DFA has dismissed speculation that a deal is currently on the cards where Internet Solutions will acquire the company. While there has been interest from Internet Solutions to buy DFA, such a deal could prove disastrous for DFA’s business model should the two businesses be integrated. DFA deals with most of South Africa’s large telecommunications players, and being an independent infrastructure provider is an important ingredient for its success.
Should Internet Solutions buy DFA, and incorporate it into its business operations, the independence of the company will be lost – and the business model will break. Should a deal be negotiated in future, it will have to be structured in a way that will enable a wholesale and retail split of the two businesses.
DFA a valuable company
It is understood that no formal offer was made by Internet Solutions for DFA, but according to a Bloomberg report, Remgro and investment partner New GX Capital wanted R10 billion for the business. According to a person with knowledge of the deal, R10 billion could be seen as a low offer for DFA.
The current book value of DFA’s fibre network in major metropolitan areas and on long-haul routes is in excess of R7.4 billion. The company also has current annuity income in excess of R101 million per month, while the future value of the current annuity contract base is in excess of R18 billion. DFA also has a healthy profit margin – its revenue for the six months ended 30 September 2016 was R734 million, with before-tax earnings (EBITDA) of R495 million.
With the explosion of fibre access in South Africa, in both the business and residential markets, DFA is well positioned to continue its strong growth.
Considering DFA’s book value, growing annuity revenue, and high margins, the business may well be worth more than R10 billion to the right buyer.
Now read: DFA’s big fibre drive in South Africa
Gaming laptop brands don‘t get much bigger than Alienware. If you want a computer from a name like this, you know you‘re going to have to pay for it. However, when a laptop is much more than a box of ‘standard’ parts like a desktop PC, paying the extra can be worthwhile.
The Alienware 15 R3 is an excellent gaming laptop, with more class than an Asus ROG. It‘s also a true showcase of what Nvidia‘s latestp graphics cards can do. The ’15’ refers to screen size, and there are 13in and 17in models to choose between if you prefer.
There are three problems with the model we tested, so let’s get these out of the way before we get to the good stuff. First, the fans are loud and pre-emptive. Second, the price is a little high and third, display contrast could be greater.
Oh, and like most high-end gaming laptops it‘s very heavy. But it‘s also great, and you’ll want one. Read on to find out why.
Alienware 15 R3: Price and availability
To think of the Alienware 15 R3 as one laptop is to mis-represent it.
This is really a family of laptops that caters for everything from the mid range buyer to those after all but the very top-most gaming laptops in the world. It misses out on the top slot as there‘s no current Alienware 15 R3 that uses the GTX 1080 GPU. The model we‘re reviewing has the next best thing, though: a GTX 1070, backed by a high-end Intel Core i7 CPU and 16GB RAM.
It costs ?1849 from Dell. If you’re in the US, it’s £2209 from Dell at the time of writing. There are eight versions of the 2017 Alienware 15, though. They start with a ?1349 model (£1225 in the US) which has a Core i5 CPU and GTX 1050 Ti GPU.
Each base model is highly customisable. All versions are covered by a one-year onsite warranty. This can be extended, but it‘s not cheap.
Alienware 15 R3: Design
A lot of laptops are made using aluminium these days.
Acer and Asus have brought the entry price for one of these fancy model to ?500-600 in recent years. However, the Alienware is one of the only gaming laptops to make extensive use of metal. Even top-end models costing ?2500 tend to use high-quality plastic rather than metal.
The Alienware 15‘s shell is a mix of aluminium and magnesium on the outside, although the keyboard surround is still soft-touch plastic. Build quality is excellent.
The look hasn‘t changed all that much from Alienware‘s norm, with familiar lines and sharp angles, but there‘s a sense Alienware is trying to make the Alienware 15 R3 seem a little more grown-up than its rivals. Laptops with giant glowing insignia have never done the argument that games aren‘t just for kids any favours. The look is less aggressive than most, without stripping out the gamer gloss entirely.
