Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Dell Vostro 15 3525 review

I've got a Dell Vostro 15 3525 laptop since Q2 of 2022. 

Overall it's bad but let's start with the good things about it:

  • Devuan Linux worked almost out of the box on it although I think that back then I had to use a slightly newer kernel otherwise the sound card was not properly recognized and I was missing the sound input.
  • Opening the laptop to change the disks, battery and RAM is easy too. 
  • The screen is nice. It only had a single blue subpixel that was dead. Hardly noticeable, I didn't even see it during my first dead pixel tests.
  • The screen hinges and overall the body of the laptop feels solid.
  • The CPU is fast enough for what I need it for. Rimworld runs perfectly on it. Minecraft is playable.
  • It has a camera shutter.
Now, I may have been unlucky and maybe it's just my laptop that has the following issues, I have no way to check. Let's go over them one by one:
  • It would refuse to accept any of the spare SSDs that I had in it's SATA slot. It always showed communication errors. I thought it was some Linux incompatibility. It wasn't. I noticed it would accept HDDs though, so I used those. Within 6 months, it destroyed 6 HDDs. I've had many HDDs in my life, very few died on me, maybe 4 over multiple decades years. This laptop almost doubled the number within 6 months. I took it for service, Dell returned it saying they saw no issue. The shop I bought it from, which had seen the issue, sent it back to Dell. They replaced the whole motherboard and all the issues went away. SSDs started working with no communication issues.
  • It gets too hot. I've completely disabled turboboost because, with it enabled, a single thread of load would take the CPU to 95C-100C. With turboboost off it is at 50C when it's almost, but not completely idling. Running something like Wonderdraft will immediately take it to 100C, turboboost or not, a feat that no game can achieve. A friend has practically the same laptop but with a 17' screen and the cooling system is insanely better. Dell just dropped the ball with the 15' version. The keys above the area where the CPU is are extremely hot, which is both annoying when typing on them and I believe has caused issues to the keyboard itself.
  • The keyboard sucks. Horribly so:
    • I felt like shift stayed pressed for longer than I held it down, resulting very frequently in typos like "HEllo there stranger! DO you accept ROberto IErusalimschy as you LOrd and SAvior?" I thought I'd get used to it but this being not the only keyboard that I type on, it was practically impossible to train my fingers to hold shift for a shorter time than on other keyboards. I wasn't even completely sure that this wasn't just in my head but then the issue went away when my motherboard was replaced because of the SATA issues.
    • The top row with Esc and the F keys is either not exactly centered in the chassis or, if it is, the holes of the keys are not wide enough because if you press these keys a little bit sideways (not exactly straight down) they scrape the chassis and make a "crack" sound.
    • The horizontal row of numerical keys has recently started ignoring keypresses unless pressed hard. My 3, 5, and especially 9 are very easy to on-purpose press beyond the point of resistance without really causing a keypress to register, and I've been more and more typos during regular typing like often missing these digits or their shifted forms. I suspect that this may be partially caused by the extreme heat from the CPU speeding up any corrosive/oxidizing process that naturally happens on the contacts under the rubber domes.
  • Small annoyance but I have not found a good way to reliably turn off the jump-scare PC speaker which is extremely loud. Right now I have a cronjob that turns it off every minute, because when pulseaudio starts up or if I restart it for whatever reason, it re-enables the PC speaker.
At this point I need those numerical keys fixed and I'm about halfway through the 3 year warranty period but I don't want to stay without my main computer for a month or more. If the last time is any indication, Dell's service might need to have it shipped twice to them before they actually fix it. So I am considering buying a Tuxedo Aura 14, sending the Vostro for slow servicing and then selling it once I get it back.

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