UPDATE: Turns out the NIC on my laptop is GbE after all, even though the order spec sheet said it wasn't; Realtek RTL8111/8168B chipset, to be precise.
So, I'm getting a new laptop, mostly care of my employer (however, that is a story for another time). As those of you who have heard me rant at length on the subject will know, my list of acceptable laptops is extremely short; almost every laptop I've looked at has either at least one technical flaw that makes it a deal-breaker for me, or just looks ugly (which is subjective, of course). Until a little while ago, about the only laptop on the list was the Hewlett-Packard NC/NX range, but someone pointed the Dell Vostro range out to me. After some research, it turned out to be more attractively priced than the HP laptops, while still having all the important attributes; the only issue I noticed is that most of the models only have 10/100 Ethernet, not GbE. This doesn't really matter too much to me, but it does seem rather strange; surely a GbE NIC/PHY isn't particularly more expensive?
Customizing the laptop through Dell's web interface proved to be an interesting exercise; I wanted to get a Vostro 1515 which has a 15" display; 13" is a bit cramped, and 17" is too big for convenience. The web interface presented three different starting models: "Better", "Best" and "MIcrosoft SME Bundle". The Microsoft SME Bundle was inexplicably far more expensive than the other two, so I ignored it; I couldn't figure out what the supposed advantage of it was, either. Playing around with configurations of the other two models, I quickly discovered that upgrading the "Better" model to a T8xx series CPU was pointlessly expensive, compared to the "Best" model which starts off with a T8100. However, the "Best" model does not have the option to go for the cheaper Intel graphics chipset, only the nVIDIA chipset. Thus, I ended up getting more powerful graphics hardware than I had expected, a nice bonus; the final price I paid was quite reasonable, and I would probably have been happy to pay that price even if it had been for Intel graphics. The final specs were:
After finalizing my decision to purchase the laptop, I entered my credit card details and fired off the order through Dell's web interface, and I'll be keeping track of the progress of my order here, just for fun.
June 24, 2008 21:18: Received the order acknowledgement which included a receipt number, and informed me that I would receive an order confirmation by e-mail after my payment was authorised.
June 25, 2008 10:00: No order confirmation yet, and I can't check the order status on the website yet; I decide to call the South African number listed on the website, get through to someone who transfers me to someone else's phone, which just rings through to their voicemail, at which point I give up and hang up.
June 25, 2008 16:30: Still no order confirmation. I phone Dell SA again, this time getting through to someone who takes my details, says that it's still not reflecting on his system, and that he'll check again in the morning and call me back.
June 26, 2008 21:09: I try to check the status on the website again, and my order details are showing now; the order is in the "Order Processing", with an estimated delivery date of July 15. Yikes?
June 27, 2008 10:44: My order confirmation e-mail arrives, and the order proceeds to the "Pre-Production" state. The guy I spoke to at Dell SA never did phone me back... Estimated delivery date still hasn't changed, I'm hoping that the estimate is rather pessimistic; I'm not really in an urgent hurry to get the laptop, but after going through the whole purchasing process, I'm pretty eager to get my hands on my new toy.
June 30, 2008 11:30: My order has proceeded to the "Production" state.
June 30, 2008 16:38: "Phase: 5. Dispatched...Your order is currently with the carrier and a detailed status on your delivery should be available shortly."
July 3, 2008 12:30: Still no "detailed status"; thanks Dell... However, I figured out that the order number worked when doing a "guest login" search for a reference number on the courier's website (Expeditors), so I've been following the information there with interest; I get to see shipping information on the whole consignment/container. Apparently it was placed on board a flight from Shannon, Ireland to Heathrow airport late last night, and is scheduled to depart on a London -> Johannesburg flight late tonight, arriving in Johannesburg on Friday morning. I'm not sure if this means I'll still get the laptop on Friday, or if I'll have to wait until next week.
July 7, 2008 13:27: It arrived!