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I work as the "IT guy" for our business (60 users) by default as we generally outsourced IT previously, and I have a good handle on basic networking, security, support, etc. I've been given the task to replace every machine in the office, and I made contact with our regular consultants (who sell solely HP Products) for a quote. While waiting, I went to Dell and built a Vostro system under the 'small business' class to make sure we were getting a competitive price from HP and our resellers.

So I received a quote back from Dell for the Vostro 460 (Intel's new Quad Core i5-2400, 4 GB RAM expandable to 16 GB, Gigabit ethernet, Windows 7 Pro 64, three year extended on site parts and labor warranty) and the price was great - in fact, it was $25,000 less expensive than the price I received from our consultants! For reference, the consultant provided a quote for an HP business class model (HP 3130) and the only differences was that it had the i5-650 dual core and only a one year on-site warranty.

I contacted the consultant informing him of the price difference for a model that was technically better than what he was offering and he responded making the following points:

  1. Dell doesn't have the management tools that will be required on your LAN (no specifics given)

  2. There is no Product Life Cycle on the machine.

  3. It's less robust and reliable than the HP business model and the Dell OptiPlex business model.

  4. The Vostro isn't tested for network compatibility like the HP business class machine and the OptiPlex.

My initial responses would be:

  1. What management tools? We don't have any special hardware requirements currently that are required on our LAN. We solely use the computers for Microsoft Office, our CRM, and our accounting software.

  2. I understand, but is it really worth $25,000 extra? I mean, we will buy a comparable machine in the future if we need them.

  3. How is it less reliable and less robust? It's the same hardware (a better processor), it is just as upgradable, and it comes with an upgraded three year on site parts and labor warranty.

  4. Why is there concern it won't work on our network? It's a business class machine as well.

He went on to say how it was an inferior product which is why it's being priced so low, but I don't see how it's inferior.

So am I missing something or are we being taken advantage of by a sales pitch? Is 60 machines too many for a "small business" machine like the Vostro and if so, why?

Sorry for being so long-winded, but I would really appreciate some opinions from an intelligent third party.

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I'm not going to post an answer but yes, I'd say they're after your money. You sound far from clueless and seem to have a good handle on both what you need, want and expect. If those are direct quotes from the HP reps then yes, they don't really make sense to me either. –  PriceChild Apr 7 '11 at 13:07
If you ask Dell what the difference is between a Vostro and an OptiPlex, they'll probably tell you the same thing. –  Gabe Apr 7 '11 at 14:35
Given my experience with such PCs, I'd buy a few (4?) spares, without software, as parts donors. Store them safely, and use them after the warranty expires. It's by far the easiest way to get replacement parts for Dells. –  MSalters Apr 7 '11 at 15:05
I was once told by a consultant that we had to purchase regular software upgrades from him because "...software is like the parts in your car. It wears-out and need to be replaced periodically". I argued for a while before realizing that I was wasting my time. –  MikeJ-UK Apr 7 '11 at 15:14
"isn't tested for network compatibility?" I would love to hear the guy explain that one. I would ask exactly what these "tests" entail. The consultant is either an idiot or a "good" salesperson. (which often happens to be the same thing) –  advs89 Apr 7 '11 at 20:39

13 Answers 13

up vote 69 down vote accepted

I'm an administrator at a much larger company and we went all Dell straight down the line (with the exception of some Force10 network gear in the data center) servers, switches, desktops, and laptops. I can tell you it really doesn't matter, I mean Dell and HP have very similar hardware and the only reason we went with Dell is because we could use our parent company's Premier account. Really what you should be looking at is the warranty. I cannot stress enough the importance of a good warranty. But again warranties from the big names are all very similar, yet somehow your vendor is selling you a one year warranty on $25,000 more worth of equipment.

Your third point above sums up why you should go with Dell in this case:

"How is it less reliable and less robust? It's the same hardware (a better processor), it is just as upgradable, and it comes with an upgraded 3 year on site parts and labor warranty."

Enough said. Then factor in the extra $25,000, and it is pretty obvious your vendor is just trying to make a sale and increase his margins. Go with the better warranty and save your company some money, after spending all that money it is going to look poorly if something breaks after a year and you have to spend more money and wait for it to show up. If anything, take that extra money and upgrade all of managements' PCs to the Dell "mission critical" package. When you can turn around, and give them a new machine with no cost to the company in less than six hours you are going to look very good in management's eyes.

