You have to hand it to Apples PR department, they are single handedly the best propaganda machine the world has ever seen. I look at the news today made me just really have to stand in awe of their efforts as two stories jumped right out. The first claimed that Apple computers now hold 90% market share of PCs over $1000 and the other was how the Apple legal department had managed to force Microsoft to change their successful ad campaign showing that the PC is a better value than a Mac.
Well they might be able to spin others easily but not me and so I feel it is important that someone stand up and unravel the weave that Apple has created to hide real facts from computing consumers.
I’m a Mac and I’m a PC: Lets start with this ad campaign. This is seriously a major coup for the marketing department of Apple. Not since the Nazi propaganda machine convinced the Germans to hate the Jews has any PR campaign so effectively used blatant lies to pull the wool over peoples faces. I mean the tobacco industry cannot fool people this smooth. Even the Democrat political machine does not have this level of finesse.
Now I could tear part every ad they have done to show you the misdirects and purely false information but instead I will pick what is in my opinion the one most full of blatantly false information that is easiest to see. In the particular episode the Mac is talking about how much fun he is having and the PC is limited to discussing how spreadsheets are fun. The implication is the Mac is better at leisure activity than the PC. Lets examine that claim for a moment.
Lets begin with pictures. Every home PC I know of is used to store pictures from the family and this becomes a bigger deal each year as more people get into digital photography. The Mac comes with a solid program called iPhoto which lets you do basic editing of the photo, allows you to share the pictures, print them and organize them. However Windows has the same thing. Vista comes with a solid photo suite that allows basic editing and organizing and Live Essentials, a free download, allows you to do even more. Now while Windows allows you to update this software as Microsoft develops it for free, Apple charges for iLife upgrades, $80. Need more photo editing power, in Windows it is easy to add it for free with programs like Paint.NET. In other words the PC can do photos as well as the Mac.
How about music? Apple lives and dies by their iTunes application. Yet in all my testing I have found it to be the most proprietary and bloated piece of crapware I have ever used. You are forced into their system with their restrictions. Now true you can use other software on the Mac but the default is iTunes. For the PC the default is Mediaplayer. The program is every bit as good at what it does as iTunes except for the online store stuff. But then again Mediaplayer is not tied into a specific online store. It is more versatile when it comes to portable players and definitely more open in it’s standard for them. Both organize well so in the end it again seems more a tie than the Mac being the one that does it and the PC not as the add implies.
Oh wait the PC can actually excel here, the Mac has hardware limits to addons, the PC with the more open standards allows for easy additions of high end sound cards. This means that if you are really into your music you can actually make your PC sound better than most home stereo systems, something the Mac cannot do.
As long as we are talking about fun stuff lets talk about games. Oh wait thats right Mac users do not want to talk about games. You see the reason Mac users do not discuss gaming is not because they do not feel it is valid, but because they know they lose in a BIG way here. The Mac is just not even close to the PC in the video gaming areas of computing. In fact to compare the Mac to the PC in gaming is like comparing a tricycle to a Harley Fatboy Classic for a riding experience. Oh I know the Mac users will cry foul here and point out that they can emulate Windows and game now. But does it not seem odd that after pointing out how the Mac is superior to the PC in having fun it has to fake being Windows to really have fun?
I could go on about this but I think you get the point.
Macs are better built computers: God I love this one, the problem is in the definition. If you want a PC that looks cool on the outside but lacks substance on the inside then yes Macs are better. I have been inside a Mac and I can tell you they are no better built than any PC I build. What Apple has done is put a lot of flash on the PC build and then told us how much better they are. This is simply not true. I can put a Porsche chassis on a Hyundai frame and motor and it does not become a better care car, just looks snazzier but is still a Hyundai.
Macs do not crash or get infected: This is less a myth and more a twist of some facts to create a positive perception, let me explain. Macs do crash less than a PC< but then again so does an Xbox. The reason for both crashing less is exactly the same, a closed proprietary system that limits to the possible combinations of hardware and software. You have to understand that the PC by having an open hardware standard faces a daunting task in developing an OS since the number of variables in hardware are enormous. I mean consider this, there are 2 major CPU companies for the PC. Each company has over 24 different models of CPUs and those models are spread over 6 different groups. Now then each of those groups has about 4 different chipsets that can be used on the motherboard to make the chip work correctly and there are over 10 different motherboard companies that each make their boards a little different. We have already begun to approach over 1000 possible combinations and we have yet to through in all the other chips used in a computer as well as drivers and god forbid software. The number of possible combinations is impossible huge. The Mac with it’s closed hardware environment as well as limited software offerings does not even approach 2% of the possible combinations. In other words it the OS was not more stable it would be a real amazing feat not the fact that it is.
