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Posted on November 23rd, 2011 by Mike Jennings

Dell’s misleading graphics card buying advice

Dell should be commended for going out of its way to help novice PC buyers, but its entry for choosing a graphics card — accessible by clicking the “Help me choose” link when customising various Optiplex models — contains a glaring and potentially expensive error, as spotted by Reddit users.

While the text is basic, it’s accurate enough for beginners. Instead, it’s the image that contains a dangerous chunk of misinformation.


The monitor on the left, labelled as a PC that uses a “standard graphics card”, is displaying a Windows desktop that’s washed out and blurry. The seemingly identical Dell TFT on the right, powered by a “high-end graphics card”, is showing the same desktop – but this time it’s much sharper and more vivid. They’re both outputting at the same resolution.

It’s true that using different screens can alter how a desktop looks, but that’s not the case here: Dell’s page uses two identical monitors that display two identical desktops, with the dramatic change in its appearance apparently caused by the different classes of discrete graphics card being used.

It is, quite simply, rubbish. Any modern discrete graphics card, whether a mid-range model or a more powerful part, is more than capable of displaying a Windows desktop. There’s no chance that by choosing two of the different graphics options available with the Optiplex 790 – let’s say the £86 inc VAT AMD Radeon HD 6350 and the £256 inc VAT dual Radeon HD 6450 option – a desktop will look any different on the cheaper card.

Dell’s page says that its picture is for “demonstrative purposes only”, but it’s not demonstrating anything that’s remotely accurate. Instead, this misleading page appears to suggest that a more expensive graphics card will mean even the Windows desktop will be made brighter and sharper.

That’s especially unfair on a page that’s clearly aimed at novice users – the exact people who will trust this information from a well-known brand, and who’ll fork out extra cash for a graphics card that’s simply unnecessary.

Dell has issued a statement regarding this issue, which we’ve posted in full below. The full story can be read here.

“Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Dell endeavours to help customers to make the best decisions regarding their purchases. It was never our intention to mislead customers, and we apologise for any confusion caused. We have now removed the image from our Global sites. Dell remains committed to delivering the best possible experience to all our customers.”

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49 Responses to “ Dell’s misleading graphics card buying advice ”

  1. Ryan Thomas Says:
    November 23rd, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Have Dell responded to this yet?

  2. David Wright Says:
    November 23rd, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Heck, even the integrated Intel HD graphics on my old Toshiba laptop are sharper than the Dell cheap graphics card!

    Maybe they should change their supplier, if they really see such a difference! :-D

  3. Steve A Says:
    November 23rd, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    maybe they had some graphics package that had a whizzy filter that allowed the image to be sharpened, but this only worked on the high-end graphics card :p

  4. Fiona Says:
    November 23rd, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    Typical upselling of Dell. The same sharp practice used to sell their computers through agents based in India. Its a scam and that it is on a page aimed at novices. The assumption is they won’t know any better and will pay over the odds for something they don’t need. They won’t win business by continuing to operate they way they have been doing for the last 3 years.

  5. Lee Says:
    November 23rd, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    £256 inc VAT for a Dual Radeon 6450 option? Don’t those cards sell for about 30 quid each? Dodgy dell.

  6. fdsfsd Says:
    November 23rd, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    photoshopped image > filter > blur motion

  7. Chris W Says:
    November 23rd, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    Not excusing this at all, but ‘novice PC buyers’ probably wouldn’t be buying an Optiplex system, they’re intended for businesses and aren’t available on the home user section of the Dell website.

    That said, their ‘help me choose’ info is almost always out of date, wrong or not representative of the choices actually available.

  8. John T Says:
    November 23rd, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    That’s not so much ‘misleading’ as it is outright fraudulent.

    Has anyone contacted the ASA? (Not that they’ll do anything other than ask Dell to take the ‘guide’ down – six months after Dell will have discontinued its use anyway, but still…).

  9. ICT Tower Says:
    November 23rd, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    Shouldn’t someone complain to the ASA? Whose’s it going to be?!

  10. ChrisH Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 12:14 am

    Outrageous. Is there anything PC Pro can do? Maybe ban Dell from product reviews for a few months?

  11. IT Asset Manager Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 5:17 am

    There will be plenty of ‘Novice’ users on the Business section of the site,
    Quite a few of the firms I’ve worked have had business units choose their own PC’s from a list of accetpable units directly from Dell or HP.

