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Monday, April 30, 2007

Dell or not to Dell? Microsoft Windows Vista?

Dell has made it really difficult to buy a new computer. That is the simple conclusion that I have come to, based on my recent shopping experience on their site. However, I am really surprised that it is has come to that. I have purchased somewhere in the neighborhood of $20M-25M (yes, million) worth of computer hardware & software over the last 10 years, it is really hard to get me to this point.

You see, I have been thinking about purchasing a new Dell computer for the past few weeks. Nothing against my Dell Dimension 2400, but the 2.2GHz Pentium 4 processor simply is not cutting it anymore. Over the weekend, I think I spent more time waiting for Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE 7) to render and load web pages which the processor sat at 100%. (No spyware, the machine is clean) And, if I am going to keep up with my blogs, I cannot allow that to continue. :-)

In addition, this morning I received a "See how much you can save with surprise coupons worth up to 30% on select systems." coupon in my inbox as many people did. It is also known as the Small Business "Mystery coupon" by some. The really had me considering purchasing a Dell right there and then. After spending 45 minutes trying to configure a decent system, I abandoned my shopping cart and decided against the $600 purchase. Let's not add to the confusion that you might receive a 20%, 25%, or 30% off coupon AND that in some cases the 20% off coupon was less than the discount already offered by the site!

Truth be told, it should not be this difficult. By no means am I a first time Dell user. Of the 10-15 computers I have personally owned (not to mention the 20-25 work machines I have had), most have either been Dell (Desktops) or Toshiba (laptops). Only recently have I forayed into the IBM world, and I am relatively happy with my T60. In fact, both of my recent Digital Camera purchases -- the Canon G7 and the PowerShot SD800 IS came from the Dell store.

In terms of the problem is that there is choice, and then there is too much choice. Dell has pretty much overloaded the user when they want to visit their site and purchase a new machine. Furthermore, it has -- with the recent coupon frenzy -- become too difficult to determine whether you receive good or equivalent value. It almost borders on the purchasing a new car.

Here is where I ran into the biggest issues that Dell should be solving during the configuration process.

  1. Which processor is right for me? There is AMD Athlon 64, AMD 64 X2 Dual Core, Intel Pentium D, and Intel Core 2 Duo. What are the benchmarks and how do the varying processors with similar pricing compare at simple tasks?
  2. What does processor speed mean? What difference can I expect to between a 1.86GHz and 2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor? Is it worth the extra $50 and why?
  3. Video cards are a mess. What is the difference between "256MB nVidia Geforce 7300LE TurboCache" and the "256MB ATI Radeon X1300 Pro"? Yes, the ATI Radeon costs $50 -- but why? What is the advantage.

The bottom line is that Dell needs to quickly clean up their site and provide a little more information in order for buyers to make a decision. I know in my case that they simply did not provide me with the information I needed to make that final decision and complete the purchase. Perhaps I will consider another vendor this time. In any case, I almost took the plunge and finally tried out Windows Vista!