However taking all that aside I would argue that it is still not more stable. In my daily computer use I have seen less than 1 crash every three months. I know many customers of mine that never see crashes. The Windows OS works just fine.
But wait what about infections, the PC is always under virus attack. This is true but again the information is misleading. The Mac is actually more vulnerable than the PC. That same proprietary design that makes the Mac so stable is full of holes in the security. A Mac is a hundred times easy to attack than a PC. So why is not done? Well to be honest why bother. I mean when the terrorists attacked the US they hit the world trade center, not the village hall of Royalton, Il. The reason they did that is that they got more exposure and could do more damage. The same is true with Virus writers. These people crave attention and want to hit as many as they can, so they attack the leading OS.
However as I have stated here numerous times withy a good free AV program and common sense rules the PC is VERY safe from attack. In fact I have had ONE, that’s right ONE virus attack in the last 5 years and that one was because I let my curiosity get ahead of my common sense. BTW that attack was defeated and stopped within 30 seconds of it beginning.
The PC is a safe computing environment but as with all things your mileage will vary dependent on your usage.
Now with all of these there is still a ton more but I think I have made my point, the Mac is not “better” than the PC, but wait there is more. Microsoft was running an ad campaign showing how the Mac was WAY more expensive than the PC and Apple cried foul. The computer news industry cried foul. WHAT!? This ad campaign was the truth and everyone cried foul but no one complained about Applies lies?
Well let me go on record as saying if you are on a budget, money is tight and you buy a Mac you are NUTS! Looking at the Apple Store at a 13” Macbook the cost for the base system is $999. Now I went to Dell and priced a similarly equipped laptop, cost: $499. Thats $500 cheaper. I could go on and make this point stronger but I think it is pretty clear.
Lastly we come to a current news story. Apple is claiming they now hold 90% of the over $1000 market share. This is a pure LIE. These numbers are based on the sales of PCs from stores like Best Buy. Have you walked into a Best Buy lately? There are only a few computers over $1000 and most of them are Macs. So does this mean that from lets say Best Buy 9 our of every 10 PCs over $1000 sold are Macs, yeah I would say that is accurate. However I think it is also accurate to say that 97 out of every 100 PCs sold at Best Buy are under $1000.
The over $1000 PC is not typically sold at a Best Buy but rather a local computer store as a custom build or a high end online outlet, neither of which where used to get this number. The Apple spin machine has once again gone to work and so twisted the truth that it vanishes in the fog they create.
Here is the truth, Apple sales are falling and the reason they are falling is more people are beginning to realize that the Mac is NOT an economically wise buy. Computer users today want value, they want to do what they want to do and not be limited by a computer companies whims and pay more for that limitation. Everyday the Mac becomes a less attractive purchase since does not deliver the value of the PC.
The review I did in conjunction with Hitechlegion did more than show me the speed of the SSD system, it also had an impact on the way I actually view storage on my PC. You see we have been duped into believing we need bigger and bigger hard drives each year. I am getting ahead of myself let me back up a bit.
The SSD I reviewed was a 128 gig model. When I got this I was rather skeptical about it’s ability to provide any useful storage since I like many felt that we needed a bigger HD to get any real use out of it. I had fallen into the trap of assuming if a computer had less than a 320 gig HD then it was just not really ready for the main stream use.
However I agreed to the test and was going to see what I could do. Now moving to a HD is kind of like spring cleaning at your house. You go through and find the junk you have accumulated over the years and can throw it out and start with a clean and organized home for the next year. The same is true with the new HD as you look at all the software you have accumulated over the year or two of use and can thin this down to just what you really use. You can go through old pictures and music and find the stuff that matters and kill off the rest.
As I began to setup the SSD for testing I did this. I pruned down my software list. To be honest I always considered myself a computing minimalist compared to most and did not load up a lot of software I did not use but I found games and various utility programs laying around that I had not used for a LONG time. So I began the process of spring, okay summer, cleaning of my PC. With a fresh install of Windows 7 on the SSD I began the task of installing just the programs I actively used.
