Is this a new marketing squeeze?

Every now and again I get an enquiry from someone who is looking to upgrade their PC.  They might find the performance of their current computer isn’t what it once was, or maybe there’s been a coffee incident across the keyboard and replacement would make more sense than repair.

My advice has always been simple.  Don’t go out and buy the cheapest computer on the basis that you don’t do anything heavy.  Look below the surface a little and make sure you have an upgrade path two or three years down the line.

12 to 18 months ago I started unearthing badly behaved laptops (mainly) and desktops that were bought with Vista on them but had a maximum memory capacity of 2GB.  I run my own Vista laptop on 3GB today, but if I were looking for a new machine I would consider 4GB to be entry level for Windows 7.

Looking back historically, XP used to run on 128MB RAM in the very early days, although 256MB was far the better option.  Today I get calls from people with 1GB in an XP machine who are suffering from a shortage of memory (that’s eight times the 128MB/four times the 256MB for you normal people).  In that context, to sell Vista computers which couldn’t go past 2GB was nothing short of a marketing exercise.  And I’m seeing it again.

6 months ago I shopped for three people and found very reasonably priced HP towers with decent Intel processors and a maximum capacity of 16GB.  They were priced at circa £350 and I would expect them to run comfortably through the next five years.  Today I shopped for another client with the same goals and didn’t find a tower with a 16GB capacity until I reached the £599 budget.

I do understand the logic behind this.  Money is tight for everyone and the manufacturers have to plan for the future.  I mentioned HP and this is no reflection on them – all the suppliers are the same or worse, in fact HP were the first to come up with a 16GB machine through the high street outlets that I was polling.  The bottom line is, if your 8 year old computer is dragging its heels, please don’t rush out and pick up a bargain in the sales.  The chances are that you may be in exactly the same position in another 3 years.