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It wasn't until recently that I had seen the added value in a warranty package. When it comes down to it, I'm guaranteed 60 working machines without added cost for the next three years of business which makes me look, well, good... Thanks for your comments. –  jayree Apr 7 '11 at 14:13
The 3 years would sell it for me. Interested to know if these techs were hired by HP or were "independent" but only offered HP hardware. –  music2myear Apr 7 '11 at 21:16
How did community edit this answer?? odd.... –  Kyle Apr 7 '11 at 21:59
suggested edit by non-registered user. –  Arjan Apr 7 '11 at 22:09
it doesn't matter if you are independent or hired. here is an example: dell offers a server machine for 10000$. if you are a good salesman you negotiate a bit and get that machine for about 50% of the retail price. so your margin is about 5000$ before interest. then you go to hp and there is another machine. as good as the machine from dell but the price is 20000$. You negotiate and get it for 50% of the retail price thus resulting in a margin of 10000$ befor interest. so What would an unethical reseller advice to his customer? –  ITroubs Apr 8 '11 at 10:51

Personally I believe that any contractor who only sells one make of machine is biased and not worth talking to. As a contractor myself I source from many different suppliers in order to get the right specification for the job.

It sounds like a lot of waffle that you're being spouted there.

1: Dell doesn't have the management tools that will be required on your LAN

The only thing that springs to mind is that you run a domain, and 'lesser' versions of Windows won't integrate with it. You have covered that by specifying Windows 7 Pro which works fine. The only other thing is if he is trying to get something like HP Integrated Lights-Out (iLO) in every machine, which is pointless for desktops.

2: There is no product life cycle on the machine

Dell are notoriously bad when it comes to upgrades and requiring specific hardware that is compatible with the Dell system.

3: It's less robust and reliable than the HP business model and the Dell OptiPlex business model

OK, yes, Dell aren't the best built machines around, but they're perfectly acceptable for business use. I have a number of their servers in active use and have had no problems with them at all.

4: The Vostro isn't tested for network compatibility like the HP business class machine and the OptiPlex.

If it's Ethernet and running TCP/IP, and Windows, then it's compatible. There is no 'Testing' of compatibility. If it's not compatible with the most basic of networks then it's not fit for purpose and shouldn't be being sold.

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I've upvoted both answers but "re: re: 3", surely the 3 year warranty on dell would go someway to negating this? I would've thought 1 year warranty to be significantly short.. –  PriceChild Apr 7 '11 at 13:20
Most hardware only comes with a 1 year warranty. Extended warranties are just a form of insurance. Yes, it would cover you financially, but it doesn't make the hardware itself any more reliable. –  Majenko Apr 7 '11 at 13:21
To my point...someone that will tell you this info IS a good consultant! –  Theo Apr 7 '11 at 13:21
Most of the consultants points made me think "What am I missing here?" Thanks for confirming my assumptions! –  jayree Apr 7 '11 at 14:04
Lenovo offers 3yr warranties on their ThinkCentre workstations without any extra charge, Dell does too, and I'm pretty sure you can get it on the HPs. While many consumer level workstations offer only 1 yr warranties (and what people do to their computers usually voids this (Me talking to someone who brought in a laptop, lifted the keyboard and saw sticky stuff "That's Dr. Pepper, isn't it?"). In your experience, who offers only 1 yr support on business line workstations? –  music2myear Apr 7 '11 at 21:20

$25,000 divided by 60 machines $416 which is a big difference.

If it was up to $50-$100 I could understand.

Personally -

  1. If they are also providing support/management services to you, this would be reasonable and acceptable (unless your Dell price also includes a long warranty as I am guessing for that price, they will include a minimum of 3 years).

  2. If they are setting up the machines, I usually quote/allow for around $50 per machine. If this means they are also taking away your old machines... Well, that is more money for them - run DBAN and flog on eBay, donate to a school or even ask employees if they wan to buy. For my clients, I run a service where I collect for free, wipe and sell, then split the money.

  3. It isn't as though Dell or any company want their machines to break. I believe that some models may use special longer life parts like better quality fans and/or enterprise class hard drives, possibly even 80%+ certified power supplies. It is hard to tell for sure but, as long as you have a decent warranty, I don't see the problem.

  4. Bollo**s.... At worst case scenario, buy a £35 Intel network card, that would easily outperform anything that the HP machine would come with.

