Using RW's recommendation, I came up with this:
SYSTEM COLOR Obsidian Black with Leather Accent edit
PROCESSOR Intel® Core™ 2 Duo P8600 (3MB cache/2.4GHz/1066Mhz FSB)
OPERATING SYSTEM Genuine Windows Vista® Home Premium Edition SP1, 64-bit
OFFICE SOFTWARE Microsoft® Office Home and Student 2007 + Adobe® Acrobat ® 9
WARRANTY AND SERVICE 1Yr Ltd Hardware Warranty, InHome Service after Remote Diagnosis
HD DISPLAY Edge-to-Edge 13.3" HD WXGA LCD with 2.0 Megapixel Camera
MEMORY 4GB Dual Channel DDR3 SDRAM at 1067MHz (2 Dimms)
HARD DRIVE 320GB 7200 RPM SATA Hard Drive
INTERNAL OPTICAL DRIVE Slot Load DVD+/-RW (DVD/CD read/write)
VIDEO CARD NVIDIA® GeForce® 9400M G
WIRELESS CARDS Dell Wireless 1510 802.11n Half Mini-Card
SOUND OPTIONS High Definition Audio 2.0
Total Price (again including $179 for Office + Acrobat) = $1263
I bumped the RAM to 4GB (from 3GB) for an extra $35 -- money well spent, yes or no?
I bumped the HDD to 320GB (from 250GB) for an extra $25 -- money well spent, yes or no? (Same speed on both)
Any other thoughts? Interestingly, the XPS13 is not showing any discount/sale, while the XPS 1330 is showing a $259 "instant savings."
Are there any magic discount codes floating about?
You can almost always justify upgrading on a case by case basis, in terms of future proofing if nothing else. Thirty bucks for a kickass gizmo, hundred fifty for a much faster doohickey, and if you have the doohickey and gizmo then you're wasting money unless you also get the hundred seventy five dollar upgrade to the widget. The problem is that it's how you turn a $1000 machine into a $1500 machine. Each upgrade improves the rig, so long as they're smart upgrades, that's not the question. The question is whether to spend $1500 for a better machine when a $1000 machine will meet the user's needs just fine. Having said that:
4GB of RAM is better than 3, 320 GB of HD space is better than 250.
- The extra GB of RAM will go well with Vista's superfetching (Vista identifies programs you use a lot and preloads them into memory before you need them) -- I'm not really sure with the stuff she does that she'll notice it, but it won't hurt. [Edit -- there'll also be a small performance bump because the RAM will be in dual channel mode. ]
- 70GB of space will store an appreciable, although not impressive, amount of media. (It'd be several weeks worth of MP3s or about ten of her favorite movies).
The RAM upgrade is a little ambiguous and highlights the difference between needful and nice. You don't need it, at least not for the next couple of years. It will be a little nice for the reasons I listed above. Another reason is that over time, RAM requirements will increase; in three years you may wish you had an extra GB of RAM. In 3 years, with a screwdriver and spending about the same amount of money that you're proposing to spend now, you will be able to address that. So basically it boils down to buying $35 worth of insurance against having to open the chassis in a few years. In terms of the right now and the next couple of years -- especially given what you've said about the user's requirements, 3GB should be just fine.
With the hard drive, it entirely boils down to your wife. If she saves a bunch of video and music or other large files and doesn't get rid of them, then yes, you can use a bigger hard drive. The average user, on the other hand, will be just fine with 250GB. I mean, it's a laptop.
Regarding prices: What Dell lists as a 'list price' and a 'discount' has more to do with their marketing than anything else. I hesitate to call it 'unadulterated bullshit' because I'm sure it's at least PARTIALLY pegged to something objective, but... only partially. Traditionally XPS is Dell's premier line (unless you count Alienware) and the Studio line is Dell's new 'midrange' series, but everything I've read about the Studio XPS laptops is that they're really good, and in this case the components on the Studio XPS are just flat out better. There may be an element here of the 'list' price on the XPS being higher because XPSes are typically priced as Dell's premier laptops.
If you put the two computers side by side, pricewise, the way they're priced now -- hell, most everyone would assume that the better deal was the one 'on sale' for nearly the same price. It isn't. XPS is Dell's flagship but the Studio XPS has better and newer components -- to my mind, significantly better, much newer. A faster CPU with more cache and a faster bus that will run cooler and consume less juice per unit of performance, better and faster RAM, a faster hard drive, and a better GPU (the difference between most 8000 series GPUs and their 9000 series counterparts is small, and in some of the cases, there's really no discernible difference at all other than the 9000s having a better thermal profile and fewer flaws, but in this specific case the 9400M G actually spanks the 8400M GS).
There's also a difference in that Dell often has a minimum 2 years support for XPS systems and the original XPS system you specced out had that. The Studio XPS had one. For people who absolutely want peace of mind, get the extended warranty, but as far as I can see, anything past a year is mostly wasted money.
When it comes to Dell, basically the only price that matters is whatever the best sale on that item is over a two or three month period. Everything else is smoke and mirrors. This is something that's kind of common in the computer industry, but very common with Dell.
Edited by Resonance Wright, 15 June 2009 - 12:03 AM.