LEDs are the key. Light-up strips border the sides of the lid and base, and sit under both the keyboard and trackpad. A preinstalled Alienware app lets you choose the colour of each.
The keyboard also has three LED zones, each able to display a different colour. With these on the Alienware 15 R3 looks like a party machine.
Turn the lot off and the Alienware could almost pass for a high-end workstation rather than the sort of machine a competitive gamer might use. Aside from the ‘alien head‘ Alienware logo on the back, anyway. Don‘t take this as a sign the Alienware 15 R3 is meant to be used for trips out to Starbucks, though.
It‘s not that thick (25.4mm) but is heavy, at 3.49kg. This kind of laptop is great for students who want to be able to carry their gaming setup between university/college and home, or those who might end up working away from home for long stints. Insert you own comparable situation here.
Ports and Connections
The Alienware 15 R3 is big.
It’s nothing like the Dell XPS 15, but it also makes great use of the space. Instead of just filling the back with a giant fan outlet, there is a slew of connections along the rear, complementing the basic array on the sides.
You get two USB 3.0 ports and a USB-C on the left/right sides, and mini DisplayPort, HDMI 2.0 and Thunderbolt (USB-C) ports on the back.
There‘s also an Ethernet socket and a special connector to let you hook up to an Alienware Graphics Amplifier. This is a box that holds a desktop graphics card, which might be a sensible idea if you buy an Alienware 15 R3 with a lower-end graphics card and later want to add more graphical grunt. The box itself costs ?254 though.
There are a few obvious omissions in the Alienware 15 R3 hardware. Optical drives are left out, which seems acceptable at this point, but we‘re baffled by the lack of memory card slot. Some may not mind, but it‘d put us off using this as a day-to-day workstation.
Display One of the slightly odd, but explicable, elements of high-end gaming laptops is that the majority of them continue to use 1080p displays while often much cheaper, smaller style models have ultra-high res displays. The Alienware 15 R3 has a 15.6in 1080p anti-glare LCD screen.
It‘s a non-touch display that looks good in person, but is actually something of a middle-weight in terms of pure quality. It‘s a not an ultra-wide colour gamut display, covering a satisfying but not sensational 86.7% of sRGB, 63.4 percent of Adobe RGB and 68.6 percent of DCI P3. This is enough for the screen not to appear obviously undersaturated, but, no great surprise, clearly signals it‘s not meant for photography, video or design pros.
Dell‘s top-end XPS 15 with 4K screen is a much more capable panel, with far deeper colour as well as a much sharper picture. The other limited stat you might notice is the Alienware 15‘s limited contrast.
600:1 is not great for a laptop as expensive as this. We‘d like to see a ratio much closer to 1000:1.
A much lower score means raised (grey-ish) blacks will become apparent if you like to play in a dark or dimly-lit room. The Alienware 15‘s brightness great, though. We recorded 429cd/m2.
That‘s bright enough to use outdoors. Again: you probably don‘t want to use a laptop this heavy and chunky out in the park. There is an explanation for both the limited contrast and high brightness, though.
Alienware offers IPS LCD and an advanced 120Hz TN panel with (for TN) wide viewing angles. Our model uses the TN version. While often considered a dated tech, it‘s a ?200 upgrade if you pick a starting config with the IPS panel.
The benefit of TN is very fast response times, a great win for competitive gamers. However, those who play for pure enjoyment may be better off with the IPS version. It will have better viewing angles, and possibly better contrast too.
The screen tits back 180 degrees, and pushing it back a good way shows there‘s still some contrast shift in the TN version. It is less apparent than virtually any other TN laptop screen we‘ve seen to date, though.
Making the ultimate gaming laptop doesn‘t mean maxing-out every component, not when you want normal people to be able to buy the thing. The screen does have G-Sync, though. This is Nvidia‘s hardware alternative to V-sync, synchronising the display refresh with frame rendering to avoid screen tearing.
