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Dell Outlet -- Good day to buy a laptop

I just thought I'd let everyone know, if you're thinking of buying a laptop computer on a budget, today, Saturday, and Sunday are the days to do so.

The place to go is Dell Outlet (

Dell is offering $200 off any refurbished laptop, $125 off any refurb laptop priced over $1200, and $100 off all Inspiron laptops.

I just bought an Inspiron 8600 for $899, with the following specs:
Pentium M 715 1.5 Dothan
512 MB Ram (333 MHz)
40 GB Hard Disk (5400 RPM)
32 MB GeForce FX5200 GO
Intel PRO 2100 Wireless
15.4" WXGA Widescreen

I feel the only thing I compromised on was the wireless not being B/G.

So why so cheap? What is a refurbished laptop?

I'll address that, and a good buying strategy from Dell Outlet in the following post.

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How to buy from Dell Outlet

In reply to: Dell Outlet -- Good day to buy a laptop

So why are these computers so cheap? Isn't something fishy here? No, not at all.

Consider this. Dell has a 21-Day, no-questions-asked return policy. For whatever reason, many folks return perfectly good computers. Maybe they found out they didn't have the right specs, or they found a better deal, or whatever.

Whatever the reason for the return, all returns to dell (technical and otherwise) get run through the refurb process. They essentially test them, replace anything that's broken or worn, replace the battery, and re-image the hard drive.

What you end up with is a very, very, very close-to-new computer which has a full 1-year warranty, and for which you can purchase an extended warranty just like any other computer.

So why are they so cheap? If dell is capable of re-manufacturing the computer, why don't they just sell them as new?

Well Dell doesn't keep any inventory. It's part of their business model--I studied it at university. Their systems are only customizable. That's why there is a difference in price. When you buy new, you pay for the manufacturing of that specific computer. They don't sell noncustomized systems, for the most part. So they take these strays and sell them as refurbished.

They can't charge the second purchaser for the manufacturing that the first purchaser incurred, so the price ends up to be cheaper.

The trade-off is, you don't have a choice about ANY of the components of the computer. They will not upgrade the RAM, Video, or Wireless card for you. They just won't.

Now keep in mind that Dell Outlet is a faster-paced buying system than even eBay. You have literally minutes to decide if this system is right for you and the prices is acceptable.

The inventory of Dell Outlet changes throughout the day. This morning I passed on a system with a 1.4 Banias core which would have been $838, saying "lets see if any Dothans come up". Within 5 minutes, the system I was looking at was gone. 25 minutes later, another Inspiron 8600 came up with a Dothan and 384 MB Ram, for $875. I almost picked it up but noticed it didn't have a wireless card.

So you have to keep going back every half hour or so to check the new stock that they have rotating through their store. Have in mind what model and specs you want. When you see your model come up, shout a triumphant "Bingo!" and add it to your cart.

But just be careful that the computer has everything you want, for example check:

Processor -- Lots of celerons get returned because they suck.
RAM -- Sometimes an older model with slower ram comes up.
Hard Drive -- Check the RPM. Dell is good about offering 5400 RPM but just check.
Optical -- Make sure it has at least a CDRW
Network -- You really want 10/100 but some systems dont have it.
Wireless -- You should really try and get a wireless card.

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Personal Note -- Why I chose Dell

In reply to: Dell Outlet -- Good day to buy a laptop

I know Ken will be disappointed I didn't order from

I chose Dell for 3 reasons:

1. Price. I got an incredible deal.
2. Past experience. I have a dell. Several clients have dells. They are good machines. I've been reading and a lot of people there have had their computers just crap out on them after a year or so.
3. CNet. While CNet hasn't reviewed the 8600 series yet, it is the home version of the Latitude D800. The latitude D800, by the way, is the 2nd-top-rated laptop on CNet. It's behind the

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Re: Personal Note -- Why I chose Dell

In reply to: Personal Note -- Why I chose Dell

Glad someone has had a good experience with Dell, as I have repeatedly had the opposite experience. My C400 laptop will be out of warranty in a couple of weeks. Thus far, the following hardware has failed catastrophically, without warning: hard drive [twice!], motherboard, video card, USB port, outboard floppy drive. The battery crapped out after 14 months, once it was out of warranty. In addition, Dell has twice replaced the LCD screen when the flimsy plastic hinges cracked from normal use. This computer has NEVER been dropped, and I have never had any similar problems with laptops from other vendors. The icing on the cake was that, after the hard drive failed for the second time, I decided to buy a larger new HD from Dell and to extend the warranty to keep this machine going another year. Three times, Dell failed to ship the correct drive as ordered, and has now failed to pick up the incorrect parts despite multiple promises for 3 days in a row! The "support" staff are all very cordial, and doing the best they can from the Phillipines and India, but Dell simply cannot ship or pick up parts reliably, even when given the Dell part number!! So, although the refurbished depot may be a good deal, you also might get a computer like mine......[To avoid these hassles in the future, I have ordered a Toshiba laptop.] I have a friend with a Dell MP3 player that had failed three times under warranty as well, so I suspect this lack of reliability is a trend and not isolated problems.

