Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Following from the last post - 1 week on with Dellboy.

This will not surprise anyone if I say that, after going back to a concentional PC running windows and all the hassle it's been moving from Mac to PC, I have wondered whether it would have been better to have stayed with Apple, even with all the performance compromises, real or imagined.

I'm very much hoping that as I become more familiar with this set up - and the change is as big as any I've experienced moving to a new Linux distro - that the difference between OSX and Windows (and openSUSE/Pear) will stop being obvious, and it will just become another computer used for work. In many ways I like the new toolbars in Office 2013, and I've begun tinkering to optimise them for my workflow. At the same time they are suffering some bad design/styling choices, with the text and icons in soft pastel colours that make them fuzzy and indistinct when you're hunting for a function that's not familiar. I may well find this is customisable too, but haven't dug beneath the 'hood' enough yet.

I'm still really aware of my initial feelings as an experienced windows user returning to windows on a 'nice' machine and comparing it to my earliest experience with Apple. Also interesting to note that Apple are a hardware manufacturer that happens to sell software to support its hardware, while Microsoft are a software manufacturer that has never really managed a successful hardware business.

When starting a Mac for the first time, the new user experience is good, with well-considereed choices and pleasing introductions. The bad choices and bits of frustrating stupidity, though present, are well concealed. With Windows the reverse is true, and it takes a couple of hours digging and fiddling to end up with something that's fit for use. This makes no sense to me: if I were a new user, or not technically able and I'd just bought a new laptop, why should I need to know about how to configure screen settings? Why load up the Windows start menu/metro interface with all the stupid and unfamiliar junk in bilious purple squares that most users will want to junk anyway? Why not make software that looks good, guides the user to begin with and works right out of the box? Almost every new Linux install has hardware detection built in, so why not include this by default (or encourage manufacturers like Dell to include the right drivers etc) so that everything is great from the start.

This is turning into a rant, which wasn't the idea, but someone has badly failed to understand how to make their products friendly and desireable, and it's killing an otherwise good business.

As for the new hardware, as one would expect, it's a mixed bag.

The positives:
That screen is superb, really, and the finer dot pitch (and possibly some upscaling, though I'm not aware if it's happening or not) makes watching DVDs much nicer than on a bigger low res screen. Detail is crisp and sharp, colours clear and the whole very pleasing.
Weight - the XPS15 weighs slightly less than the 13" Macbook (itself a light machine at the time).
Fit and finish - seems very good. There's no creaks or rattles, the ali bits are blemish-free, and although it's a little flexy, important things like USB ports are snug and work right every time (not something that could be said for my Macbook with poor USB port reliability).
Quiet - even when the fans are going flat out, it's still quieter than the Macbook in the same condition.
Quick - despite using spinning rust for storage, boot is fast (about 1/3 the time of the Macbook using SSD) and nearly everything happens *quickly*. It also copes fine with several applications open and doing stuff.
Battery life - I've already seen around 4 hours of doing things that worked it hard enough to get hot.

The less good:
That superb screen - can also make things a little small sometimes, and 16:9 is a stupid consumer video format entirely out of place for business use. Screens should be 3:2 for optimal document handling.
Fit and finish: everything you touch in normal use has a black rubberised coating. Looks good when new, gets shiny fast. This coating is also on the trackpad, and since that's distinctly less good than the apple equivalent, I wonder if this is why?
Temperature - since I mentioned fans. The Macbook would remain cool unless asked to do something demanding, at which point it would warm up. The Dell is warm all the time, though sometimes it will get much warmer too. Different cooling plans and the downside of a thinner, lighter casing?
Quick - but not all the time. It too bogs down a little after processing a few images through lightroom. This I did not expect. Some of it is likely down to the conventional hard drive, and I could hear the drive being accessed each time a block of data for image was re-rendered in Perfect Effects.
Size - after a 13" machine the extra 2" takes a little getting used to, and I wish the keyboard were further forward instead of being near the screen.

Sofa so good - none of the above is show-stopping, and generally it's a great replacement.

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