If you’re looking for a new laptop it’s likely that Dell is a brand that you’re considering. The company is one of the largest laptop manufacturers in the world and has been selling laptops for over a decade. Although it generally has a weak retail presence, Dell’s website is one of the most robust in the industry and features a large variety of customization options that you can use to tailor your laptop to exactly what you want.
But what’s the truth about this brand? You’ve probably heard stories from people who love their new Dell laptops, but you’ve also probably heard stories from people who claim Dell killed their first-born child. That’s the problem with the Internet – it’s hard to find a source of information that’s willing to be objective.
That’s where I can help. Let’s take a long, hard look at what Dell has to offer so you can determine if this brand is worth your hard-earned cash.
Laptop Design and Quality
Dell’s reputation for quality isn’t great in the industry, thanks largely to brand image that floundering in the middle of the last decade. The problem with Dell was that they sold inexpensive, but boring, computers. Although there’s nothing wrong with that, it does make it hard to stand out from the crowd when so many other companies are following the same path.
Today, Dell seems to be almost over-compensating for its earlier lack of design appeal. Modern Dell laptops, even inexpensive ones, are usually attractive. Dell also offers more laptop personalization options than any other brand. Most models not only offer lids with custom colors but also lids with custom patterns and designs. However, choosing to personalize your laptop isn’t cheap.
Looks aside, Dell’s laptops tend to be solidly average in terms of build quality. With the exception of a handful of laptops, like the recently released Dell XPS 15z, most of the products available from Dell use a plastic chassis. Although this provides plenty of rigidity for a consumer laptop, it results in a less than luxurious feel. It’s also not unusual to find that Dell laptops have so-so keyboards and touchpads are smaller than would be ideal.
On the other hand, display quality tends to be a strength of Dell. Some of the company’s high-end models have a special RGBLED/B+RGLED TL display available, which is arguably the best laptop display currently on the market. In addition to this, most Dell laptops have some type of display panel upgrade available, and prices are often reasonable. Even the fancy B+RGLED TL full 1080p display is only $150 extra.
Determining the reliability of a laptop is always a bit of a crapshoot, as there are many different laptops available with many different types of hardware. However, it’s important for any brand review to consider reliability, and there is some information available from SquareTrade and Consumer Reports.
The SquareTrade laptop reliability report, which was published in 2009, placed Dell in the middle of the pack. Although far from the best, the company’s laptops were also far from the worst. This is not a terrible spot to be in. However, Consumer Report’s latest information suggests that reliability is going the wrong direction, as Dell was last in the latest rankings available on the Consumer Reports website.
Overall, Dell’s reliability record should be considered average at best. That’s not to say a Dell laptop is guaranteed to die on you, however. Even the least reliable laptops are significantly more likely to live beyond three years of use than not.
If you do encounter a problem with your laptop, you’ll obviously need to call customer service. In the past, Dell has had difficulty in this area, with many buyers complaining that the company’s service was often obtuse and seemed designed specifically to make receiving assistance as difficult as possible.
However, the most recent Laptop Magazine brand survey gave the customer service a rating of 9 out of 15 which, although not excellent, is about average among laptop manufacturers. Support seems to be easier to reach than ever before, and more helpful. Hopefully this will become a trend that only improves over the next few years.
Dell is a brand that is average in many ways. They’re not the most reliable, nor do they offer the best design, nor do they have the best customer service. Consumers looking for the best overall customer experience will probably want to look at Apple or Lenovo, while those looking for inexpensive but reliable laptops should consider ASUS.
However, the are two reasons to buy Dell over any other brand. The first is price. Dell laptops are aggressively priced, particularly once you start loading on custom hardware, which is usually inexpensive on Dell’s website. The second reason is display quality. If you need or want a laptop with a high-resolution display, Dell probably has an optional display upgrade that will fit your needs, even if you’re looking for a laptop that is $800 or less.