Is Dell's Pricey (Project) Red PC A Ripoff?

Over at Engadget there is a debate going on about Microsoft and Dell’s collaboration on a (Project) Red XPS PC that is $300 more than the standard XPS, with $80 going towards AIDS relief.

The controversy comes from the fact that the $300 “upgrade” to the standard system is for Microsoft software only—leading some to conclude that the world would be better off if you just donated the $300 to charity, rather than spending it on a (Project) Red PC that comes with expensive software you may not need and can find cheaper elsewhere.

Not to rag on a charities, but these are the things that everyone should think about before making a donation or a purchase that “benefits charity.” Some people will probably want and value the software (and the pretty red computer) and think it’s a good deal. Other people will disagree. Ultimately, it’s your money.

Dell’s XPS One (PRODUCT) RED is a charitable rip off [Engadget]


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  1. Echomatrix says:

    Agreed. Just like the all the Breast Cancer Research Yogurt Containers. Buy the cheap stuff then donate the rest to charity if you really want to help.

    I would almost say the same thing with the iPod Nano RED product

  2. Echomatrix says:

    Also, I noticed that you HAVE to buy the XPS 1530 RED if you want a Red XPS 1530…

  3. varco says:

    Is this any different from the (red) ipod or any other (red) product, ever?

  4. hypnotik_jello says:

    It’s really for people who are too lazy to do the research on donating to a charity but still want to have that warm feeling inside.

  5. varco says:

    Also, you’re getting 2 pretty big software upgrades in going from Microsoft Works to Office Student and Teacher Edition ($1-150) and from Vista Home Premium to Vista Ultimate (~$100). You may value these things differently than MS, but you are getting what you’re paying for.

  6. Falconfire says:

    @varco: yes. the (red) iPod costs exactly the same as a normal 8 gig iPod nano, it just has the profits going to (red). Its kinda obvious Dell and Microsoft have no intention to not make a profit off this thing.

  7. miguelggarcia says:

    @varco: Well, at least the (red) iPod is priced the same that the (blue), (black), or (green) iPod’s.

  8. Falconfire says:

    @varco: Your paying fully price for them though going by your valuing of them. Dell NEVER pays full price for the packages, we get them as a school district for about 30 bucks a license for office, and 60 for Vista Enterprise edition.

  9. varco says:

    @Falconfire: Apple’s website says that part of the profits to (product) red, not all. It’s not really clear how much it is.

    Every company that’s part of this is using it as a marketing technique, and the program hasn’t really donated a huge amount to the global fund.

  10. varco says:

    @Falconfire: Last time I saw MS Office Student and Teacher Edition in Costco, it was going for about $120. MS donates a lot of money to schools and it’s possible that you guys are getting a break because of some charitable program. Or it could be that site licenses are a lot cheaper than individual licenses.

  11. varco says:

    @miguelggarcia: And strangely, there’s still a $125 premium on the black macbook vs the white macbook (if configured identically).

  12. 44 in a Row says:

    Your paying fully price for them though going by your valuing of them. Dell NEVER pays full price for the packages, we get them as a school district for about 30 bucks a license for office, and 60 for Vista Enterprise edition.

    Right, but the point he’s making is that if you’re buying a Dell and configuring it yourself, they charge $150 extra for Office regardless of whether it’s a (red) computer or not.

  13. sven.kirk says:

    @Echomatrix: Thank you. I agree totally. Most companies that donate a portion of profits, not gross. Also most companies set a cap on how much they will donate.

    When you buy “special edition” products like these, not much money is going to the charity. It is more beneficial to, for both, to give straight to the charity. It removes a lot of the overhead expenses. And the person donating can write off on taxes, as long as goods or services are NOT provided (sorry Girl Scout cookies).

  14. 44 in a Row says:

    And if you want Vista Ultimate, the (red) XPS m1330 is actually a good deal. Dell normally charges $999 for the base m1330, and then $150 extra for Vista Ultimate. The (red) m1330 is $1149, and includes both Vista Ultimate and a $50 donation. So you come out ahead on that one.

  15. 44 in a Row says:

    That’s not to say, by the way, that I think Vista Ultimate is necessary, or that $150 extra for Vista Ultimate is a good deal. But then the question is whether or not Dell is ripping you off when you buy upgrades through them, as opposed to whether Dell is being deceptive when they say they’re donating money to charity. I’m only looking at the latter right now.