There‘s also a sensor above the screen that stops the display going off while you‘re reading something. Some will find it annoying, though, as it uses a blinking red IR light above the screen.
Keyboard and trackpad
Like previous Alienware 15 R3 generations, the keyboard and trackpad are excellent. The keys are much deeper and chunkier than normal laptop keys, with some of the key-feel character of the mechanical keyboard some gaming nuts swear by.
As mentioned earlier, there‘s a 3-zone keyboard backlight that can be customised using an app. There‘s an air of indulgent silliness to this kind of backlight, but it does let you just light-up the WSAD key area if that‘s all you‘ll need. To the left of the normal keyboard layout, the Alienware 15 R3 has a series of five macro buttons.
These can be programmed to perform whatever series of presses you like, and can double up as app shortcuts when you‘re not gaming. Below the keyboard, the trackpad looks fairly small by the standards of today‘s style laptops, but is perfect for gaming.
The buttons are separated, sitting below the pad, and have a much deeper, softer click feel. It makes quick presses easier and more comfortable. The pad itself has an excellent textured surface too, and feels great to glide your finger across.
Alienware 15 R3: Performance
The first priority for a laptop in this category is, of course, gaming performance.
Alienware 15 R3 specs start with an Intel Core i5 CPU and Nvidia GTX 1050Ti GPU but we were sent a higher-end model with an Intel Core i7-7700HQ and Nvidia GTX1070 with 8GB RAM. There is a still higher-end laptop GPU ou there, the GTX1080, but its use in laptops is relatively rare compared with lower-end versions. There‘s no Alienware 15 R3 with one at present.
For playing on the laptop itself rather than an external 1440p or 4K display, the benefit would be minimal anyway. Gaming performance of the GTX 1070 is fantastic, to the extent that we had to turn off the screen‘s G-Sync feature to see its real potential. G-Sync caps the frame rate at 120fps.
Thief runs at an average 93.8fps with all settings maxed at 1080p, creeping up to 107.8fps at 720p. This is a fairly CPU-intensive benchmark, with usage at over 90%. Few games will cause this effect, but it‘s proof of quite how powerful Nvidia‘s latest laptop cards are.
Alien: Isolation puts less strain on the CPU and runs at 120fps at 1080p with all settings maxed, and 175fps at 720p. Anyone complaining the GTX 1070 isn‘t really a top-end GPU is missing the point. For today‘s games, even the laptop version of the GTX 1070 isn‘t really challenged at 1080p.
There‘s enough spare power to make this a good brain for a 1440p monitor setup, and some games will run very well at 4K. The Alienware 15 R3 is a killer gaming laptop, among the most powerful you‘ll find under ?2000. Alienware does focus on the CPU and GPU speed, though.
The SSD in our model is fast, but not as fast as, for example, those used in MacBooks. It reads at a blistering 1610MB/s, but writes at a more conventional 422MB/s. There are many storage config options, though, if you want to upgrade.
Productivity performance is among the best we‘ve seen from a laptop. It scores 4196 points in PC Mark 8 (Home test) and 13128 points in Geekbench 4. For all its gamer cred, the Alienware 15 R3 would also make a great laptop for video editing and other processor-intensive work.
Under pressure, the Alienware 15 R3 is loud, although it‘s the largely inoffensive whoosh of a large diameter fan pair. It‘s important not to block the underside, as a large part of it is taken up by a fan outlet. It appears to be a secondary one, though, with the main air intake on the sides and the main ‘exhaust‘ on the back.
In our testing, the Alienware 15 R3 seems to be a little louder and fan-use-happy than the top Asus RoG models. Laptops like the Asus RoG G753 dedicate the entire backside to the heat-dissipating cause, and it works better than this system. However, we didn‘t experience any overheating and the heat doesn‘t bleed onto the keyboard much.
Battery life The serious power of the Alienware 15 R3 makes great battery life highly unlikely, although we did hold out some hope after the Dell XPS 15 (a sister laptop of sorts) proved itself surprisingly long-lasting despite using a powerful CPU. This laptop‘s battery life is rather more conventional, though.
