Dell shows early signs of some design chops

Dell shows early signs of some design chops

Summary: When Michael Dell took the reins of his namesake company back better product designs were high on his to-do list. Now there are a few are early signs that Dell is making progress.

TOPICS: Dell, Hardware

When Michael Dell took the reins of his namesake company back better dell420a.pngproduct designs were high on his to-do list. Now there are a few are early signs that Dell is making progress.

First the caveat: Dell isn't Apple. Its PCs aren't a work of art. But there is improvement that could result in market share momentum.

Today Dell officially announced the XPS 420 (Dell blog, press release), a multimedia PC that starts at $1,499 carries some interesting features. Among them:

  • A small LCD screen on the top of the XPS that shows Microsoft's SideShow and other third party gadgets. Think a stock ticker or RSS feed on top of your PC.


  • The XPS 420 also has top panels that mesh well with home theatre systems. And there's also storage for cables and places to dock your various gadgets.
  • On the software side of the equation, the XPS comes bundled with Adobe Elements Studio for better video and photo editing.

The XPS 420, which is evidence that the XPS line is moving away from being a gaming brand to a premium PC brand, is just the latest data point that Dell gets this design thing--at least a little (it even announced a new LCD with built-in Web cam).

But when you couple the XPS 420 with its colorful laptops (we'll overlook the previous shipment issues for now) you get some early data points that Dell can be a contender. Is Dell going to suddenly transform into Apple? No. But it has more of a design clue than the company did a year ago. For now, that counts as progress.

Topics: Dell, Hardware

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  • Just curious...

    If I have a 20" LCD screen on my desk, ergonomically placed in front of me, why do
    I need a "small" screen on the top of the box? And where do I place this box? If I
    put it under my desk, how do I see the screen? If I put it where I [b]can[/b] see the
    screen, how will I keep from tripping over it? Who will pay for my chiropractor
    when I spend more than a few minutes a day, looking down at an awkward angle?

    Sorry, this doesn't really qualify as "design chops." It qualifies as bad design. Not
    saying the computer is bad, mind you, just that this is merely a gimmick, and not a
    particularly useful one.
    • I tend to agree.

      I do have a small LCD screen on the front of my PC, which displays internal temps and CPU clock rates. This is handy, but not necessary, for overclocking. I am not sure what Dell is aiming at with this example, though. Putting it on top would be useless with my setup. I think a hint is the multimedia PC name. There might be scenarios where this is not connected to a standard display, and the small display might be useful.
  • Dell's biggest challenge

    Is the wide range of customers they sell to - everything from a single
    computer for a consumer to large corporate accounts. Makes it very
    difficult to take Apple's approach of a limited design. Finding an
    industrial designer like Jonathan Ive is also a major challenge, as is
    maintaining strong & continual CEO support for new designs.
  • Ug

  • Sideshow

    I think the Sideshow functionality (while obviously having some applications for desktops) was really more intended for things like laptops where you could maybe have a readout on an external LCD while your laptop was closed.
  • What Apple has that others can't understand

    Apple is designing their computers the way nobody else is.

    They use cosmopolitan SIMPLICITY! Gimmicks never make a system "special". Look at the new iMac. Crisp lines, minimal cables, simple. Now look at ANY other OEM manufacturer; harsh lines and angles, lots of "flair", dull plastic. The gimmicks are intended to make them look "cool", but just end up making them look gaudy.
    • I beg to differ...

      If you say they copied - you are probably correct, however, this is a nice looking machine. Why Dell/HP can't do this I don't know. Now HP's laptps are looking good lately, so I think they are getting better there.
    • Kind of...

      I definitely prefer the clean look of Apple's products to something like this from Dell or anything I've seen from other OEMs, but that's my preference, not everyones. There are people who prefer "flair" and angles, and it's difficult for me to say OEMs shouldn't provide such designs. I think the best thing they can do is provide options. Dell/HP/whomever should provide a clean, simple design AND they should provide one with angles and "flair." At least 15 pieces of flair... The computer industry has changed enough that you can't differentiate yourself with specs, you have to do it with design.
      • Looks Matter.......

        " can't differentiate yourself with specs, you have to do it with design"

        After all, a substantial number of the buying public will buy their computer based solely on looks/design without a clue as to how it actually performs.
        • But They Shouldn't...