  16. topgun says:

    If it was $300 to get Windows XP rather than Vista it might be worth considering. Heck you can’t expect Bill Gates to be able to afford supporting AIDS relief on his own can you?

  17. shadow735 says:

    I say Blow it, it has Vista and Vista is recycled crap with a new colorful sticker to make it look like its worth something. I bought a XPS 710 gaming system but it has XP (thanks God) anyhow if you want to make a donation go to and donate its a tax deductable donation. Plus if you live near there you can adopt a dog. I adopted my Pup Copper a 14 month old beagle.

    Lots of charities out there to fit your desired tastes.

  18. ludwigk says:

    With Dell, it’s impossible to tell what’s going on anyways because they have 10 different prices for everything on their website, and algorithms that change the prices throughout the day.

    From Apple, their Product Red items cost exactly the same as the normal ones, but up to around %10 of the proceeds will go to charity. On earlier iPod Nano’s, it was about $10/unit. Apple kind of makes it ‘easy’ because donating to the Global Fund doesn’t cost you anything.

    For people against this, I think they’re delusional. This is exactly how donating to charities should work. It should be effortless, transparent, and integrated into our other spending. When you’re out shopping, you’re already in a mental state to give money.

    @sven.kirk: I strongly disagree with you. I think $50,000,000 is a “huge amount” of money to donate to charity, and I won’t dismiss such a quantity just because they used consumerism and big corporations as a vehicle to raising that money.

  19. ironchef says:

    just to show you how much class apple has and how little dell does about charity.

    SInce the cost is the same for each ipod, it shows Apple is making some sacrifice. Dell just want you to do all the philanthropy work on your dime.

  20. varco says:

    @ludwigk: Do you really dislike Dell’s pricing structure because they offer discounts or because you’re jealous that Apple doesn’t? Ever.

  21. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    I wonder if you can write off the total cost of the Red PC as a charity contribution in your tax return? ;-)

  22. varco says:

    @ironchef: None of this is really about charity. It’s all about marketing. If you really cared about helping the needy, you wouldn’t be buying overpriced consumer goods, you’d be donating time and/or money (not just $10 of the $200 ipod you were going to buy anways).

  23. Trai_Dep says:

    I find it cheap and typically PC-world-ish that Dell sells a (red) computer that’s not even red. Just swapping the desktop pict?! I’d be irked. C’mon, cheapskates: buy some red paint. Jeezus.

  24. Trai_Dep says:

    @ironchef: And (cough) Apple actually paints the damn thing – wait for it – red. Eating the extra mfg costs, ‘natch.

  25. MBZ321 says:

    @trai_dep: Agreed. If the computer was red itself, it could be argued that some of the price is for the unique color, but it looks like from the image, it only has red wallpaper on it. Same thing with the “pink” Breast Cancer food craze a few months back…same product (in some cases higher prices than the counterpart), with very little going to charity.

  26. Dibbler says:

    One contains Vista Home Premium and the other is Vista Ultimate. There is a big difference in price for the two plus the $80 you are paying to the charity. It’s a wash in my opinion.

  27. madanthony says:


    Actually, Dell does paint the back of the machine red:


  28. joellevand says:

    Anyone notice that the (Red) iPod does not cost more than the regular ones? HELLO!

  29. Joafu says:

    Was it the consumerist where I read that the whole ‘red’ thing is a farce? They spend far more on advertising and marketing than on actual donation.

  30. TCameron says:

    Consuming is no way to end suffering.

  31. Falconfire says:

    @varco: No actually your 120 is exactly what we pay too, EXCEPT there is a catch. If you buy the Student and Teacher edition, your allowed to install said product on 3 machines. But you have to pay 120 bucks for the right to 3 licenses. Schools pay 40 for 1 license.

    The kicker is, we can not buy the Student and Teacher edition as a school. We need to buy site license to the education version. Same thing basically, but we end up paying slightly more since we have to buy the disks to go with the license. If we COULD buy the student and teacher edition, we would get the disks for free.

    But what Im getting at is the fact that technically your buying 3 licenses when you get the student and teacher edition. So they are selling it to you as one whole package for 120 bucks, but unless you actually have 2 other machines on top of the (red) machine your buying, your getting ripped off since your not using the full benefit of having the edition of office your getting.

    As for Vista Ultimate Im sure plenty of techy people out there can tell you the scam behind that, and the fact it exists PURELY to make people pay even more money for options they should have by default in their OS.

