Why do Dell notebooks have the most generic, clunky and unimaginative designs?

There is very little interesting industrial design-wise about almost any Dell notebook I would care to look at. They are almost with exception utterly generic machines in terms of design. Even the colors they try to use are like putting lipstick on a pig.

Sony has units with sleek a Mac-like design, HP is trying all sorts of media-centric designs and textures and even 18 and 21 inch units, HDMI out etc. You’d think Dell would be a little more creative.

They’re kind of like the Ford or McDonalds of the computer world. They don’t offend the sensibilities and they offer the amenities, if you want to pay for them, but they won’t go out of their way to offer them. That and they’re so inoffensive, they’re offensive.
Well, not so much McDonalds, I suppose.

I’m currently sitting at my desk with a 5 year old PowerBook G4 one one side and a six month old Dell Precision M2400 on the other. Hands down I’d rather use the Mac for e-mail, web browsing, and office productivity; it has a larger proportion of screen and the resolution is functionally sharper, the keys tap more satisfactorily (and are backlit), the touchpad works without effort (I have to use a trackball or mouse with the Dell to do any kind of fine work), et cetera. In fact, the only way that the Dell is in any way superior is slightly faster response (much newer processor and more memory) and a much larger internal hard drive.

Dell doesn’t make junk–they’re clearly one of the better manufacturers of laptop machines–but the fact that it is less comfortable and pleasing to use than a Mac that has been beating around in my satchel for the last five years makes me agree wholeheartedly with the o.p. Dell could stand to put at least a fraction of the design effort into the ergonomics and aesthetics to come up with a superior Windows laptop for a very modest increase in cost, but they don’t.


I think part of the reason for this is that They offer much more customization on what you can have in the Machine, necessitateing having easy to change internals. The sleeker you try to make the Machine the less you can modify it. Thats one of the reasons Dell is usually able to get new stuff into older models pretty fast.

The Chunkier designs are also usually a lot more easier to service or repair. I was talking to a Repair tech who came to repair my Dell Laptop (Have NBD Warranty) and he mentioned that He and other at the Sub contractor he worked for hated to work on Sony’s as they are a complete pain to service and repair. He could repair 2 or three Dells in the time he would take to fix a Sony and so the company dropped the contract.

Having said that, DO have a look at Dells XPS, Studio and Adamo Lines. They have come a long way in Design there and those machines are pretty good and look good as well. The Inspirons, Vostras and Latitudes as still Boxes, but then again the serve a different purpose.

I dunno, I currently have a Dell XPS M1710, and I think it looks pretty nice. Certainly better than those boring Macs where everything has to be a white rectangle with rounded corners (that ends up turning into a brownish rectangle with rounded corners after a few years from all the hand oil that gets on it)

The hinge is interesting but once you open the lidit’s the same old Dell battleship except they’ve pimped it up with garish neon lights and LEDs.

Here’s the new Sony.

Here’s a new HP

Well, the coated plastic my M2400 where my wrists rest when I’m using the keyboard are already wearing away, revealing the white plastic below after only a few months use, and most of that actually in the docking station, while the aforementioned PowerBook with its brushed aluminum looks nearly like it did when I first bought it, save for a couple of dents it has received due to unkind handling on my part.


Because computers are tools. They do a job. You don’t complain about the function design of Stanley Tools, so why does the functional design of a Dell computer bother you?

There are many things in our lives that are ‘just tools’ and which we base purchasing decisions on looks as much as practicality. Cars, cutlery, and computers to name just a few beginning with ‘c’. We like our aesthetic senses to be satisified, and it gives us another way to believe our purchases are intrinsically better than someone else’s. It’s also allows us to differentiate our possesions; otherwise we’d all own the same standard design. My laptop is sitting in front of me; I like to be pleased by what I’m looking at.

They do have some less clunky models.

Normally to me, a laptop is just a portable slab o’ computer. As luck has it, my current laptop is a Dell Latitude, one of their business models. Bo-ring!

Could be worse. You want Soviet-style functional design? Get a Thinkpad. I think those were styled directly from the monolith in 2001. Flat, black, square corners. Blah.

Design costs money. Dell makes their money by commoditizing computers. I doubt they have much of a research/design arm.

Dell has some hits and some misses… for example, the 700m and 710m, in my opinion, were some very nice laptops. Small, compact, and “felt” good (this was 2003ish).

In fact, I’m still using it, so it’s got resiliency as well.

That said, I’m in love with the Adamo line, and I have never used a mac extensively, so I am unfamiliar with macs’ aesthetics. It looks spiffy, but how do you guys stand the ridiculously low mouse sensitivity?

One of my peeves with the current generation of notebook computers are the glossy plastic keyboard surfaces. It seems like they’d be impossible to use without wiping them down every few minutes, unless you want to have a surface streaked with sweat and dirt. I’ll take a matte keyboard surface any day.

That’s completely untrue.
Tool design is incredibly important - which is why well-engineered, ergonomic tools (like Rigid or Makita or Apple) command a premium price.

I still regret not buying the entire set of Stanley ergonomic-handled screwdrivers when I had the chance (they’ve been discontinued). I bought one 30 years ago, and I’ve used it ever since. This design is similar, but I know that I like the one I have.

Because at the end of the day, functionality rules over form any day of the week. If you want stylish computers that are capable of less, get a Mac. If you use a computer for getting tasks done, you use a PC. Dell doesn’t care about style or sleek designs, probably because they don’t care as much about being trendy. Their solid business/academic machines show where their strength is.

True, but only to a certain extent.

PCs are more prone to breakages, bugs, and general errors simply because Macs strictly regulate what kind of hardware goes into a mac.

As well, graphic design programs seem* to run better on macs… compared to windows.

  • anecdotally. After all, look at all 'em fancy-pants graphic designers…

As a tech at one of the biggest Mac machine parks in Oslo, I’ve got to object to this one. It’s certainly true for people working on low-level over-the-desk software projects, but on anything above that, the line is pretty even. While the OS runs the Adobe packages pretty smoothly, it really doesn’t perform well on co-designed or mac-adopted software. Which is a pretty big drawback with all the proprietary software out there, some of which you’re bound to run into in a lot of jobs.

As for breakages, that’s down to the people handling it. It’s always been my stance - even as a “ambi” - that most PC breakages are PEBKAC errors.

(And coding on macs is a nightmare. Urrrrrrrrrrgh.)

I’m convinced that graphic designers use Macs not because they’re better at graphics, but because artistic people are just going to prefer Macs over PCs anyway. It’s not like Photoshop on the Mac is different than the PC version anyway.

The hardware isn’t even different anymore, either. There were advantages about a decade ago when Mac architecture was significantly different, but now they’re using the same Intel parts that everyone uses.

The difference is down to purely the OS and how much you love aluminum at this point.