Commodity Computers

A friend consulted me a few days ago on her Dell computer purchase. She had this auntie instinct that told her that she was being scammed. While I will not say that she is being scammed, I certainly told her that she need not pay so much money for her computer. In the end, I spec-ed her a different machine that saved her RM2,000 which she is more than welcome to spend on me!

Then she asked me why it was that the Dell salesperson tried to sell her a machine that was so much more expensive. So, I thought that I should write about some of these reasons.

Firstly, it is the job of the salesperson to up-sell their customers. You see this everywhere, even at McDonalds. Whenever you order a meal, they will try to up-sell you on larger drinks, larger fries or even an added sundae. It is in their best interest to help you to spend your money. Otherwise, they are not doing their job. In addition, these sales people are often paid by commission of up to about 20%. So, there is no reason why they should try to sell you a cheaper machine when they can sell you a more expensive one.

Secondly, computers these days are commodities. One model is pretty much the same as another. In fact, the prime differentiating factor between computers these days is often the aesthetics. Two machine that are of similar specs can cost several thousand ringgit more simply due to a better quality built. Of course, you are getting more for what you paid for but do you actually need the more beautiful machine. If you can afford to pay a premium on looks, spend it on an Apple.

Thirdly, the performance difference is negligible, especially for normal home use. A ultra high speed graphics card coupled with a ultra powerful processor is not going to help Word/Excel/Powerpoint run significantly faster. Now, if my friend was using the computer for engineering simulations or video rendering work, that is another issue altogether. But all my friend needed was a computer for office work, surfing the internet, watching some videos and playing Sims 3, which is something that the most basic machines can do today and do it really well.

So, I advised my friend on getting the cheapest hardware that Dell had and to upgrade certain components that will give you a better overall experience. I told my friend to spend the savings on my consultation fee, a new handbag and maybe some clothes. That’s a much better use of her cash.

PS: Some of the things that are worth upgrading – single-core to dual-core, a higher resolution monitor, more RAM. Everything else is a worthless upgrade.

Published by

Shawn Tan

Chip Doctor, Chartered/Professional Engineer, Entrepreneur, Law Graduate.

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