I of course put on MS Office, I did a full install to check how much space a user would need and if the 128 gig could possible fit the bill. I installed Live Essentials, AV Software, Adobe Audition for sound editing, Paint.NET for photo editing, various benchmarking utilities, data recovery software for when I deal with clients issues, various testing programs, EVE Online, Supreme Commander and Demigod. So I in essence loaded just the applications I make use of on a regular basis. Now looking at this list I quickly realized that I typically use a lot more application than most people. However this was what I use so lets start there, I pulled up the information to see how much space I had left on the SSD, expecting to find it empty, the result…. 84 Meg Free! WHAT!? That’s well over half the HD. I still had room for quite a few more games and my junk software.
Now you need to understand that this was JUST my applications so I was preparing for the worst and finding out that my data was going to fill the drive and overflow. However I had thought that as long as I was testing the SSD I wanted to test another idea I had that we could use flash media for data storage in a main PC. The idea was that flash media like an SSD has instance seek times and the smaller file sizes of typical data, i.e. word processing documents, would not be effected by the slower media transfer rate.
So I loaded up an 8 Gig flash drive in my media reader and began moving on data. Again I took this opportunity for a little pruning. I put on all my business documents. Put on my George Thorogood collection, the neat wallpapers I got from the artist Greg Martin, all of my favorites went to the SSD for storage, various pictures for reviews I was working on, misc documents I read periodically or ones I am working on and then took my other material, stuff I did not typically use and moved it to an external HD.
The result was only 4.3 gig of the 8 gig was even used. What a second that means I could have fit all this on the SSD with still room to spare, how is that? I KNOW I have more stuff than that.
Well an examination of the rest of my data bore that out, I do have a lot more stuff than that, closer to another 60 gig. You see I have my entire music collection, a lot more than just George, family pictures, a LOT of family pictures. Old documents that I have not opened in years, a bunch of old program downloads for software I will never use again and yes even some movies. However looking through this stuff I see most of it is never touched and so was eating up HD space but not really doing anything.
All of this led to my revelation that I and most of us are computer pack rats. We hold and store things for a LONG time and yet never make use of it. In fact such a large percentage of us are computer packrats that the storage industry has made a fortune off our habit by taking advantage of it and lying to us about needing more space. The truth is we do not need more space we need to be better organized.
Some things I have learned from this might be of help to you in killing the bulge in your hard drive…
- Pictures can be looked at anywhere. If you are like me to love digital photography and take tons of pictures. This is great and we want to keep those memories but printed pictures can be easily destroyed, we want to store them for long term. The mistake we make is thinking that the best place to do this is our HD.
The best way to clean up the picture bulge and still keep them safe is a two fold process. First look into online storage, places like Live Spaces allow a lot of picture storage and can be set for limited access. This means your family can view them when they like and you get some storage space back in your computer. If you do not want to mess with online then look at a DVD burner. Move pictures to the DVD and put it away. Got a lot of pictures then an external HD can easily hold all your currently and likely future pictures for a reasonable cost.
As a general rule of thumb I say after a picture has been on your HD for 30 days you should move it to alternative storage. This will keep your HD space free and let you have time for quick access to work with the newer pictures. If you however tend to work with your pictures immediately after getting them in your computer the move time could be once you are done editing them down.
Be sure to store the pictures in folders with descriptive names and dates so they are easy to find later.
- Movies and Music play great over a USB cable. Movies and Music are seriously two of the biggest space hogs we have in our systems. However the good news is they play perfect from an external HD. Plus with the external HD we can take them to anyone else we want and plug in and play. I have even found a trick to make music easier to deal with..
Create Style DVDs, music is essentially a data file and so you can fit a lot on a DVD. If you create a DVD with just certain kinds of music on it then you have a style for play when you want it without having to keep the entire music collection on hand at the moment. I did this with my favorite bands and even made a mood music DVD.
For home movies the best method is to edit them from your hard drive and then once they are done move them to an external HD. From there they can still be easily edited and played as you will plus are now portable.
Now these two tips have an additional side benefit, they make EASY backups. You data is stored in many cases on two locations and both are removable media. This means there is less chance of data lose, and if you use an external drive like a Freeagent Go which has no power plug and only use it when you need it, a power surge on your PC does not mean your data is at risk.
So in the end how has this new computing style effected my computing? Well I can tell you that now all of my documents open near instantly thanks in no small part to the SSD. I can now find things much easier and feel safer knowing I have full backups of my valuable data. It also feels nice knowing I have actually more free space than I every though by using a smaller storage system. Sounds odd but is actually pretty cool.