60 machines is a lot, but so is $25,000 - They have most likely done some consultancy work in order to give you that quote and are possibly hoping to manage/be your support line. If you went to Dell and asked for someone to come in and consult, you would most likely get a higher/similar quote. If however all you did was ask them a quote for 60 machines, then, they are most likely trying to rip you off.

However, it is really really hard to tell... they may offer a far superior service, it is hard to know without knowing more, but I hope this helps you... and I wish I was in America to help you out!

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The consultant's company actually does provide support for major upgrades and problems within our network, so keeping our relationship positive is important regardless of where we buy computers. They quoted their regular support rate on top of the cost quoted for putting the machines on the desks and getting them ready to go. I appreciate your comments, thanks for taking the time to provide some guidance. –  jayree Apr 7 '11 at 14:07
If you are purely talking about the price of the machines / they charge support on top/separately, I think they are having you on! Just for my information, what is the individual price they are giving for each machine/model.. Have you tried looking it up directly? –  William Hilsum Apr 7 '11 at 14:44
Dell Vostro ($836.50 each) - i5-2400 Quad-core, 4GB DDR3 SDRAM, 320GB SATA HDD, Intel onboard video, Gigabit ethernet, Office home and business 2010, Win 7 pro 64, 3 year extended warranty || HP 3130 ($1,130 each) - i5-650 dual-core, 4GB DDR SDRAM, 320GB SATA HDD, Intel onboard video, Gigabit ethernet, Office home and business 2010, Win 7 pro 64.... The 3 year extended warranty would add ~100.00 per machine bringing the price to $1,230 each which makes a difference of $23,600 between the models. All other things being equal (freight incl, tax), and the Dell is technically a better machine! –  jayree Apr 7 '11 at 15:06

I work for a 30-user firm, and I feel your pain...

The Vostro isn't the high-end business class machine. However, I currently have 6 running at the office with no problems, and I have a grab-bag of workstations there, including some HP and some Dell (and some custom!).

Dell and HP make good workstations. Is one brand better than the other? Probably not.

My lesson I've learned thus far is: don't trust just one person. Whenever I need new workstations I visit at a minimum Dell direct, a Dell reseller, another reseller, NewEgg, CDW, and a friend.

Specifically about your situation: I would also price the Dell OptiPlex and compare it to the HP. If that's what your consultant wants you to compare to then see what kind of deal Dell will give you. If they're still significantly less than your consultant, then that tells you that your consultant cares more about money than your business.

I would also get a quote from another HP reseller to make sure you're in the same price range. There are good resellers and bad resellers...the good ones are hard to find, but are worth it.

Unless you have HP-specific management tools then Question #1 is complete BS. Yes, all the manufacturer's make their own management tools, but IMHO non-branded management software (I use Spiceworks) blows them all out of the water.

Ultimately go with your gut. As the "IT guy", everyone else at your company is looking at you to make a good recommendation. You have to be able to stand behind your decision, so make it one that you feel comfortable with.

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upped for great details on a common pain for us all! –  mjb Apr 7 '11 at 13:17
It's difficult to get a straight answer from someone who's main priority is taking your money. Thanks for sharing your situation and advice - it's a nice boost to my confidence knowing others have the same thoughts. cheers! –  jayree Apr 7 '11 at 14:11
+1 for Spiceworks. It's keeps me sane. –  surfasb Jul 26 '11 at 13:15

Although some of what I was going to say has been covered, I felt it was worth giving my tuppence worth. For reference, we sell, recommend and use Dell almost exclusively and have done for years, but are starting to look for alternatives (HP) due to the continually lowering quality of Dell hardware. Therefore I can't necessarily comment on positives of the HP hardware, but can comment on the Dell stuff.

The consultant is both right and wrong on this one. Charging you so much more is not right, however there are some truths buried in the marketing spiel.

Vostros are hideously unreliable, whilst there are always exceptions, you get what you pay for in this world. The Vostros are cheap for a reason; lowest price hard drives, poor quality chipsets and awful mobo design. For example, most low-end Dells are BTX, so you can't get a dual height graphics card in the machines, which means you're really restricted if you want a more than 1 screen solution. With all Dells, adding a GFX card disables the on-board GFX, and if you want to run three screens (as we do in the IT dept.) you need to get a PCI card, something that is getting harder and harder these days. Dell NICs are terrible and never have drivers as standard in Windows, so if you are rebuilding or trying to use your own non-OEM licenses, you will have to source the drivers yourself.