Playing a 720p video on loop with the screen brightness set to 120cd/m, the Alienware 15‘s battery lasts three and a half hours. There is a version of the laptop with a much larger 99Wh battery if you need longer battery life. While we have a lot of admiration for this laptop, we have to end on a slightly sour note as the Alienware 15‘s speakers are pretty disappointing given its size.
They fire out from each side of the front, delivering a fairly narrow soundstage.
Top volume isn‘t impressive and the sound quality is pedestrian, lacking the power and bass of the best.
Still, it isn’t something we imagine will prove a deal-breaker since you‘d be mad to spend ?1899 on a gaming laptop and then make do with built-in speakers.
Bidorbuy has held the title of South Africa’s largest online marketplace for years, but is facing a challenge from the country’s largest online shopping website, Takealot. Armed with R960 million in new funding and a drive to dominate online shopping, Takealot is an 800-pound gorilla nobody can ignore. Several online shopping sites, like Makro, have also launched marketplaces, but it will take time for these platforms to gain momentum.
The battle between Takealot and Bidorbuy can be compared to Amazon and eBay in the United States, which are fighting for market share. While Amazon is much larger than eBay, the latter still serves millions of users each month. Many commentators predict that Amazon and eBay will continue to coexist as competitors for the foreseeable future.
The same may happen in South Africa, with Takealot and Bidorbuy – but it will depend on how each company reacts to changes in the market.
Takealot vs Bidorbuy – Finances
When looking at the market position and financial situation of Takealot and Bidorbuy, there are several differences. While Takealot has deeper pockets than Bidorbuy, it is burning through cash and still has to prove that it can turn a profit. Takealot’s major shareholders – Naspers and Tiger Global Management – may stop funding the company in future.
When this happens, Takealot will be under financial pressure, which may remove some of the competitive advantage it currently enjoys. While Bidorbuy’s finances are not public, it is believed it is not losing money and is more financially stable than Takealot. Bidorbuy has also used much less money to establish itself in the market, which means it faces less pressure from shareholders to deliver massive profits.
Takealot vs Bidorbuy – Delivery
One of the biggest advantages which Takealot’s marketplace offers is the experience it provides buyers.
Takealot holds all sellers’ products in its warehouses, which means shipping is done through a trusted network. Takealot’s controlled environment is typically preferred by buyers, who often have to deal with Post Office deliveries when dealing with Bidorbuy sellers. While Takealot’s system guarantees better delivery times, it does create inefficiencies and additional costs for sellers.
Takealot vs Bidorbuy – Fees
One of the biggest benefits to sellers on Bidorbuy is the lower fees charged by the platform.
Takealot vs Bidorbuy – Services and products
While standard “buy now” services are more popular than online auctions, many people still enjoy the latter. Takealot does not offer auctions, and Bidorbuy is the dominant player in the South African online auction market. Bidorbuy is also the preferred platform for sellers who deal in collectables – like stamps, coins, antiques, and art.
While Takealot is likely to dominate Bidorbuy on products like computers, electronics, books, movies, and games, it will not be as strong when it comes to niche products.
Takealot vs Bidorbuy – eCommerce experts comment
MyBroadband asked two of South Africa’s prominent eCommerce experts – who asked to remain anonymous – about the battle. The first commentator said Takealot and Bidorbuy are two different businesses, and both businesses are likely to be successful. The second commentator said Takealot is going to be the likely victor, especially with its latest round of funding, which will enable it to strengthen its marketplace.
He said many sellers who migrated from Bidorbuy to Takealot have seen a dramatic increase in sales, which does not bode well for Bidorbuy.
He said the erratic experience, especially related to delivery, associated with Bidorbuy will hurt the platform in the long term.
Takealot and Bidorbuy – No comment
Takealot was asked for feedback regarding its market position and plans, but it did not provide a reply.
Bidorbuy said it would prefer not to comment on the matter.