Now I am not saying everyone needs to go out and throw away their big HDs and move to SSDs. I am saying however that the next time you look to upgrade your PC or buy a new one and the sales guy looks at you and pushes how great a massive terabyte HD would be for you. You can smile and explain you are not a PC packrat and can help me overcome his addition to space as well. You can also now hopefully get the most out of the HD space you have and feel safer about your data.
Just wanted to post a little teaser. We have been talking for a few weeks about getting a chance to take an SSD for a test drive. Well all the talk ends this Sunday with a review of the Patriot Torqz 128 Gig as well as an interview with Patriot Memory about their SSD offerings and the technology in general. However the fun does not end there.
This will be the first joint offering of the Computer Ed show and Hittechlegion. Paul over at Hitechlegion will be providing a written review of the Torqz as well as posted an extended version of the interview I did with Patriot Memory, which includes an extra 10 minutes plus of material exclusive to Hitechlegion access.
Be sure to tune in on Sunday for the show, in fact call in with any questions you might have on storage solutions in general and SSDs in particular. Then after the show go over to Hitechlegion and catch the indepth written review and the extended interview with Patriot. Do not forget to signup for the forums and participate in the discussion.
You cannot go to a computer site without find a SLEW of benchmarks for everything from how fast a CPU can calculate Pi to how many FPS you can get from a video card while playing the latest FPS. Now on the surface this sounds like a good thing, I mean the numbers let us quantify the value of a component to see if we are getting the best possible. In theory that sounds pretty good however the benchmark system as we have today is so skewed and seemingly random that the numbers become meaningless. So while the concept of a benchmark system to measure the worth of a component is good in theory, in practice as things are done now it is nothing short of a colossal Charlie Foxtrot. The time has come for something meaningful and useful to the general public and not a handful of hardcore computer nerds that are more worried about if they can eek out an extra 1/2 FPS in some FPS than if the game is actually fun to play.
With these thoughts in mind I sat down this week and contemplated the idea of a benchmark system that would provide useful information to the average user and could be standardized. This is harder than it sounds because we have some definitions we must begin with.
What is the “average” or “mainstream” user? This must first be defined to make sense of benchmark numbers. The true average computer user is not a gamer but rather someone that browses the internet some, grabs a few emails and maybe does a little word processing or even works a spread sheet. In other words this person is not someone that in any way pushes their computer. For the sake of benchmarking these people are not relevant since older computers still provide them a solid computing experience for their usages. For the purposes of this discussion this user is one that does mid to light gaming. They mostly play MMOs with some light RP, RTS and Sim gaming thrown in. The reason we using gaming as part of the definition is that gaming is the real push on the computer. Oh sure video editing, virtual PC running and other activities can push a PC just as hard but the truth is even these are a small percentage of the computing public. To keep this definition as simple and relevant as possible to the largest user base gaming is the most accurate gauge.
Now for purposes of creating this new standard we need to put together two tiers, budget which is defined as people using 1440×900 monitors, ie 19” and those using 1680×1050 monitors, ie 22”. Now there is by these definitions a third tier doing using larger monitors but that is best left to the enthusiast crowd. Any study done shows these two monitor sizes represent the majority.
Now how do we create a benchmark that makes sense now that we have our tiers and a standardized definition? Lets begin with video cards, what do people want with their video card? Well they want the card to be able to run the game they like at their chosen resolution usually with some good AA and AF enabled. So we know for purposes of our test we want the card to be able to run in their driver mode that enables 4xAA and 8xAF. Next we need a single a simple test to make numbers or at least results with meaning. How about we grab the most currently GPU pushing game we can find, say something like Crysis or Farcry II. Next we need to standardize the platform in a way that the CPU uses would represent the typical user for our purposes or even be under so the CPU is not outside the envelope. For this we should likely grab something in a dual core, perhaps an Kuma 7750 from AMD. While not the greatest processor available it does fit around what the average out there and means that most people will be at or above the level.
Now that we have the platform for the testing we need to create a meaningful benchmark system that everyone can understand. first we will ignore the high end FPS numbers, what we want is to rather look at the LOW number the frame rates show. Our goal is to find a video card that will supply the gaming performance at the settings we want so we want the game to not dip below the play level we set. In this case we will set the bottom number at lets say 30 FPS. Now we grab each video card and benchmark at the determined levels. For a card to qualify as a Budget card it must not fall below 30 FPS during our tests at 1440×900. For the card to qualify as mainstream it cannot fall below at 1680×1050.
