The process of ordering a laptop online is dumb.

Posted by | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 23-03-2013

I’ve been wanting a new laptop for a while. My current one has a shit glossy screen with 1366×768 resolution, little memory, slow CPU, low-end GPU, slow HDD and constantly overheats. I have treated it harshly, used it for work, lugged it up, down and across the country dozens of times. Worked on it all day then gamed or coded late into the night. It has survived all of this, aside from the overheating, wheezing it’s way asthmatically through every task even when I can’t read it because of that glossy fucking screen.

So I begin my search, and I encourage you to try this by the way, by going to Dell to get an idea of what’s on offer.

First I must select a model… wait, how do I know what model I want? Or what size? What GPU? What CPU? HDD? Ram? Screen size/resolution?

Erm, ok I start delving in and spec’ing things out, then I go back up and start again because it’s confusing and I can’t get a reference. First I set my sights somewhere around the middle of the price range (anyone who’s written a sort/search algorithm should recognise this process!) and tunnel down that route choosing the options closest to what I might want. Then I return to the top having decided that it doesn’t quite match what I want.

Whatever happened to Dell? You used to be able to configure everything now I only seem to be able to choose to have, or not, a printer and some anti-virus software? But, I digress…

Anyway we’re back at the top and I go more expensive now, getting better but I still can’t choose very much, in fact some lines seems even more limited than others in what you can and can’t configure. I repeat this process going alternately higher or lower priced but the results are inconsistent. Some things can be configured on one branch of the tree but not on others. It would appear that my only option is to do a brute force depth first search of all the possible laptops and their configurations on the entire Dell website in the hope that one of them will get close enough to what I’m after.

Now as an interface I consider that a flat out failure.

It’s not just Dell though, it’s ALL of them. Even the sites like PCWorld, Overclockers, eBuyer, Dabs, where you can choose from a range of laptops from different manufacturers are still terrible. The filtering options are almost backwards in some cases but they’re just pathetic in others. On PCWorld you can filter by GPU dedicated or not, but not the make or model, and you can choose if it uses Shared or Dedicate ram, but not how much or what kind. You can filter by screen size, but not by resolution. Eventually I find a Lenovo laptop for £849.99 with £150 off … with a 1366 x 768 glossy screen… what the shitting hell? £849.99, a 15.6 inch screen and 1366 x768? Unbelievable. Total crap. Ok in other regards but no way. I consider 1920×1080 or “True HD” as they call it, to be the bare minimum. Of course there’s no way to filter by that on any site I’ve found. You can search though and that brings up these 3 “laptops”. There’s an ASUS there that might do, though it’s more than I’d like to pay, I can now at least search for that laptop on the ‘net and hopefully find a better deal, oh wait I can’t sadly because they sell exactly the same model name with different resolution screens, one being “Full HD” the other being… 1366 x768. Feck.

This has taken a while though, about 45mins so far, and I’ve scoured a few dozen sites including a lot of forums where people are asking about laptops with certain resolution screens, or matt vs glossy etc. Most of those are hopelessly out of date of course and mention laptops that aren’t made anymore or are older than mine. In the end I tried to get a clearance offer on an MSI laptop from Overclockers, ~£300 of a £1079 model that got 90% of what I wanted and the rest I could change later, like the RAM and HDD etc. Sadly I missed out on that one.

The whole process is infuriating though, the specific things you might want you cannot search by. The argument against listing these more “technical” details is that it confuses those who are less technically literate but I’d argue that’s complete bullshit, all you’re really doing is hiding information about the product from them. You’re burying it away in the details that they’ll have to wade through and try to understand, in effect you’re making it harder for them to know about the product they’re about to purchase.

The approach of presenting you with the model first is arse about face too. How do I know what model I want when I don’t know what the specification of the models is? I want to specify what I want, then I want the website to give me a list of the models that most closely match my desired specification. Because I know what I’m looking for, but I don’t know what “they” have.

For now what I’ve done, is nothing. I’ll just continue saving up for a few more months I think and then is Razer ever get their arse in gear I might splurge it all on their Blade laptop :) Or a MacBook Pro with Retina display perhaps? Who knows, Danni won’t approve either way :D

Comments posted (1))

  1. I’ve been looking at the higher-end XPS models from Dell; they’re starting to fall into the ‘ultrabook’ category though, meaning there’s actually very little you can change post-sale – there’s the HDD and that’s about it, as everything else is directly integrated. If I’m going that route though, perhaps it’s worth looking at some of the newer tablets that are being released, whether I go for stock Android/Win8 or see if it can be rooted to get Ubuntu instead – though I should probably wait a bit longer and see what the native Ubuntu tablet offerings are going to be like.

    Basically, I’m fed up with the crappy Lattitude D630 I currently have, though that is work supplied. Our refresh cycle is just a case of “does your existing laptop work enough to get the job done? Then you don’t need a new one.”