“A thousand dollar car, it ain’t worth nuthin’
A thousand dollar car, it ain’t worth shit
Might as well take your thousand dollars
and set fire to it

If a thousand dollar car was ever worth a damn
then why would anybody ever spend ten grand?”
Bottle Rockets

I was reading about Jeff Jarvis’s problems with Dell today and it reminded me of something that everyone should know:

When it comes to computers, you get what you pay for. Some brands cost more than others. There are reasons for this. And I can guarantee you, it’s not because some companies just upped and decided to charge you more money to increase their bottom line.

As the computer market has become more competitive, prices have dropped. This has come at the expense of parts. Brand names once known for their quality (Gateway) sold their brand name for a cheaper box. Others, like Dell, have become customer support nightmares.

There are good brands out there. Macintosh computers cost more, for instance, but you’re getting integrated parts that are less likely to conflict with one another or the operating system. IBM, my personal favorite, costs about 33% more on average, but you’re getting a computer that is much less likely to break down. You’ll also get great customer service with both.

But you have to pay more for it. Most people are unwilling to do that. They look at the sticker price and leave it at that. Then they complain when the tech support person is an Indian or they get no support (I’m not speaking of Jeff Jarvis here, he purchased the warranty plan and he is entitled to it. He’s been wronged).

If I were to give you one piece of advice, it’s this: Decide what you need and then get the best you can meeting that criteria. Don’t try to get as much as you can for as little as you can spend (which, I know, is the hallmark of capitalism). Sacrifice processor speed, get more RAM. Customize your own. Don’t take what they have stocked.

Why not?

Because computer companies have no financial interest in you being a satisfied customer. On the contrary. The dirty little secret of the computer industry is that most people can do what they need to do on a processor built over five years ago. But most people bought a crappy computer that didn’t have enough RAM and was loaded down with software packages they didn’t need. But those were the “deals.”

And people take for granted that you have to keep buying new computers. So in return for shortchanging you on RAM and video memory, they are rewarded with another computer being purchased sooner rather than later. They’re rewarded for cutting corners.

So before you decide to save some money, just remember that you’re not getting what you’re not paying for. If you’re not getting the warranty plan, you’re not getting customer service. If you’re not paying for a quality brand, you’re not getting a quality product.

Remember this next time you see a computer for $400 in the Sunday advertisements. Don’t buy a computer cause it’s cheap. By a computer cause you need one. Then buy the computer you need.

Category: Elsewhere

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3 Responses to Computer Advice

  1. Becky says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more on this — even in terms of real estate. I think this is definitely the case with any type of industry where the vast majority is ignorant (myself included in regards to computers or cars).

  2. Barry says:

    I’ve never had a problem with Dell – I think you just have to know tech to talk tech, in some cases. While that doesn’t help the layman (or laywoman, like Becky 😉 ), it doesn’t usually hinder me…

  3. trumwill says:

    Ahh, but if you know now to talk tech, you should build your own and not buy Dell to begin with.

    But now I’m becoming a snob 🙂

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