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Old 03-31-2014, 12:10 AM   #1
dynamitereed
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Any Recommendations for Trustworthy PC Manufacturers?


I'm actively seeking my next daily use machine. I have given up on Dell, my previous go-to for hardware. I've had too many instances of poor build quality, ridiculously unhelpful support, and hardware that gives up the ghost about 10 minutes after the warranty expires.

I'm having trouble finding a trustworthy source of hardware. The qualities that are important to me are the following:
  • build quality and attention to detail
  • support
  • modern hardware
  • "just works" with linux (doesn't have to come installed, I can do that myself)
  • isn't an ugly hunk of plastic that looks like boom boxes from the early 2000s, complete with laser light show
When I was a teenager, I painstakingly built my own computers to my own quality standard. I'm a bit of a perfectionist. But now, as an adult, I'm willing to pay the extra money for a system that "just works". I'd rather pay someone to deal with those details for me. I'm looking to spend less than $3,000 on my next system. I'm leaning towards a desktop system, not a laptop, but I can be persuaded. I'm a software programmer and web developer by trade who's been using various linux distros daily for over a decade and I enjoy playing games from the Humble Bundles and Steam.

Here's what I've considered so far and why I'm hesitant about what I've seen.

Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition
It's a Dell and it's a laptop, but I was drawn in by the "just works" perspective. Then I found out about the "coil whine" issue with it. Once again, a typical Dell build quality issue.

HP Zbook 14
Despite it being a laptop, I was very close to being sold on this one. The build quality seems solid. However, support for the AMD FirePro graphics card seems to be lacking. The official catalyst drivers for linux don't support it. It doesn't surprise me. I've never had any issues with NVIDIA graphics cards in linux, but I always seem to have problems with AMD cards. Besides, I don't really need a "professional" grade graphics card.

System 76 Leopard Extreme
I was very close to pulling the trigger on this one. It has modern hardware at a decent price and runs linux out of the box. It's not the most beautiful thing I've ever seen, but it's certainly not ugly. I never understood the allure of windows on PC cases. But I've never dealt with System 76 before. I saw it as a bad sign that there were quite a few posts on their own forum with "ain't what it used to be" sentiments about their build quality and support.

Besides these, I've also looked at Maingear, Puget Systems, and other boutiques (Origin, Falcon Northwest, Xidax, Digital Storm, etc., etc.). Some seem better than others in terms of value, but none of them makes any guarantees for linux compatibility.

So, please, I am begging for any recommendations you may have. Right now I'm limping along on an 8-year-old Thinkpad that's getting in the way of my work. Don't get me wrong, it's performed admirably and it's incredible that it's fared so well. The only thing that has given out on it is the battery. But it's time for a new machine.

Last edited by dynamitereed; 03-31-2014 at 10:18 AM.
 
Old 03-31-2014, 12:34 AM   #2
syg00
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dynamitereed View Post
I'd rather pay someone to deal with those details for me. I'm looking to spend less than $3,000 on my next system.
Couple of weeks back I went to my normal computer bits shop, and told them to build me a box. Sat down with a lass in her (very) early 20s and went through what I wanted - she recommended a good case and appropriate power supply and z87 motherboard after I insisted on Haswell i7 and 16 Gig of DDR3 - add an SSD and 4x2TB disks and away we went. I settled for an ATI Sapphire R9 card as I wanted something decent, but no need for the 3D (on Linux). Cost an extra AU$80 for the build and burn-in testing.

Came in well under your number in Aus dollars - might be worth a look if you still have a "bits and pieces" shop you trust.
 
Old 03-31-2014, 01:00 AM   #3
everest40
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I bought a Gazelle Professional 9 laptop from System 76 last August. I'm impressed with its internal design; it was obviously meant to be easy to upgrade. I did have to call their technical support line once. The speed and ease with which they solved my problem was amazing. They answered the phone after only one ring!
 
Old 03-31-2014, 07:43 AM   #4
Germany_chris
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For portables that are going to run Linux I will always use a Dell Latitude or Precision. For desktops I tend to build them myself but if I were not going to do that I'd go to the local store not only will the prices be better but the service will too. I literally don't leave my house without the Dell (and sometimes the Dell and the Mac) it's an '08 and is still going strong.
 
