Saturday 20 June 2015

Cheap computers, and why they don't always suck.

Generally I'm not a huge fan of cheap things. I like things that I purchase to last, preferably longer than I have any use for them.

A few weeks back my mother in law's computer died, and I wound up getting into a search for a replacement computer for her. Budget was a huge concern and what I wound up finding when searching for a cheap computer was that there were a lot of compromises in the way that machines where built that made me not a huge fan of a lot of what I was seeing.

One of the first machines that I looked into was the Intel NUC series of machines. There's something about a small compact quiet piece of hardware that does tickle my fancy, but looking at the price of building one made me very quickly realize that it's not something that would wind up being a cheap machine. The exceptions to the rule was the small HP Stream set of machines, those where cheap enough that they where in the 250-300$ price range that I was looking for, but to get a big enough hard disk and to update the memory to something usable I wasn't really saving that much if anything and the only thing I was getting was a smaller footprint.

Since size wasn't an issue I shelved the HP Stream and moved into looking at the Dells, Acers, and other full size desktop machines. In the end a compact desktop Dell was the winner, however even in this case the machine only had a single DIMM socket so updating the memory would be limited in the future and given that the machine is over 80% empty space I don't see why they wouldn't put a second socket in. The processor being soldered in and having no PCI / PCIe sockets won't be an issue in the future given what this machine will be used in but it does go to show how much they are cutting the costs on these machines.

In the end I'll continue to build my own desktop machines since my needs are a bit niche compared to a lot of users, but when I get around to getting a replacement for my wife's freshly dead computer (and reclaim my test machine) I will have to have a longer look at some of those little HP devices. Her needs are a little more advanced than the Mother in Law and since I don't want to be putting a laptop in as the family computer (given how kids treat them) those machines are starting to look more and more appealing.

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