Debate

I realize that this question will probably be a little intense, but please keep it under control.  Also do not propose an answer, I will select a comment from the expert who provides the most useful insight/facts.

I believe that Dells and Gateways are overpriced and proprietary and someone else states to the contrary.  My belief is based on past experiences with both computers.

I realize that the components inside are good in Dells and Gateways.  But in my experience you can not use the drivers supplied by the device manufacturer in a lot of cases.  I needed to use Dells or Gateways, thus the term proprietary.
Overpirced, because I can purchase a Pentium III 733 equipped the same for $2591.00 vs. $2897.00(Dell) vs. $2688.00(Gateway).  The lowest price includes a full 3 year warranty on parts/labor and a 5 year warranty on CPU/MotherBoard/Memory parts.  If you review a Dell warranty not all things are covered.(i.e. SoundCard)  The Gateway Warranty I could not make heads or tails of.  The lowest price here was retrieved from Midwest Micro(http://www.mwmicro.com), which has been in business for 17 years.  I have a computer of theirs that is 4 years old and has never gave me any problems.  I know a dozen other people who have had the same experience.

Lets hear what everyone else has to say on this issue.
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celticsAsked:
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celticsAuthor Commented:
Edited text of question.
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jj_makoCommented:
i have had experience with both.  

Gateway:  from what i understand, to keep costs down, gateway bids out the manufacturing of their parts.  lets say they need a motherboard, it provides the specs, then it puts it up for bid and the lowest bidder gets the job.  this has created a problem.  the box on the outside may be the same but the components inside aren't.  many times i have been called out to replace a part in a gateway machine only to find out that the replacement part that gateway sent doesn't match and is completely different.  when gateways work, they work.  but when they don't work, it's a nightmare.

Dell:  i have had some pretty good luck with dell's tech support web site.  if i have had any problems with dell's i can pretty much find the answer there.  i guess i only have one gripe about Dell, they do an oem install of the os.  it isn't a complete install of it.  this has happened with both win98 and winnt.  the best fix is to re-install the os as soon as you pull the machine from the box.  this is a known problem and dell isn't the only that does it, but it is the only one i have personally had to deal with.
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sorgieCommented:
Don't overlook Micron (which I have had for 4 yrs with excellent results.
Also Quantex builts a reliable and well priced unit.
Both have decent tech support and warranties
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jhanceCommented:
Q1) Dell and Gateway are proprietary.

A1) As a long time Dell user, I've NEVER found this to be the case.  I currently have 3 different Dell models at hand and have found that all perpherals and drivers are 100% standard.  Even the motherboards are stock Intel boards and the drivers are on the Intel web site.  I suppose that some Dell models might have been made with customized components but I've not seen any.

I cannot speak about Gateway as I've not used one.

Q2) Dell and Gateway are overpriced.

A2) I think you are confusing price and value.  For me, Dell is a good value.  I'm a computer professional and have built many systems myself from the ground up.  I've got enough spare parts in my junk boxes to build 5-10 complete systems.  Yet I still buy Dell computers.  Why?  Service and support.  I've virtually NEVER had a problem of any kind with the Dell computers but when I have they were available within minutes (no 2 hour hold times) and quickly resolved my problem.  If it was a software problem, they knew the answer and help me fix it or sent me the required update.  If it was hardware, I usually had a replacement part waiting at my door the next day.  I've not used their service personnel as I'm quite comfortable replacing any hardware myself.  

Are there less expensive computers out there?  Sure and some of them are possibly even good or better value.  I've also purchased computers from Micron which tends to be a bit cheaper than Dell and have had excellent results from them as well.

You mentioned MW Micro.  I can tell you that I've inherited a support situation where a local church purchased a number of MW Micro computers less than 3 years ago.  First, it's almost impossible to get in touch with their tech support. Second, they don't have replacement parts for many of these systems.  Important stuff like motherboards, video cards, etc.  They do honor their warranty but it is with DIFFERENT parts than the computer was originally made with.  This in most case requires re-installing Windows from scratch.  I also had a client who had a MW Micro laptop that had a failed hard drive.  They were unable to provide a warranty replacement at all and we ended up having to accept a used drive from them as a replacement.  My expectation would have been to receive either a new drive or a factory refurb unit, not a pull from a dead field return.

