Moving Over Update: What’s The Cost?

I wrote a post last year talking about moving back to Windows after twelve or so year using Macs because it felt like Apple was starting to sell products that were very flawed for the money they were charging.

Early in the 2021, I got my hands on a Dell XPS and I gifted the ThinkPad to someone who needed a computer but didn’t have the disposable cash to buy one.

After a few weeks of use, I was telling anyone who would listen that the XPS was the best computer I’d ever used. There is, admittedly, a lot of design queues taken from Apple; the keyboard (pre-butterfly) and trackpad 1 are especially MacBook-ish. The build quality is pretty impressive, and the display is amazing.  Overall it was solid, stable and handled everything I threw at it.

Then things started going wrong.


Let me start with an aside…

I like to keep an eye on what’s happening in the tech world. I’m not an uber geek, I just like to stay somewhat in the know so when new tech comes out I can judge whether or not it’s something we’re going to need to get used to in the future. Right now we seem to be in a weird tech holding pattern; phones are gaining nothing more than extra cameras. Software is approaching near unhealthy doses of feature creep (I’m looking directly at you, Instagram). The subscription model and In App Purchases have taken over as the de-facto way to remove the money from our pockets. 5G is being rammed down our throats even though it’s barely in place anywhere and 4G has only recently become what I’d call stable.

In mid 2020 Apple announced Apple Silicon. Like most people who follow tech news, I was pretty floored. Super performance with low wattage? Where would this lead?

Turns out it led to a MacBook Air, a 13″ MacBook Pro and a Mac Mini that were still kind of “meh” design wise. Then came a new 24″ iMac that is, quite possibly, one of the ugliest things I’ve ever laid eyes on (no, they don’t look any better in real life) and the specs per price point are, well, meh2. The M1 chip was intriguing, the designs of the computers themselves left much to be desired and didn’t correct the items that made me move back to the weird world of Windows.

So whatever. I figured I’d stick with the Dell, which seemed to be holding up just fine, and then maybe I’d look at building a tower once all the horseshit with component prices settles down.

In late October, the Dell began acting up by randomly not recognizing USB peripherals. Didn’t matter the port. One day it was this one. The next it was that one.

A few weeks later it started not charging properly. Sometimes it did. Sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes all the USB ports have this issue. Sometimes it’s only one of them.  One day it took me around forty five minutes to get it to recognize that I’d even plugged it in to the included Dell power adapter.

I was in the habit of shutting it down whenever I had to take it anywhere because I never knew what’s going to happen when I put it to sleep. Sometimes when I lifted the lid to wake it from sleep, it would crash and take over five minutes to boot back up. Sometimes it would sit at a black screen with the keyboard lit up doing nothing. Once I opened the lid and it got stuck in a boot loop. Over the last two weeks of November, I had two blue screens and once I was showing my youngest kid something on a webpage and the XPS just decided to reboot.

There was, eventually, some good news. A couple of weeks after logging a support ticket with Dell, a tech showed up and replaced the motherboard. Everything was good, the XPS ran wonderfully for my work day. Then I turned the computer off …

… and now it won’t boot at all.

Current status: Booked for another motherboard replacement. Date scheduled:  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

My ticket is showing as “Part delayed”.

In the time since the XPS started really acting up, I’ve been eyeing up the new MacBook Pros that Apple announced this fall. They seemed to have fixed up all the items on my list that made me move back to the Windows world:

      • The crappy butterfly keyboards are gone.
      • The stupid touch bar is gone.
      • They’ve reintroduced MagSafe.
      • HDMI.
      • And holy shit, the seeming face melting performance of M1 Pro and Max.

Needless to say, I want one.

This is where you’re rolling your eyes saying “but I thought the idea was to save money!”

Let me be clear, that is still very much the idea. In this case it’s value for money; how much does it cost over the long term?

Yes, Apple products are very expensive. But let’s not forget that high end Dells are also very expensive. And if you’re saving your money to buy an expensive things, the expectation is that the expensive thing will last a good, long time before you have to replace it.

I still have, and use my, 2011 11″MacBook Air (which I’m writing this post on) and my 2012 Mac Mini3. While both are slow and can’t run massive multitrack audio or heavy video projects, they still work. Hell, the 11″ Air still runs MainStage like a champ for what I use the app for. Both computers have been running great for ten years without any issues whatsoever.

Ten years without a single solitary hardware or software issue.

My wife had a 2010 MacBook Air that was starting to really slow down. So she bought a new one in 2019 (which is still going strong and has had zero issues). The 2010 model fully died last year after ten years.

My brother-in-law’s MacBook is coming up on ten years and all it needs is a new battery as it only holds a charge for about an hour. This is something that’s easy to do thanks to iFixit.

Ten years.

Ten. Fucking. Years.

That’s value.

In comparison, the XPS started taking a shit ten months into its lifespan.

That’s not value. That’s a ripoff.

Then there is Support.

The XPS has Dell ProSupport Plus for two years and I’m currently running the gauntlet with them to get whatever is wrong fixed. Their support is pretty responsive to emails, but…

I have to load up their Support Assist software, run diagnostics, and log a ticket. In the email reply, I followed the instructions to run more diagnostics. That turned up nothing so I was presented with the choice to  either ship the computer to them or have someone come to my house – if they have whatever part they think they need.

In my case, the ticket was logged on November 25th. They had setup a dispatch for the 29th. That got moved to December 4 because the part they thought was the issue was on back order. The work was finally done on December 10. The computer worked for about 5 hours. Now it’s dead again. New work scheduled for the 14th, but the update tells me the part is delayed. So who knows.

Dell ProSupport Plus two years: $460.00

If this was an Apple computer under AppleCare+, I’d just book an appointment at the Apple store that’s ten minutes away from me. And every single time I’ve had to make a trip the Apple Genius Bar, no matter the product or the issue, it was taken care of that day. Sometimes there was an extra cost involved, sometimes there wasn’t but I’ve always left the store with my issue fixed.

AppleCare+, three years: $419.00

I know this is all subjective. Maybe the XPS line as a whole is fantastic and I got one of the few duds that came off the line. And yes, there are people who have had Apple computers up and die for no reason. That being said, what’s happening now with the Dell is reminiscent of every single Windows based PC that I’ve ever owned in the past before I moved over to Apple. The only computer related issue I had with them was a swollen battery in a MacBook – but that happened because I left the damn thing plugged in 24/7. And they replaced it for free.

Who knows how this story will end. Maybe the second attempt at replacing the motherboard will work and I’ll carry on with the XPS for a good long while. Maybe the thing will just melt or catch fire. I don’t know.

I do know that I’m already planning to save money so that I can hopefully get my hands on a MacBook Pro sometime next year.

1: The XPS has a very decent trackpad. It’s the best trackpad I’ve ever used on a Windows based laptop. The experience is still far inferior compared to Apples trackpads.

2: The base model is around the same price as a new iPad Pro with the same specs. It only has two USB-C and … well, that’s it.

3: The 2012 Mac Mini is what I’m currently doing my job on. I installed everything I need to do my work and it’s chugging along. It’s a little slow, especially when I have to screen share in Teams, but it’s getting me by. Think about that. A nine and a half year old Mac Mini is currently out performing an eleven month old, $3000 Dell. And by out performing I simply mean that it turns on and runs my shit.