Old 03-31-2014, 08:01 AM   #5
Drakeo
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I like these guys you can call them on the phone and they answer. they will pre install linux on it and they stand behind there work.

eCollegePC
 
Old 03-31-2014, 10:23 AM   #6
dynamitereed
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Quote:
Originally Posted by everest40 View Post
I bought a Gazelle Professional 9 laptop from System 76 last August. I'm impressed with its internal design; it was obviously meant to be easy to upgrade. I did have to call their technical support line once. The speed and ease with which they solved my problem was amazing. They answered the phone after only one ring!
If you don't mind me asking, what issue did you have that required technical support?
 
Old 03-31-2014, 02:37 PM   #7
Steve R.
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You may wish to consider Asus. So far I have been very pleased with the Asus products that I have bought. I have my computers custom built by an independent computer store.

I would never buy a Dell, based on prior experience with their propriety dirty tricks. For example, several years ago we had a work related training session where each person had to to bring in their work computers which happened to be Dell laptops. In looking around the room, I noticed that the laptops had different (incompatible) power adapters.
I would also recommend staying away from Sony Vaio computers.

Last edited by Steve R.; 03-31-2014 at 02:57 PM.
 
Old 03-31-2014, 04:10 PM   #8
jefro
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At one time the IBM's were fully tested and well supported until they sold off to Lenovo. Most of the computers sold are junk. Maybe with good reason to since it only has to last a few years anyway.

Buy a system sold for enterprise. It may not be fast but it tends to have better parts.
 
Old 03-31-2014, 04:23 PM   #9
dynamitereed
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jefro View Post
At one time the IBM's were fully tested and well supported until they sold off to Lenovo. Most of the computers sold are junk. Maybe with good reason to since it only has to last a few years anyway.

Buy a system sold for enterprise. It may not be fast but it tends to have better parts.
Yeah, I'm seriously considering buying a ThinkStation E32 without a graphics card and then just sticking an aftermarket card in there. However, I found their power supplies are super wimpy and wouldn't be able to adequately power, say, a GTX 760 card. Now, I definitely don't want to have to replace the power supply (and reroute all the cables and such). I'm going to contact them and see if they'll do something custom for me since it is in their commercial workstation line. I seriously doubt they will considering I'm purchasing one machine. However, it never hurts to ask!
 
Old 03-31-2014, 05:52 PM   #10
haertig
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You have the experience to build your own (you said you've done it before), so why don't you want to go that route? Figure several hours to research parts and order what you choose, a couple hours to connect all the hardware together, and you're done. You're going to have to install the OS in any case, so that time doesn't add or subtract from the purchased vs. self-built decision. I will say from experience, it pays to buy a large and well designed case - things go together so much easier that way. You don't always save money building your own anymore, not like you used to, but you get to set your own quality level and tailor the system to what you want to do with it. You are your own technical support, but it sounds like you are qualified for that. Anyway, when you're running Linux, you're pretty much your own technical support no matter if you buy the hardware pre-built from a vendor or not. For the $3000 you want to spend - wow - you could have a powerhouse! Heavy duty gamers probably spend that much easily, but for a normal person using their computer for normal things, $3000 will put you in the stratosphere of hardware for normal desktop use.
 
Old 03-31-2014, 07:52 PM   #11
jefro
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A number of big name companies offer models for business. They tend to have more support in the price and tend to have better parts (if you can call them better).

My company bought billions of dollars worth of HP business class systems. The systems over the decade have been running pretty well under some demanding environments.
 
Old 03-31-2014, 09:14 PM   #12
frankbell
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I just got a Zareason Strata; I've had it about a month now.

I have so far been very impressed with the quality of the hardware.

I have tested all the bits--internal mic, mic port, speaker port, card reader, USB ports--every bit works. It has without a doubt the best keyboard and best keyboard feel of any computer, laptop or desktop, that I've had, plus it's got a separate numpad, something I have not before had on a laptop. The speakers are so good that I stopped using my little USB externals--the internal speakers out-perform them.

And here's another thing--I had to call Zareason with a question. The phone call was answered in two rings by a real live human being! I can't remember the last time I called a business whose menu options had not recently changed.

I'm very happy with it.

Last edited by frankbell; 03-31-2014 at 09:17 PM.
 
Old 03-31-2014, 11:25 PM   #13
everest40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dynamitereed View Post
If you don't mind me asking, what issue did you have that required technical support?
Ubuntu would freeze randomly, when I could get it to boot at all. Turns out I had a bad SSD. They sent me a replacement drive; I created a guide on iFixIt showing how to install it.
 
  


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