When my Dell desktop PC died last spring, I had to replace it in a hurry. Fortunately, I had my data backed up on external drives and I had a cheap laptop I bought for my sister in law to use on her annual visits, so I was not totally down. Still, I need a PC to administer my music business and family finances, so I started evaluating alternatives.
Recommend this product?
What I use the PC for is:
- developing backgrounds in Band In A Box software for practice and occasionally small group (small comp) performances inside for crowds up to 100. While I prefer playing with a band, if a client cannot pay enough for me to hire quality players, I offer to play over backgrounds. I was burning CDs and playing them in a boom box for such shows; using a notebook would be easier.
- maintaining my music and family financial records in Quicken and doing my personal taxes
- spreadsheets and word processing using Word and Excel from Microsoft Office 2003
- contact and calendar management with Microsoft Outlook 2003 and Itunes (Iphone)
- social networking and internet surfing
- file uploading and downloading (youtube, myspace)
- music streaming with Itunes, Rhapsody and Windows Media Player
- communicating with peripherals using USB: all in one printer, ipod, iphone, 2 hard drives, digital recorder
- communicating with wireless router
The only one of these uses that required portability was the music backgrounds. Everything else could be done by a desktop.
Initially, I looked to a laptop, so I could take it along to my gigs and provide backgrounds for inside rooms and crowds up to 100. I evaluated Dell, Lenovo and HP. I had small affinity discounts available for Dell and Lenovo, and settled upon Dell as having the best value for what I needed, including, supposedly, the best sound system among laptops. I was impressed because the Dell rep said that the internal speakers were remarkably good and would have enough fidelity and power to provide backgrounds for sax playing for the indoor rooms and crowds I described.
I wasn't interested in paying extra for software, because I already had everything I needed, including Norton Antiviris.
Here is a summary of the key features:
15.6" HD monitor, standard keyboard and mouse (which I like better), 9 cell battery which was supposed to last 50% longer than the standard battery, 2.50 ghz processor. The processor was 2.5ghz and had 8gb of RAM. The hard drive was 750gb. I did not need extra space as I have 2 external hard drives used to back up my own digital recordings. I got the best video card available to stream music, even though I am not a gamer. I added a CD/DVD burner and reader for portability of files and light movie viewing, and a standard wireless card.
The operating system was Windows 7 Home Premium. Additional software included a stripped down Word and Excel bundle, which I did not use, and a 30-day McAfee trial, again which I did not use.
I paid $25 extra for 2-day shipping. As configured, the cost to me was $1,129.13
The problems started even before the PC arrived.
I paid for 2 day shipping and the PC was manufactured in the Chicago area. So, to get the PC to me in 2 days, the unit was stored in a Fedex warehouse near O'Hare Airport for one day. Well, I complained because I would have gotten the PC faster if I had specified ground shipping. I got a refund for the expedited shipping.
Then, there were more problems:
1. The sound quality was neither loud enough or good enough for my needs. The sound quality was very good for internal speakers but not powerful enough for me for a small room. I suppose I could have supplemented the unit with external speakers, but that would be little better than the boom box route. Still, I was very clear with the Dell rep on my needs and relied on him when he told me the internal speakers would meet my needs.
2. The battery charger failed about 2 days in. The PC would not charge. There was a bit of a hold but Dell support was helpful and agreed to send a tech. The tech came a couple of days later and swapped out the motherboard.
3. The next day, the headphone jack was not working and Dell support again said that it was a hardware error and sent a tech. At that point I was pretty disgusted, with 2 hardware failures in less than a week.
4. Battery: Dell told me after I bought the PC that leaving the battery on the charger all the time would run down the battery and they did not recommend it. Of course, that was a disappointment, as having watched notebooks on the charger all the time during my day job, I figured that all notebooks could handle that. Maybe the PC would not to run all night usually but uploading a video to Youtube does take overnight, at least for my performance videos, which run 6 - 8 minutes. Aside from not being able to leave it on the charger, the time on a charge, generally 4.5 hours on a charge, seemed light considering I had gone for the battery with 50% more cells and it was supposed to last to 6 hours.
Other than this, the notebook actually worked fairly well. It was tremendously faster than my earlier desktop, which was several years old. My existing bread and butter programs (Office, Band in a Box, Quicken, Outlook) loaded and worked just fine. I had no trouble using Windows 7. Boot was tremendously faster than what I had, really, just seconds. Video streaming also worked fine and the PC was noticeably faster than what I had in playing media . The video screen was large enough and worked well, with nice color and no discernible resolution problems in streaming video. The PC was lightweight and very portable. The wireless router and all the USB peripherals were detected and each communicated well. I had no problem playing DVDs and CDS, although I did not burn any. I did feel like it would have been nice to have more usb ports, but I have hubs to handle that.
When I thought about what I wanted to do, it was clear that I had a lemon PC. Less than a week in, I had two hardware failures. The real decision was whether I wanted another notebook or a desktop. It seemed that it would not meet my portability needs because the internal speakers could not do what the rep said they could. Furthermore, not being able to keep the battery plugged in to the wall was an annoyance. So, getting a desktop was the obvious choice.
I sent the unit back for refund and bought a Dell XPS 8300 desktop, which has performed well. I will review it in the future. The problems with this Dell PC did not keep me from buying a Dell Desktop but I would not buy another one of these notebooks.
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Read all comments (5)
Amount Paid (US$): 1139
Operating System: Windows
Processor: Intel Pentium II
Processor speed: over 1000
Screen Size: 15 inches
RAM: More than 256
Internal Storage: DVD
Hard Drive (GB): Over 50