The Myth of the $200 Computer

 

It happens a few times a year.  A customer is faced with either a computer that cannot be repaired or a one that is so old that it’s not worth repairing.

They will ask what their options are and I will explain to them for $350-$500 they can get a custom built PC from me that will be the best computer they have ever owned and last them a decade.

They scoff at this idea and proudly proclaim that they can just head on over to Staples and get one for $200.

I will not deny that yes there are times of the year where you can get some great deals; Back to School, and Christmas being good examples. Times of year when stores will stock up on somewhat outdated inventory and sell it as loss leaders to get parents into the stores.   However these deals are actually rare and becoming more hard to find.

Anyway let’s set that aside and look at what you get when you buy a bottom of the line PC at big box retailer.

Just this weekend I was faced with a client who did the “I don’t need anything fancy I can’t get something for $200” eye roll. He ended up at Walmart where to his surprise there are no $200, in fact you can’t even find a computer that does not include a monitor, his only option was a $250 Acer AXC-704G-UW61.

The bare minimum to manufacture a PC is over $200.  So how can they sell you a PC for such a low price.  Either you are getting very old outdated and barely usable parts.  This computer had really cheap slow parts in it. So cheap, slow, and built to a price point that they were designed to be cheap, and as we discovered the hard way not even fully functional.

The other way they bring the price down which is the case more and more you are getting a computer that has been subsidized by installing tons of Spyware.  This PC was riddled with Spyware, in fact the first program they installed on it before they even installed the drivers was Spyware.

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This miracle of modern technology was then dropped off here so I could begin the process of transferring and installing all the software and files he needs for his business onto the this wonderful new PC.  Set it up on the desk and problem #1, this computer has no VGA or DVI ports only HDMI.  So now we either need a HDMI monitor, a video card, or a some sort of converter.   So now it’s a $270 PC, and we wasted a days labor. Nowhere on the box was it mentioned that this computer had only HDMI ports. It has two USB 3.0 ports but since it’s only two those will be taken up by your keyboard and mouse.  So if you want to actually use those ports you need a hub now it’s a $290 computer.

 

Okay we get it hooked up to a monitor.  I know have to spend half a day removing all the SpyWare that is preinstalled onto the PC.

Finish that, install al the business software we need, and star transferring his files onto the new PC.  The transfer is going to take 6 hours so I leave and come back.  In that time the PC has put the monitor to sleep and the only way to get the monitor back on is to unplug the power from it.  So now we have to leave the monitor on displaying a screen saver 24 hours a day otherwise the PC turns the monitor off and then will not turn it back on.

Finish everything, leave the computer alone over night come back  and now it for some reason has shut down and will not restart.  Pull the power and it will turn back on.  At this point it is finally decided this $200 PC is going back.

Now we have wasted 3 days,  the client owes me well over $100 in labor and we have accomplished nothing.

You get what you pay for.


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