    Sure these people could phone their IT Support group – but most would rather stay away from the hold times and attitude of a general helpdesker.

  12. Kubusja Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 7:38 am

    OK, it looks like HP standard graphics cards are much better than Dell standard graphics cards. :)

  13. Guy Dawson Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 8:18 am

    An exaggeration of the difference between using a VGA cable and a DVI/HDMi cable perhaps?

    Having recently made just that change using the same PC, built in video and monitor but changing the lead the change in sharpness is noticeable.

  14. Jules Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 8:19 am

    “Not excusing this at all, but ‘novice PC buyers’ probably wouldn’t be buying an Optiplex system, they’re intended for businesses and aren’t available on the home user section of the Dell website.”

    Why would you assume that a business PC buyer knows anything more about computers than a home buyer? According to Dell’s own figures ( 46% of businesses do not have any IT staff, and so purchasing decisions will be made in this case by non-experts.

  15. Jules Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 8:22 am

    “An exaggeration of the difference between using a VGA cable and a DVI/HDMi cable perhaps?”

    If so, still misleading, as all but one of the models of optiplex that page was written for support some form of digital output (either displayport or hdmi) for their integrated graphics.

  16. Kris Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 8:30 am

    I opened this website on my old PC and both images look like the left one :)

  17. John Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 8:34 am

    It does appear to be misleading given that a high end card shouldn’t be less clear than a low end card. The real difference for users is in FPS mostly where video and games are concerned. The question is how do you demonstrate that to users? I personally would only buy Intel and ATI graphics as they have open source drivers. So there are other things to be concerned with that even most techy users might not think of. Cards with proprietary graphics drivers lose support over time. Think 3dfx on XP or VIA (might be thinking of the wrong one). Both are unsupported or have lost support on some platform. I doubt NVidia still supports its oldest proprietary drivers either.

  18. Stephan Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 8:36 am

    “An exaggeration of the difference between using a VGA cable and a DVI/HDMi cable perhaps?”

    No, the VGA aspect ratio is slightly different, but in this case – the aspect ratio is identical, so no, you can’t give them that excuse.

  19. Willem Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Surely the ASA would have something to say?

  20. Bob Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 8:53 am

    Fraud. Plain and simple.

  21. BedfordTim Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 9:33 am

    I think Dell were indicating the image quality of games or video decoding. Unfortunately the images give no indication of this, which is probably because the marketing department are computer illiterate.

  22. anon Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 9:59 am

    If you zoom in, you’ll notice that the clocks appear to be showing the same time. I suppose its just the same image.

  23. walley Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 10:29 am

    do not buy dell, it is that simple

  24. Magnus Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 10:30 am

    The high end graphics card even makes the stand and bezel of the monitor look sharper.
    It’s a miracle I tell ya.

  25. Jeff Dickey Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 11:12 am

    People really need to get it through their heads that “Dell” is a mis-spelt name. The first letter should clearly be an ‘H’, as anyone who’s dealt with them in the last 15 years or so can tell you.

  26. Charles Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 1:54 pm


    I don’t think your article is accurate in the least. It would otherwise not make any sense for the huge disparity in the price of graphics card. Sure, even the cheapest graphics cards are capable of displaying reasonable quality graphics. I do not wish to go into the intricacies of graphic cards but suffice to say you get what you pay for. Graphic cards, for me, are one of the most important components I look out for and I do not mid spending a bit more to get an impressive display. I think this article is unfair.

  27. Charles Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 2:00 pm


    Correction to my previous comment which should read:

    I don’t think your article is accurate in the least. It would otherwise not make any sense for the huge disparity in the price of graphics low end graphics card and high end ones. I do not wish to go into the intricacies of graphic cards but suffice to say you get what you pay for. Graphic cards, for me, are one of the most important components on a computer and I therefore do not mind spending a bit more to get an impressive display. I think this article is unfair. It is like comparing a mini to a Rolls Royce. They both would get you from A to B but one would get you there in more comfort.

  28. Simon Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    @Charles I understand graphic cards are important, I’m an avid gamer myself. But to pretend that your desktop will be blury if you use a lower end card, in 2011, is purely false advertising. Even the worst integrated cheap laptop card will have more than enough power to display your desktop correctly.

