05 March 2007

System76 vs. Dell

On /., someone said, "there are plenty of vendors out there that will preinstall and support linux on your laptop for not quite twice what the equivalent windows laptop will run you." I used to think that, but recently I noticed System76 prices are really a lot lower than I perceived them (in my mind, over $1000=expensive, but without being on sale, less than $1000 means the inner-geek feels unloved due to low specs). So, I did a test. I went through Dell's site and System76 and customized two computers until they were as close to matching as I could get them. I think the remaining difference was that the System76's card-reader was 4-in-1, while the Dell's was 5-in-1. Here's what I came up with:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo, 1.83 GHz
  • 15.4" Widescreen XGA
  • Intel graphics
  • Intel sound
  • Intel Pro Wireless 802.11 ABG
  • 100GB hard drive
  • 1GB RAM (2x512)
  • CD/DVD burner (DVD+/-RW)
  • 1 year tech support and warranty

The price (before taxes, shipping, etc) for the Dell was $1103. For the System76, it was $1192. The System76 was only $89 more! Were there any extra costs for the Dell? Yep. Don't forget that if you're running Windows, you're going to need to purchase some anti-virus software. Dell will sell you a 3-year AV subscription for $99, bringing you up to $1202, $10 more than the System76. Also, the Dell doesn't come with an office suite. You can either pay them $149 to have Microsoft Office there out of the box, or you can install OOo yourself. Are Linux pre-installed laptops really expensive? Not at all! They're comparable to Dells.

Next time you need a computer, why not try System76? Remember, the more computers are sold with Linux on them, the more obvious it becomes to the hardware industry that we DO count for something. We're not just sysadmins with servers, and we want our home computers to run it too. Many OEMs believe it's not worth the cost to offer Linux computers because the market is so small. If companies like System76 get more business, other OEMs will take notice and realize that we don't all build everything, and there is a market for pre-installed, and maybe they'll start offering it. The next computer in my house is sure to be System76 after doing that price comparison and knowing that I won't ever have to deal with tech support that says "there was Windows when you bought it. You changed that, so we won't support you now."


Starhawk said...

I fully agree that system 76s computers are around the same price as other manufacturers. And I would love to but one sometime soon, yet the comment "you're going to need to purchase some anti-virus software" sorta bothers me as AVG or Avast are top guality anti-viruses and are free. I always recommend people dump McAfee or Norton products and use the free alternatives. Of course while i still dual boot I am totally sold on ubuntu so its not an issue for me. I seldom use windows and most likely will wipe it from my HD sometime soon. haha

Cathy at Za said...

Great post on System76, but there are other solid vendors out there. ZaReason has systems that:

* in some configs are actually *less* expensive than Dell (especially when you built out a nice system);

* give you an open hardware warranty, ie you can tweak your system and still be covered under warranty; and

* can do custom configurations, no mark-up, get it exactly the way you like it. We have only had to tell two customers so far that we couldn't do what they wanted, very unusual.

By any chance can you replace the Shafetech link with ours? Shafetech is defunct & if you wouldn't mind, we would greatly appreciate it.

Mackenzie said...

I'll add ZaReason to the links. I did System76 because A) I've actually used one B) their support is on ubuntuforums so I knew about it.

Is Shafetech gone now, then? A couple months ago on the forums someone said they got a computer there cheaper than one at System76, so I wouldn't expect them to be gone so soon.

bruce said...

My comparision of System76 Serval Professional and Zarision Verix 1656 shows System76 is less expensive. I am seriously looking at System76 for my next system. I've never bought a linux only system. I have run Redhat and Ubuntu on a couple of my laptops (including my current one). I'm still on the fence since I don't have any experience with System76 and no one I know does either.

Coaxihuitl said...

I have been investigating system76, zareason and dell and definitely agree that system76 has comparable prices yet with the advantage of (from what I've heard) great service. Zareason is only slightly more expensive, but only if I drove down to the States myself to pick it up! The shipping from System76 adds just over $100 USD while Zareason's shipping is less than $50. This doesn't make a huge difference but does result in Zareason being basically equivalent in price to System76 for anyone ordering outside the country:

ZaReason Hoverboard with 2GB memory, 320 GB 7200 RPM drive = $787

System76 Lemur with 2 GM memory, 320 GB 7200 RPM drive = $719

But add on the shipping and now:
ZaReason = $828
System76 = $824
Basically exactly the same...