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An IT veteran's opinion on which Desktop PC to buy next.

HP Logo             Dell Logo             Acer Logo  

Apple Computer


Having worked professionally with computers and servers for over 15 years, I've seen a lot of computer manufacturers come and go. As things stand currently, there are really only 4 major manufacturers of desktop PCs still left. They are;






Read on and I'll tell you exactly which I recommend and why.

Over the years in positions of server and network analyst, I have worked with hundreds of different makes and models of computers. As a result of this experience I have definitely developed a preference. From the standpoints of cost, performance, and service, it is my opinion that the HP "Business Class Desktops" are generally superior to machines offered by Dell or Acer.


On a side note, Apple has always been an interesting story and I hope they continue to grow. They have always been a bastion of innovation and certainly deserve their success. Here on the ground however, they continue to be a weak player. Apple has two major drawbacks currently. First, there still aren't enough software developers developing for the Apple platform. As a result of this, Apple computers can be ideal for individual or even departmental use, but simply will not be able to perform every function your business will require. You can certainly get Microsoft and Adobe software, but don't expect them to be able to run your favorite CRM, ERP, or custom developed package in native mode. You can run non Mac programs in a Windows virtual environment on top of the Mac, but few seem interested in this option I suppose again due to cost, not to mention that this option isn't ideal for all software. Secondly, while Mac's are sleek, well-built machines, they are also the most expensive computers on the market. Acer is largely ignored by professionals in the U.S. computer industry; in my opinion, this is because Acer has lacked the apparent stability some of the other companies have had and have thus not been able to develop brand loyalty in the U.S. As a final wrap on Apple, as you can tell I like their machines, and nothing would stop me from recommending a user carry an Apple laptop if they had a Windows desktop or office Terminal Server to connect into to run their business apps.

Let me clarify my earlier "Business Class Desktops" statement by saying that, if not already aware, most of the major manufacturers sell different models of computers for the consumer and business markets. As a general rule, business machines will be more robust, will be designed and built to run and last longer, and overall will exhibit fewer problems. You may spend an extra $50-150 on a business machine but this isnít for naught. The machines are simply a better grade and as a result typically come with a 3 year on-site (They come to you) warranty. Compare that with the 90 day to 1 year warranties on consumer machines, often where you must mail the machine in to them. Thus, in the event that a business machine does break, the business service side of things is dreamy compared to that on the consumer side.


The models for HPs business class machines do change over time. But as you can see in the graphic below, they are not expensive. The advanced and Elite models are the modern equivalents of the old Compaq DeskPro business line.

Hp Business Class PC 

It would seem that when HP and Compaq merged together, the decision was made to keep the Compaq Intel business line rather than the HP Intel business line machines. We are fortunate that this was the case.


RELIABILITY - Desktop Computer Comparison

To me, probably the most important thing when shopping for a desktop computer is reliability. Not just the reliability of the parts but also how well do the hardware and software mesh (i.e. compatibility.) The winner in this category is the HP/Compaq business class. Over the years, I have experienced fewer bizarre issues related to Microsoft software and or service pack installations with the HP/Compaq business computers than with any other make of computer. I've seen the most software issues on clones (pieced together) and Dell machines. I can't count the number of times I've applied a Microsoft service release to a Dell machine and afterwards the machine exhibited unexpected issues or just simply would not boot up. IBM used to come in at a close second to HP/Compaq, but since selling their PC division to the Chinese concern Lenovo, for some reason no one seems terribly interested in buying them anymore. IBM had long wanted out of the PC market it seemed.


SERVICE - Desktop Brand Computer Comparison

I've long felt that HP/Compaq supports their business model machines better than any other manufacturer. IBM also offered great support, but the general experience of dealing with IBM support/parts was more of a headache than with HP. Dell offers good though more frustrating support. They seem to enjoy making you jump through hoops before shipping you a needed part or dispatching a technician. Relative to the others HP/Compaq shines in these areas, but I should again mention that service is not necessarily the same as on the consumer side. With the HP business class machines your technical issues will definitely receive more serious attention than with any consumer model.


QUALITY - Desktop Brand Computer Comparison

Both HP and Dell build fine computers. Dell's computers, however, generally seem to be more cheaply made and their manufacturing processes seem to involve less standardization. I have on occasion had two identical model Dell machines side-by-side on the bench with entirely different motherboards in them. I have never seen anything like this with either IBM or HP. I've learned from experience that greater standardization generally means the parts will be more reliable. I'll take standardization over the "motherboard de jour" situation any time I can.


PRICE - Desktop Laptop Computer Comparison

My experience with Dell is that they are the cheapest. They seem willing to undercut virtually any proposal in an effort to win a sale and eventual customer loyalty. Frankly this frightens me. I don't want the cheapest thing out there when building business systems. On the consumer side, in a situation where you have two computers at home, sure - buy the cheap thing if you don't mind the risk of headache. In a business situation, where productivity and work are lost any time there is even the slightest hiccup, buy the reliable thing. That is certainly what I want as I help build  businesses, even if it means a few extra bucks per machine. Relative to the other brands, HP business machines don't break. This makes them nearly priceless.


OVERALL RESULTS - Desktop Brand Computer Comparison

It is my considered opinion that the HP/Compaq business computers offer the best value when factoring in reliability, service, quality and price. After dealing with literally hundreds of computers and resolving just about every imaginable hardware or software issue during my tenure as a systems analyst, I feel that the HP business computers have generally exhibited fewer issues than any other brand of computer on the market today. Every year I buy and configure hundreds of machines. It is my sincere wish that the majority of the machines I purchase and configure for customers in the future will continue to be HP/Compaq Business grade.


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Desktop Computer Comparison blog article written by AVAREN's Director of Network Analysis Ė Written 2/15/2003 - revised 9/30/12

Feel free to e-mail comments to mattlogan @ AVAREN.COM, but be forewarned, they will likely be posted above my responses.  

AVAREN is a trademark of AVAREN INC. All rights reserved. All other product and service names mentioned are the trademarks of their respective companies. Data contained in this document serves informational purposes only. National product specifications may vary. Pricing and availability subject to change.





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