Now in truth we can stop here and have provided an excellent bit of information for the consumer since we show them what cards will perform the way they want and which will not however we can also go further with setting tiers in the standard. For example we can ward a bronze to any card with a bottom frame rate of 45-30, a silver for 60-45 and a gold for anything that never fell below 60 FPS at the chosen level.
We can of course with similar planning create a benchmark to show the same type of information for CPUs. This concept makes since and as you can see if easy to implement, the question is, why has no one done this? The reasons for this are pretty big but they all amount to basically the same thing in the end, smoke screen.
You see hardware companies want want you to buy new hardware. If they had a test that shows this kind of basic information they could not sell as much or as expensive hardware because you would know that you might not likely need to spend it. I mean lets for example pull apart a CPU line. Lets grab the AMD CPU line up in the X2 for an example. Looking at Newegg we see the X2 processor in models from the 5200 at $50 to the 6000 at $90 with 9 models in between. When you go look at the processors you will see all their nifty numbers and benchmarks will show increases as you go up in speed. The truth is however for the majority we definite above the difference in performance if we grab the middle of this line up, the $65 5400, and the chips surrounding it is not enough in real life performance to matter. The same can be said for the Intel lineup as well as the GPU lineup from ATI and nVidia. They want you bedazzled so you spend more.
Okay that explains the hardware companies they are in this make money but why the websites? Well first the websites do it because they will lose the hardware companies if they do not. Now I am NOT saying the websites lie pr are bought by the hardware companies, okay maybe bough in a sense. You see if the websites where to start doing a testing method as I described they would find it harder to get product for testing since the hardware companies would not feel their interests where being served. But there is more to this with the websites. These meaningless benchmarks they throw, their drive to show the last possible clinically useless percentage of a single frame rate of gain create drama. This drama is what draws the viewers back. More viewers means more advertising revenue and more product from the hardware companies.
Finally the websites only really target the higher end of the DIYers because they are the ones that spend the most money, well individually. You see the plan is simple, the DIYers will go and building using these meaningless numbers to build as big a PC as they can. They will then brag to their friends about this awesome system and tell them a ton of meaningless numbers quoting a variety of websites to back up their choice. They will then explain to their friends they cannot really enjoy their game until they get these kind of parts. The friend will of course think the DIYer is much more knowledgeable and will ignore the fact that he was happily enjoying his game until now and will go out to buy a new part to be able to “enjoy” the game he was already enjoying.
Does this system look familiar, it should. If we consider benchmarking as it stands as a high then we see a supply chain. The hardware makers grow the drug, the benchmark makers refine the drug, the websites deal the drug and the DIYers are the pushy drug addicts.
So what does this mean then to the everyday Joe that simply wants to know if a part will do what he wants? Well that is why I do this blog and my show. If you have listened you will know that I seldom quote benchmark numbers and when I do I make sure to give you a context that makes the number meaningful. You can also try asking in hardware forums. This is risky as you run the chance of being labeled a noob and being ridiculed, yes this does happen in a lot of those forums.
Now reading the above it sounds like I am cynical of the hardware industry and in a sense I am. My position on this has caused a few hardware companies to write me off and make it hard for me to get product for review. Not just me however, websites I know that are beginning to see the light on this issue and try to move to more meaningful information for the “mainstream” have begun to find their supply lines drying up as well. However there is light at the end of the tunnel. A few hardware companies are starting to see the real money is not in the small percentage of high end DIYers but rather the “mainstream”. More and more websites are realizing that real readership is not in the higher end DIYers but the “mainstream”. With these moves we begin to see a move to support the real world. Will they be able to fully make the transition, not for a few years sadly because we have an industry that is slow to move on such matters and a large audience that will need time to realize they are supported, but we are making headway.
Until that day comes however we will continue to watch as the high end meaningless number crunching continues and provide a place for people to come make sense of the numbers when they are applies to real life. You my gentle readers must walk into the jungle and ask you r questions. You will be attacked and ridiculed but with some effort you will find that are some amazing people out there that really do want to help when you weed through the trash. But the day will come, the day the benchmark system as we know it will be pulled from the game and benched for good.
