Remember the old shell game? Put a pea under one of three shells, move the shells around, and bet someone they can find the pea? It’s really a confidence game to perpetuate fraud because the guy with his hands on the shells palms the pea and the player loses by design.
I think we may have a new shell game, the Computer Shell game. But in this case [pun], it’s not illegal “fraud”, but legal “marketing”. In my personal opinion, most marketing professionals are just confidence men. The new game is “what’s in the computer shell?” It’s probably not what you think.
In this picture is an HP P2-1374. It’s detailed very clearly on HP’s website, and to their credit they are not hiding what’s really in the case. It was brought in by a customer who purchased it from Best Buy, and when we first opened it, we were stunned and shocked at what we found.
What the photo here shows is the mostly empty case of the computer. Inside is the Mini-ITX motherboard (6.7-inches by 6.7-inches) which is meant for small format factory computers. Also the hard-drive and the optical drive. The power supply is an external “power-brick” like those used with laptops.
The motherboard itself has no expansion-card slots, so it is impossible to add superior video cards, sound cards, network cards, or the like. The ability to add expansion devices is usually the only reason to have a case this large. However, the back of the case is sealed making it impossible to add such cards even if the motherboard was replaced. RAM can be upgraded. However, the processor can not be upgraded because it is soldered to the motherboard making it impossible to replace.
So why such a large case? Probably because the case costs less than a smaller more appropriately sized case, and the whole point is to make the computer as low-cost as reasonably possible. By the way, below is a photo that’s representative of what you get when you buy a computer from Hill Top IT; it does cost more, but you get what you pay for.
So what about our customer who brought his P2-1374 to us? He said he didn’t trust Best Buy and wanted us to install the anti-virus for him. We happen to know that this computer comes with Windows 8 which has the new Windows Defender anti-virus program formally known as Microsoft Security Essentials. So what was Best Buy doing?
I went to our local Best Buy, asked for the computer representative, and asked him point-blank. They had one of the HP P2-1374′s on display and I asked him if the computer would accept a new $500 video card so that it could play Call of Duty Black Ops II, and he said yes (which is incorrect). Then I asked him about the anti-virus in Windows 8, and he said it came with six months of free anti-virus software which he called “the good stuff” and after that it would only cost me $60/year. He did not mention the anti-virus program that comes with Windows 8.
Windows Defender is part of Windows 8, and it’s enabled by default. Microsoft does allow for OEMs like Best Buy to disable and replace the Windows Defender protection with other programs. It’s quite possible that if you buy a system from Best Buy, Dell, Wal-Mart or other big stores, there’s a very good chance you’ll still have some sort of trial version of Norton or Kaspersky pre-installed nagging you to buy it instead of the built-in Windows Defender.
Personally, I don’t think cost should determine value. Just like a car, it’s important to find out what’s under the hood of your next computer. You can always ask us because we actually know what we’re doing.