Be it resolved that Dell is still awful?
September 14, 2010 4:49 PM   Subscribe

It's time for a new laptop. I have always had, and loved, Toshibas, and have put them out to pasture due to general age and crotchety behaviour rather than total meltdown. I was all ready to buy my new one (this guy) when I noticed this Dell with broadly similar specs, same price and a better processor. The main difference is Intel Core i3 versus i5.

However, everyone I know with a Dell has had hideous experiences with them, and I know from trying to fix my parents' various Dells that they like to make it impossible for you to self-help. With Toshiba's I've always received the actual disks for the OS, etc, so if I needed to reformat or change something I could. I've never experienced Toshiba's customer service because I've never had to, but my experiences with Dell were awful (although dated). Is my poor opinion of Dell outdated, or should I stick with the brand that has always done right by me in the past. (specific comments about why either model is a very good/poor idea are also welcome)
posted by sarahkeebs to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
No, your poor opinion of Dell is not outdated.

Go with the Toshiba.
posted by strixus at 5:03 PM on September 14, 2010

If anything, Dell has gotten worse as time goes on. Either buy the Dell and four spare motherboards, or else just stick with Toshiba.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:08 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've been given Dells at work, and I've always found them flimsy in construction. The hinges especially like to move when the laptop is open.

I just got an Acer 1830t, but I got the version with the crappy crappy ALPS touchpad (they make some 1830ts with synaptics touchpads, but you can't specify which you'd like). That touchpad just sucks for multitouch gestures. Ironically, the Dell ALPS driver works a bit better than the ALPS ALPS driver. Other than that, a nice machine, that that's a buig "other than".

Kubuntu Lucisd runs on it, but I'm running MS-Windows (ugh) as I can't get decent battery life under Ubuntu, and the touchpad isn't recognized without a custom psmouse.ko. This will improve as more and more knowledgeable ubuntu users start using the 1830t.

I also own an Asus 901. Great battery life, runs Kubunti Lucid without issues, great touchpad (an elantech), nice sound for as small as it is, the keyboard is utter crap; I've replaced keyboards four times, and even when working it's too small and too cheap.

(Why do I care about linux support? Kubuntu looks mostly like MS-Windows, functions better, is better for writing code and -- big plus -- no worries about viruses. With MS-Windows I've had to install a virus checker and deal with its nag screens. On linux, this is a non-issue.)
posted by orthogonality at 5:21 PM on September 14, 2010

I like Thinkpads, but they're gonna cost you more than either Dell or Toshiba
posted by meta_eli at 5:31 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Asus is currently the winner for least repairs in a couple recent surveys that came up on Tom's Hardware, especially in this article.

That is why you want this computer. It is CA$869 with free shipping. Specs are almost the same as the others.

Processor: i3 350M. The i3 350M is slower than the i5 450M, but not by that much.
Memory: The Dell has 6GB RAM, the Asus has 4GB (as does the Toshiba). 4GB and 6GB won't be too noticeable.
Hard Drive: Biggest in the Asus at 640GB vs 500GB Dell and 320GB Toshiba. This is a win
Video Card: The Asus actually has a somewhat proper video chipset. It runs the ATI 5450 Mobile graphics chipset, whereas the Dell and Toshiba run Intel GMA. The ATI 5450 has an additional 1GB of dedicated video RAM. This is good.
Screen: All are 15.6" with resolution of 1366x768.
Other: All have DVD burner, ethernet, wireless, speakers, etc etc etc.

Newegg is a fairly reliable source of computers, I built my last three from parts sourced from them. Go Buy now!
posted by Mister Fabulous at 5:39 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Assuming this "Studio" line is on par with Dell's Inspirons, then no, I would not recommend that machine. But, as I've recommended previously, check out the Latitudes if you're interested Dell--I have had nothing but good experiences with those. Similar models look to be pricier than what you're looking for, but you could also check the outlet for deals. My 3-year old scratch & dent (never did find any scratches or dents) Latitude hasn't failed me once. Also, both my Dells came with an OS disk, so I don't think you need to worry about that.
posted by gueneverey at 5:40 PM on September 14, 2010

I have a two year old Dell XPS, and tomorrow, I'm taking it apart and applying new thermal paste because it runs nasty hot, even with a chill mat. Just two days ago I swore I'd never buy another Dell laptop.
posted by Ruki at 6:00 PM on September 14, 2010

I have a Toshiba that we use as a media computer - it's ancient as laptops go, maybe 7 years old. But the thing is still going strong. I have a Dell Studio that is 1.5 years old, and it is a complete lemon (replaced hard drive twice, replaced memory, and it's still a total mess). The CS is a nightmare, and it was such a fight just to get them to give me new memory.
So I know I'm just one person, but if I ever had to choose between the two, I'd pick the Toshiba in a second.
posted by smalls at 6:12 PM on September 14, 2010

You should always check Tom's Hardware for a review or article, whenever you have computer questions... It's a pretty thorough and awesome site.

This is an article about the differences between mobile i3 and i5 processors..
posted by Glendale at 6:16 PM on September 14, 2010

I'll second Mister Fabulous. Asus also has an excellent standard warranty--two years including one year of accidental damage. If you you register the computer with Asus within 60 days of purchase the accidental damage warranty is extended to two years.
posted by sockpup at 6:48 PM on September 14, 2010

This isn't specifically on point, but my experience has been that if a company sells both "consumer" and "professional" lines of laptops, you should not under any circumstances buy the consumer line.

Relatedly my experience with the Dell Latitudes has been pretty good, but I wouldn't touch their consumer line with a rented ten foot pole.
posted by mhoye at 8:45 PM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

My last three PC laptops have been consumer line Dells and I haven't had any issues with them. Just got a Studio 15 (i5 540) and it's been great.

Vostro 1500
Inspiron 1545
Studio 1558
posted by wongcorgi at 9:48 PM on September 14, 2010

Also, FWIW, I got the same exact laptop you are looking at, except it was on sale for $689 a few weeks ago. It was posted on slickdeals and fatwallet.
posted by wongcorgi at 9:51 PM on September 14, 2010

Wow, I've been fixing computers for years and still recommend Dell. I usually buy from the small business section (no proof of ownership req'd) and then I get better support. The advantage is that if something goes wrong, they are really easy to repair and you can get support manuals. Replacement parts are really cheap for older ones as well. I've had awful experiences while fixing clunky Toshibas and HPs. Used to love IBM but since the switch over to Lenovo, I haven't been thrilled.

Anyways, I have a 2 year-old vostro 1400 that runs like a champ and a 4 year old Inspiron B-something-or-another that still runs beautifully.

Just my two cents, but I've seen alot of broken computers and will still take Dell over any of the other ones I've dealt with.

Disclaimer: I haven't dealt with Acer yet and I'm pretty happy with my Asus netbook but it's really new.
posted by Raichle at 7:29 PM on September 21, 2010

I've been working with my Dell Inspiron 6400 for three years now. The biggest problem I've had is with the battery. Had to replace it after 18mths, now need to replace it again if I want to use it as a portable computer. This seems to be a pretty normal battery replacement rate for laptops in Pakistan, regardless of manufacturer. Overall, I've been pretty satisfied.
posted by bardophile at 11:57 PM on October 2, 2010

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