Is that DELL Starting to Smell?

Like with many things, the phrase “You get what you pay for” is true for computers. When talking with people looking to purchase a new system, I often find our products being compared with national brands. The typical scenario has me showing one of our Good level notebooks, which are around $500, to a potential customer when they say, “Well, I don’t know. Dell has a notebook on sale for $349.”

Today I wanted to write about how Dell (and other national brands, it’s just easy to pick on Dell) gets to that price point. The first way is simple; volume. The second method is easy to spot for a computer professional, but very tough for the average user. Old, outdated technology. Take these three examples of chipsets:

Intel® Core™ 2 Duo Processor T9400 (2.53GHz 1066MHz 6MBL2)
Intel® Core™ 2 Duo Processor P8600 (2.40GHz 1066MHz 3MBL2)
Intel® Celeron™ Dual Core processor (1.66GHz, 667MHz, 1MBL2)

If you aren’t a techie, does the above make any sense to you? Is a T series processor better than a P series? Is Dual Core better than Core 2 Duo? With proper marketing, technology that’s getting dusty on the back shelf can be turned around and sold as the Deal of the Century new notebook.

(As an aside, stop in and quiz Navada on chipsets and processor specs. If you can stump him, we’ll give you a prize.)

The first two methods (volume and old technology) are fairly obvious. But the next two are not as well-known and are a bit more underhanded. One is trial software, commonly referred to as crapware, or as Microsoft likes to call it, craplets. By getting paid to load tons of trial programs, ads and other junk onto a new system, Dell can price a system so that they are just barely breaking even on the hardware.

At the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show, Dell defended this practice, stating that it keeps costs down, and implying that systems might cost significantly more to the end user if these programs were not preinstalled. Sony, the industry’s biggest offender, typically pre-installs up to 24 programs onto a new system. These will have disastrous effects on the boot time, stability and overall performance not to mention the constant pop-ups trying to get you to purchase the software once the trial expires.

In January of 2007, Microsoft expressed concern about damage being done to Windows Vista’s reputation due to crapware bogging down new computers. (Due to its anti-trust lawsuit, Microsoft was unable to prevent companies from pre-installing software on new computers.)

Lastly, poor quality parts and cheap customer service. Bargain-bin computers are not designed to last very long, typically having a 2 year life expectancy. Should a part fail under warranty, often Dell will mail the customer the part and then walk them through replacing it over the phone.

We have heard stories of people getting mailed new hard drives, power supplies and ram and being asked to crack open their case and replace it themselves! If a person doesn’t know their way around a computer, they should never be asked to work on it themselves because too much additional damage can easily be done. Plus, after the first time you have to call Technical Support and wind up wasting half a day getting nowhere, that $100 savings or so won’t really seems worth it.

At, we can match the price of a low-end national brand machine, but we make every effort to warn the customer that it should be considered a disposable tool rather than a technology investment. Once the warranty is up, expect failures and don’t plan on sinking the money into it to fix them. We prefer to sell computers that have a life expectancy of 3+ years and those can be had for almost any budget.

Another solution is to implement’s Best Practices (to be further discussed in a future post) which cleans up a system and makes it faster than when originally purchased or as we like to say, “sets the system up to the way it should have been from the factory.” Stop in and talk with our staff so that your next computer purchase gives you the best bang for the buck and has a life expectancy that matches your expectations.

For further information on crapware, I invite you to check out these sites:

 Please share your questions and comments!