Archive for March, 2014

Resetting your expectations

Posted: March 28, 2014 in Technology
Tags: ,

A client asked me today a question that I’ve gotten a lot over the last several years:

I’m curious: why do computers and laptops cost in the thousands for a business and only a few hundred for home users?

Ah, that age old question, and a fair one at that.  Let’s explore the big misunderstanding that we can thank the age of netbooks for…

The short answer is, because the business laptops are better.  Better insides, better outsides, so you pay more.  Home users could pay a few hundred dollars for a laptop, but they would not be getting a good machine.  Realistically, you’re at $600 or $700 before you get to the “acceptable” range for a home user (I’m also a bit of a snob about computers), where the computer won’t start giving you issues in less than 12 to 18 months.

There’s also a weird software thing, where business laptops come with less pre-loaded software, which actually costs a little bit more (believe it or not).  Some people call that pre-loaded software “bloatware” or “crapplications,” but the idea is this: it’s extra software that you don’t need, that just slows the computer down.  When you buy a PC from Best Buy,  you get one with all that extra stuff, that impacts performance in a negative way.  Business-line laptops typically have less of that, and we like Dell in particular because there is none.

A handful of years ago, the PC market was flooded with netbooks—the small laptops that you could pick up for a few hundred bucks that were very slimmed-down PCs.  What most people took away from that was, “I can get a laptop for a few hundred dollars—great!”  And, that attitude has persisted…focusing on the price range, and not on the capability of the machine.  I’m not complaining about netbooks—they led us to ultrabooks, which are the same size as netbooks but incredibly powerful—but you will pay a premium for them.  Incidentally, ultrabooks are very close in quality to business-line laptops.

The last piece to consider involves personal preference.  Think about buying a car—you can get the small Fiat, or the Smart Fortwo, or the Kia Rio—all of them are perfectly acceptable, and if you’re ok with that being your transportation, then great.  As you step up, you get to the Hyundai, Ford and Chevy mid-sizers, then Hondas, then Acura, and it goes from there.  The reality is, any car that you take good care of will run great for you for years…but you have to commit to regular maintenance, tune ups, etc.  I personally drive a Honda, and I think I always will.  I love the cars—but I lease them, so I get a new one every few years.  I do it because I know I’m not going to be able to commit to the tune ups that, later in the years of ownership, can get very expensive.

OK—so back to computers.  Say you go out, you buy an Acer or an Asus laptop that runs you $400.  Then say after 13 months (just outside of warranty), some inherent flaw in the lower-quality build of the machine goes haywire, and you have to get it repaired.  Then again in another year or so after that.  Assuming that the PC repair shop you work with isn’t massively overpriced (which they all are), you’re still looking at $700, $800, maybe $1000 for that computer over 3 or 4 years, all because of a low-quality build.  Instead, you could pay a little bit more upfront for something that is a bit higher quality, and maybe you can reduce some of that year 2/3/4 expense.  That’s the goal, anyway!

At the end of the day, all computers of all price ranges have flaws from time to time, so maybe a Dell business machine I buy today craps out on me in a year—but I also buy extended warranties on mine, usually three years at least (just like we sell), so I’d be covered there.  I like Dell’s because I know the company, I’ve worked with them for years, and I know their support inside and out.  And, the price is an acceptable mid-range, where you pay a bit more upfront, but get a decent return on value.

Truth is, there are other manufacturers that offer the same thing–slightly higher value for a few more bucks.  But don’t do yourself a disservice by purchasing a cheap, crappy computer, because that’s what you’re going to get.

Thanks for reading–be well and stay tuned.