Friday, June 17, 2011

one of the best computer deals out there right now

This past Memorial day, I got a brand new computer. It took Dell about a week to assemble and ship to me, and about a week for me and machine to get friendly. Coming up for air, here's one thing I really love about mi computador nuevo: the place where you rest your hands on your wrists, as you are about to type, feels really good. It's never too cool, which is what you might expect from a smooth metal surface, and it's also never too hot, which is what you'd expect from metal sitting just millimeters above powerful circuitry. The wrist rests on my new machine have a high-quality brushed metal finish, that feels almost silky, and the fact that you can rest your palms before typing, and not have the coolness transfer from the metal to your body, is a nice touch, and feels just right. It's kind of like you were shipped a computer with the luxury upgrade of hand-and-wrist-rest warmers, and evokes in me a great deal of confidence in my recent purchase. Those Dell engineers, artists and designers thought of everything, and presumably come from the same school of thought as the geniuses who gave you the ability to keep your cooked rice hot, your favorite massage chair heated, your toilet seat warm, your movie theater seats toasty, your car's front seats comfy in that morning chill, heck, yes, even your steering wheel warm:

Sure, it's a minor detail, as can be said about any luxury, and I'm not quite sure how they did it, but it speaks to the finesse of a homegrown company that has been at it for years, and has finally come into its own. My new laptop is also energy star 5.0 compliant, unlike your tv set-top box or DVR, meaning when it comes to your utility bill, this laptop uses less electricity when idle, and very little power when you've got it asleep, or hibernating.

My previous computer, an Acer Aspire 9410-2028, was purchased back in August of 2007, and did not have any hand/wrist warmers. It was a good computer for its time, at a good price, but fast forward to the present, about 3.5 years later, and now getting anything done on the same computer is a real slog. First, the hinges broke about a year and a half ago, which meant I had to find a way to prop up my screen or else it wouldn't stay up by itself. Then, for the past year, if I ran my operating system for a while without rebooting, I noticed extreme latency, lots of disk spinning, very slow response time, and often my screen would suddenly go dark for a minute or more because of my graphics driver crashing (this occurred sometimes multiple times an hour). If I tried to switch between web browser tabs or web browser windows, I dreaded having to endure 6 second to several minute waits while the computer finished what it was doing and caught up to me. Trying to switch between a browser window to my desktop, or playing a movie, were bitterly negative experiences, evoking in me a range of responses from impatience, to taking the Lord's name in vain, to prolonged bouts of swearing and exasperation, sometimes leading to existential cries that made me doubt my commitment to sparkle motion:
If you're in the market, looking to buy, or have been shopping for a new computer, you could do a lot worse than what I got for $1239.61 ($1,123.99 + $6 environmental disposal fee + $109.62 tax):
Dell XPS 17 (L702X), Windows® 7 Home Premium, 64-Bit
PROCESSOR 2nd generation Intel® Core i7-2720QM processor 2.20 GHz with Turbo Boost 2.0 up to 3.30 GHz
OPERATING SYSTEM Genuine Windows® Home Premium, 64-Bit, English
SERVICE PLAN 1 Year Limited Hardware Warranty (Mail-in repair in 10-14 business days - Shipping not included)
HD DISPLAY 17.3" FHD (1080p) with 2.0MP HD Webcam
MEMORY 8GB Shared Dual Channel DDR3 Memory
VIDEO CARD NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 550M 1GB graphics with Optimus
BATTERY OPTIONS 90 WHr 9-cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery
HARD DRIVE 1.0TB 500GB 7.2k HDD x 2
OFFICE SOFTWARE Microsoft® Office Starter: reduced-functionality Word & Excel w/ ads. No PowerPoint or Outlook
SECURITY SOFTWARE McAfee Security Center with VirusScan, Firewall, Spyware Removal, 30-Day Trial
INTERNAL OPTICAL DRIVE Tray Load Blu-ray Disc BD-Combo (Reads BD and Writes to DVD/CD)
WIRELESS + BLUETOOTH Intel® Centrino® Wireless-N 1000
SOUND OPTIONS JBL 2.1 Speakers with Waves Maxx Audio 3

Dell XPS 17 for:
Order Subtotal: $1,123.99
Shipping and Handling: $9.00
Shipping Discount: -$9.00
Environmental Disposal Fee: $6.00
Tax Total: $109.62
Total Amount: $1,239.61
What was important for me was the 64-bit quad-core CoreTM i7 2720qm CPU, only 1 or 2 steps below the state-of-the-art, most advanced chip currently out on the market. Also, I needed my next computer to have 8 gigabytes of RAM, 1 terabyte of hard drive space, a 17-inch high-resolution 1920 x 1080 screen (yes, high definition), and the ability to play Blu-ray DVDs. To get this computer at such a great price, I had to make two sacrifices and apply two coupon codes:
  1. opt for the limited hardware warranty (essentially, I am betting Dell won't send me a lemon) of "Mail-in repair in 10-14 business days - Shipping not included" instead of the standard 1 Year Home Express Service of "Mail-in repair in 1-2 business days - Shipping included"

  2. decide against the 3D capable screen and the 3D glasses

  3. These codes subtract an additional $500 off. Both codes expire June 30, 2011, but you can always search for dell coupon codes to find the combination that gives you the most money off:
    • 8GHR80Q1PLLCF7
    • 7WR1C2?HTTQQ11
Perhaps the economy has people spooked about spending $1200 on a computer, but I was surprised I wasn't able to find this deal advertised anywhere else. I found this deal on my own, meaning I took the time to pick out which computer I wanted, and, through trial and error research, which applicable coupon codes were stackable, as many of the codes have restrictions. At first I looked on, then on Costco's website and in their stores, and I was contemplating buying an HP Pavilion dv7t Quad Edition customizable Notebook PC for $1484.14 ($1,344.99 + $8 recycling fee + $131.14 tax), but that tax rate of almost 10% seemed exorbitant to me. In a defiant act of tax avoidance (remember, Jesus votes Republican), I decided to do some research on computers being offered for sale on ebay, where sometimes you can buy items tax-free. At one point I was willing to pay $1600 for the right configuration of parts, but not being able to find what I wanted from ebay, I decided to go on Dell's site directly. There, I found I still had to pay tax, but Dell's grand total price was almost $300 less than the HP I was first expecting to buy, for an upgrade on the CPU, hard drive spin from 5400 rpm to 7200 rpm, 17.3 inch screen with resolution increase from 1600 x 900 to 1920 x 1080, and I was able to throw in a 50% upgrade in battery life, from 6 to 9 battery cells.

Until the end of the year, Dell is taking an additional $20 off, and throwing in free shipping. You can actually get this computer for $20 less than what I paid! Here's the link to what it looks like:

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