Thursday, 19 June 2014

ALL Dell computers are called Dellboy round here. ;-)

Quick summary - glad I bought it, not perfect, an equivalent Macbook pro was not worth an additional £800.

So I'm getting used to windows land.

Having a Mac has made me lazy, dumb and careless, partially because OSX is so well set up that you don't have much fiddling to do when starting fresh, but significantly because there is so little of the annoyances you can fix that one loses a will to get under the bonnet and tinker.

The things I miss MOST about the Macbook is the really excellent trackpad, time machine backup software and less pastel colours in the OS interface (see above comment - I've been too lazy/sheep-like to even think about changing them). The trackpad on this *looks* like apple's track pad, in that it's the same size and rocks at the front edge to provide a positive click. However it's covered in black rubber-effect coating and just lacks reliable sensitivity, occasionally glitching or scrolling in jerks. When the 'forearm protection' setting was turned on originally it was bad to use, where as now it's just not as good as something that is best in class, but quite useable. The keyboard is also a little less good, but that might be because it's located further away from the front of the device.

Dell have included their own backup software, which I've yet to explore fully. Again, Time Machine is a remarkable product, and I'm hoping to get something with this that is useable, but with reduced convenience compared to TM (as long as it will do incremental backups and I can actually recover if I need to then that's all I need). It did allow me to create a USB drive to return the laptop to it's factory-fresh state, and that's a brilliant bonus to have when it doesn't come with installation media. Drive created and stored!

The pastel colours I am becoming use to - the ribbon menu was an unfamiliar blur to begin with, but with customisation (that I should know ALL ABOUT as a Linux/KDE user) it's become quite useful. The ribbon menus are definitely a backward step from a traditional menu system, but were designed for touch-screen control, so no surprise they're a bit of a backward step. Ribbon has also happened on the Mac, so even if I'd bought another Macbook I'd still have been stuck with the same old silliness, and I would have HAD to get a new version of Office because 2008 was not working properly under Mavericks.

So outside of that.

Most of the time it's a brilliant upgrade. A lot of stuff 'just works' like it 'just worked' on the Macbook, sometimes better. Networking is a great example, where I can see things on the network that were hidden with the Macbook. There's a shared printer in the next room, for example, that windows will automatically connect with and print to if I want. I also really appreciate that it will run several applications at once without getting its knickers in a twist, and it's nice to be able to watch DVDs or video clips online without the internal fans sounding like a hurricane. The only time it sweats is when creating smart previews under lightroom, where it's manipulating a lot of data and really causing the processors to run flat out for a period. But even then it will still manage other tasks, rather than slowing to a crawl. It did have a hiccup with a crashed application seizing control of the cursor, and that was fixable through the start page.

Battery life is a bit better than when I first bought the other Macbook. It will do around 4 hours of surfing with the wireless on, about 5 hours working in outlook, word and excel, and probably about 3 hours working in Lightroom. By comparison the Macbook would do about 3 hours surfing, about 4 hours with wireless off - wireless and especially bluetooth really hammered the battery - in office.

The screen is still a wow factor, while on the Macbook it was a disappointment, even at the beginning. Startup no longer feels astonishing, and I'd guess has slowed to around 15-20sec from a sub 10sec time on a virgin machine. I may replace the 30GB cache mSATA card with a proper SSD at some stage, reinstall from scratch for improved performance.

Anything else?

Updates. People get reallygripe about windows updates, but stuff for the OS only comes out once a week as a few meg, and is no trouble. I also get daily downloads for windows defender - which is great - who wouldn't want regular updates to virus definitions?

The start window is useful. I really don't mind hitting the windows key on my keboard to be taken over to the start page if I want to run an application not pinned to the taskbar. It's possibly less hassle than a conventional start menu, and certainly no worse.

Well the carbon fibre bottom of the case feels nicer against the legs when you first sit down with a cold machine compared to an ali case, and the sheer skinniness of it still surprises. The front speakers are also clear, loud and fuller sounding than any laptop I heard before. As long as it keeps up this good behaviour then I shall be very happy indeed.

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