  29. ron rossman Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Charles : you’re looking at this completely wrong. For your example, it would be like showing the rolls with 4 properly inflated tires next to the mini with four flat tires.

    It doesn’t matter the graphics card, the desktop will still look the same at the same resolution (well at least not blurry and crap like dell shows). Even the old Rage chip built into the 1U server I have (older dual opteron setup) displays the windows desktop without any blur, though being an old chip with limited ram kills the performance

  30. Jessie Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    While we all know this is not how it works. Has anyone thought that while totally inaccurate, that this was the easiest way for dell to say “hey this one is better than that one” while out going into framerate/pixel shaders/rendering cores/etc… to someone that will not understand it anyways?

  31. Rob Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 2:36 pm


    So displaying a misleading image is somehow going to magically increase their understanding.

    It would suffice to say that the more expensive card is recommended for intensive graphics use, such as games.

  32. Jason Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Jessie – that may be there reasoning, but it is very unfair to the people who don’t know any better. If all they need is a simple PC for basic Internet use and maybe MS Office this comparison will make them think that the low end card won’t work for them. They don’t want a blurry image, right? So based on this image they need to upgrade / spend more. That’s the problem here – they are making people spend more money without any reason.
    I have no doubt that if they wanted people to understand that the higher end one is better they could come up with a better way of showing it – perhaps a movie or game image for instance.

  33. Michael Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    They probably forgot to remove the protective foil from the first screen. That’s the only reasonable explanation.

  34. albieg Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    @Charles: There’s more than a problem in your comment: a non-working (and somewhat misleading) URL, a complete misunderstanding of the issue and a conclusion that sounds like a commercial. You could be a victim of Dell’s advertising, or you could be Dell.

  35. Pete N Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    This just what you come to expect from Dell Lies Lies and Dam Lies

  36. Alex Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    Ummm… how about contacting Dell before contacting the ASA. Give them a chance to take care of it. You have to figure that small time marketing images don’t exactly go through a bunch of engineers or upper management. This could be the work of some individual employee who did something dumb.

  37. IonOtter Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    They’re doing it in the US as well. Just change the UK in the link to US, and it takes you to the US version.

  38. Desi Lee Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    I just e-mailed our company’s Dell account rep and told him that I saw this and am not pleased. We are just starting to do significantly more business with Dell so hopefully the feedback will be taken seriously/escalated.

  39. Charles Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    @Ron Well, while I agree with you in principle, how easy would it be for anyone to demonstrate that one graphics card is better than the other other? What would be the point of showing two almost identical images? The price differential would not be justified would it? There won’t be any point in purchasing the expensive/better card would there?

  40. Jason Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    @Charles – it’s not that hard really. Take screen shots of some games to compare – on a low end card you need to disable a bunch of stuff (shadowing, etc…) to make it playable. The high end screen shot will look MUCH better. And it will be an accurate representation of why a high end card is better.

  41. Shrui Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    The link in the article points to the config page for the optiplex’s where the image doesn’t show (may have earlier of course but if so Dell have rectified it).

    In the Reddit post it links to the Vostro config pages where (atm) the image does still show but the vostro integrated option does use VGA. There can be a difference such as shown (albeit exaggerated) in their example when you compare VGA output to digital dependant on the quality of the card.

    So on the assumption it was there when the story was posted then it looks like shoddy site management/marketing and it was right to be raised (and corrected).

    Would love to think Dell will now take better care of its site in this respect but I don’t any of us would believe that fairy tale.

  42. Thomas Says:
    November 24th, 2011 at 8:54 pm


    Your response is a rather poor straw man. Ron was attempting to clarify a point that had already been made. The image is not representative of the primary (or even secondary) function of a graphics card. By making this point, he was not attempting to convince you that an image was somehow still appropriate or that it was somehow easy to demonstrate a video cards abilities so why you’re even mentioning them I’d love to know.

    Secondly, it seems like you’re arguing that the image isn’t that bad because it at least shows that there’s something different between them (even if the images aren’t representative of any graphics card function). If you truly believe that knowing, “there’s something different between them,” is enough data to make an informed purchasing decision, then I must ask, are you currently employed at Dell?

  43. Raval Seojattan Says:
    November 25th, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    The point is to give the “novice” PC user an visual representation of the difference between the two.

