I bought a Dell XPS 15

I’ve been trying to justify buying a new laptop for nearly 2 years. Despite it being the only thing that allows me to earn an income, I have been stuck in this “the old one still works” mindset: even though it’s slower, heavier, and has approximately 6 minutes battery life these days. Given the Acer’s approx value at purchase was circa £400 and that’s my daily rate, I’d paid for it through work several hundred times over; I was holding on to it because I’m a miserable scrooge.

So, after convincing myself that it was a sensible business decision to invest in some faster / better tech at some point, I had to decide what to buy. I read review after review for lots of top spec laptops: HP Spectre series, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4s, and various Dells including the Dell XPS 15. The only problem was the price tag: the build I wanted was £1500. My car is worth less than that.

Towards the end of June, on a whim I checked out the Dell website again and noticed that they had a series of offers on: £100 off certain laptops over £1000, £150 cashback on laptops over £1299 bought before 5th July AND Dell are on topcashback, which I knew would recover about £75 which would bring the final price down to just under £1200. Probably still worth more than my car, but enough of a saving that — combined with my recent celebration of 5 years in business — sealed the deal. One Dell laptop, in the bag.


(Not my photo, soz.)

It is a fucking beast of a laptop, with tech specs as follows:

  • 7th Generation Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700HQ Quad Core Processor
  • 15.6″ FHD (1920 x 1080) InfinityEdge display
  • 16GB, DDR4, 2400MHz; with support for up to 32GB should I feel insane enough to upgrade
  • 512GB PCIe Solid State Drive
  • 97WHr battery with estimated 19hr use
  • NVIDIA(R) GeForce(R) GTX 1050 with 4GB GDDR5(!!!)

First off, I have to state that the 19hr estimated use on the battery is optimistic at best. That said, I can do a full working day of heavy dev running XAMPP, Photoshop, PDF reader, Microsoft Word etc and only just start to worry about charging at the end of it. I can get a good 12 hours out of casual web browsing.

It’s a surprisingly lightweight laptop for the spec (I was expecting it to weigh half a ton) at approx 2kg, albeit heavier than some of its competitors, but 100% looks the business for it. With a smooth aluminium chassis and massive screen filling virtually every bit of space available, it looks every bit as expensive as the price tag it carries. Unfortunately the palm rest and internal casing let it down a little as it picks up grease from my fingertips like woah.

Visuals aside, the laptop hasn’t faltered yet. I’ve thrown a heavy workload at it from the get go (things are busy right now) and it’s hit the ground running. On Friday I was running Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator simultaneously while working on a CSS3 heavy website with multiple instances of Chrome open, as well as the various dev tools in the background. To top it all off, it wasn’t plugged in so running on a reduced power mode and I hadn’t noticed: there was not even a stutter from the processor. I honestly think I have outdone my personal needs here, and would love to see what this thing can truly handle.

It’s the quietest laptop I’ve ever owned, although that’s not necessarily hard given the old acer sounded like a plane taking off if it got in the slightest bit stressed.

I’ve previously expressed my concern about laptops shipping without e.g. CD drives (admittedly, back in 2008!) and the XPS 15 is one of them but I’m prepared to eat humble pie: I can’t remember the last time I used the CD/DVD drive on my Acer & I’ve yet to miss it on the Dell. Admittedly, growing USB drive capacity and “cloud” back-up services are the main reason behind that, with media streaming being my main source of music consumption a close second.

Aside from the case marks I touched upon earlier, my only other complaint is that I sometimes struggle to open the lid. It sounds silly but if I don’t have my fingers in a very specific placement, I find it difficult to get enough grip on it to get it open. Nobody mentioned this in any of the reviews I read prior to purchase, so that might just be me being a total bellend.

I’m also led to believe that the built in webcam is not positioned particularly well, which could lead to some interesting chats with my clients, but if I ever double up as a cam girl might produce some interesting chest shots ;)

All in I’m really pleased I finally took the plunge in buying some new hardware and I like that the Dell has offered me so far. I only hope it’s more reliable than my bloody car.

Ohai August

You’d think having not blogged for over a month I’d have a huge array of exciting developments to fill you in on.

