Monday, March 22, 2010

Dell vs. HP

This is a question I struggle with whenever a customer asks me for a recommendation on what PC to use in their environment. The answer is never a clear cut decision until a few questions are asked to clear up concerns on 4 things; pricing, availability, reliability, and customer service. It is a difficult thing to explain, and have someone understand, that all 4 of those concerns are singular and completely interconnected at the same time.

Here is what I have found in my experiences.

When it comes to price, Dell generally costs less. They buy strategically different than HP, and they build their machines differently than HP. For one, Dell, with few exceptions, custom builds all of their machines. They have the orders in hand and are 90% guaranteed their money before a machine ever ships, especially on the lucrative consumer side where margins are especially healthy.

HP on the other hand pre-builds a lot of their units and must count on smart, intuitive marketing to make their money back. This also means HP has additional costs that Dell does not have to endure such as massive inventory.

On the flip side this puts availability squarely in favor of HP’s corner. Most HP models can be ordered today and delivered tomorrow whereas Dell has a standard 7-10 day build time. Heaven help us if a part for the build is not available, then the lead time is pushed out to who knows when. Dell does not offer absolutes on their deliveries, only estimates. If you have a project where you absolutely need machines to be at a certain location by a certain date, HP is a better bet than Dell.

Dell also tends not to standardize the parts inside all of their machines. This means that if you take 100 Dell Optiplex 960’s (or any other model) with the same configuration, open them up, you will find that the 1gb RAM stick in each might be from different manufacturers, the power supply in each may be from different manufacturers, the hard drives, etc same thing.

HP does standardize the parts within a series or model. Take 100 NV516UT and you will find consistency and uniformity throughout the build. The RAM will be the same, the hard drives, the DVDRW, the power supply, etc. HP also has a larger depth and breadth to their portfolio of HP branded products so if you need to equip your office with and HP desktop, attached to an HP switch, connected to an HP server, hooked into HP storage…No Problem! If you need the printer, the keyboard, the mouse, the scanner, the fax, the UPS, the external HD, etc, HP can do all of that.

This is important depending upon what level of standardization you are looking for in a machine for your environment. If it is not important or moderately important, the Dell will just fine. If it is very or extremely important, the HP is a better bet.

Why? The answer is that each manufacturer of the various components in a machine, will QC to different standards. A stick of RAM from Kingston will undergo different testing than a stick from Edge, or Axiom, or Crucial. A hard drive from Seagate will be different from the same form, fit function drive from Axiom, Fujitsu, Fantom Drives, Western Digital, etc.

When it comes to customer service, this is a lot like the reliability question…it is a matter of taste. Both companies have their strengths and weaknesses. Dell gives an excellent up front warranty with their builds and the ease of deploying that warranty is amazing. If you have the service tag (serial number) for the machine and you are the authorized buyer, Dell can help with just about any problem affecting that machine.

HP has a mediocre warranty up front but additional levels of support are fairly inexpensive to add on. Calling 1-800-HP-INVENT can sometimes be trying but generally runs fairly smooth. Where HP really excels is in their onsite support, especially for server and storage products.

So at the end of the day, there is no real winner and my struggles continue. I just need to listen to what is important to you and then decide if Dell or HP will best meet your needs. Maybe I will decide that Lenovo or Acer will be a better fit than either. What my customers are certain of, is that the IT Info Guy will find a suitable solution for them.

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