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Monday, September 18, 2000
On Hardware

Branded computers more cost effective
 than assembled ones
by Vipul Verma

ESACH day new technology is being introduced in the world of computers. At the individual level, though, frequent change in the technology is not very significant. But on the broader horizon it matters to all. At least, the ever-changing technology forms the basis for a person to decide on his hardware buying, which includes computers and peripherals.

The computer assemblers introduce the higher technology faster than the branded computer manufacturers because the new processors are imported by the grey market operators and introduced without any planning as their main consideration is to earn profit from new products. Therefore at times, there is an unnecessary premium on new technology, which people pay due to their ignorance.


Normally one is made to think that by spending Rs 65,000 one would get a 667 MHz Compaq computer, whereas, for much lesser price an 800 MHz assembled computer could be had. To add to woes, the assemblers use the jargon of "entry-level products" to convince a customer. Thus, ultimately a person lands up buying an assembled computer. Now here comes the big question: Which is a better deal? Which computer — an assembled PC or a branded PC — should a person buy?

Well! There cannot be a universal solution to this problem as it depends on several other factors than merely the technology. But as far as the technology is concerned, a rational approach may help in taking a good decision.

There are three major points that a person should keep in mind while deciding on the basis of technology:

1) Indian hardware market normally lags behind the hardware markets of major developed nations like the USA. So, the concept of "entry-level products" is rubbish. Since the world of computers is not just limited to India, thus with reference to the developed markets, the products introduced here will become obsolete before their launch. Therefore, the assemblers’ jargon of "entry- level products" should not bias anyone.

2) The Pentium IV processors are going to be launched world wide soon and within the next six months they will be ubiquitous. According to the industry watchers, the difference between the Pentium III and Pentium IV processors would be huge. So anything, which is latest right now, may become redundant after some time and there is no point paying unnecessary premium for the latest technology being offered by computer dealers.

3) Intel, being the world leader in processors and chips, has a conservative approach towards its products. In order to live up to the expectations of its standards and for homogeneity of its products, it normally under clocks the speed of its processor. This means the 733 MHz processor actually has a higher speed than the rated speed.

As far as the choice between branded and assembled computers goes, the decision should not be totally based on the technology factor. Among the other factors instrumental in deciding about the computer, i.e. branded or assembled computer, the hardware components are also very important.

Normally, while deciding on which computer to buy, as the first reaction one compares the prices of similar products in assembled and branded computer segment. On finding the assembled computer cheaper, a person explores this segment only. From a macro angle, one gets convinced that both computers use the same components. Then what is the point in buying a branded computer?

Well! This notion, which remains in the minds of most of the people, is somewhat wrong. The comparison between an assembled computer and a branded computer is not just limited to these common factors. Consider the following factors for seeking an insight into the major difference between the two.

Normally, the price difference between as assembled computer and a branded computer is between Rs.10, 000 and Rs. 15,000, depending upon the model. When you ask your computer dealer about the price of an assembled PC, he quotes the prices of the computer with AT motherboard and cabinet. This technology is not just old but also outdated. Whereas, all major branded computers, like Compaq and IBM, have since long incorporated ATX Motherboard. This technology gives better results. If one insists on acquiring an ATX motherboard and cabinet in the assembled computer, the price shoots up by Rs 5,000 approximately.

Consider other critical parts like the RAM. While taking the price quotation of the PC, no one inquires about the warranty on RAM and its brand? Normally, the RAM used in assembled computers are not of top quality and come either with no or limited warranty. Whereas, in case of branded computers, the RAM is standard and like other components is covered under warranty. The extra price for the RAM with lifetime warranty is roughly Rs.1,000 more for 64 MB. Add it to the difference. Considering a price difference of Rs.15,000 (maximum) between a branded PC and an assembled PC, the difference in price after considering these factors has narrowed down to Rs.9,000 only.

Coming down to the price of an ATX cabinet the quotation one gets for an assembled PC includes the price for a normal AT cabinet. Whereas in case of a branded computers, it goes without saying that the cabinets are ATX. If one asks the assembler to add the price of the ATX cabinet, the estimate would go higher by Rs.1, 500 roughly due to the price difference between an AT cabinet and the ATX. At the same time, the price difference would further narrow down between an assembled computer and a branded computer by Rs.7,500.

Take motherboard into consideration. Normally, the assembled computer users use Vintron, Xo Tronics or Procom motherboards, with Intel chip set on it. Though these motherboards are also good yet the original Intel motherboard is better. Go ask a computer dealer about the original Intel motherboard as officially, that is the authorised motherboard. The price quotation will then further go up by roughly Rs 6,000. As far as the branded computers are concerned, the motherboards used are standardised and compare well with the original Intel motherboard. The price difference between an assembled computer and the branded computer now narrows down to Rs 1,500 only.

Moving on to the hard disk, though both computers might be using the hard disk of the same company, yet normally the assembled computer comes with the hard disk speed of 5,400 rpm. Whereas, the speed of hard disk used in branded computers is 7,200. Ask your computer dealer to give you the hard disk of 7, 200 rpm, the price estimate of the assembled computer would go up by roughly 2,500 to Rs. 3,000 depending upon the size of the hard disk. The assembled computer comes with a higher cost as compared to the branded one by Rs.1,000 to Rs.1,500.

If we compare the other hardware parts such as keyboard, mouse, monitor, etc. the comparative price of the assembled computer would work out to be even higher. In the final analysis, the price difference taken may vary from product to product and in some cases this difference could be lower also. However, in order to analyse, the average difference has been taken into consideration.