My day job as a system administrator and support for PCs, Macs, and Linux servers means I get to play with all the new toys.
One that caught my eye recently is Dell’s new Z600. It’s not as slick or elegant looking as Apple’s MacBook Air or the Dell Adamo, but it’s a worthy competitor to the high end of Apple’s MacBook Pro line. What has Dell learned from Apple’s success in the notebook market? Style over substance? Design matters? Feature creep? Whatever it is, Dell hasn’t learned enough.
Without question, many discriminating PC notebook users have a little Mac envy. Apple’s aluminum clad notebooks show up in ever greater numbers.
The Cupertino company owns the high end of the notebook market, a fact not lost on beleaguered Dell, trying mightily to find a way out of the cheap ditch it dug in recent years.
Dell seems to have learned that those who live by the price, die by the price. They’ve also learned that design matters. Apple’s MacBook Pro models are designed. Unfortunately, as it is with Sony, Dell confuses design with style.
Dell Z600 Style
Take Dell’s latest uber cool notebook, the Z600. Starting at $2,000, the Z600 is a far cry from the luggable laptops you see on Dell TV commercials.
This 16-inch, 4.5-pound MacBook Pro competitor has a lot of features stuffed into a glossy, sexy shell. It’s instant on and fast booting. It’s Linux inside. All that is designed to give unusually long battery life, up to 12 hours in idle mode, even when checking email.
The Dell comes with a rather large laptop stand, a dock that uses induction to charge the Z600. Look, Ma! No wires. It’s a dock without a dock. That includes wireless connectors for video, sound, and USB. The wireless docking station then connects to the peripherals.
There are more than a few items that I like. For example, the built-in video camera. It knows when the logged in user has moved away from the computer and locks itself automatically.
On the other side of the coin is this very weird trackpad that runs along the right side of the screen. Using your shoulder, arm, forearm, wrist, hand, and fingers—all at the same time—you can scroll the window up and down.
Press the bottom of the slender trackpad and a little Linux widget pops up on screen. It’s a launch bar. The MacBook Pro’s touchscreen seems like science fiction by comparison.
Elsewhere, the Z600 sports more ports. DisplayPort. eSATA. Ethernet. It feels lighter than a MacBook Pro, though the screen is less than an inch bigger.
It’s clear that Dell thinks they have Apple’s formula figured out. Style matters to Dell, where design matters to Apple, so Dell still barks up the wrong tree.
For example, the Z600 comes with a Linux flavor. That’s sure to be a hit with customers expecting Windows. Yet all the wireless goodies provide a measure of physical freedom—as long as you take the dock stand with you.
By making more stylish computers (that are much more expensive), Dell mistakenly believes they can compete with Apple’s better designed computers. Apple gets a premium price because the notebooks are a terrifically balanced package of software and hardware.
Dell’s new stylish offerings remind me of what happens when you put lipstick on a pig.