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Re: Personal Note -- Why I chose Dell

In reply to: Personal Note -- Why I chose Dell

Ryan: I finally found the post with your specs.

You got a good price but why you would get a notebook with dedicated video RAM of only 32mb is beyond me. The minimum spec for mainstream notebooks is 64mb and the cost difference is only $50-75 on most custom notebooks. Also you don't have the ATI 9700 video card -- I don't know what the card is that you have listed but the advantage of the Dell 8600 is the Hitachi 7200rpm hard drive and the ATI 9700 video card and you have neither.

At least you got a 5400rpm hard drive and the lowest Dothan 715 1.5 cpu so that is fine.

If you had used all the discounts available on a HPZT3000 / Compaq X1000 you could have gotten one (especially if you ordered only 256mb RAM 1 stick) in the $1200 range new or even less if ordered with the 1.6 725 Dothan Pentium M, CD-RW/DVD ROM drive, etc.

I continue to recommend the Dell 8600 only for those who absolutely want the ATI 9700 with 128mb dedicated video and the Hitachi 7200rpm hard drive as it is available on few other Pentium M notebooks as an option.

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Re: Personal Note -- Why I chose Dell

In reply to: Re: Personal Note -- Why I chose Dell

Actually let me add one more thing to that ordering spec. Getting a notebook now with a b wireless built in minipci card will work with a 54G router but with much less range and stability if not speed.

If you had done a search on the minipci card upgrade issue on you will find that you can't put in an aftermarket 54G minipci unless you stick to the F34 bios or below (the HPZT3000/Compaq X1000 is now at F50 bios).

If you are really price sensitive you can live with b wireless but you would have gotten an Intel 2200b/g wi-fi card in any new 2004 notebook order --- perhaps someone returned this notebook as they got the b wi-fi by mistake as it has a Dothan processor and G wi-fi has been available for all of 2004 (the Dothan chips were released about June 2004).

The ATI 9700 video card is faster than the ATI 9200 in the HPZT3000 so if you got 64mb dedicated video at least (if not 128mb) that is superior in that respect. But you only got 32mb dedicated which is better than Shared video but you will be limited in many cases versus 64mb dedicated (and you don't have the ATI 9700 video card at all).

I hope this suits your needs as it is a good price but for $1100-$1300 you could have had a brand new notebook without the b wireless, 32mb dedicated video, etc limitations.

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Re: Personal Note -- Why I chose Dell

In reply to: Re: Personal Note -- Why I chose Dell

Well Ken, I appreaciate your concern, and I sense that it is genuine. However, I still feel that the solid reasons I had for buying this model are valid.

The video thing is something that I really don't think is as important as you've made it out to be. At least not for me. I absolutely agree that shared video ram is from the Devil. However, having stated before that I don't plan on playing ANY games, I primarily got it for the rare 2D DirectDraw application I use or for the occasional low-requirement 3D Modeling application.

I'm a strict bugetor. I set a price limit that I absolutely would not go above, and I made the best with what I had.

Whenever you buy ANYTHING, there's always the "but for 50-75 more you could have had . . ." and for another 50 I could have had a Brightview screen, and for another $29 I could have had bluetooth, and for another $179 I could have had a 3 year warranty.

Keep in mind too that if I could have spent $50 to get Wireless-G I would have. But dell Refurb systems offer no customizability. So that's the only thing I compromised on.

But if I went with the X, I would be fifty-dollar'ing myself to death. Even stripping away all the options of an X1000, having a 32MB 9200 video card, 256 MB Ram, the 40 GB 4,000 RPM drive, no bluetooth, and the one year limited warranty, it still came to $1240 (minus the $100 rebate. It was still above my price range.

I had $1000 to spend, out the door. So, to get an X, I was going to have to buy it used off eBay or somewhere similar. I would likely end up getting a year-old machine, with a Banias chip. I would likely get something with a worn keyboard, and I might get something with a messed-up video card. I had to choose along a continuum relating newness of the machine I could get with features of the machine. This line represented $1000.

At the extreme end of the line toward newness, there was some bargain laptop without widescreen, or the stripped down DV1000 from HP. At the other end of the line was a very used computer with lots of features from eBay.