My recommendation would be to use another vendor as I've been entirely dissatisfied with Midwest Micro.
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OttaCommented:
Each Dell computer has a unique serial-number on the back-plate.

When you have a problem, just call Dell, and cite that number, and they will have exact details about your hardware, which increases the chance of them being able to identify any hardware problem, and also their ability to fix the problem.

Try that with a "home-built" system.
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biardCommented:
In my opinion, no proprietary system will ever be up to par.  As stated by mako, most manufacturers of proprietary systems try to get the parts as cheaply as possible to increase margins.  Dell and Gateway are definitely no exceptions.  Also, warranties are never all they are cracked up to be on those systems.  Most only provide 1 year.  If you can get three, that is good, but I can tell you that the average warranty on each of the individual parts required to build a computer is longer than even 3 years.  In fact, many have a lifetime warranty, but if they are in an OEM computer, the part mfgr will not honor it.  

Having said that, my recommendation is to build your own custom machine.  If this is not something you are adept at or have the desire to do, then get someone you know and trust to do it for you.  Go shopping for parts, both in store and online.  check http://www.pricewatch.com for every part known to man at the cheapest prices from hundreds of stores nationwide.  Usually, you can get the same quality machine for 1/2 to 3/4 the price of a retail unit from a name brand company.  Alternatively, you could spend teh same amount of money and get supreme quality parts.  For example, you can get a Sound Blaster Live instead of the Shark audio or Crystal sound in the proprietary systems (cheaper parts = higher margins).  Most all of the components (except the processor) will be this way.  

Latsly, I would heed the warranty issues highly.  Many of these proprietary systems are hard to get repaired, even after the warranty.  The machine will sit in the shop forever waiting on parts, or it will have to be sent back to Dell or Gateway for repair.  If they come out to fix them, it will not be all that fast.  Additionally, because the parts are proprietary, they often cannot be replaced with off the shelf parts after the warranty has expired.  You end up having to get the parts from the mfgr, which is a scary prospect.  They know they are the only source, so they can easily double or triple the reasonable price for the parts.  This is especially annoying when the system has an integrated motherboard with sound/video/modem/network or any combination built in.  If your modem stops working, time for a new board.  Same with any of the others.  Main boards like this are much more pricey than single parts.  They are also much less reliable.  Try to bite off too much, and you end up biting yourself in the a**.  If you build your own machine, the parts can easily be replaced at a very low cost with off the shelf parts after the warranty has expired.

This is why I always build my own machines.  I used toown an HP and a Gateway.  Both went belly up more times than I care to remember.  And getting them fixed was a nightmare because once the shop said they had fixed a problem, it would either continue, get worse, or a new problem would arise altogether.

Good Luck in your search for a good machine.  And be sure to weigh all of your options.
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celticsAuthor Commented:
jhance,
Q) If Dell is not a propreitary system why is memory sold in many catalogs specifically for Dell computers?
I have some certain vendors and they refused to sell memory for Dell computers because they would not support it.
I updated the memory on a Dell computer, which required buying memory from them.  I tried to install and had to update the BIOS to get it to recognize it.
The hard drive installation was quick though.
I had another Dell computer with a built in Network Card that I needed to disable to use my own 3COM Combo card.  Disabled the buikt in card with no problem, but proceeded to spend 4 days trying to get it to work, even with Dell Tech Support.
Updated a Dell Computer from Windows 95 to NT 4.0, what a nightmare.  Had to go to Dells website to download all of the drivers for this computer for Windows NT, OEM drivers would not work.
Spent several weeks on a Dell computer problem with their Tech Support, trying to determine why the computer would only write 540 Mb of hard drive as opposed to the 2Gb's that was there.  This machine came in this way out of  the box.  Sent me a new hard drive, 3 days in waiting, problem still present.  Discussed with them for two days and they decided to send me a new mother board.  Problem was solved with new motherboard.
Spent two months on another Dell trying to resolve a Tape drive issue with Dell Tech Support.  Never got a definite solution out of them, they replaced the Motherboard, Tape Drive and Controller.  They fought tooth and nail to do it though, kept blaming it on Seagate Backup Exec, a package they provided.

