Tuesday 17 January 2023

I got a Dell Vostro 3300 for a bargain price and it works just fine after a few upgrades.

 A charity I used to volunteer from put a Dell Vostro 3300 on their eBay and idly just put the minimum bid on, 20 quid, thinking I would probably not get it, got outbid once, but then put a bid on an hour before it ended, won it with that 22 quid bid, absolute bargain! It's got a 2.27Ghz i3 CPU, and arrived with a single 2GB RAM stick and 320GB HDD installed. 

There's just two screws to remove to release the bottom panel to access Memory and hard drive and two screws to release the HDD. There's a Windows 7 COA under the battery but I doubt I will ever need that. I run Linux on all my laptops.

I then did a bit of musical chairs with parts in my other laptops. I took 8GB of RAM from a poorly Thinkpad X201 and put that in my 2012 Macbook Pro (been meaning to do that for a while) and put the MBP's original 4GB in the Vostro. Then I replaced the 320GB hard drive in the Vostro with the SSD from my Dell Latitude E6500, which has Manjaro KDE on. The E6500 is one of the oldest laptops I have in use and is a bit tatty, so the Vostro makes a good replacement for it. I won't bin the E6500, it'll go on the spares shelf. Once the SSD was in and everything put back properly, it booted up the Manjaro KDE install with no issues.      

The only slightly annoying downgrade from my other laptops, but particularly the E6500, is it only has VGA out rather than DisplayPort. There's an eSATA port which I doubt I will ever use, 2 USB 2.0 ports (one either side) and an Ethernet port. The trackpad is good, just as good as the one on my ThinkPad T430s and the keyboard is decent (though has no back light, like the Thinkpad does, though Dell did have one as an option on a slightly better spec model). 

The Vostro has a reasonably decent 13.3 inch anti-glare screen with a default resolution of 1366x768, which is a bit low compared to the 14 inch on the Thinkpad T430s, which runs at a very nice 1600x900 resolution. The Vostro was basically a midway point between the consumer garbage Inspiron range and the Latitude business range, so this laptop doesn't quite have the best components compared to Latitudes but is still a solid machine. In terms of other specs, it has a slightly slower i3 M350 CPU than the i5-3320M in the Thinkpad and a few less ports, and no USB 3. There's an SD card slot but no Express Card slot to add more ports. Overall, it's a handy little laptop, especially for just 20 quid! It runs Manjaro KDE perfectly fine, and is a useful replacement for the E6500, so I am pleased with it.

Monday 2 January 2023

Samsung Galaxy A12… It’s Quite Good, But It’s A Samsung

After my recent debacle with my Motorola Moto G22 and the retailer agreeing to take it back, I was left in a familiar position of not having a phone to use. I was in need of one quickly, so rather than spend money and take a punt on a used one I remembered my daughter had her old handset sitting in a draw.

The only problem was, it is a Samsung Galaxy A12. I have never been a fan of Samsung phones because of the overly-skinned UI. Admittedly, since the says of the S2 and S3 (and the TouchWiz interface) Samsung has scaled it back a bit. The newer One UI isn't too bad. It is one of the reasons I preferred Motorola phones, because of their near vanilla Android – but beggars cannot be choosers.

So, I set about moving everything over from the Moto G22 to the Galaxy A12. I used the Samsung Switch tool which took a little while to get working, but it did its job and 2 hours later the A12 had an almost identical feel to my G22 – minus a few apps that didn’t come across. At least it pulled call history and text messages across, something previous phone moves never did.

Spec wise, the Galaxy A12 (released in 2020) is still pretty decent featuring a MediaTek Helio P35 octa core processor, PowerVR GPU, 4GB RAM, 64GB internal storage, fingerprint sensor, MicroSD card slot and 3.5” headphone socket, plus a 6.5” screen, 5000mAh battery and running Android 11.

I have to be honest. I was hoping not to like it, not to expect it to perform well and just to use it short term until I found something else. However, spending the next few hours finalising apps and logging in to them, this thing didn’t miss a beat, sometimes with 6 or 7 apps open at once.

OK, the elephant in the room was the Samsung UI, which as I have already said is seriously scaled back from the overly kid like and totally different feel from older Samsung Android phones. Yes, it has a different look to stock Android but it still felt familiar. There are a few things I have yet to get used to such as the different placement of the three buttons at the bottom of the screen.

Overall I have been quite impressed. I still have a few niggles about the UI, but performance and battery life have been superb – especially considering this is also a budget handset, it was released two years ago and my teenage daughter has used it for a year.

One addition point to make is it was released in 2020 shipping with Android 11, got the update to 12 and Samsung has announced it will get 13 in the near future. In contrast my Moto G22 released in 2022 has Android 12 but won't be getting 13.

I might just cut my losses, save some money and keep this Samsung. It does what I need and it does it very well and it is just laying in a drawer not being used, but it is a Samsung.

Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at twitter.com/simonroyal