          I find it difficult to understand why people would buy a computer based on looks. I must be graced with 19th century thinking...
  • RE: Dell shows early signs of some design chops

    The screen on the top is ridiculous. Dell needs to focus on functionality and service. I am so tired of talking to someone over in India that doesn't have a clue about how to resolve issues. Service and support are lacking when their is a language barrier. They may be speaking English, but there is a lot to be desired in understanding technical issues and knowing how to resolve them.
  • Love Cool Designs

    But never understood the reason for a cool design of a tower desktop.

    Notebooks? Yes.

    All-in-one computers? A must.

    Small form factors designed to put your screen on top? Yes.

    My mini-tower is tucked away under my desk. The best design feature is that it's quiet. Second best feature is that I can't see it. Well, I can see the front of it for DVD and USB access.
  • re: Dell shows early signs of some design chops

    Once again Dell is playing on the gullibility of the buying public - who actually needs the gadgets that Dell have built into the box??????? And how much extra did they add to the price????

    A computer box is a computer box and has only one purpose - to house the computer - information should be presented on the monitor.

    But then i've never been a fan of Dell or any other propriety system, all of them over-hyped and over-priced - the greatest joy i have is when i dismantle their systems for scrap.
    • Yer But

      The small screen ins not a gimmick, it allows you to see your mail etc with out full boot,so handy if you want a quick check.
  • RE: Dell shows early signs of some design chops

    Well I'm not to keen on the small display on the top of this PC but I for one will defend Dell, their current products, and their support on the whole.

    First and foremost folks have to recall that Dell has been in the past, primarily a supplier to the corporate PC interests and has only, since Mike Dell took over, begun to strongly align themselves to the indivitual owner market. Their business base in the past has been about 85% corporate and 15% private customers. They are now trying to increase their market share of the individual owners.

    Last December I did a lot of research on the costs regarding buying a special made, commercially made, or build it myself PC. What I ended up with was the Dell XPS 410. For the money, it was the best deal out there for what I got. To date, which is 10 months later, I'm completely happy with the overall performance of the PC. The only "glitch" I did have was with all the "crapware" that was on the hard drive, so I simply rebuilt it. Dell is now beginning to offer PC's without the "crapware" installed.

    We have 7 Dell's in our "extended" family that were purchased within the last two years and thus far no headaches for anyone. That includes several of their laptop and desktop models.

    So I praise Dell and think they are headed in the right direction, and that they will challenge the other manufacturers quite substantially.

    I don't think they will ever be an Apple, but I've never believed that the Apples (Sony's; Toshiba; etc.) were worth all the extra money in the first place.

    Is the Dell the absolute best PC regarding equipment and design that you can find out there. Well, that's really a pretty subjective item to define and is very, very individual in taste.

    So that's my two cents. I praise them for putting together some darn good PC's for prices that are very reasonable, for most users.

    Flame me if you will, but I for one think they are pretty darn good PC's for the money.
  • Still the best value for money

    Dell offers the best value for your money in most of their lines of product and this is the best reason to buy Dell. Although power to weight ratio is not as good as apple (neither the design), as long as the designs are not ugly and the quality of their products are reasonable I always recommend a Dell. If Dell was not there, we would have had to pay much more for our PCs. Long live Dell...
  • wonderous Apple

    When I buy a box of the computing kind, I don't really get all wet because it is curvy,sleek and comes in designer colours. The one I use right now has no side skins (easy to change stuff, better cooling) but if it did they would be the sickly off- white. My screen is an LG silver framed LG product but one of the best price performance choices I could find. The printers are a Samsung laser and 2 Canon ink-jets. I have an Epson scanner, a Targus flexi keyboard and a MS mouse.The video board is from ATI and the drives are 3 or 4 different makes.
    All this says is I was able to buy best in class/price performance, something I understand you can't do with Apple.
    My brand loyalty extends just as far as price performance takes it. I've been in the IT racket since the early 60's which makes me just about as old as the which system/software wars.
    I'm not going to dispute your preference for Apple but I do have to ask the question ; if Apple is so far superior why does it not dominate the market? Remember Sony and Beta? By most accounts Beta was a superior product to VHS but it died and very quickly. Why you might ask? Probably because users couldn't stand being told what to buy and there was an alternative. As to the GUI Apple may have been superior once a long long time ago now Vista and Leopard are just different, one better in one area and vice versa. You may well dispute this but if my contention is not correct why are not consumers lining up in droves to buy the Apple OS?
    Don't mistake the intent of my comments I'm not shilling for MS. Windows sucks too. My next move will be to some flavour of Unix, preferably a free one with a free software suite!