New SharePoint development laptop and a bad Dell service experience

I’ve been using my MacBook Pro since 2008 and although it’s a pretty powerful machine I’ve been longing for something a bit more powerful, especially for running a SharePoint development environment in a Virtual Machine. I was using VMWare Fusion 3.0 which I found was very nice to use but due to Apple not letting me upgrade my laptop to 8GB of RAM and having to wait around for minutes each time I deployed a SharePoint solution, I started to search around for something that would be much faster.

I had a couple of criterion; it had to have a solid state drive, the biggest I could afford and it had to have at least 8GB RAM. I also wanted something that looked nice not just a grey plastic slab that looked as interesting as day out at Charlton (I’m looking at you Thinkpads).

After a few hours of searching I kept coming back to the Dell XPS Studio 16. It allowed me a high spec machine and it also looked the part with a very good RGBLED screen and nice backlit keyboard. The only problem was the price which came to around £2300 for the highest spec I could get:

Processor: Intel i7 820QM 8MB Cache 1.73Ghz with turbo up to 3.06Ghz
Storage: 256GB SSD
Graphics 1GB ATI Radeon 4670 HD
Screen: 16″ Truelife 1080p RGBLED

Anyway I bit the bullet and ordered. Much to my surprise I got a delivery date of 6 weeks! Obviously I couldn’t wait 6 weeks for my shiny new laptop so I complained but I was told that it’s shouldn’t take that long so I thought I would wait it out as I couldn’t find any other laptop that matched the Dell.

The next day I was looking at the Dell website again when I noticed that the processor that I had upgraded for the price of another £250-£300 was now included free in the price of the laptop. I felt cheated by this as I was already ordering a £2300 laptop at least they could do was give me the new price. I phoned Dell sales team and was told that I wouldn’t get the price of the processor refunded; this coupled with the 6 week delivery date prompted me to cancel the order with the lady on the phone.

I was annoyed with Dell so I decided to have another look around safe in the knowledge that my order was cancelled and the money was still in my bank. But a few days later after visiting the Dell order tracking site I noticed the order was still in progress so I sent an email to make sure the order was cancelled from which I had no reply. The next day I receive an email telling me my order had been shipped and the money taken from my account!

I phoned Dell who told me they were very sorry they don’t know why the laptop was sent out. In the end I decided to keep the laptop as I still couldn’t find anything else that matched it and I was excited now the laptop was on its way but annoyed at the same time that Dell took my money after I cancelled the order. So beware when dealing with Dell sales because I wouldn’t trust anything they say.

So the laptop arrives and I was very impressed, it was a big heavy lump of a machine compared to the MacBook Pro but still portable enough to carry around to work and back. The screen is very nice indeed and the speed is more than I expected it to be. Solid State Drives are definitely the way forward. I installed VMWare Workstation 7 and got to work setting up my development environment, 16 hours later I was ready to get working on it. The speed is phenomenal and in a different league to the MacBook Pro, I can even run Windows Server 2008 R2 in a virtual machine with full Aero enabled and it doesn’t even blink.

As a SharePoint development laptop I would definitely recommend it. There is only one issue in which you need to install a BIOS update and get Dell to send you a 130watt power supply to replace the rather feeble 90watt one that’s shipped. This is to remedy a CPU throttling issue with the machine (basically the power supply isn’t powerful enough to run the CPU and Graphics card at high intensity) the BIOS update fixes the throttling from the motherboard.

I ran the Windows Experience Index before I fixed the throttling issue so it may get a better result but it scored 6.7 initially.

I’m overall very impressed with this laptop and it outperforms anything I have every used. If you want a powerful machine and don’t mind spending a few bob then definitely take a look at this machine.