    They aren’t intentionally trying to mislead customers.

  44. David Wright Says:
    November 26th, 2011 at 11:33 am

    @Raval but they are deceiving their customers. If they had shown a game with higher detail on the high end card, fair enough.

    But a cheap card doesn’t make the Windows desktop blurry. I have a 15€ graphics card in my work desktop and it is running 2 24″ monitors, one over DVI the other over VGA. Both are sharp and not fuzzy.

  45. Jack Says:
    November 28th, 2011 at 4:20 am

    I think this is the result of a combination of two things:

    1. A repeat of what Raval said. This information isn’t meant for people who are technically savvy, or even want to be. It’s just a plain and simple visual representation of graphical difference.
    2. They are probably referring to resolution the graphics card can put out.

  46. David Wright Says:
    November 28th, 2011 at 8:42 am

    @Jack That is the whole point!

    1. But it ISN’T a visual representation of the graphical difference – there IS NO DIFFERENCE to the sharpness of the image on a Windows desktop.

    2. Unless you are planning on using a 30″ display, there IS NO DIFFERENCE in the resolution that the cheap card and the expensive card can output.

    THE difference is only usually visible in 3D animation in games or high-end CAD – neither of which are shown in the example.

    And the image used specifically uses the same physical resolution on both monitors!

  47. werty Says:
    December 1st, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Not a surprise to me.
    Dell has refused ANY help to me when the Nvidia Graphics card in my Inspiron E1705 failed due to manufacturing dry joints.

    Of course they offered a new card at full price!
    In the USA there was a class action against Nvidia, with settlement, so presumably Dell recouped. BUT no mention to me, nor any offer.

    It seems in the US that Dell design is well regarded, but CUSTOMER service is appallingly lowly regarded.
    To Dell, customers are suckers, and now its OK to lie to sell their products? They do not deserve to sell another unit. Anyone want a useless E1705? ? ?

  48. scott Says:
    January 18th, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    £86 for a radeon 6350?!?!
    I buy a few PC components fairly regularly as I run a very small business.
    Iv been putting the radeon 5450’s in budget PC’s for 8 months or so now and they have been £30 ish for ages. I cant remember the last time I saw 5350’s for sale new.

    And £256 for dual Radeon HD 6450, that is a pure wretched rip off.
    Firstly this was a mid range card 2 years ago and i have one in my laptop and its rather poo.
    Secondly you don’t set up mid range cards in cross fire ‘dual’ mode cos money would be far better spend on buying one mid/high end one, with the option of adding another later on.
    Thirdly £256 would buy you an entire self built PC with triple core 3.0Ghz AMD cpu, 2GB dual channel ram, DVDRW, 250GB hard disk and a radeon 6770 this card is as powerful as dual 6450’s +10% on its own and was only £85 before xmas and in 2 years time you could pick up another for £40 and double your performance.

    Never EVER buy from dell, ACER are a lot better for the money but somewhat lack in quality sometimes, if you want better build quality get HP or Toshiba, almost as good as sony but cost 30% less.
    Iv seen the inside of 100’s of PC’s dating back to the early 90’s and DELL look nice but are consistently very poor in quality and compatibility.

    If you cant build PC’s buy a Haynes manual or scour the net and learn or get someone else to do one, you will save 300%. If you go to a little shop that custom builds you will save 175% providing they are trust worthy.

    Not only the initial saving, you will actually be able to upgrade in 3 years time and the owner wont trick you into thinking you need a new one, especially if you buy a PC with an AMD CPU and AM3+ motherboard, this board will support £20 single core CPU right up to £265 8 core and future ones.

  49. Keith Miller Says:
    February 16th, 2013 at 1:35 am

    A late response I know, but I wonder if the customer was viewing Dell’s site with a “standard graphics card” whether they would have noticed the difference in picture since both would appear like the left one! :P :)

    On a side note, I was a faithful Dell customer until I realized I could get better systems (better specs, better parts) for a *lot* less money by building them myself. It’s not as hard to build your own PC as you might think.

    Re: previous post and Dell PCs looking nice inside… yeah they are not terrible, but compared to a DIY build, there is no comparison. Not that I get all gooey over what my PC looks like inside, but Dell components are generally generic and cheap. HP are worse.


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