Toward the new end of the spectrum is my 8600. It's for all intents and purposes new, it's got all the specs I REALLY NEED (my wireless router at home is a B anyway, and I'm only going to be in school another 5 months)

And hey. I got the machine for cheap enough that I could sell it if I really hate it, and at least get my money back. Or if I truly hate it, I'll just return it within 21 days . . . .

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Re: Personal Note -- Why I chose Dell

In reply to: Re: Personal Note -- Why I chose Dell

Based on Ryan's review, I clicked over to the Dell Outlet today and purchased an 8600 with a the following:
Dell Inspiron 8600C Notebook: Mobile Pentium ?M Processor, 1.6GHz, 15.4 WXGA Display, Internal NIC/Modem/Sound
Microsoft Windows XP Home
512 MB SDRAM 333MHz (2 DIMMs)
40 GB EIDE Hard Drive (5400 RPM)
15.4 inch WXGA Notebook Screen
Wireless 1350 Internal Wireless b/g
24X CD RW/DVD Combo Drive
1Yr Warranty

The total on Dell Outlet came to $1,099 which considering tax and shipping were $0 seemed like a decent price so I purchased it .

After I purchased it, I wanted to see how good a deal I had gotten, so I went to the regular dell Small Business site and configured an identical system. The price was a whopping $3 more than the exact same system from the Dell Outlet. Then, just for fun, I tried to order the same system from the home site and it was $1,250. Finally, Dell offers employees of my company a 6-12% discount on all Insprion Notebooks, so I created the same system using that code and it came out to $1,239.

So...after pricing the same notebook, 4 times, I got 4 different prices and the best price was from the outlet, but only by $3.

I called Dell to inquire on this seemingly customer unfriendly practice and each person I spoke with (there were 4 in all) only knew about their own department's specials and pricing strategies. My recommendation, shop around even on Dell's own site to be sure that once you decide on the system that's right for you that you get it for the best price.

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Re: Personal Note -- Why I chose Dell

In reply to: Re: Personal Note -- Why I chose Dell

Well had you bought over the weekend you would have gotten the systesm for $999.

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Re: Personal Note -- Why I chose Dell

In reply to: Re: Personal Note -- Why I chose Dell


If you are happy with the price and notebook you got great. As I said, the Dell 8600 is a great alternative for the ATI 9700 video card that the HPZT3000 does not have.

However, you are stating only that you were applying the HP $100 custom order rebate to get down to your price level for a new HPZT3000 or Compaq X1000 of about $1200.

Since you say you are in school I assume it is a US college ?? That means you can get an instant 6% HPshopping APP discount -- on $1200 that would be another $72 off. If you order through the Fatcash portal you would get 3% more off deferred (they pay you later via Paypal). That would be $36 off. There are various short-term coupon codes just like Dell and sometimes a whopping 10% coupon code and all these discounts are posted at

Also, hpshopping has a 1 year no payments option so you can get the custom order notebook you want and use the 12 months to earn the extra 200-300 you say you are short.

I have posted all the discounts available here many times but I think you were reading mostly the technical posts at and not the ordering specs and pricing and all the discounts to apply.

Your notebook should suit you fine if you really want to keep that but at the very least I would not have bought a notebook with a b wireless minipci internal card as that will come back to bite you later unless you want to just use an external PC card 54G or 108mps super G in which case you are paying more and not having the internal card and the better battery life of the internal card..........

You could also shave up to $100 off the upfront notebook cost as I have said many times by custom ordering 256mb RAM 1 stick and getting your own PC2700 512mb notebook RAM at retail on sale (I got Kingston for 69.99 after rebate) for less than you are paying upfront for 512mb (and your configuration means both of your RAM slots are full as well so you can't add more RAM without throwing some away).

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Re: Personal Note -- Why I chose Dell

In reply to: Re: Personal Note -- Why I chose Dell

hey whats that Fatcash portal thing? thanks

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Re: Personal Note -- Why I chose Dell

In reply to: Re: Personal Note -- Why I chose Dell

Just go to and you will see all the online stores that they will give you a deferred cash back rebate for by going to that site and purchasing through their portal. It is normally 3% for HP/Compaq custom orders at hpshopping, for example, but they had a promotion during the back to schook period where the rebate was upped to a higher percentage.

Someone posted other portal sites that also list coupon codes, etc like so look for that thread.

You have to sign up with Fatcash (free) and then a window stays open when you link to the manufacturer site (hpshopping for example) and then after you do the purchase the credit acknowledgement should show up in a few days (you have to leave the applet window open for it to work). Then within 90 days or less you get the rebate transferred to you by paypal, etc.

