn't have to open the lid to adjust the volume... Oh, and I really like the touchpad/stick combination with the new Alps driver.

[ If you're not familiar with the Dell setup, the touchpad has two very "clicky" buttons at the bottom of the touchpad and two softer more "key-like" buttons below the space bar as well as a little eraser-like stick at the vertex of the G, H, and B keys. You can configure the stick and touchpad to "turn off tapping" while you type, that way you don't get that annoying thing where you accidently tap your touchpad, highlight your whole document, and overwrite it with your next keystroke. You can also configure your stick to just be used for scrolling and configure the touchpad with "hot spots" and with narrow border areas also for scrolling. It's very nice. ]

The thing is, I'm really disappointed in Dell. This was a $3600 purchase, and they're treating me like I'm a charity case. So I'm thinking about returning the whole laptop just for that reason alone.

So I've been looking at HP models. There's a nice performance HP for about the same price that looks nearly identical...

HOWEVER, if I was willing to make the leap to Apple, I could get a 17" Apple PowerBook G4 (their top of the line laptop) for $2600 ($2800 if I want 1GB of memory).

My adviser is a life-long Apple user and recommends them. I grew up using UNIX, so both Windows and MacOS are a little odd to me, but I've gotten used to them, and OS X is BSD/Mach-LIKE so there's that. Additionally, all of my important applications (MATLAB, a LaTeX compiler, a LaTeX editor, Adobe Illustrator) run on Macintosh, so I think it might be neat. Oh, and about the touchpad, Apple does this cool thing where if you use TWO fingers on the touchpad, it scrolls and such. No stick though. And no extra set of nice key-like buttons.

The MAJOR downside for me is that Apple doesn't have a WUXGA LCD. That means that the highest resolution I can get is 1440x900, and in store everything looked ENORMOUS on the screen because of it. That's partly because it's a bigger screen though...

So I'm perplexed. I really like my tiny pixels... I really do. But I really hate Dell, despite liking their hardware, and the Apple is SO MUCH CHEAPER (which seems surprising considering everyone talks about Apple machines being so much more expensive)...

So, like I said, I'm in a DELLemma...

4 comments:

Theo said...

Man, that resolution thing is killing me... and the lack of a PowerBook G5...

Must go to store and play with PowerBook...

I guess I'd rather have an Apple, but I just don't want it to be the only thing I'm left with, I guess... Or something...

Theo said...

The value really seems to be on the Apple side of things though. <sigh>

Suck.

Theo said...

I found this Dell Precision M70 review that actually compares (slightly) the Precision I have with the PowerBook. PLUS, the reviewer does the same work that I do... So he's willing to say that he'd be equally happy with the performance of a Precision M70 with the PowerBook. However, he mentions the crappy resolution of the PowerBook (relatively speaking)... That's something that's a big hang up for me. :(

Theo said...

Got the Apple. Returning the Dell. Got an educational discount for the Apple. Yay all around. I'm excited.