In the past year Dell has responded to a large amount of consumers interested in a Linux desktop. Much of the nerd world has been dreaming of the “Year of the Linux Desktop” when Linux takes over and the evil giant Microsoft falls.
The Inspiron 530 is Dell’s current entry level desktop. I configured the 530N (Ubuntu Linux) and the 530 (Windows Vista) with as similar components as possible. Interestingly enough, the 530N’s cheapest configuration is significantly more powerful than the Vista baseline. Vista starts with a Celeron Processor and Intel integrated graphics, while the Ubuntu PC starts with a Dual-core 1.6 Intel, NVIDIA GeForce 8300GS, and an included 17 inch LCD. The Vista PC can’t even be upgraded to the same video card, so I chose the closest NVIDIA Geforce 7300LE. After adding in the 17 inch LCD to the Vista PC, the grand total was all the way up to $649. The Ubuntu PC beats it by $150 at $499.
Sadly this doesn’t mean you can make out with the Ubuntu PC and then buy Vista to install. Vista Home Basic still costs about $180, leaving you at a net loss of 30 bucks.
On the other hand, an integrated Intel video card is probably just as “capable” as these entry-level nvidia cards (in other words, pretty much completely useless for gaming) so the Windows version allows you to save $50 by using a GMA 3100 instead of adding the GeForce 7300LE. This brings the total price down to $599, making the Linux version $100 cheaper still.
I was unable to find reports on Dell’s success in selling the Ubuntu PCs. I wonder what market they are trying to hit with this low end offer. The best it seems to me are the few who have always been curious about Linux, but don’t want to mess with their current computer. Possibly trying to nab small computer labs who don’t need more than internet computing. In the end, if you need a low end computer and don’t need Windows, you can save a little money by going with Dell and Ubuntu.