To answer your specific points:

Dell doesn't have the management tools that will be required on your LAN (no specifics given)

Dell Management Console is terrible, and until a few weeks ago didn't even support Server 2008 R2, but if you are only managing workstations, you won't need it.

There is no product life cycle on the machine.

As mentioned by other posters and above, you are not going to ever really be able to upgrade these machines beyond HD and RAM. This may also not be a problem for your situation, but needs change and some users may need some extra oomph.

It's less robust and reliable then the HP business model and the Dell OptiPlex business model.

True to a certain extent, again as detailed above. OptiPlex's still aren't great but we have less of them coming back in for repair than the Vostros. No computer is immune to bad batches of hardware however. Recently we have had 3 Precision workstations back with harddrive failures; all the same batch and all the same "shattered glass" sound when you shake them.

The Vostro isn't tested for network compatibility like the HP business class machine and the OptiPlex.

This sounds like nonsense, Vostros have the same NICs (Broadcom) as most other Dells, and if you have 7 Pro, what could they possibly mean?

Vostros are very cheap, in fact our account manager cannot get us a discount on them at all, it is cheaper for us to order through the web for them. I would imagine they are your traditional loss leader product, once you have a small business "hooked" on Dell products, it's easier to upsell them to OptiPlex or Precision and a PowerEdge server.

If I were you, I'd spec up a similar number of OptiPlex's and try and get hold of a Dell account manager to handle your order, they can get great deals on larger orders like this and will fall over backwards to get you on-board. When configuring, try for the 700 series, the chipset is a lot better than that in the 300s.

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very nice answer and detailed as well @Richard! +1 –  studiohack Apr 7 '11 at 16:41

Dell doesn't have the management tools that will be required on your LAN (no specifics given)

That's probably BS - there may be some truth in there, but it's not likely to matter for your size deployment. The management tools he's likely referring would allow them to connect remotely, even if the computer is off. The software can also send performance or trouble data directly to a remote monitoring system. Only higher-end business PCs typically have this, but you can certainly get by without it. However, it may allow the consulting firm to do some things from their office that might otherwise require a call-out or that might never get done at all, and that can translate to fewer billable hours passed on to you, as well as less downtime for your staff.

There is no Product Life Cycle on the machine.

Definitely BS. Sometimes an established product life cycle can matter, but the longer warranty on the Dell should more than offset this.

It's less robust and reliable than the HP business model and the Dell OptiPlex business model.

There is something to this one. Vostro's are at the low end of the market. We have five that were purchased outside of IT's budget about 2 1/2 years ago, and four out of the five had RAM sticks go bad in the last year, all within two months of the warranty ending. The higher-end desktops we (IT) purchase just don't have this kind of issue, at least not as regularly. So this depends on how fault-tolerant you are. How much does it cost you to have a machine (and therefore staff member) out of commission and unable to work now and then? Can you save enough to keep a few complete spare machines ready to swap out at a moment's notice and still come out ahead?

The Vostro isn't tested for network compatibility like the HP business class machine and the OptiPlex.

More BS. The Vostro will connect to your network just fine. Network incompatibility is extremely rare among wired connections these days. The protocols are just too well established. You do still occasionally see odd incompatibilities with bad wireless card implementations, especially among smartphones, but wired networking is pretty reliable.

There is one additional item that favors the consultants, and it's a biggie:

The consultant's estimate likely includes setup and data migration, while Dell's almost certainly does not. This won't come cheap. How long will it take you to prep and swap out 60 machines? How much will it cost you to pay the consultants to do this?

Someone else mentioned $50 per machine for this service. Were I to do a deployment of that size, I'd spend a whole day (or even longer) getting the first machine set up absolutely perfect, and then use imaging tools to clone it to the others. Figure about 20 minutes to unbox and image one machine after that, and we haven't even transferred any data yet. Even if most of your users keep their files on the network and you use all roaming profiles, you still need to allow at least another 10 minutes per machine to swap them out and decommission the old one. With multi-casting you can work on copying your image to several machines at at time, but you're still looking to average at a minimum of around 20 minutes per machine in total... and that's being incredibly optimistic. I figure it's much more reasonable to allow 1.5 hrs in total per machine. Think about that in comparison with the consultant's billable rate.

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I've definitely noticed a difference in reliability when comparing Optiplex machines with Dells lesser offerings, so he has a valid point as far as that goes.