Unfortunately, however, my life is just chores, bum-wiping and work, and I’m too lazy to make anything exciting up so you’re not disappointed by my very existance. But in a nutshell (for those interested in the monotony and the mundane) I have:

  • Agreed to do the Macmillan ‘Brave the Shave’ to help raise money so that they can support those suffering from cancer. A charity close to my own heart after they supported my maternal grandmother in her final weeks. I’m not sure what bravery is involved in voluntarily removing one’s hair, but if I can make a few quid doing something fairly simple, it’s all good.
  • Wasted a LOT of hours (when I should have been cleaning, parenting and/or sleeping) playing Stardew Valley. It’s the only game to have held my attention for longer than an hour in well over a decade. Love it, and love that it’s 100% by a lone indie dev. You can see what my farm looks like if that’s your bag.
  • Drunk too much, eaten too much, and exercised too little. And have put on about 10lbs for the privilege. Currently holding myself accountable by posting daily(ish) sweaty selfies to instagram. Feel free to nag me if I skip a day.

In addition to that, my essure has been signed off (the mysterious pain and bleeding stopped) and Oliver has finally finished nursery and is due to start school in September. Scary to think of my baby boy being old enough for school, but it couldn’t come soon enough. Paying out hundreds of pounds a month for childcare is gut-wrenching and not in any way helpful for overpaying the mortgage.

I reinstalled my laptop recently in a desperate last-ditch attempt to speed it up before I give up and replace it (which I can ill afford to do). After clearing out a few years of accumulated shite, converting to free open source software to cover stuff I no longer have the license to (Photoshop), and using Chrome as my primary browser (from Firefox)… well, it seems to have done the trick. Touch wood.

I decided a while back to redevelop this blog and my professional site into one big site, but after getting to 99% completion I decided against it at the last minute. Pondering how commercial and personal identity fit together isn’t a new thing — I’ve waffled on about it on here for years — but merging still makes me feel censored when it comes to discussing things of a more personal nature, so it’s not yet a path I’m willing to go down. This does mean my pro site will get a mini makeover (as soon as I have time to do it) though, woo!

I guess that’s all folks. See you again next month.

Laptop Limbo (and some news)

As I count down the days til I’m back at my desk at home, I feel like I’m in sort of “work limbo” right now. I’m actively seeking and quoting for freelance opportunities — some of which are looking more positive than others — but I still have a huge amount of work on at the day job, all of which I need to get through before I can actually leave. I’m effectively back to trying to fit two full time jobs worth of stuff in to one day, without sacrificing all of the other things I have going on (like, uh, raising my children).

I really want to make working from home actually work (haha pun) for me this time. As mentioned previously on the blog, I’ve got my plans in place to get me out of the house so that I don’t turn into a hermit. I’ve got my desk set up with space to spread out (unlike my original home working desk area!) and I’m even considering investing in some new tech so that I’m not slowed down by a hardware bottleneck. I have been working on laptops for over 10 years now, but the call of the power of a desktop machine has been tugging at me for 6 months or so (and not just so I can get back into gaming during my spare time … what is that again?)

Looking at Tesco’s laptop v. desktop info to try and figure out what I want to do, I can see that the pros of keeping the laptop mean retaining the portability I have now (super important) but then I watch Gaz switch between his laptop (at mine, or downstairs at his) and desktop and he makes it seem effortless so it’s not an all or nothing scenario. Pros of a desktop include greater power, and less likely to succumb to damage (because it’s out of the way of sticky fingers).

To complicate matters further I’m in a bit of “home limbo” right now too. I recently asked Gaz to move in with me and he said yes (yay!) so I’m in the process of decluttering and getting rid of everything that isn’t 100% necessary to make room for his stuff. This means that I’ll likely be getting rid of my desk, which is fine because I can work anywhere (including at his desk) with my laptop, but fitting two desktops on one desk is impractical. He has suggested I just use his PC, but I’d find that really weird. I’d feel like I’m invading his privacy, even with my own user account.

I guess ultimately my choice will come down to two things: 1) can I afford a new desktop? (probably not) and 2) am I likely to see sufficient speed gains by switching to an SSD hard drive? (probably would) Guess I’ve solved my own dilemma there…