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The Computer Buzz March 1st, 2007

Nome and Paul Van Middlesworth - owners - The Computer Fact


Parts Ain’t Parts

You may remember the old TV ad where the fast food counter clerk answers a customer’s inquiry about the quality of the meat in the chicken nuggets with a shrug "parts is parts" he says. Well that statement is just as false with PC components as it is with chicken nuggets.

"Digital" PC components (memories, CPUs, hard drives etc) are manufactured using "analogue" processes. By that we mean that the complicated manufacturing processes that create these devices are inherently imperfect. All of the above mentioned devices will have many thousands of small defects.

A modern CPU chip with half a billion transistors will have thousands of bad transistors; a hard drive with 200 billion bit locations will have millions of defective sites.

Component manufacturers use highly sophisticated quality measurement test systems, not to determine whether or not a device is perfect but to determine whether the level of imperfection meets acceptance standards.

If a device is too "imperfect" it will fail the tests and be scrapped or salvaged. If it meets the minimum requirements it will be sold as an OEM or bulk pack product with limited warranty. If the device passes all the quality screens with flying colors it will be sold as a premium or boxed product with multi-year warranties under the manufacturer’s name

Most PCs sold by Dell, Compaq/HP, Gateway/E-Machine, are built for these companies by Asian computer manufactures. These companies use the lower grade, single year warranty, OEM components. That's the warranty that major brand PC companies pass on to their customers.

The PC manufacturers use OEM components because they are cheaper than "packaged" components. The sellers don't care if these components barely survive the warranty period. If your Dell breaks down after warranty, you will either buy a new one or pay them an exorbitant price for a factory replacement part. Either way they're happy.

You simply can't buy a PC from Dell, Compaq, HP, Gateway or E-Machine that will have the high quality components on the inside no matter how much you pay. If quality, reliability and service are important to you or your business, the place you will find it is at an independent, local PC shop where they assemble, service and warranty PCs to your specifications.

Even here you must exercise caution. All local PC stores aren't necessarily committed to quality and customer service. Finding one that's been in the same location for a few years is a good start. While everyone offers "one year parts and labor" warranty, you need to know what kind of parts they are using.

Ask them what the manufacturer’s warranty is on the key components they use. Good quality motherboards, CPUs and hard drives should have three-year warranties. Memory (RAM) should be lifetime. If their standard products have these components, they're probably doing it right. If not, they're using second tier or OEM components and probably won't be around to help you when you have a problem.





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