However, his other three objections are extremely suspicious. #1 is likely grade-A B.S. LAN tools? On desktops? From the vendor? Don't think so. We have a number of HP towers and the biggest plus from my perspective is that they didn't come with much of anything, which made deployment easier.

Objection #2 is laughable. Is he worried about new driver packs for the hardware? Given the commodity nature of most hardware from dell and HP, you'll be able to upgrade almost all of those drivers more reliably with Windows Update. The notion of slapping new processors or something like that in a commodity desktop is a pipe dream.

Objection #4 is the dumbest of them all. Network compatibility? That's like having a car salesman tell you that their competitors car isn't compatible with the road. TCP/IP is as much of a standard as four rubber tires.

Given #2 and #4, I would be extremely suspicious. I once had a consultant try and sell me 100 monitors from Dell at a 50% markup (Dell had them on a deep discount, so he thought he could get away with it). Call HP directly, and see what they quote you. If it's more than 5000 different from the consultants quote, fire 'em.

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I might have missed this in an answer but it doesn't seem to have been said.

Tell them to give you a better price.

Tell them at this price point it's a deal breaker, and if they can't do better you will be REQUIRED to purchase them from another vendor.

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They are not being honest with you, but they could not have done it differently. The extra 25K difference is probably something between their margin and profit. Now which decision you need to make is another question.

I would buy the Vostro on two grounds:

  1. HP has never proven to be better in terms of quality.
  2. A three-year guarantee is very very very important.

I would also suggest that you buy another five machines and put them in storage for immediate replacement parts. Dell has a reputation of not being the fastest cat in the alley.

However, before you make this decision you should consult with other people in the company. There might be other parameters in this equation that you do not know of, for example, the consultant is a personal friend of the CFO.

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You're going to get a higher quote from a VAR any day when compared with a vendor. Believe me when I say this: 25k is nothing compared to the loss you may realize while trying to go at it alone. The extra money you pay to your VAR isn't what you should be concerned with. It's the quality of decisions they help you make. If this was easy to determine, you wouldn't need a VAR in the first place, and whether they're a good consulting company is certainly not based on whether they have one favorite vendor. Having a bias is good in technology, as long as it's not based solely on spiffs.

Get a reference list and talk to the IT directors or CIOs / CTOs, if you can. This is easy to do and costs nothing.

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  1. Not true. Optiplex, Latitude and Precision have everything you need.

  2. Correct. Optiplex and Latitude have very long ones though.

  3. Correct. It has "entry level" components, unlike the true business class machines from Dell and HP.

  4. Poorly written. Optiplex is network "optimized" because it uses "standards based tech."

Go with Dell Optiplex. Great warranty, years of easy management and you may even talk to someone like me, a true advocate for small business.

Discaimer: I work at Dell.

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The largest problem I saw with the post is that the user assumes that because the specs on the computers are the same there is no quality difference. Go onto Newegg, why do you think that you can find two motherboards with the same specs and one of them is 30$or 40$ more? not all computer components are made equal. You should know this if you are managing a network this large. I fear for your company if you don't.

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You should know this [...] It is clear from the first question that OP knows this. –  trolle3000 Dec 15 '11 at 17:07
Yet machine builders usually don't specify brands, technologies, chipsets and cooling/noise management parts in their systems. So there's a good risk that a more expensive competitor with the same components could carry lower quality equipment. I don't see how a higher price alone can be a useful product comparator, at least in the IT world. –  mtone Jan 3 '12 at 6:18

Since few years HP invariably ranks last in hardware reliability rankings. They rank worse even than Acer and Gateway. I had unpleasant experience to have to work with HP hardware. Failures are common. It's also really horribly organized inside, you don't have easy access to any of key components. You basically have to take whole thing appart just to for example add more RAM or change HDD.

Hadn't had much experience with Vostro, but OptiPlex is exact opposite of HP. They are reliable and well organized inside, with easy access to everything.

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Well aside from the capacitor debacle back in 02-03 you may be right about stability. However Dells are just as much of a pain as HP's to upgrade and maintain particularly the slimline Optiplex's. There is rarely a week that goes by that I don't have at least one Dell break (I manage ALOT of Dells but still...). Honestly as far as reliability they are all the same if you manage lots of HP's then your perspective is skewed against them and vise versa with Dells. –  Kyle Apr 11 '11 at 19:04

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