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Hardware, What's the Difference?

HOW Better Computers Cost Less!

How can a $500 computer ultimately cost $2,000? How could $1,000 computer save you $2,000?

Hint, It isn't creative accounting.

Scenario. You just purchased a $600 computer for the office. (You hoped it would run like a $900 computer — but, what did you expect for $600). 4 months later it's running like a $300 computer. Is there something wrong with this? Sure, but it rings a bell with some people. The day you get a new computer on your desktop it's bound to be better than the one it replaced but the joy wears off quickly.

The $300 difference between purchasing a sub-performing system and one that will do a better job works out to 4 cents per hour of typical use over 3 years. If you would rather waste $1.00 an hour in productivity loss than invest the additional 4 cents, raise your hand. It's not the computer that's costing you big bucks it's the manpower to operate it. A good computer can be the best investment you make for your business, not only for the productivity but to keep everyone using them from being frustrated by the lack of performance and productivity. (see side note on another page)

So what's the difference between a great system and a mediocre system? A few bucks here and there. Simply put, another $20 for a better, (not bigger, just better). hard drive, another $50 for much better video, around $75 for a far better motherboard and chipset combination. Individually you aren't looking at a lot of money but we just listed $145 for some improvements that could get you an easy 30% performance gain and it's pretty much a slam dunk that the system will continue to provide better performance over a longer period of time.

There are a number of things that make a computer expensive to own. The first and foremost is the performance. A slow computer will cost more of your employee's time to use, that's serious money. A slower computer would typically need to be replaced more often, and the cost of getting the new computer up and running the way you need it configured can be quite high. That expense could be a substantial percentage of the cost of the computer. Upgrades, (if necessary), can be expensive. It's not necessarily the cost of the upgrade component as much as the time and effort that went into finding, purchasing and installing it. On top of all that, an upgrade will only prolong the life of an older system, you still have a system that is slower than a newer one would be. Many of the major computer companies construct their systems using proprietary components that frequently make the upgrade process more expensive and more difficult. Look at it like planned obsolescence. When your computer gets more difficult to service they're counting on you buying a new one.

Every component has an effect on performance. Every upgrade has an incremental effect on the performance gain. More memory helps. A better motherboard helps. A better hard drive helps, A better video card helps. A better processor helps. The problem with this is that for optimum performance, a better, more modern motherboard would require a different type of memory, has an interface for a different type of hard drive and slots for a different type of video so you would be banging your head against a wall to keep up

As of today, 5/17/06, Intel Extreme Edition CPU's averaged around $1,000.00 on the Internet. How could anyone think a complete computer for $599 could do a good job when just a CPU alone could cost that much. Just as with most retail items there are different quality levels, that in the case of computers, translates to different performance levels.

The point! 90% of the people who purchase computers for small to medium businesses either on-line or from the local retail store have no real idea what they're getting. The difference between the medium-low end and the higher end on just a few components can be $600.00+. How can DELL or Compaq or Hewlett Packard or any other company sell systems so cheap? Ultra cheap components the major manufacturers use in their systems make for ultra cheap, (slower) systems. If a manufacturer is selling 100,000 units of a particular model a year a reduction of $1 in their cost, (at the expense of the performance of the system), translates to an additional $100,000 dollars a year in gross profit. Not small change!

The major manufacturers all make some very good and fairly expensive, by most standards, systems but you won't find them in your local computer or electronics retailer. The manufacturers have only one thing on their minds when they built that system, how low can they go on the price they put on the box? It turns out that by cutting enough corners the price can get pretty low but so can the performance, flexibility and upgrade-ability. It's the low price that sells.

In casual conversation with people I find that some are upset that the computer they just bought didn't have a floppy drive The manufacturers say that floppy drives are obsolete, (close), but they sure are selling plenty of external floppy drives at the retail stores and many of them are for desktop computers. The truth! The manufacturer saved $3 at most (their cost). The shareholders could see an additional million dollars or more on the bottom line. They're happy, even if these people we speak with aren't. It would be different if most of the manufacturers offered it as an option, but no such luck. The same goes for providing you a real XP or Vista or Office CD. Try to get one with your system and see how far you get. Some will, at additional cost. (Note that having a real installation CD, not a recovery CD or recovery partition on your hard disk, can substantially improve your chances of recovering from a corrupted system problem without loss of your programs or data).