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Why I will NEVER choose Dell or recommend it

In reply to: Dell Outlet -- Good day to buy a laptop

Dell has the worst customer service I have ever experienced. They also sell computers with known design flaws and work hard to frustrate folks who call in with issues in or out of warranty until they give up without ever really providing any service.
I purchased an Inspiron 5150 in August 2003 and it has had the same issue twice. Each time I spent upwards of 3 days on the phone with Dell.
If you want junk buy Dell.
If you want quality and customer service, look elsewhere.

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ProWireless 2200 -- User Upgradeable on 8600.

In reply to: Dell Outlet -- Good day to buy a laptop

Hey Ken, I hate to keep beating my own dead horse, but I did some research today and found that the MiniPCI card in Dell 8500/8600 computers is user-upgradeable . . . There's actually a cover on the bottom that opens to reveal the slot. Dell even provides explicit instructions for users to upgrade MiniPCI cards in their service manual. Even if they hadn't, I probably would've installed one anyway. But this just makes it easy. So if at any time I need to upgrade to 54G, I know I can do that (for less than $50, by the way).

So now I'm completely happy with my order. Happy

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Re: ProWireless 2200 -- User Upgradeable on 8600.

In reply to: ProWireless 2200 -- User Upgradeable on 8600.

Yes, the card is user upgradeable but I am trying to tell you that due to FCC pressure some manufacturers (IBM and HP/Compaq I am aware of -- research the issue yourself at will not allow non-vendor sold minipci cards to work.

That means you have to spend a huge premium (over $100) to get the upgrade from HP for example. The aftermarket minipci cards you can get for less (or some people require a cisco card, etc for work) will not work -- thos bios blocks it.

In the case of the HPZT3000/Compaq X1000 you can remain at the F34 bios and put in an aftermarket card so this is what people have done that did want to do this but they are angry. F42 and F50 bioses have now been released and if you buy a new HPZT3000 it will have at least the F50 bios and not allow a minipci switch if not ordered from HP without rolling back the bios.

So, I am simply telling you that for the average person getting the 54G built in Intel 2200b/g now is very important to avoid frustration or excessive cost later (or you just end up buying a PCcard wi-fi for $30.00 but then you have defeated the purpose of having everything internal and they are not as energy efficient at least on a Centrino which is designed to work with the chip,chipset, and minipci card (approved) for maximum efficiency).

If in fact Dell does not restrict you on purchasing an approved minipci card upgrade from them great but I would not mess around with this issue at all myself. All new quality notebooks over $1,000 built in 2004 should have the Intel 2200b/g card available standard.

If you say your notebook configuration was built in September 2004 (as it does have the Dothan cpu at least which is good) perhaps that is one of the reasons it was returned.

Since standard DSL is only 1.5mps and Cable is faster but still not over 10mps the b wi-fi speed of 11mps means you are not using the full bandwidth.

However, the advantage of the 54G is that it has a longer range and more stability so you will get a faster connection and less drops and that is what you want. You also can transfer files wirelessly between 2 computers over wi-fi at the full 54G speed (or people get the 108mps cards to do this even faster).

Since you got the Dothan cpu if you in fact think you could not have used the 6% student APP discount or Fatcash 3% or others at HP then you got a good value.

But you are short in the dedicated video memory (32mb instead of 64mb and not the ATI 9700) and you are short on the minipci card (b instead of g) so that to me are 2 very important issues I would not want to include.

And, as I said, you can get 12 months free financing from HPshopping (and perhaps Dell as well by the way) to come up with the extra 200--400 dollars if necessary to get the extra features you want for the long haul. That means in the short run you are paying $0 instead of $900 also...........

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Re: ProWireless 2200 -- User Upgradeable on 8600.

In reply to: Re: ProWireless 2200 -- User Upgradeable on 8600.

Well I just got the laptop. Happy It's wonderful. I really love the keyboard. It's exactly like the 4000. The reach is precisely what I expected. The action is exactly what want.

And I just found out from dell that there is no BIOS trickery among them, so I'm free to order my PRO 2200 Wireless card. Happy

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Re: ProWireless 2200 -- User Upgradeable on 8600.

In reply to: Re: ProWireless 2200 -- User Upgradeable on 8600.

Thats great if you can put in an aftermarket Intel 2200b/g card and not pay an inflated price from Dell but if so get it immediately and test out its operation with the notebook. Don't wait a year and find out later you are stuck paying the grossly inflated minipci card price from Dell or HP, etc.

If you like the keyboard that is what matters and the case construction is not as big of an issue is you are not transporting it heavily.

I do hope you don't reget getting only 32mb dedicated video though. That is better than any amount of shared video and I have 32mb myself (as I bought a prebuilt X1360US before I learned about You won't be able to play new games like Doom 3, etc at the minimum 64mb dedicated video required but I am not using my notebook for this purpose either.

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