I have been a long time fan of Dells hardware for servers, desktops, midrange laptops, and my own favorites, the Precision line laptops since the late 90s. I am a CTO-like figure that consults for several companies simultaneously at any given time considering my wide range of technical backgrounds is sort of hard to find all in one experienced person willing to travel to your far flung locale.
That being said, I'd like to make a few suggestions because I don't plan on buying the Precision line for our developers or myself in the future as a result of one particular bone-headed change that are making life very difficult me and my teams.
- Offer an optional keyboard for the Precision-line units (CRITICAL)
The original earlier keyboards (M4800 and earlier) had easy access to full sized Directional Arrows, Pause/Break, Scroll Lock, Home, End, Insert, Delete keys. Most modern consumers ( ie. grandma) have no use for these keys, but professional computer systems engineers that work on all sorts of weird *** every day do, and guess which one buys expensive Precision line laptops? The keyboard unit pops out. Simply offer an option and these units will be our next purchase.
In a given year we estimated that our average developer uses that above combination of keys 3000~4000 times a month in order to avoid using the mouse and/or multiple key press actions, until now that is where it is no longer an option. For people who measure their productivity in how much code they can produce, it *** matters, it works out to several hours of life each year as a result of some missing keys... who could have guessed?
- Illuminate the inside of the USB ports (NICE TO HAVE)
Not a biggie, but a small dim LED would go a long way when were sitting in a weird place having to modify code on some obscure piece of industrial hardware and trying to plug in a thumb drive or USB cable in near darkness.
- Sound popping (LOW PRIORITY)
Not a biggie, but all our Dell 7510s audio makes popping noises randomly when sounds are triggered in Windows. All updates are installed and it still does this.
Otherwise these units have been great. Well built (my last one lasted 9 years and 20 countries). It'd be a shame to have to go with something different because Dell can't seem to be mindful of who buys these units.
I know that a user named Mano-G is active on the very active NotebookReview forums if you happen to be a member over there. Otherwise I think the Direct2Dell site used to offer a way to send feedback, but I don't know if that's still the case. If you have a sales rep, you could try sending feedback that way.
I agree with your keyboard comments, by the way, and I've heard through the grapevine that the keyboard layouts will be changing soon to address precisely the reality you describe with respect to the target market. However, optional keyboards would be tricky. Laptop manufacturers already have to offer a huge number of keyboard variants to accommodate various global regions, all of which have their own standards, so adding another option would actually be adding potentially dozens more options if that were to be made available globally. But I would expect that dedicated keys for Home and End will be making a comeback. On the Precision 5000 Series it's even more aggravating because even PgUp/PgDn don't get dedicated keys, even though there's an empty space right near the arrow keys where they could've been placed, and where they ARE placed on Latitude 7000 models. The half-height arrow keys may stick around, but that doesn't bother me nearly as much as having to use a Fn key to trigger those "geeky" functions.
Still, one of my favorite laptop keyboards ever was the Precision M6300, which had Home/End, Insert/Break, and PgUp/PgDn all in the traditional 3x2 desktop keyboard layout and all in the upper-right corner. But the trend seems to be minimizing the number of key rows, undoubtedly partly driven by the push for larger touchpads for multi-touch.
By the way, even if optional keyboard layouts were to happen, that would almost certainly be in order to allow the numeric keypad to be omitted, because I know it drives some people nuts to have their hands off-center on their laptop, especially if they don't use the 10-key anyway. That's especially problematic in cases where you're balancing the system on your lap, since that hand position and concentrated action on that side would cause it to wobble/tilt to the left. Additionally, some systems don't have enough palmrest area for the user's hands to remain comfortable for long periods of time in an offset position. My dad owns an accounting firm and a built-in 10-key was a requirement when they ordered their most recent batch of laptops because the USB versions weren't cutting it. They love this feature on their Latitude E5550s, but that's not universal by any means.
And on an only slightly related note, since you mentioned productivity being measured in amount of code written, I just stumbled across a product I hadn't even realized existed and has immediately spiked my own productivity: 15" portable USB-powered displays. The current king of the hill is the ASUS MB16AC, which supports the USB Type-C DisplayPort Alt Mode standard but can also function as a DisplayLink display via USB-A (or even USB-C if the system simply doesn't offer video on its USB-C port). I'm sure you're already familiar with the benefits of multiple displays, so this simply allows you to enjoy this luxury on the go with no fuss and not even much of a weight penalty. Highly recommended if you frequently use your laptop in a particular location for hours at a time where desktop peripherals aren't available.
Thank you, the portable monitors could be a nice touch for sure.
I'll search around at the sites you mention. I find it odd they don't have a standardized place to send such customer feedback.
We use the 10-key rather infrequently, although we primarily perform coding and in particular, a lot of editing / modification work of existing code, so we use the Home/Insert/Delete/PgUp/PgDn and Arrows / Arrow+Shift, Home+Shift, End+Shift combos very frequently . Going from the older Dells which had these keys (albeit small) has really made our lives difficult as of late. I guess its our fault for not noticing that these keys would be missing from the new 15" size laptops. I now carry a USB keyboard around now just accommodate this problem which really *** when you consider what we pay for these units.
I could certainly see where someone in the accounting field would take issue with the lack of a 10-key for similar productivity reasons.
I do understand that Dell would have more keyboards to manage, however, I understand that I and probably a few others, are more than happy to pay a x3 to x5 price premium over a 'regular' laptop just to have a few extra little things, like a 'ye-old-keyboard' option. The differences are subtle, but make for many hours difference in the work outcome, and I like my hours.
Believe me, I'm right there with you. I do a lot of PowerShell scripting and have just become accustomed to using keyboard shortcuts for everyday text entry simply because it's so much faster than moving one's hand to the mouse/touchpad, moving a cursor, finding something in a menu, etc. I personally don't understand how more people even doing "regular jobs" don't use the keys and commands you mention, but that's how it is. Anyhow, my work gave me a Latitude 7480 that robbed me of dedicated Home/End keys, and I immediately noticed the hit to my productivity because I initially decided to simply stop using those keys. Before long, I relented and forced myself to get in the habit of using the Fn combination to trigger those keys, and within about 2 weeks it was coming naturally to me, and consequently my productivity is now very close to what it was on my previous laptop. So if you're currently stuck with any PCs that have this type of layout now or would like to stop carrying a desktop keyboard around, the effort to use the current layout will be rewarded with very near 100% recovery of productivity -- and thankfully that retraining didn't mess up my muscle memory when I'm working on a proper desktop keyboard. And if you're NOT stuck with many of these models, as I mentioned, the keyboards on the current crop of Precisions have been a particular point of negative feedback, so I would expect the next models to improve this.