By Deane Barker on October 20, 2005
Let’s face a fact: computer manufacturers don’t “make” anything. They assemble parts they purchased from somewhere else. This being the case, what makes a “good” computer? What’s the differentiator between purchasing your computer from HP or Dell? Compaq or Gateway?
I’ve come up with a short list, along with my picks between the only two brands I have a lot of experience with: Gateway and Dell. So, if you’re buying the same machine, with the same parts, why pick one merchant over the other?
Case configuration and ease of physical maintenance
This is why I love Gateways. There are no screws on any of the internals. The hard drives all come out by sliding a little pastic clip thing. To my pleasant surprise, I found the other day that the power supply is fastened in the same manner — I swapped one out without a screwdriver.
Gateway hard drives are back-end out when the side of the case is removed, so you don’t have to slide them out inside the case before removing them.
Case size plays into this a lot too. The Gateway cases I have around here are all much larger than the Dell cases. You can get huge cases on the higher-end Gateways.
Ease of purchase
A big reason why I still buy Dells — not so much because I’m so sure their purchase process is better, but because I’ve bought so many Dells that I’m used to it. That’s a poor excuse — I should try Gateway more.
Driver downloads are handy — make them easy to find. Don’t make me hunt for the maximum RAM my system can support. If the video on my screen is upside down, there had better be a search engine that returns something for the phrase “upside down.”
Gateway really wins in terms of Web sites. Not only is their site beautifully done and usable as all get out, but they have the serial number lookup system which I use once a month, without fail. I’ve never seen anything so handy.
Return and repair competence
I haven’t had to return too many computers for repair, but Dell has always done well for me. They sent me a new keyword for a laptop once, with great directions on how to replace it — took about five minutes.
The other big reason I still buy Dells. They’re inexpensive as anything, and the low-end machines are great for office workers who need to send email and run Microsoft Word.
And here’s one thing many might bring up, but that I don’t think is that big of a deal:
It’s just not that important, and that’s more a function of the motherboard than the manufacturer. Lots of slots are good, but with USB and Firewire, it’s less important these days since peripherals can be added externally.
Maximum RAM isn’t that important anymore either, since it’s so high on most machines.
What do you think? If you’re loyal to one particular manufacturer, why?