Bad Thad's Buyers Guide Access

Why do the masses flock to the big, name brand, commercial personal computer systems - price, availability, convenience, brand confidence? I believe most people have not been  informed about the quality and benefits of a modular component PC (MC-PC). These are PC's constructed using your choice of individual components and hand-built by a technician. Some people call them "generic", "clones", or "home-built".  Unfortunately,  to the unknowing buyer, they are generally viewed as "cheap" or " inferior" PC's with subpar performance by. In fact, the complete opposite is true of the MC- PC. They are fast, very high quality, and dependable because they are constructed using premium, buyer defined, upgradeable components. 

What is the best PC to buy? Let's take a look and try to help you determine what's best for you: 

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Name Brand PC's - Non-Standard Design
What's wrong with the commercial PC? Big vendors like "Compcrap", "Smell" and "HewlettPukard" frequently use non-standard designs in their PC's. Especially with their case designs, which severely limits your upgrade path. They do this to "lock" you in to using their parts for which they charge you exorbitant prices. When something breaks or you want to upgrade,  they want you to buy the parts from them and only them. An example of gouging, "Compcrap" attempted to charge my company $149 for an obsolete 24 speed CDROM drive after it died. In the component market such a drive will costs about $30. The Big Boys routinely do this to consumers.
Name Brand PC's - Cost Cutting
In 1998 I was working on a "Compcrap" PC. I opened the case to discover the hard drive was labeled "refurbished". This PC was purchased NEW and the case had NEVER been opened before. Why would they do this? Simple, to cut costs. Without a doubt, "Compcrap" got a great deal from "Seagrate" on a batch of "refurbished" hard drives. Not long ago, there was a huge scandal over these manufactures putting used parts into "new" PC's. It was very common practice and I suspect it still is today, these companies are just more careful. It definitely was not fair to consumers who thought they were buying a "new" PC. If you pay a premium price for a new PC, you expect all the components to be new!

Other cost cutting tactics like using an IDE cable (attaches the hard drive or CDROM drive to mainboard) with only one connector. While this may trim $0.05 in manufacturing cost from each unit, a person trying to add a second hard drive to their system would open the case only to discover the need to purchase a new 2-connector cable. These types of cost cutting tactics are commonplace with name-brand vendors. Anything that trims just pennies from the production cost will be implemented at the expense of the consumer.

Name Brand PC's - Obsolescence
The Big Computer Manufacturers (BCM's) want your PC to become obsolete. At some point in the near future they want you to basically "throw away" your PC and buy a new one from them. After all, it doesn't have enough RAM, the hard drive is too small, the video card can't handle the new 3D games, the processor is not a 2,000 MHz Intel Pentium 9 (haven't you been watching the commercials?!)...well, it's a boat anchor. They typically don't make an upgrade path available to you. Their version of upgrade is to "buy a new PC from us". Look at "Gayway", a classic example. They tell you, "With a 'Gayway' PC you'll never be out of date". What they don't tell you is that you WILL also be out of money after you keep trading-in your old PC for $100 credit towards a new one.

MC-PC's - Why?
The MC- PC is simply a PC built around standard design specifications usually using top quality, modular components. These systems are best when built by the consumer, that way you know what's inside and how to upgrade/replace the components. After doing this, you will no longer be at the mercy of the BCM's and repair shops. If you are afraid of trying to build your own computer, look for a local computer shop who sells MC constructed PC's. These are the ultimate computer systems because the owners of these small shops will usually allow you to specify individual components based on performance and/or cost. They will also give you personal attention and stand by their products. This way you can talk to them face-to-face. This sure beats being put into a call-que and kept on hold for 60 minutes!
MC-PC Performance
Top notch performance comes from using premium, name-brand components and "tuning". With a MC- PC, YOU specify which components go into your PC. If you are on a budget, then you can skimp on a couple of components at build time fully knowing that you can upgrade these later as money permits. There are many options available to optimize a MC-PC for speed, most of these settings are found in the BIOS (Basic In/Out System).  The BIOS and mainboard jumpers give you the ability to "over-clock" your processor, easily install new hardware and optimize other system settings (See http://www.tomshardware.com  to learn about over-clocking.). Conversely, commercial PC's typically lock you out of the BIOS by using a "slimmed" down version. These BCM's  BIOSes are very limited to "protect" the basic PC configuration from being changed, this prevents you from doing any sort of optimization. They can also cause trouble when trying to install new hardware.
MC-PC Price & Upgradeability
PRICE: Compare the prices of  MC computers to the commercial ones. Usually, the MC- PC will win because of the smaller overhead associated with them. This means you get more PC for the money. Instead of paying for "Smell's" or "Gayways advertising overhead (millions of dollars), you are paying for higher quality components.
UPGRADE PATH: Since MC- PC's are built around standard design specifications, you are guaranteed an upgrade path. Your PC won't become obsolete in a year because you can always upgrade just the parts that need it. No need to "throw" your PC away, just pop in a new processor, video card, RAM, etc. and you just extended the life of your PC. There are hundred's of vendors that make parts for PC's so you can price compare very easily. Take a look at http://www.killerapp.com.
Buy a Commercial PC
If you are totally and completely new to computers, 
AND have no one close to you to help you  with issues that may come up (Personal Guru) ,
AND there is no reliable locally owned computer store near by nor a Personal Guru to build your machine,
AND you don't feel comfortable building a PC
AND you don't mind spending a lot of time on the telephone

...then buy a commercial PC. You probably need an 800 number to call for help. Just realize that there WILL be hours of frustration and stress when you get stuck. Just ask any owner of a Packard Hell PC. Even if you're on some sort of "Gayway Gold" plan, you still have to get on the phone and have them try to "walk" you through an attempt to fix the problem. Diagnosing PC hardware and software issues over the phone is NEARLY impossible. More often than not, the "expert" helping you just started yesterday and has a grand total of 2 weeks of training...no kidding! They are often "monkey trained" on a PC. They just follow the screen prompts (fill in the blank) until the program they are using (most likely their own web site) comes up with some possibilities and repair instructions. When they are unsuccessful after an hour or so, then you get to talk a person that actually knows something. Arrrrggg...you also get to start the process over...hehehehe.

 

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