The last two show that there Tech Support is not exactly flaw free.  I did not always get right through either, spending 30 to 40 minutes on hold, before they gave me a Corporate number to use.
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jhanceCommented:
Q) If Dell is not a propreitary system why is memory sold in many catalogs specifically for Dell computers?
I have some certain vendors and they refused to sell memory for Dell computers because they would not support it.


Every Dell I've seen uses industry standard RAMS.  If vendors are offering "special" types for Dell, then I'd say they are preying on people's ignorance.

I have some certain vendors and they refused to sell memory for Dell computers because they would not support it.

Why would Dell support 3rd party memory?  Or 3rd party anything for that matter.  Nobody else does either.


As far of the rest, what do you want me to say?  It's all anecdotal (as is mine admittedly).  If you want something more objective, go to PC Magazine back issues where they rate PC companies for their service, support, and reliability based on feedback from their reader base.  Dell (as well as several other manufacturers) are always rated very highly.

You asked for OPINION and I gave you mine.  My experience with Dell has been excellent and my opinion of them is VERY GOOD.  My experience with Midwest Micro is BAD and so is my opinion.  
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celticsAuthor Commented:
jhance,
Just trying to stir more comments.  Did not mean to offend you if I did.  Sorry.
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1cellCommented:
My experience with Dells is limited but does show the propietary features of their systems and lack of tech support.  Of course this only with the machines I have worked on but and in my situations.  Doesn't speak for what others may have experienced. But:

I had an experience with one of my clients who had a fifty station network with all Dell machines purchased for the warranty and promise of support.  After 6 months of not getting the supoprt they wanted, they contracted the company I was working for to maintain the systems as well as handling upgrades to each station.  Now, keep in mind that all of these system were purchased at the same time direct.  When it came time to install more RAM in about 75% of the systems, we found that typical 100MHz SDRAM would not work and that it required a special kind of Kensington RAM made specifially for Dell.  So, we shelled out almost $100 for 64MB ( this was when RAM was about $1/MB )!!!  Then, after getting all the RAM and going back out to the site, about half of the machines to be upgraded would not accept it even though ti was "the RAM designed for the system".  At least that's what Dell told us until we called back and told them the results.  Then they told us that some of the systems actually had different motherboards than others and the only way to upgrade the RAM was to either send it to their hub or play the hit 'n miss game.  I would say this all equals proprietary, inconsistency, unsatisfactory.  This is just one example and though I have worked with some Dell systems that never displayed problems, I wouldn't buy one.  Or in this case, I definately wouldn't buy a bunch of them.

 
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1cellCommented:
Why would Dell support 3rd party memory?  Or 3rd party anything for that matter.  Nobody else does either.

The reason I would expect is because they require it.  Some Dell systems REQUIRE RAM manufasctured by other companies.  In some cases, it is manufactured specifically for DELL

Definately not trying to flame here but if you read my post above, you'll understand what I mean.
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pay4nameCommented:
Hardware is hardware...  If you compare two systems apples-to-apples as far as components are concerned, then what you are paying for is the name(lable) on the outside of the box.
As far as Dell putting a serial number on the back of their box to be able to quickly recognize components, who doesn't?
If you buy Dell, it is a sure sign that you've bought into this materialistic society.  Are they the best just because they advertise the most and pay PC World the most to get good reviews?
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Gryphon031198Commented:
From the perspective of a computer expert outside of the extremely consumer-driven USA I just wanted to add this view:

Buying brand name computers are in general silly if you look at how the whole of the computer industry is geared towards a totally different sales method.

With people getting to know computers better and better, the public is slowly but surely starting to buy parts and install it themselves.  Every part that is sold on the market has some sort of warranty because without it the part would definately not sell.  In America however, people dislike to do things themselves and end up buying stuff already done...so to speak and paying up to 45% - 60% more than they really need to.

