Nationally advertised brands typically have marketing expenses that are up to half of what it costs to manufacture a product, and manufacturers of PCs are no exception. So when you go to the store to buy a PC, what is all that marketing doing for you, the consumer? It’s wasting your money, that’s what it’s doing. The marketing efforts of big brands like HP, Dell, Compaq, and the like each try to present images that will leave you thinking (or at least feeling) that you get better reliability or performance with their particular brand. The actual reliability numbers show that in real life most major, minor, and unknown brands of PCs are about the same. If fact it turns out that there is an off-brand that is way cheaper than the big names, has reliability just as good, and a better repair plan than they big brands – if you live in the right areas of the US.
But before we get to the best part, lets look at another way that the major PC brands give you the shaft while pretending to help you. If you look at the marketing material of the major brands, you might come away thinking they are doing you a favor by including lots of “free” software. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most of the software is trial versions of various programs, You think it’s free at first, and then after you have used it for a couple of months and become dependent on it, it announces to you that its trial period is over and you have to pay for it. No thanks! I don’t want any PC I buy to be loaded with anything that I don’t specifically select.
“But what about reliability and service?”, you might ask. Good question. It is tempting to believe you get a better service plan when you buy a major brand like HP or Dell or Gateway than you do if you buy from a local mom & pop computer shop, and that is usually true, but it turns out there is something between a mom & pop shop and a major brand that is much better, and that is the in-house PowerSpec brands sold by Micro Center computer stores.
Micro Center is a big enough chain of stores to have roughly the same economy of scale as the big-name brands. Micro Center services its brand of PCs right in its stores. so you can get faster service from them than you can on the big-name brands. Micro Center doesn’t load their PCs with lots of not-really-free software that holds you for ransom a few months later. Micro Center’s PowerSpec in-house brand is as reliable as HP or Dell or Gateway or Compaq (in my own experience it has actually been more reliable). And lastly, Micro Center don’t spend any significant amount of money marketing its own brand. The end result is that you get a much better bargain on a desktop PC when you buy a PowerSpec brand PC at Micro Center. So that’s what I advise all my friends to do.
You might wonder if I have any association with Micro Center. I don’t. And even Micro center won’t push you to buy their PCs as much as I will. They are just as happy to sell you one of the major national brands. They probably make just about as much money on those, but it’s a lot worse deal for you. Most major metropolitan areas in the USA have Micro Center stores now. Happy computing!