Why are some computers advertised so cheap?



The difference between mass produced bargain PCís and quality custom built computers is more critical than most consumers realize. Custom built computers use industry standard parts which gives the owner several options for future upgrades. Also, the components are hand selected for optimum performance and quality. Most consumer grade PCís manufactured and sold through several retail computer chains are designed to hit a price point... not quality, performance and upgradability. These "Best Buy" specials are considered disposable because of the limited upgrade options. They simply canít be easily upgraded without using expensive proprietary parts from the computer manufacturer; therefore, the computer is replaced rather than upgraded.



Consider these points:





They usually offer low performance components lacking important features needed to actually achieve the speeds advertised. There is a reason some computers are several hundred dollars less than others and seem to offer the same advertised specifications. Consider two automobiles offering the same size engine, but the cheaper one has such poor suspension that you couldnít take corners nearly as fast as the other. Which one is truly faster? Stereo equipment has the same confusion, whereas, WATTs per channel may not be as important as the distortion rating or other specifications. There are many specifications that the consumer doesnít see or understand. Keep in mind computers are very complicated devices, and there are several factors that effect the speed. Donít focus on just the RAM, CPU MHz, hard drive size, etc. The quality of the individual components are much more important.




More and more budget computers include Mainboards that are designed with onboard sound, video, modem, LAN, and other options. Not all of these on-board features are bad, but only if the board has enough expansion slots, and the ability to disable the built-in feature if the consumer wants to upgrade the peripheral later. You may want to upgrade to a faster video card for gaming, a better modem, or a high end Midi sound card. Again, with only few expansion slots the computer offers very little choice when the owner wants to replace or add a peripheral. Most important: If the "built-in" component fails, and doesnít offer the ability to disable, then the Mainboard must be replaced rather than replacing the faulty individual peripheral such as a modem or Video.


The majority of budget PC's have only 2 or 3 expansion slots. They usually donít have extra drive bays for future peripherals such as DVD CD-ROMís, Zip Drives, CD Recorders, etc. Most of the time we recommend at least 5 expansion slots, and at least 5 drive bays to assure the customer will not out grow their computer.


Many of the inexpensive computers include 5.25" Hard Drives instead of the more common 3.5" Drive. They are called "Big Foot" drives because they are physically much larger. The drives are very slow compared to 3.5" drives because there are fewer disk platters and the platters are much larger. This means the "heads" (which read the data on the disk platter) have to travel much farther to retrieve information. Keep in mind the hard drive is a mechanical device and is considered a performance bottleneck in most low cost computers. In other words, it takes longer for the mechanical head to travel 5.25 inches than it takes to travel 3.5 inches. The 3.5" drive has more heads and platters so the data is much closer for quick access.  Also, Check out the RPM speed of the Hard Drive.  There is very little cost difference between the more current 7200RPM verses the slower 5400RPM.  But to a manufacturer that slight cost difference could miss the price point they are attempting to hit. For an extra $10 or $20 the 7200RPM is well worth the investment


The tower or desktop cases found on almost all of the budget PCís are a proprietary design and so is the Mainboard. Already discussed are the lack of expansion slots and drive bays. But the Mainboard is difficult to replace or upgrade without purchasing another from the manufacturer. As you can probably imagine it is several times the cost of an industry standard Mainboard. Some of these cases use a custom "molded" design for the floppy drive and CD-ROM. The special "molded" CD-ROM and floppy drive may look nice, but makes it impossible to upgrade or replace without purchasing from the manufacturer at inflated prices. CD-ROMs and Floppy drives are mechanical and will eventually fail. Again, high cost and lack of flexibility. Custom built PCís donít use molded drives and use industry standard Mainboards.


The power supply is another very important and overlooked component inside a computer.  It provides power to every peripheral in your system. First point: Many companies install custom or proprietary Power Supplies in their computer simply because they want you to purchase the replacement from them. These companies change one or two specs so industry-standard Power Supplies will not fit in their cases.  Dell and Gateway are excellent examples of this practice.   This makes it impossible to upgrade to a larger wattage or replace the power supply without purchasing from the manufacturer.  Of course the manufacturers selling price is many times more than a similar industry-standard unit.  Point Two: Check the wattage. Rarely is the wattage listed in the specifications on most computers.  Several low cost computers are being sold with an insufficient 80WATT Power supply when most quality units are being sold with 250WATT or Better.  The lower the wattage, the harder the Power Supply needs to work, and therefore could fail sooner.  This also means an owner can install fewer peripherals before the Power Supply exceeds specifications and fails. Computers should be sold with a 250 WATT or better Power Supply. Gamers typically need 300 WATT or better due to the high power consumption of a high end Video card, and simply that the computer is being pushed so much more than every day productivity software.


This offer is found on many of the very cheap or free PCís. It may not be wise to lock yourself into any Internet service contract. The Internet is exploding and price wars have already begun. There are even Free Internet services available today. It is not uncommon to find unlimited Internet access for under $10 a month. Also, the technology is changing rapidly as well. Cable modem, DSL and other high speed Broadband access are currently being offered and price reductions are just around the corner. You may regret locking into a contract now that may be expensive or outdated in a few months. Accessory Computer installs Free Internet on all new computers.


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