As far as the parts in Dell or Gateway (or any other brand-name pc for that matter) is concerned I have this opinion:  Gateway, Dell et al make long term deals with a variety of suppliers.  Over time these suppliers (due to simple volume production) tends to lose quality control and they end up providing the Big Boys with bad parts.  The companies realise this only after a month or two when the complaints start streaming in and then it's too late.  Futhermore, in my experience with a variety of computer companies, I have no respect for the assembly lines simply because they do not always hire adequate PC builders because the people that know how won't work for the salary of an assembler.  The testing of these pre-built machnies are also of a lower standard:  Rule of thumb suggest that if a PC breaks it will do so within 48 hours.  The sheer volume of production doesn't allow the PC manufacturer to test a PC for that time.

For these reasons I personally build every PC I sell and only supply it to the client after testing it for 48 hours.  I never get returns and I have hundreds of very happy clients.  I can do this because sales isn't my main gig though :)

But that's just my 2 cents.

Kind regards,
Gryphon
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celticsAuthor Commented:
Gryphon,
Well put.
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Gryphon031198Commented:
Thank you :)

G.
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larrypaloozaCommented:
Man, methinks a new hobbie is in order.
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celticsAuthor Commented:
I must be right in my thinking, as I only have heard from one Staunch supporter of Dell computers and none for Gateway.

My eyes are open and waiting.  Thanks to everyone for there input so far at this time.

In an attempt to generate more interest I will offer 400 points.
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Jason_SCommented:
I worked at Gateway for eight years.  I started not knowing a thing about computers, but with a good understanding of electronic components in the production area building 286, and 386 systems.  I moved on to tech support, then on to the engineering department.  I can tell you a bit about their practices.

Gateway was the first to start driving prices down on computers, and their components by paying less for high quality components, and selling PC's for a smaller profit than other manufacturers.

Their manufacturing practices are very different from an assembly line.  Every new person starts out by installing the first component, and sending it on to the next guy.  Hey verifies the work of the guy before him, installs his part, and sends it on.  The last guy in the pod will be the most experienced, and check all components before him.  This practice helps the new people learn as they advance.

One thing you do get with any larger company is better compatibility testing than any small company would ever begin to accomplish.  Gateway's compatibility area tests an incredible amount of software, and hardware configurations for functionality, and reliability.  They also test environmental conditions for each component.

The Engineering department brings in hardware from several vendors, and analyzes it for functionality, reliability, basic compatibility, and performance.  The components that are used are mostly well known name brand equipment that is normally unchanged from what is available to the consumer.  Yes, some things have certain changes, but for the most part they are not changed to the point that manufacturers drivers do not work with them.

Although most manufacturers do not actually design electronic components for themselves, there are a few components that are exclusive to their brand, but are normally designed by the vendor for them.  Example, the Gateway Telepath Modem.

The warranty from Gateway is three years.  Normally, if a component dies, (e.g., Hard drive) and needs to be replaced, it is replaced with at least as good, or better component  Most times the replacements are newer, larger (Hard Drive), and faster since they do not hold old stock for replacements.

This said, it still depends on how computer savvy you are, and what you really want.  If you are good with hardware, you can build you own system, but you may run into issues as the components you choose may not work together very well.  This holds true with small manufacturers of PC's that do not run extensive testing.  Although you may get some support from these suppliers.  If you are an average, or novice user, I definitely recommend buying from these larger companies directly.  Going through a local "Megalo Mart" can carry some red tape.

Tech support with any large company is usually pretty good as their databases have allot of logged questions.  The individual you get on the phone may not be the most experienced, they can usually get you the answer.  Some are pay per incident.  I don't know for Dell, or the others, but Gateway offers free lifetime tech support.  And allot of times, they will help you determine a problem even with other hardware installed.

I have worked with Dell, and other manufacturers.  The most proprietary I have worked with is Compaq.  Dell seems fairly straight forward, but I have seen things that seem to be proprietary from them as well.

