Like most sane people that are not interested in the perpetual quest to gain more stuff, I avoided any kind of store on Black Friday. Not only that, I will likely continue to hold onto my sanity until after New Years by avoiding as many malls and big box stores as possible. On the other hand, I wont judge anyone who might seek a bargain at the local Wal-mart in these tough economic times. That being said, as a professional who recommends that clients spend their hard earned money on quality, durable equipment, it is perplexing to the mind that some insist on buying the cheapest deal because it seems like a good idea. I have gotten quite a few calls from people complaining that their new sub $299 laptop is not as fast as their old computer that they paid $500 for 6 years ago. Six years ago, a new computer was being sold with Windows XP or the dreaded Windows Vista. I will be the first to defend Windows Vista as substantially better than Windows 8 for usability. There is actually a pretty good explanation as to why a $250 laptop is not a good buy.
Retailers, particularly Wal-mart, Staples, and Best Buy tend to make demands on manufacturers as to what they want to sell a computer for. Manufacturers, in order to score the sale, will often use low quality components in what the end result ends up being. Instead of a multi-core processor, the computer gets single core rejects. RAM is cheap, but don’t expect to run Excel or Flash games very well with whatever they cram in there. Hard drives will typically come in the 320-500GB range, but they again will be slower and of a brand of ill-repute. The display will likely be a traditional LCD panel, not a newer battery friendly LED. And the plastic used will be brittle and flimsy to the touch, and likely be held together by a minimal amount of screws. The lack of screws really surprised me when I recently got in a 2011 Black Friday Wal-Mart special. Literally, there were 5 screws holding the entire unit together. It was a snap-together unit that left little to the imagination. Inside the unit I experienced, the few wires that were used were extremely thin and prone to breaking. Needless to say, I dread when these computers come into my shop for the simple fact that replacement parts are just not available. Also, the typical 1 year warranty on consumer grade computers hardly spells out quality.
I am not saying that there is no use for $250 computers. What I am saying is to not expect a $250 computer to be very capable in comparison to anything else at even twice the cost. Cornerstone Technologies recommends commerical grade units that typically come with 3 year warranties. We are an authorized reseller of Dell, Lenovo, and HP commercial units. The products we believe in often last quite a bit longer than the bitter taste of any bargain one can scrounge up. As a bonus, the overall cost of ownership is typically less in many cases. In any case, stay warm, and beware of bargains!
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