Aug 12, 2016

Thoughts about notebooks

Since 2008 I use Apple Mybook Pro for all my activities. I migrated from Windows to OS X because of better quality of the screen, higher resolution, better fonts and colors. If you have to spend 50 hours near the computer weekly, you should have a really good one.

My last Macbook Pro was late 2011 model. I was really reluctant to change it because it was a HiRes model (not Retina though) with a matte screen. I hate glossy screens. But time goes on and after five years I had to buy a new one. The old one stays as a backup and it is now being services by Apple authorised service center.

Meanwhile I thought about criteria that I would use to select a computer. I started to think about it because I saw a very good deal on Dell E7450 ultrabook. I am not going to run Windows on it but a certain kind of Linux. So here is what I got as my criteria and how the current Macbook 2015 matches to E7450:

CriteriaMacbook Pro 2015Dell E7450
CPU power
Need highest possible
2.8GHz, 4 cores2.3GHz, 2 cores
16GB at least
16GB, 1600MHz16GB, 1600MHz (upgraded from 8GB)
The more the better
1TB USD256GB SSD (upgraded from 128GB)
Only need good quality screen
Retina looks great but screen flickers when switching from integrated to discrete graphics and there are artefacts on the screen sometimes when using discrete graphicsScreen is excellent!
Screen size15"14"
Not really noticeable difference comparing to Macbook Pro
Non-glossy screenNot availableNon-glossy
Touchpad with multitouch++
WWAN connectivityNoYes, with Dell WD5809e card (GPRS/EDGE/3G/LTE)
Real battery life
Maximum possible
About 6 hoursAbout 6.5 hours
Weight2.04 kg1.54 kg
Upgrades possibleNoYes
General stabilityExcellentExcellent
Price3200€990€+320€ for upgrades

As you see, suddenly Dell beats Macbook Pro in overall comparison. Also given all kind of issues with video, privacy and upgradability, Dell becomes much better choice than a Macbook Pro. I also found that using Linux on Dell is a very good experience.

Probably, I will use more and more Linux on Dell Ultrabook and less and less Apple notebook. It still remains my main work computer but for side research and private activities I would prefer Dell & Linux.


  1. You should add support in your comparison table. DELLs standard support is a typical Windows device support: it might take weeks or even months which is pretty bad compared to Apple (afaik). So, in my experience a "next business day" support upgrade is a good addition (but adds quite a few bucks!)

    My old DELL Vostro 1400 had issues with the keyboard a few years ago. Called support in the evening and next morning somebody showed up with a bunch of replacement parts and fixed everything while I was watching. Good experience!

    Another thing missing is weight and size. I'm currently using an Precision M3800 which is even smaller and lighter than a MBP. Of course a Precision is much more expensive than a E7450 but definitely worth a look if you are into power and mobility!

    ps: DELL even sells a few laptops (XPS and ?, look for "Developer Edition") without Win but Linux!

    1. Thanks for the feedback!

      I only use repairs, never support, so it is not a criteria for me :) I never used Dell service before but Apple service quality is very different depending on the country. Also they rarely accept feedbacks about issues: for example, it took them years to acknowledge issues with graphics card failures or display coating going off because it touched the keyboard. So I think none of them is actually good.

      Weight and size – yes, makes sense in general. I did not add it because it ±1 kg does not matter for me. But I think I will update the table.

      XPS – I'd love Developer Edition but it is not available in any of my countries :( Also its price is > 2000€, which puts it close to Macbooks. I found that E7450 screen quality is comparable to XPS and it is matte! So E7450 wins over XPS for me :)

  2. Hey Dmitry! Have you decided yet? Did you consider a current Thinkpad model, too?
    They have IMHO the best keyboard of every machine available, matte screens (the recent ones are even quite good, really) - ultranav, state-of-the-art hardware and up to 3-year support.
    Would love to hear your thoughts on that.

    Best regards, MT

    1. I am not that sure of Thinkpads. While they have good quality, there were several news that they contain backdoors that can be exploited to get user's data. So far I ended up with Dell E7450.

  3. If privacy is a _real_ concern, then I fear there is no digital equipment which can be trusted at all...
    Anyway, both Dell and Thinkpads offer pretty decent Hardware. Since I am very used to the ultranav, I favor thinkpads.

    Best regards, MT