Dell Inspiron 5370 — Developer Review (After 6 months of Usage)
I have been using a Dell Inspiron 5370 as my main developer machine for over 6 months. One of my students suggested I write up a review of the device. Just to get that developer perspective on computer hardware. Here we go.
A detailed report of my experience with Dell Support. It’s not a good experience talking to them. Available here — Live Blogging A Dell Support Experience.
Computers are built for everybody. Artists have different needs. Business folks have different needs. Developer, such as myself, have our own specific needs. This review is meant for other developers (mostly my students) who are planning to upgrade their gear.
This is a review by a developer to other developers.
Prior to Buying
Prior to buying this machine, I had another Dell. It was a bare bones machine. 1366 X 768 screen. i3 Processor. Budget device. That is all i could afford at that time of that old Dell. For my next machine, I wanted something powerful.
Originally, I was hoping to grab a MacBook Pro. I have a Macbook Air for over 2 years now and the experience has been fantastic. Macs do support installing windows on a partition. Windows 10 licenses are reasonably priced. I had to pay for license anyway as I need Windows 10 Pro and not the Home edition that comes with Dell out of the box.
The issue with MacBook is that, with the latest iteration, Apple has really jacked up the prices. I continue to buy their overpriced devices (I grabbed the XS Max within a month of it releasing in India) but paying hundreds of dollars simply to get a bigger hard drive…I cannot justify spending that kind of money.
So, I removed Apple Mac from the equation. Turned my eye to HP and Dell. I wanted something that is powered by SSD, and i7 Processor. I did not care for battery life and had minimum 1080p expectations from the screen. All said and done, this Dell, Inspiron 5370 fit the requirements and the budget.
Shopping and Support Experience — Horrible
Unlike in other countries, dell does not sell its products directly to customers in India. I was forced to go through their own authorized dealer. The online shopping experience was pleasant. However, I had some questions about the product and sales people were hopelessly ill trained. They knew nothing about the product, its tech specs. They even transferred me to their support team who are equally bad.
Dell has some of the worst tech trained sales and support staff. They can follow a script which covers basic questions. However, they were unable to help me at all with the deep questions I had about the product.
Once the order was placed, it took them almost a week to ship the product to my door step.
Further, when I called support to extend warranty (By now, I knew, I should never depend on dell support to help me with technical things) it was a nightmare! Their support numbers wont work or wont connect. When it did connect, it took half of an hour, multiple dials and multiple button pressing and to finally speak to an actual person.
It was not all bad though. I eventually bumped into a guy who knew what he is doing. Further, I did complain and someone from their main office in Bangalore did call me. She apologized and collected feedback and such. I also got my warranty extended.
All said, it was not the best of experiences.
Product Experience — The Worst & Horrible Stuff
The trackpad. Oh my god, the trackpad.
Perhaps the fault here lies with apple ( the Macbook Air is my daily driver, whilst the Inspiron 5370 is only used when I am working on code) as the Mac trackpad is the absolute best.
Some of the fault lies with Dell too, for using the same poorly made trackpad from a low end Dell machine and putting in their midrange/high end device such as 5370. The entire machine seems like a compromise between providing more power under the hood but also cutting costs elsewhere.
This makes sense to me, for I chose to go with the compromise. At the same time, why compromise on the trackpad, Dell? Is trackpad technology so expensive that you had to cut costs here? Seriously? The taps dont register. The clicks dont register. select and dragging is almost impossible. It takes two hands to do select and drag, select and copy or cut. Something as simple as a single tap takes an inhuman amount of effort from me.
Fortunately, I always carry with me the incredibly amazing Microsoft Sculpt Comfort Mouse. Its permanently paired with this Dell. I have overcome the problem (by spending an additional 3000 rupees aka 50 to 60 $) and carry the mouse wherever I go. I have found a solution, definitely. That does not change the fact that, Dell could have given me a better trackpad experience than trying to cut costs in the wrong place.
The trackpad is the worst thing about this machine. If you dont plan to buy an external mouse, then please dont buy this laptop.
Product Experience — The Bad Stuff
Having used this product for over six months. Some of the things in this machine is just plain horrible.
Keyboard — The backlit keyboard is perhaps the worst keyboard I have used. My other daily driver, MacBook Air, cost less than half of this machine. It has a far superior keyboard and is such a joy to type on. This Dell keyboard is sticky, it wont let my fingers travel. It spaced too close and the feedback when I tap is bad. For a touch typist such as myself who has impressive typing skills, this keyboard is a performance throttler.
Camera — The keyboard, I have learned to live with and my fingers are adapting, slowly. I know, and I understand that Dell had to cut cost somewhere. However, the camera, is bad. Remember, back when budget android phones were introduced 5 years ago? They had these weak cameras? Everything looked dark and dead? That’s how bad this camera is. In this day and age of video calls, this is a serious misstep. I never use it. If there is a video call, I log in with my Air or just use my iPhone.
Graphics Card — The AMD Radeon card on this machine is super useless. It cannot run 10 year old games like Far Cry 3 or even Far Cry 2 at 1080p even at low settings. I get that laptop graphic cards are supposed to be bad. I know, this is not an Alienware or a gaming machine. Still, for a machine that costs this much, I was hoping to at least play a decade old game.
Nope, not happening. Dont expect to play anything on this.
Product Experience — The Good Stuff
The machine, has met or exceeded every expectation from a developer perspective. Upgrading the RAM to 24 GB (8 GB plus 16 GB) was a breeze. The processor is super powerful. I can multi task like crazy. While I am working, I got anywhere from 10 to 30 applications running with multiple windows all the time. The machine does not bog down, at all.
Its extremely light weight, considering the hardware is packing. I have carried it to multiple cities in luggage bags and carry bags or in my hand. The charger charges fast. The battery life is low (2 to 3 hours) but I knew about it in advance. On top of that, windows based machines rarely give me more than a couple of hours anyway.
The size of the machine is just perfect. The display is nothing to write home about. You wont enjoy the movies with true color or anything. In fact, you wont enjoy this screen at all. It is just good enough for some casual movie watching. It is great for coding and work. All in all, its an above average display with good brightness.
It looks good. The body is made of plastic but it has an aluminum finish. I like it very much. It's easy to clean and does not collect dust like other machines. While the graphics card sucks for gaming, for everything else, it is up to mark. Photoshop runs butter smooth. hard number crunching — excel sheets and database stuff — runs super smooth. This beast can handle all that without a sweat.
Credit where it is due, Dell had very less spam ware on the machine. It was easy to remove them from the computer. I bought the license for Windows Pro. Upgrading from the Home edition (that was bundled with this machine) was a smooth affair. While Dell Support itself has been pedestrian, Windows support has been fantastic. I have contacted Microsoft multiple times regarding this Dell and each time, it has been fantastic.
The device has its problems.
The shopping experience is straight up pedestrian. Delivery time reminds you of the early 90s and late 80s. Support sucks. The trackpad will remind you every hour that you are using a machine that has been seriously compromised by Dell at the design stage itself.
These things matter to you, and you dont want to work around them like I did, then dont buy this.
On the greener side, the problems are minor in the grand scheme of things. The device is super powerful and costs much less than a similarly specked Apple offering. Its upgradeable (which you cannot do with Mac). Dell support is constantly trying to outdo Xiaomi (which is, how pathetic can we treat our customers and still get away with it). However, you can get lucky after the first few calls and end up with a rep who knows what he is doing.
For a developer who wants portability and power while on the move and at home, this is a good work horse machine. If this is what you are looking for, with the shortcomings mentioned above, go ahead and get this. For me, this is and continues to be a good device.