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True, one ends up spending a premium price for the Dell. I like to think I'm paying for reliability, but as you've mentioned, I'm sure you can get that today without paying a premium. A couple of things I've liked about my Dell laptops are the 1920 x 1200 panels and the 7200 rpm drives.
Wow. The last place I worked had about 115 machines, all Dell. I had to replace the motherboards in 40 of them because of the "capacitor plague", some, more than once. The count would be even higher had I not left. I'm sure the guy who followed me ended up replacing even more of them.
The bad caps weren't really Dells fault. The big problem I had with them was how they handled the situation. They denied the problem even existed for months.
The Dell Inspiron series is very infamous for overheating, crashing, and having components go boom on you. (Too lazy to get a link right now. Currently [still] waiting for Visual Studio 2012 Update 2 to install, after about 10 hours of it running. )
I never have had any issues with things from Radio Shack, and Dell is often overpriced. My new computer cost about half of what a Dell computer with most of the features would cost (The dell had 4GB RAM and a not so good screen, my new computer has 8GB RAM and a touchscreen with full 1080p HD functionality.)
Don't know how old your Dell is, but I have an 2 year old Inspiron in which the motherboard recently died. I was really pissed off and I only had the standard 1 year Dell warranty, so it was 1 year out of warranty. I called Dell expecting to get nowhere with the call centre operator, and was ready to get all shouty and aggressive. However, the Dell employee on the phone fell over himself to help me and offered several options to get the laptop up and running at no cost. I ended up getting a new motherboard couriered to me, popped it in, sent the old one back and the laptop is as good as new. All for free! We'll see how long this one lasts, I have noticed a decline in quality over the last couple of years. The first Dells I bought are still running after 12 years or so. I was pretty impressed with the way they handled my complaint though.