You Get What You Pay For

Fourth in a Series: Technology and the SOHO

Your real mission is to get the best value for the price, and ensure the longest functioning life for your technology. The best way to do that is to buy as close to the cutting edge as you can afford. The cutting edge is usually the province of gamers and hardware enthusiasts (with rigs that cost anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000.)

Normal non-graphic business users can get away with significantly less power (and cost). The range for a good business rig is from $650 to $1500 for a desktop and $900 to $2500 for a laptop. You can spend more if you like, but try not to spend less. The less you spend, the faster you fall on the obsolescence curve. Buy the fastest processor and the most RAM you can put on the computer. These two elements compose the most important devices you can put on a computer and are the most important factors in determining how long your computer can resist obsolescence. Here go a few things to remember about your computer to help you enjoy it for a good long time.

  1. Know your hardware and the software that you use. I know how hard it is for some people to focus on their computer’s age, processor speed, and hardware it has shipped with, but this information is very important, especially once your computer begins to age. If you bought your computer new, your shipping information should include all the most important data about it. File all the paperwork that came with your computer, you may not need it now, but two years from now, you will be thankful you have it.
  2. Know how old your computer is and keep track of the day you got it. Your warranty will be based on that date. You may be able to extend the warranty on the computer before it has expired, especially if the computer’s hardware has been problematic. Know the operating system that came with it. It is likely that your computer was optimized for that operating system and will work best with that one installed. If you have a very powerful computer, it may not matter what operating system it shipped with as long as you have the driver disks needed for installs. If your computer came with a set of CD or DVDs, keep up with them! You will need them if you ever have to reinstall your computers operating system.
  3. If you still have a warranty, familiarize yourself with what it covers and what it doesn’t. A good warranty covers all hardware issues and offers free over the phone technical support for software issues. A new computer should have at least one year of warranty. A new laptop should have a three year warranty (even if it costs more) because laptops are more likely to suffer problems due to their traveling lifestyle.
  4. Know your basic internal hardware: Processor name, hard drive, CD-DVD drive, internal cards, (video card, sound card) RAM amount and type of peripherals attached. This helps your technical support person know how best to help you when they come to see you or when you have to get tech support over the phone.
  5. If you got your computer without any specification data, use the free application System Information (Sysinfo) to make a printout of the most important data about your computer. The system summary contains the info you need. You can find Sysinfo under the Start Menu>Accessories>System Tools>System Information. You will be amazed at how much information there is to know about your computer.
  6. Know the names and versions of the applications that you use the most. This helps when you are troubleshooting, updating, seeking out new versions of your software or updating your drivers. Invest some time in mastering the programs you spend the most time with. Time invested with a program pays itself back tenfold over time. You can usually find the version number under the Help Menu or under the menu option, About <insert software name here>.
  7. Its time to buy a new computer if: you spend more time waiting on your computer than working on it. Let a tech come out and evaluate your system to make sure you have the most RAM and the fastest processor your motherboard can support. Let them determine if your technology is running okay, or if there are still things you might be able to do to make it faster.  If after a complete reinstall, you are still waiting, let your current computer go and embrace something new.

Pricing Estimates for PCs


Low End

High End

Home Desktop – email, web surfing, simple games



E-machines, Acer, Gateway
Student – desktop; web surfing, email, office suites, proprietary class software



Acer, Compaq, Dell, Gateway
Student – laptop (mini-laptop); desktop, web surfing, email, office suites, proprietary class software



Apple iBook, HP, Fujitsu, ASUS
Entrepreneur – desktop; web surfing, email, office suites, high speed network connectivity, quality motherboard, 2 GB RAM, video card



MPCCorp, Dell, HP
Entrepreneur – laptop



Sager, Dell, Lenovo, Panasonic
Enterprise – desktop; web surfing, email, office suites, high speed network connectivity, quality motherboard, 2 GB RAM, video card, CD/DVD RAM drive



MPCCorp, Dell, Lenovo, Toshiba, Panasonic
Enterprise – laptop – armored shell, quality display, high end video and sound, 2 GB RAM, video card, CD/DVD RAM drive



Sager, Dell, Lenovo, Toshiba, Panasonic
Gamer – Dual video cards, sound cards, fast processor, 4 GB RAM, video card, CD/DVD RAM drive



Alienware, Falcon, Velocity Micro
Graphic Design/3D Intensive – fast processor, 4-16 GB RAM, large HD



Apple, Dell XPS, Alienware, Velocity Micro

Computers can be even more expensive than this but it is unlikely that your average computer user will need more horsepower than we have mentioned above. A computer is a personal choice and likely to be the most important technology you will buy after your car. You (or someone in your household) will certainly a significant period of time on it, so consider it an investment in your future. Spend some money on it, but talk to someone who knows.

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