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How Much Should a Laptop or a PC cost?

(in the Philadelphia, South New Jersey and Delaware area)

Quick Answer

$1800 - $3000 for a standard office computer (laptop or desktop) (with lots and lots of caveats)

Real Answer

There is nothing called a “bargain” in technology.

What’s in Box?

Did you ever buy a TV and magically expect it to be mounted to the wall with all the wires hidden?

What people expect of a laptop or PC versus the “deals” that are advertised are very different things.  Most people expect a usable computer with all the applications, all the printers, the wireless connections, the common website they go to, and the latest updates completely done, so they can get to work.  Unfortunately, that’s not what’s in the box.

First, since CPU technology rolls out every year, computer manufacturers need to make new products every year.  This means what looks like a bargain is just an unsold last generation computer with its price lowered.  Seeing that the average useful life span of a computer is 3 to 4 years, did you want to pay for a “new” computer that is one or more years in the hole?

Second, the way manufacturers lower the price on the same years computers is to come out with different configurations that have less memory, storage, or type of screen.  Now even though some of these components are replaceable, the labor to swap these components at a later date adds a lot to your cost.  It’s far cheaper to stick with something you can live with for at least 3 years.

Third, going cheap means you’ll get a computer with a slower CPU.  What that means is you are buying a device that will frustrate you every time you are trying to work.  It also means you have the patience of Mother Theresa, or a Zen Master.  If you’re not one of those, spend the money for speed.  That is the ONLY purpose of a computer… “Faster than doing it by hand”… Speed.

I got the computer for $1299, why is the labor cost so much?

First the cost of material has no bearing on the labor.

Second, there is a lot of steps to get a computer from a box to something secure that you can work with.  Some steps are…

  • Wipe out all the manufacturers bloatware (crap you don’t want nor need to keep the computer fast)
  • Install cyber protection.  If it goes on the Internet for updates, the shields must go up.
  • Update the firmware, OS and applications, because multi-billion-dollar corporations are fixing the mistakes that they made.
  • Setup the user account(s).  Yes, sometimes more than one person uses the same computer.
  • Install printers and shared locations.  You did want to access your data and eventually print?

Since a computer is just a tool, it matters that you get the right tool for the work you do.  So, if you get the wrong tool for the job, it could be a Volkswagen Beetle pulling a 40 ft boat, or a Ford F250 driving for groceries every day.  Both cars are the wrong tool for the job.

The Real Cost of a Computer

To understand what you need, you need to understand what you do… and don’t forget the things you do once-in-a-while.  The only guarantee I can give you is that the applications you use today will be bigger, need more resources and therefore more computing power and internet speed in the future.

If you truly want to buy a computer, consider it a 3 to 4 year investment.

Something where “bargain” shouldn’t be in the picture.

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