Try calling a major manufacturer who provides a system with an internal modem and ask them to take the modem out. (There is actually a very good reason for getting the system without the modem if you won't be using it). People have found that the company might agree to take it out but they would need to charge you for taking it out. I know that sounds stupid but we have been through that with customers several times, always with the same results.

The major computer manufacturers understand their audience pretty well. They know that the vast majority of people purchasing a computer are primarily interested in price. The buyer will look at the processor speed, hard disk space, and memory but the rest is options and fluff. We can easily show 2 computers, one with a 2.2 GHz processor, 512MB memory, 120 gigabyte hard disk and another computer with everything the same but with a 3.2 GHz processor and the 2.2 Ghz system will outperform the 3.2 Ghz system. You could potentially see double the performance in the 2.2 GHz system but the typical customer will purchase the 3.2 GHz. It sounded faster. I have heard the retail computer market likened to car dealers. Some of those sales people may have sold shoes last month and may be car salesmen next month but right now they will sell you whatever they can get away with, without any concern for what you really need. Most of those sales people don't have a clue about the real differences between the components either. And if they did, they certainly aren't going to get into a conversation with you about it. They know you'll walk out, thoroughly confused.

This doesn't mean the computer needs to be that expensive, unless you have some special requirements. In the last 5 months we've sold a $1,700.00 3D mouse, an $1,850.00 video card and several other expensive components. But you can get a great system for a reasonable price if you have some guidance selecting the components.

Any processor, (CPU), will run as fast in one system as it will in another but the CPU runs into road blocks and bottle necks from the beginning. A faster system will even run faster on the Internet even with the same speed Internet connection, but that's an entire topic by itself. The bottom line, buy cheap components, get a cheap, computer, (or buy a cheap computer, get cheap components), either way works out the same, and the manufacturer can still make money but you won't. It's smoke and mirrors. But there isn't anything that magical about the process.

Any single sub-performing component in a computer can bring down the performance of the whole computer. Those slow components can build in what's referred to as latency. The more slow or sub-performing components the less you will see of the CPU's true or rated performance.

If you decide to buy a computer at retail, get one that has a dedicated video card not one built into the system board. (This is the suggested minimum for anyone wanting to get the most from Microsoft's Vista operating system). Also stay away from any computer that mentions the word "shared" anywhere in the description. They're usually telling you that your CPU is doing more of the video work than the video system is and you may be sharing your precious main memory with the video system. If you want to upgrade to Microsoft's next major operating system, (Vista), you'll be in for a rude surprise.

The better and faster the system is the day you bought it, the longer you'll be happy with it, the longer it's likely to do the job you demand of it, and that ultimately makes it a good deal. But given a choice in the store of a 3.2 GHz system at the same price as a 2.2 GHz with the same description I'll give you 3 guesses which one most people will buy. The major computer companies realize, (for the most part), they're are selling to people who truly don't know what they're getting though most feel they do. That 2.2 GHz system may very well be a much better choice than the 3.2 GHz and could run at least 30%-40%, or even more, faster.

There are great AMD 2.2 GHz CPUs that will outperform Intel 3.2 GHz CPUs, just pick up any objective comparison review of systems. You'll see the CPU manufacturers have stopped referring to their CPUs by their speed, preferring instead to refer to them by model numbers, which is frequently even more confusing. The speed of the CPU has much less meaning than it once did simply because a better CPU with better technology and engineering will be superior, no matter how fast it sounds based on GHz speed alone.

From an ad in this Sunday's paper there were 3 37" LCD TVs all with HDTV tuner, all listed as 720p all recognized major brand names but the range of prices was from $1,499.00 to $2,399.00. If the higher priced model wasn't offering something that made it worth the extra money, how long could the company stay in business?

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