Over the years I have tried hard to keep from getting into the computer sales business. It is not that I have trouble building computers, but rather that I always envisioned myself first as a consultant to my customers. Which means if I am selling something I have always felt they should take my consultation suspect. However over the last few months my opinion of that has changed, I am now convinced that as a consultant I am doing my clients a disservice suggesting the cookie cutter computer design. I was also concerned because lets face it it, a single small computer business has a hard time building a PC with a price to match those of the cookie cutter designs. However I did some math and compared my numbers and realized that I actually offer my clients a better value.
Now let me be clear I do not want this blog to turn into a commercial for my PCs, however I do think it is time you are all told the truth, cookie cutter PCs are a rip off.
I guess to begin lets start with what I am referring to when I say cookie cutter PC. These kinds of PC are the off the shelf big named, chained brands such as Dell and HP. These are a generic design with a few different features between each model and the customer is expected to find the model that is closest to the type of system they feel they will need. These systems are just generic designs in a kind of one size fits all set at price levels more than feature levels. The computers are typically bought in a chain store with little to no real help in making the purchase as the sales people seldom have any real knowledge of the product. The computers are priced vary low because they are of a disposable design meant to be used the disposed of every few years.
This is a good place to begin explain the advantage of a custom built PC. First lets begin on the build itself. A well made PC built at a local computer store should be customized to your personal needs. A good computer tech will take the time to talk to you about the way you will be using the computer and will design the system around that usage to deliver the best computing experience possible for your specific needs. Cookie cutter designs are all basically very generic and while they can do most jobs they do none of the well, basically they are a jack of all trades but a master of none. While a custom built PC is still a jack of all trades but a master of your specific needs.
Custom built PCs tend to have higher quality parts. Where cookie cutter PCs are built by the lowest bidder at the time the order is placed a good custom system will be built with some very specific components that have been selected over time for the quality of the component. This means a custom built PC will usually have a better life span, operate more stable and actually be faster than a similarly speced cookie cutter design. The better component selection will also usually mean better power usage. I have actually run tests of system I have built compared to similar cookie cutter builds and have found my custom built systems use as much as 20% less power when under load. This means the custom built system can actually save you money over the long run by using less power.
So we know the custom PC is usually better built but is that all, not hardly. Lets talk about customer support. We all know the jokes about getting a hold of tech support and get some guy that care barely speak English. However the sad part is these jokes are based heavily in fact. The cookie cutter companies tend to out source their support. This means they look for the lowest cost they can get, however it goes further than out sourcing to other countries. The people you will speak with at the support centers are most of the time NOT techs at all. They are minimum wage employees hired to read from a flow chart. They have no real tech skills which limits their ability to help. Also the so called on site support some of these companies offer is truly a sad joke on the people paying for it. The person showing up to do the work is a tech in the rawest sense of the term. They know how to plug in a piece of hardware and run a DVD and that is about the limit of most of their knowledge.
Now compare the support you can get from a local computer store. You will speak to a real person, often the same one that actually built your PC. There will not be a language barrier and they are usually just down the street. You can pick up the PC and take it to your local tech if need be instead of shipping it or even have the tech come out on site to do the repair. Also the turn around for the repairs will typically be faster.
Finally we have the junk factor. Buy a cookie cutter PC and you will get a load of junk software, most of which you will never use. If you take the time you can often free quite a bit of hard drive space by removing this junkware but that’s a lot of time and trouble. A custom built PC typically comes with little software. Even when it does if the customer is a home user the software you get is usually pretty good and free. I typically include a free AV package and Open office when I build a home PC.
So what’s the down side of the custom build, the cost. A typical custom built PC costs more than the cookie cutter design but when you take into account all the factors involved you actually get a LOT more for your money. I know in the systems I build the price includes delivery, setup and even retrieval of data from the old machine and transferred to the new one. When you look at the all the advantages and options and then compare the price the custom built PC seems to be a real bargain.
The cookie cutter PC can be an okay computer but in the end just like a cookie it is a cheap food that gives no real value. The cookie cutter PC might be a computer but the custom built system provides a much better computing experience, better equipment, a potentially longer life, savings on energy cost and quality support close to home.
In this time of economic turmoil it is more important than ever we get the most for our money and the cookie cutter does not fill that bill.
As a side note to this, over on my EVE Character Blog I have posted my efforts to build a PC specifically for playing EVE. I think it shows the thought that goes into a custom PC over the generic designs. Feel free to drop by there and check it out. EVE Hardware