|BUYING A PERSONAL COMPUTER
Why is it that a PC advertised at $399 can end up costing a lot more? A computer, like a car or a house, has many options that affect it's price. There are three main areas that affect the price: Reliability, Features and Speed(Performance). Depending on how you will use your PC, you may need some or all of these. Understanding your needs will help you spend you rmoney wisely, allowing you to upgrade in the areas that you will actually benefit from.
A business owner may need reliability over than speed: a PC without alot of extra features that will run 7 days a week for several years. Someone else may require extra features, like the ability to create DVDs while others may require higher performance to handle more demanding applications like graphics software.
PERSONAL COMPUTER CATEGORIES
Almost every manufacturer sells three different grades/classes of computers: Consumer, Business and High-End CAD/Graphics Workstations
Using Dell as an example:
Dell Dimension series desktops - consumer level
Dell OptiPlex series desktops - business level
Dell Precision workstations - high end CAD/graphics workstations
Dell Inspiron notebooks - consumer level
Dell Latitude notebooks - business level
Dell Precision notebooks - high end CAD/graphics mobile workstations
The main difference between the Consumer and the Business series is that the business class computers are designed to be used 8+ hours a day, 5+ days a week, 365 days a year and come with a standard 3 year warranty.
The budget/consumer level are designed for people that are less demanding and more budget oriented. They come with a 1yr warranty (becareful, over the holidays Dell reduced their laptops by $100 to have very appealing prices but also changed the warranty to 90 days or upgrade to 1yr for $110) and typically use more general components, like IDE/ATA hard drives, etc. The business class models have higher end components (fans are quieter, heavier, typically use SATA drives, etc). The business class ones are build to be bullet proof when having one down for half a day is going to cost a company a bunch in lost productivity.
CAD workstations offer things like SCSI (ultimate in performance reliability in hard drives) and RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks - two or more hard drives working at the same time so you keep on running even if one crashes).
Although we prefer to see small businesses use the business class computers, some small businesses prefer to purchase consumer grade computers. Under the right conditions, there's nothing wrong with that.
Just be aware of the differences. You can read more here.
Advise on laptops: get the longer warranty. 90 days is ridiculous. 1 yr is absolute minimum and may be asking for trouble. 3yr is much better. To repair a desktop computer the average component replacement cost is about $50-$75 with labor you're talking about $150 for an average repair to a desktop. For a laptop that same repair will cost $600 on average. It's not uncommon to have to spend 50% - 75% of the purchase price to repair a laptop that is 13 months old. We see it often.