Not trying to bash anyone, but one quote from Michael Dell a number of years ago admitted that they use refurbished parts in new systems, and that if any other manufacturer says that they don't, they are lying.  I know that Gateway never did.  Gateway opened several Factory Outlet stores to sell computers at a reduced rate.  These systems are openly know as having refurbished parts.  This is different from their Country Stores.

I am, and will continue to be a Gateway fan.  I believe they have excellent support, and a great reliable product at a low price.
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1cellCommented:
Very insightful info Jason S but I want to make on comment on your comment:

<<I don't know for Dell, or the others, but Gateway offers free lifetime tech support.>>

There is a lesson to be learned here which unfortunately many NEC customers are learnging right now.  As I work for NEC I am telling you this first hand.  NEC sold many all inclusive/onsight warranties which in big bold print tell all the customers what they are getting, kind of like advertising the features.  Well, on the first of the year, NEC Computers as we all know it went out of business in the US and converted to a smaller corp more focused on businesses than consumers.  In doing so, they contracted another service company to honor all the warranties for the customers who had either purchased a system with a 1-3yr warranty or an extended warranty which they payed extra for.  But now that the proverbial fit hit the shan, the extra small extra thin type on the warranty comes out and I'm sure NEC is not the only company who protected themselves like this.

The small print: " The terms and conditions of this warranty are subject to change at any time without notice "

So now, all of the customers who had a warranty which would bring a tech out to their house to solve the problem are paying shipping both ways to Cali where the systems are repaired within 10-15 days and returned.
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Jason_SCommented:
Very true 1cell.
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celticsAuthor Commented:
1cell,
  I always wondered what happened if the manufacture packed up its PC business side.  Did NEC stop making monitors too?

Jason_S,
  Nice insight on Gateway computers and the manufacturing process.  Anyone else with information on how other manufacturers run their process would be appreciated.
  Also, there is not much doubt in my mind that Compaq is one of the biggest offenders of the Proprietary term.
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MindbenderCommented:
I have NEVER bought a proprietary system, which I consider anything pre-built buy Gateway, Dell, HP, Compaq or IBM themselves. The main reason is price, and things I have heard akin to the stories above.
However, I have asked about prices. And when the sales guys in ALL of the stores selling proprietary systems made me shake my head knowing I knew more than they could ever teach my, even with their 'training', I decided for sure. Proprietory is out (Yeah, I know that the store is NOT the manufacturer...).
However, it seems that it doesn't matter who you buy a PC off, good service is hard to find. I have found a company that offers excellent service here, but the people I previously dealed with were horrible! They liked to say "Just one more week" a lot. I got the putah back with the HD set up wrong in the BIOS. So they ran the line "It would never leave the store like that". A friend bought a putah off them too, and they used a rubber band to trie back cables. Then it melted onto the Video card stuffing it up. They got the putah and then sent it back. I saw it...they can't have turned it on! So we opened it up....

I know that's a bit off...but I'll say the point again, I find people connected with big name PC brands incompetent, but that isn't different. The whole idea of Support in the PC industry SUCKS! The store I deal with now are good....and now I don't often search for prices anymore because they now give me discounts.
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swestonCommented:
I have been selling computers for over 15 years.  I am a firm believer in getting the end user the best computer for their money.  The has almost always meant a locally assembled unit from a reputable company.  Not only is the support far better than you will find from your mail order firms (and Dell & Gateway are both direct sellers), but the price & quality are every bit as good if not better.

I have made a lot of money on Dell machines.  I've never sold them, but I will service them.  It is a pain in the neck, trying to get a technical question answered on a computer that the client has called you with all perinent enformation, but the serial number.  One of my clients is a major college that purchased hundreds of Dells in the course of a year or so.  They wouldn't buy another if it was given to them.

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1cellCommented:
They wouldn't BUY another if it was GIVEN to them.

hmmmm.....

;-)
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celticsAuthor Commented:
Thank you everybody, but I like Gryphons respnse the best.  It makes you think before buying another computer.
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Gryphon031198Commented:
I am glad my input made a difference!

Kind Regards,
Gryphon.
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