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The Fallacy Of Cheap Computers

6/8/2010 - Author: Felicia

In thinking about what technology I find frustrating, two things come to mind. Fake smartphones and cheap computers. In this post, I'm going to cover the issue of cheap computers.

All the computer manufacturers and computer stores fall prey to the game of advertising that you can get computer for cheap. They claim that you can get a usable, decent computer, for $500 or less. These machines are plagued with issues and consistently fall short of being usable. I think about all those computers as a car with no wheels or with a failing cylinder. So if you think you are buying a 4-cylinder car that is ready to drive, either it will drive so poorly that you can't get it up over 15 mph or you may find you have to buy rims and tires for it before it will even be drivable.

Let's look at a typical computer from Best Buy under $500. This is an Asus with 3GB of RAM with a 5400 RPM hard drive. At least this computer has a 2.2Ghz processor and it's not a Celeron. Anyone who thinks that a Celeron is a viable purchase is just fooling themselves. It cracks me up that this Asus laptop has a 320 GB hard drive. What's the point of that when the hard drive is too slow to be usable? People need to understand that the hard drive is the slowest part of any computer. Unless it's a solid state hard drive, it is a mechanical device that spins. A slower hard drive means that everything will be slow.

Let's also consider the fact that dual and quad core processors are now the industry standard. So a Pentium, single core 2.2Ghz processor is pretty slow. This Asus computer also has a 1 yr warranty. How long do you plan to use the computer? In 16 years, I have met maybe two people who planned on replacing their computers every year. Everyone else has an expectation that the thing will last longer. Yet when they buy cheap computers made with cheap parts and a pretty useless warranty, what do they have? I buy a 4-5 year warranty on all systems that I purchase for clients or that I use in my own business.

Whatever you buy, support and initial setup is the key. Currently I only know of one vendor that you can buy a computer from where you get a system that has been configured to be secure, it has all the security software pre-installed and configured, and you get training on how to keep the machine working sustainably and reliably over a period of years. Quality Plus Consulting is the only company that does that.

Also, what kind of warranty are you getting? When you take your computer in for service at Best Buy, you typically have to leave it with them, they put a sticker on it, and you don't have the same technician working on it each time. So you have a servicer who doesn't know you, how you use your computer, or what you need. Who has access to your data while it is there?
Here's an excellent article by PC Pro on the topic.
I know for fact that if you take your computer into PC Tech, they make a full copy of your hard drive on their server. Who has access to that data? How long is it there?
If you buy one of those mail-in warranties from Dell, IBM, HP, Toshiba, etc, you are stuck with the same mess. How long will you be without your computer and who has access to the data that is on it?
Here's another article by Sky News.

For years I have been advocating an onsite service warranty, next business day. Dell offers these warranties. That is hardware only though. You still need to have a relationship with a local service provider that knows you, your computer, how you use it, and what your needs are. The same person should be servicing your computer each time. You should be able to trust them. And they should come to you so that the data doesn't leave your hands.