I don't consider myself to be cheap, but I do like to save a few bucks when I can. However, time and time again I have been bludgeoned and left bloodied by the concept that you get what you pay for. Unfortunately, this past week I forgot those lessons and broke a long-standing promise to myself. I say unfortunately because I am paying for it now.
Several years ago I promised myself I would not compromise on certain things just to save a few measly dollars because in the end I would just end up frustrated, unsatisfied, poorer, or on the rare occasion, all three.
Beer and PCs
Some of the things on that list might strike you as strange, beer for example. I don't buy Bud Light or Miller Lite or any other beer that has no taste. If I want what they offer I'll get a glass of tap water. My beer needs these days tend toward full flavorful experiences that have some substance.
Other things on this list, however, might make more sense to you — big ticket items like a new personal computer. As a PC gamer, my computer purchases tend to make normal people squirm when they learn the price tag. The last three gaming machines I purchased all topped $3000, which I paid happily for the latest features.
Gaming is my hobby. Some people pay $4000 for a vacation; I stay home and play games. Some people pay $4000 for equipment to climb rocks, I play video games. I make no excuses and I don't pass judgment on other past times.
Besides, it is important to get well out in front of the normal curve when I purchase a gamming rig because that way I can make it three years before my next purchase. That is my product life cycle.
Many years ago I tried to cut corners on a new PC and went to a local mom and pop shop and ordered parts to make my own gaming rig. I had done this before so I thought I was prepared, but something went wrong and I spent months battling with vendors, so-called experts, and everyone in between over what was wrong with my self-built rig. It turned out to be a bad stick of RAM — something I couldn't test for and something none of my "experts" considered. So at the end I was left with a bad stick of RAM, three motherboards, two cases, higher blood pressure, and a splitting headache. From that point on I decided no more skimping.
At least until last week, because that's when I let the recriminations from family and friends about how much I was going to spend on a new gaming PC get to me. I ordered a nicely specked gaming rig from CyberPower PC, a boutique PC builder that was selling the configured system for about $800 less than Alienware, my traditional vendor of choice. The PC was dead on arrival.
There was enough power to the motherboard for the unnecessary blue LEDs to light up, but not enough to boot the video cards or spin the hard drives. So I called their Techsupport and I got a young man who called himself Mike. Of course, Mike lived in Asia somewhere and had trouble with the English language.
Mike had me do this MacGyver maneuver where I stuck one end of a paper clip into the hole where the green wire connected to the motherboard power connector and the other end into any hole on the motherboard connector where a black wire was connected. The power supply fan motor kicked on and Mike declared that my motherboard was fried during shipping. I don't know, maybe that's all MacGyver would need to diagnose the problem. It was enough for Mike.
Then he said he was going to send me a new motherboard and all I would have to do is replace the old one with the new one; like I have a day to kill re-building a PC that I paid them to put together. But what if that doesn't work then what? Am I going to need to get some duct tape and a tube of tooth paste next?
I think maybe it is time to send the whole mess back to CyberPower and call my pals over at Alienware. And to my family and friends, yes I am going to spend close to $4000 on a computer — get over it.PS Technical Support at CyberPower called me shortly after I posted this to suggest that my replacing the motherboard was probably not the best strategy. I am sending the whole thing back to them and they are supposed to fix it and send it back. At the the least the technical people seem to be on the ball. I'll keep my fingers crossed for a working PC in early December.
Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.