Consumer vs Business Class Computers

Posted on Apr 17, 2012 in Small Business


Here’s the scenario:  You’ve got your BestBuy Advertisement in hand and you walk into the office of your IT Person of choice and you say in your best CEO / Decision Maker voice, “I can get a new computer for $399, why should I pay so much more to go through you?”

Sigh...Facepalm...Deep Breath...Ok

I’m asked this question a lot.  Usually it’s worded nicer and the attitude isn’t there, but really it’s the same question.  You’re really asking, “Why do I need to pay you extra if I can find it cheaper myself?”

It really is a good question and what it all boils down to is the difference between a Consumer PC and a Business Class Workstation.

Consumer PCs
When you purchase a computer from BestBuy or WalMart or even Staples, you are getting a Consumer PC, even if that PC is a Dell, HP, Toshiba, or IBM.  Purchasing a computer directly from one of those vendors’ home sales departments will also get you a Consumer PC.

Consumer PCs are built to be priced specifically for home use.  These computers are built using off-brand components that were bought in bulk with the express purpose of making a computer affordable for home use.  In general the cases are of a flimsier build and the internal components not as robust as those you will find in a Business Class Workstation.

This is confirmed by the warranties available for Consumer PCs.  For the most part the best possible warranty available for a Consumer PC is about 1 Year.  That warranty will generally cover parts and labor but will not guarantee any response time or level of customer service.  The reason that the warranties are limited to 1 Year is because the parts used to build the computer aren’t expected to last much longer than that under constant use.

Business Class Workstations
In general a Business Class Workstation is built to order.  The big vendors will have a few pre-built models that utilize the most common configurations, but usually when you purchase a Business Computer you are getting it to perform a specific set of tasks, so flexibility in configuration is necessary.

When you buy a Business Class PC you are (again, in general) getting well-built, sturdy, name brand components.  You’ll get an ATI or NVidia Video Card, a Seagate Hard Drive, and Crucial or Kingston Memory.  These are manufactures that are trusted for reliable components and they’re components are built to last.

Once again you only have to look at the available warranty options.  For a Dell Business Class Workstation you can get a warranty as long as 5 Years!  They aren’t going to use components that will fail in 3 years and then take a loss; they wouldn’t stay in business long if that’s what they were doing.

Which Should I Buy?
If your computer is going to be used for home use or in a rarely-for-work-use home office, then a Consumer PC will meet your needs perfectly.  You really do get a good price for sufficient computing power.  Home computers aren’t normally put through the same strains as a business computer; the workload is much lighter and the usage time is shorter so the shorter component life-spans don’t play into it as much.

If your computer is going to be used 8 to 10 hours a day and the intent is to use that computer to make money for your business, then you need to get a Business Class Workstation.  The amount of extra money you put into the studier system (with comparable specs) will be an investment in not replacing this computer in a year or two.  We’re only talking $200 more or so for a baseline workstation.

I would love to hear comments about this post.  Do you agree with what I’ve written or do you think I’m just crazy for writing it down?  Let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Dennis Edmondson Jr
Computing Concepts LLC

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Great thoughts been thinking about this question a lot lately because of college coming up and needing to buy a computer that will last and do exactly what i need it to.




This is by far the most common question that people ask me when looking for a computer. I usually advise against getting a computer from a brick and mortar store simply because of the Crap Ware involved. (See previous article The idea that someone would purchase a computer from a store and use it in an office makes me cringe. While I do, and will, make money off of them, my job is to prevent major issues, not let a customer save money now just so they can spend twice that much with me later.