We frequently get people calling us because they have just purchased a new computer at a “Great deal” and after playing with it a bit, realize that it is not quite what they thought it would be or perform as they thought it should.
We always try to educate our clients that buying a pc is NOT like buying a toaster. Many people look at a computer and see the basic components and a price and make a value judgement without knowing how the components interact to give them performance. That being said, many people buy on the cheap and then wonder why they need to buy a another computer a year down the road.
Here are some easy tips to help people understand WHY a $400 computer is different from a $1000 computer.
1) In the old days, RAM was king. By that we meant that the more RAM, the better because every computer requires RAM in order to process information regardless of the speed of the processor. By today’s standard of Windows 7, the minimum anybody should be using is 6gb. Most systems today can go higher but there is an effective curve of how much will be utilized beyond the 6gb mark. Many “Value” notebooks come with only 3gb or in the case of tablets or, 1 or 2gb. This is a pathetic attempt at reducing cost which hurts performance and speed significantly.
2) Video. Most elements on a computer these days are considered standard. I.e. all computers have usb, built in audio, built in basic video and a dvd burner of some sort. The big difference comes in video. If you intend to use your unit for HD video connected to a big screen TV or projector, or you intend to be a gamer or do video editing, the built in video cards may not do the trick. A separate and more powerful video card is required and the cost there can be anywhere between $100 and $1000 depending on your choices. I guarantee a $400 laptop has the most basic of video capabilities which may let you plug it into a TV but you may only get 1 resolution choice.
3)WIFI/Network. Most people understand what wifi is but very few understand the difference between 802.11b 11g or 11n (or for that matter the upcoming 11ac). The truth here is that 11ac which is the currently the fastest consumer level wireless connection may not be available on cheaper models of laptops. I still see tablets and low end laptops only offering 11g or the 11n draft which was the first version. This translates into a big loss of internet speed when connected to fast networks. We are talking about 50-100% difference in speed if you have the proper wireless connections.
That being said, the same applies to desktop units that are hardwired (or laptops that also use their hardware connection). The current fast standard is called Gigabit or 1000Mps Ethernet. This is 10x faster the than long used 100Mps connections that most offices and environments have used since the early 90’s. Gigabit connections make the difference between transferring files in seconds vs. minutes or even hours. This works hand in hand with the wireless ac class and if your network at home is up to date but your new computer isn’t, it only goes as fast as the slowest participant. (this also applies if your network is slow but your device is fast).
4)”I want a big hard drive”. The truth is in today’s standards, the average size hard drive is 1TB. That is 1000 gigabytes which for most people is more than enough. Yes there are cases where people have exceeded that with movies, photos and games but it is easy to add multiples drives to desktop units and also get larger capacity drives such as 1.5 up to 4tb or more now. So if you are being sold on the “big hard drive” line, keep in mind that that is the cheapest component to upgrade out of the whole system.
5)Software. Yes.. software. In most cases a full set of software is more expensive the computer you are now using. For example, Windows 8.1 is the current standard but Windows 7 is still available sometimes at a discount. However, keep in mind that Windows 10 is around the corner and your choice of hardware may or may not support an upgrade. Further, things like Microsoft Office and Photoshop can cost you big bucks depending on the version you need. Most computers come with trial versions that expire after a period of time and some people misread that to think they are included. Buying a “great deal” $400 laptop is not so great when you realize you need to upgrade your windows, add Office home and business editions and Adobe Acrobat which adds at least another $500 to the bill.
Those are the biggies when it comes to looking out for things people overlook but here are a couple of smaller ones that make a difference in some cases:
> Power supplies for desktops can limit how many extras you can have in your system. They range in price from $80 to $300 depending on your requirements.
> Basic stereo sound is built in to all computers these days but if you want home theater audiophile level sound, you need to fork out anywhere between $50 to $300 for the top end products.
> People also overlook all the accessories like keyboards, mice/trackballs, monitors, speakers, microphones and all kinds of connectors that in an of themselves carry increased costs and requirements that most people forget about until they need them.
> The time and care needed to transfer data from your old computer to your new one can take hours and careful attention. This is almost always underestimated in terms of both the time it takes and the costs to have a professional do it properly.
So really, you can ask the sales guy at the store what you SHOULD buy or you can talk to somebody from FMCN who is unbiased and looks after your true needs when determining a system configuration.