    This is why Apple rules when it comes to releasing OSs. There are just 2 of them, the client which is as full featured as Vista Ultimate is for less than half the price, and the server which is purely a server OS, and depending on which one you buy is either open to 10 clients, or unlimited clients as opposed to having to buy “seats” like Microsoft makes you do.

  32. tweemo says:

    Like everyone else said, it would be better for people to just donate directly to charity. Even if these products do result in more dollars being given to charities, they might not be going to very good ones. If people are going to donate, they need to really research which organization they will give it to, not mindlessly pick the one that makes t-shirts and iPods. If all the money went to well-chosen charities it wouldn’t matter if there wasn’t as much money.

    “The White Man’s Burden” is a very interesting book on aid, and it doesn’t specifically mention Product Red, but I don’t think the author is a fan.

  33. lovelygirl says:

    This stuff usually happens with “charity” products. They’re extremely overpriced, and hardly any of the money goes to charity. It’s very nice idea but not so much put into practice.

  34. Krylez says:

    I think RED is an awful campaign. Lazy consumers get a smug sense of self satisfaction while the sellers typically mark up their RED products more than their normal items. Everyone wins–except those folks that the whole thing was created to help. The nasty thing about RED is that the companies involved are only required to donate “a portion” of their profits to charity. That’s a little vague.

    I was turned off to the whole thing in the beginning after seeing racy clothing ads for RED merchandise. Raising funds for AIDS victims via sexually driven ads seems to be in pretty poor taste.

  35. varco says:

    @Falconfire: Maybe YOU can get Office for $40, but not many others can. It all comes down to the fact that you’re paying MSRP or market prices for the upgrades and you’re donating $80 for charity. It’s not an amazing deal, but no one’s ripping you off.

    I’d rather buy my OS once, rather than paying $129 to get the yearly service pack. And I also like to be able to choose more than like 8 different computers to run it on.

  36. dazzlezak says:

    Is the xbox 360 with the red ring a good deal for Aids relief??

  37. weakdome says:

    Sheesh. Buy a regular computer. Bring a color code and $200 to your local auto body shop. Bingo: Red Computer.

  38. Xkeeper says:

    Most people must’ve missed the whole “upgrade to Vista Ultimate” and “Office Student/Teacher” points.

    It isn’t a ripoff, it very plainly costs extra for the upgrade, and some amount of money over that goes straight to (red).

    Regardless, I would still rather just donate to some worthwhile charity that doesn’t spend $(5 * donation total) on advertising.

  39. rdldr1 says:

    Product (RED) spends more on its advertising than on what they donate. Its all marketing and capitalism.

  40. bnred says:

    We’ve been following all of the discussion that our recent partnership announcement has created. While most of it has been very positive, it seems there is a lot of confusion around the pricing of the (PRODUCT) RED offering. Above and beyond the entry level XPS ONE, the (PRODUCT) RED version offers Windows Vista Ultimate and Microsoft Home Office and Student, a $300 value of upgrades when purchasing through DELL.

    We’re aware that not everyone will need or want these upgrades. (RED) is not about buying something for charity – it is about doing good while you are buying something you need. For those consumers who are in the market for a DELL XPS ONE with WINDOWS VISTA ULTIMATE, the (PRODUCT) RED option gives them the opportunity to get all of these features AND trigger an $80 contribution to the Global Fund to help fight AIDS in Africa, at no additional cost. For those consumers who are not in the market for this type of full-featured experience, they have the option to purchase another DELL PC that meets their needs.

    (RED) is just one tool for people to do good – it doesn’t replace the need or desire for charity donations, volunteering or getting involved in other ways. It is simply a choice when you’re out shopping for something you need.

    Most of the discussion demonstrates an enthusiasm for these partnerships and a desire to have more (PRODUCT) RED PCs available at a broader price range. We are also very excited about the potential of the DELL & MICROSOFT partnerships – which are just starting with these products. These new partnerships will help increase overall awareness of the AIDS epidemic in Africa and increase contributions to buy life-saving ARV treatment for those who can not afford it.

    If you have any questions, feel free to contact (RED) at

    Thank you,

  41. Rusted says:

    I like red. Two red bicycles, car, a camera, and so on. But three hundred dollars for a red background? I can do that with a right-click. All-in-ones just make me uneasy.

    @weakdome:I did buy a new computer. It took half a day to build and configure it. No name brand on the outside but plenty of name brand parts on the inside. Can of Red Rustoleum on the old box….