Before I leave to join my university, I thought it was time to buy a new laptop. The old passed-on-from-dad HP Compaq 6710b wasn’t going to cut it any more. I decided to buy a Dell Studio 15.6″ widescreen laptop. Stick around for a while, I’ll explain why I went in for Dell and not any of the others choices. Here’s the configuration:
- Intel Core 2 Duo T6500 processor
- Windows Vista Home Premium (Why, oh why, can’t they offer a system without this?)
- 4 GB DDR2 RAM
- 500 GB 5400rpm hard disk
- 512 MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4570
- Backlit keyboard (upgrade)
- 9-cell battery instead of a 6-cell battery (upgrade)
- Midnight Blue colour with black trim instead of default black (upgrade). The colour hasn’t come out well in the above photograph. Too much glare whether I shoot with or without flash. Actual colour is a deep shade of blue. Midnight Blue was subtle yet different, unlike the other colour options / Mike Ming – Derek Welch art series designs.
- Free Belkin backpack
- Free Creative EP-630 in-canal earphones
The base configuration was priced at Rs 45900, without freight and tax. After all the upgrades and including freight charges the order total came to around Rs 49900. I placed the order at the Dell Exclusive Store at Nehru Place, where in case you’re paying cash-down you don’t have to pay the tax component (they pay that bit). In case you want to visit the store yourself, go to Nehru Place (duh) – the shop is located in the market behind Satyam Cineplex, in Gedore House. (The exact name of the store is Vidur & Co, although you won’t find that written anywhere. They used to sell all brands of laptops earlier – I’ve made some purchases from them – but since September 2008 they’ve been dealing exclusively with Dell products.) You won’t be able to get the product right then. You can experience the products, and if you want to buy something the salepersons there will place an order for you online – which you can pay for by cash or card.
My order was placed on 1st August 2009 and was processed by Dell’s Bangalore centre on 4th August. Assembly was finished on 7th August and on 8th I received an SMS from Bluedart courier that the package was with them, but since 9th was a holiday they would deliver it on 10th – which they did. I got a request for unboxing pics, so here they are:
Default partitioning was weird. System partition (on which Windows Vista was pre-installed) was 450 GB in size. Before I begin removing this to install Linux, I noted down the Windows rating which Vista’s System Assessment Tool gave:
(I could’ve taken a proper screenshot, transferred it using a USB drive, then posted this from my old laptop, but it isn’t worth the hassle.) Windows gave my laptop a rating of 5.0; interestingly though, some of the subscores are greater than 5. I always thought these Windows rating scores were given on a scale of 0-5. So how on on earth am I gettting scores higher than five?!
I haven’t tinkered around much till now. Backlit keyboard is nice. No fingerprint recognition like my current laptop, but this has a 2 MP webcam with bundled face recognition software (it works!). The raised, slanting surface makes typing more comfortable compared to most other laptops, which have flat keyboard surfaces. CD/DVD drive is a bit spooky because unlike normal tray-loading drives, this has a thin slit on the right hand side of the drive where you slowly insert a disc, and then some kind of mechanical grip swallows the disc in.
Why buy in India instead of the UK?
One of my main concerns was the validity of my warranty once I shift to the UK. A friend of mine told me that I would have to upgrade to my Dell warranty to their costliest plan which has worldwide coverage (along with a few other extras). That costs about Rs 13000, so I contemplated for a while about buying it in the UK itself. I thought I would make significant savings on my student discount (turns out it only works to 50-70 GBP) or buy it from my university (they’ve a tie-up with Toshiba, configs weren’t good). Then I found out that Dell transfers responsibility for the warranty free-of-cost simply if you contact them and inform them of the change beforehand. Problem solved. Other manufacturers such as HP offer international warranty by default. In that context, buying a laptop works out to be cheaper in India than if you do it abroad.
Why buy Dell, and not any other brand?
Lot of students joining colleges have to take a call on which laptop they’ll buy. Even if you’re doing a course which isn’t associated with electronics / computers you’ll find it handy. Quick access to a computer is a necessity for students in UK / US colleges since we have to submit assignments in both hard copy and soft copy (the soft copy is run through plagiarism-detection software). Naturally, buying a laptop becomes a big investment decision since everyone wants a machine which will last at least their tenure in college. I did some research on different companies, and here’s what I found. I present them in ascending order, starting with the companies which interested me least to most.
- Indian companies such as HCL: Out of question. I wanted proper international support.
- Asus / LG / Samsung / Benq / Toshiba: Tried contacting their helplines. Most of them were clueless about international support.
- Lenovo: The cheaper ones were far too business-oriented, while the ones which were good were far too expensive.
- Apple: Normally I wouldn’t have given a passing thought to Apple but then someone told me Apple gives international warranty too. The problem with Apple is that it’s overpriced shit. The cheapest Macbook (not even Macbook Pro) would cost me around Rs 70000, and for that I would get lower capacity hard disk, RAM, slower processor / graphics card, et al than the competition. And that’s just the cheapest one – price shoots up as you higher up the scale. I get around 10% student discount in the UK but it still works out overpriced vis-a-vis the competition.
- Sony Vaio: Stylish. I must admit I like their keyboard layout and overall design aesthetics. Sony Vaio was in contention till the very end, but lost out on pricing.
- HP Pavilion: Hewlett-Packard’s Compaq range didn’t have the feature I was looking for. So I had a look at HP’s Pavilion range of notebooks. The plus point is that they have many variants within the line. There were models which used AMD Turion X2 processors with lower power consumption requirements than Intel Core 2 Duo’s. The problem with HP is that they don’t allow you to replace anything. For instance, if I wanted a 9-cell battery instead of the default 6-cell I would have to order it in addition to the battery already present for an extra Rs 8000. Ridiculous! Moreover, even without any upgrades HP Pavilion notebooks (the ones I was interested in were variants of dv6) cost Rs 3000-5000 more than a Dell laptop after all upgrades I wanted. (And they were giving a 320 GB hard disk for that price.)
- Dell: The thing I like about Dell is their openness, in the sense that they declare all specifications clearly on their website. The ability to upgrade specific components by simply paying the price difference is convenient. Dell’s Inspiron range didn’t have the features I wanted but it’s a good buy for those looking for cheaper budget deals. Even Inspirons look better-designed these days. Dell XPS range is bit like Sony Vaio – friggin’ awesome and well designed but expensive. Dell’s Studio range of laptops fits snugly into a category which I’m sure many people are interested in. For a reasonable price it offers you an unbeatable set of features. Now the question I had was whether to buy here on in the UK. Same model works out to be cheaper here.
However, everyone’s requirements are different. Dell was what suited me the best but for you it could be something different. Do compare models on the manufacturer’s websites (it’s a simple search query away), and then make sure that you actually go to the largest computer market in your city and check out the deals you’re getting. (If you live in Delhi then don’t buy from any place other than Nehru Place. You’ll find ‘flagship stores’ / ‘official showrooms’ of all brands there, so making comparisons is easier.) Many stores reduce prices for cash-down. Make your own decision.
Originally posted at Youthpad.