What's In There
Parts? What Parts?
Sometimes I think the shoddy internals are tactics used by large OEM companies like Compaq. When we consider a company like FuturePower or Falcon Northwest the parts aren't the ones you might expect to still have sand sticking to them. Even looking at their sites, they mention what parts are in the computer. While not giving all the details like RAM specs, most OEMs couldn't be bothered to tell you what motherboard was in the computer. Just about everything in a Future Power system is brand name. While I think some of the parts could have been improved upon they aren't bad.
Moving away from the parts that might break, one area where I know the customer will win is the software aspect. When building a home computer one must purchase all the software separately or hope to get some great deal on it somewhere. Others have more illicit means, but that will be left unaddressed. After purchasing all this software one must also sit down to install it all on the computer. I have had to do this many a time. Once again time plays a rather large role. If you work during the week, chances are you get to play a little bit on some nights and maybe a bit more on the weekend. With an OEM system the entire system is good to go right out of the box. You don't have to install anything but the occasional game or some random bit of software.
As an example we recently had a Future Power system in the office. Setting up one of these and most likely every other OEM system is child's play. All I had to do was plug in the wires and turn hit the power button. Lo and behold I see that Win98 bootup screen roaring to completion. Total setup time for the OEM computer: 10 minutes. That includes getting it out of the box. For a homegrown system, it will take some time people. Even if you know exactly what you are doing, it is going to take far more than an hour to put the thing together and get all the software running. That's if you don't encounter any "issues" between parts.
All right, fine, I'm not going to disagree that it's easier to setup an OEM system. But let's take the entire picture into context. What would you rather drive - a Porsche 928 (ooooh... low blow!) or a Cadillac Escalade? Both are big investments. One, the Escalade, is the pinnacle of ease. It comes with an automatic transmission; it drives easy, has a lot of tamed ponies under the hood and is one of the most comfortable vehicles around.
The 928, on the other hand, is a tough car to drive. To drive the Porsche, as it should be -i.e. fast, you need a lot of skill and experience. You'll need to learn to drive a very sharp manual transmission and there's a lot of power you'll need to tame. It might be an excellent design but it's nowhere near as comfortable as the big old Escalade. Want to fit some skis for a trip to the mountains in the 928? That'll take you some work. Got a family and they want to go to Disneyland? Well, too bad - that's going to be a tough trip with so little room in the car. In short, the Porsche is going to require a lot of work, attention and patience. However, once it gets on the road doing its thing, it will do it a hell of a lot better than any fat Escalade.
The Cadillac, on the other hand, would require no effort to get some skis or kids in. You can abuse it and let that fancy warranty make up for your bad treatment. With the Porsche, there is no such luxury - 928s are long discontinued and if you bought one, any problems it has are solely yours now. Of course, once you find yourself on the road, which one would you rather have? The big, fat, ungainly Cadillac SUV or the fast, sleek Porsche 928?
It's the same deal with computers. Sure you can buy an OEM system and let it chug away, bogged down by substandard parts and worthless software packages. It's the easy, comfortable choice - you've got a warranty, you've got tech support, who cares if it doesn't perform, right? Of course, can you say that honestly when your Porsche-driving neighbor buys a computer for the same price that is twice as fast as yours?