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Computers components vary greatly, both in prices and performances, depending on brands, store and technical specifications. Therefore it's not surprising that a lot of customers fall back to the old adage that a more expensive purchase is always better. While this can be true for price categories overall, this is not a particularily good indicator to choose between two similarily priced items.
In fact, when it comes to purchasing electronics in general, actual technical specifications are much more important than price to guage quality. This is why we have created this series of articles, to help in thos kind of decisions. Take a moment to look at our complete component guide to help you determine what is most important to make 3D computer graphics.
There are 3 main categories of components on the market, plus a business class, and they divide prices and performances for 3 different target audiences. But you can also find a lot of pretty bad components, that are relatively expensive. Thos are often very flashy, but disappoint when it comes to technical details. There is also a lot more things to consider for pricing, such as location, availability, durability, miniaturization, style and the period of the year.
Computer Price Ranges
1. The Value Range
The value range is the most affordable class of electronic, aimed at customers looking for the lowest possible budget. It can be useful for quickly discarded equipment and has low power consumption. However, it usually also has a low-performance and a low-effectiveness in computing power overall. It is also probably the worse price-to-performance of all categories, because of the base price of the materials used in making the components. Computers below 1000$ are considered value, but this is debatable depending on specific performances.
2. The Mid-Range Parts
The mainstream or mid-range class of components is the most commonly sold and used type of electronics. Its is a category comprising the widest array of different specifications, from low performance to almost high-end. We recommend you always aim for this category of components, when buying the optimal computer for 3D computer graphics. It has the best price-to-performance ratio, because it has the most competition between brand, withing similar price ranges. This means that brand will try to win you with the best flexibility, innovation, originality or price to differenciate their products from the competition. Aim for the higher part of the mid-range category for optimal performance at reasonable mid-range prices. Computers between 1000$ and 3000$ are considered mid-range.
3. The High-End Range
The high-end range is is the most expensive and best performing category of all components sold for the general public. It is however not the ideal price-to-performance ratio. It can often have some pretty extravagant performances compared to the mainstream parts of the same time, but it will soon be matched by equivalents at better prices. Computer builds in this range usually start above 2000$ and are not ideal to start with. Some high-end components sometimes merge with the enterprise solutions.
The Enterprise Range (Extra)
The enterprise & business market is another class of it's own. It is not comparable to any other category because it is aimed at another public entirely and it has different aims. For example, there is en emphasis on durability, extended customer service, constant uptime assurance and certified compability
Here is an example of the different markets and their prices, in relation to the performance in % of average performance on the computer market. The three different ranges have different market optimization. It is a myth to say that high-end components will, in time, become mid-range and then priced like value components. The three segments have different market optimizations and engineering methods and aren't later sold in lower-range categories. Their respective technology ranges are renewed constantly by new components priced at the same range, while the older ones are simply not renewed in stocks. This means that your 2500$ quadro videocard you've been waiting for, will never drop to 50$, unless it's an ebay scam.
Optimizing your Investment in Technology
To optimize your investment for your home computer, you will usually want to aim for the higher part of the mid-range market to maximize your investment. This is a good guide rule for any graphic intensive work such as 3D, visual effects, multimedia and filmmaking, but also for all kinds of technology and electronic purchase of all contexts. As a rule of thumb, buy in a category where the is the most offers, so as to take most advantage of the supply and demand curves. Don't buy on the very high-end range, because the cost is often not proportionately worth the performance increase.
Units produced and technology cost over the price spectrum. This curve indicates in which part of the price range it is most advantageous to purchase components from. The best point to purchase components is in the mid-to-high range, where the performance increase is comparable to high-end versions, but still mass produced sufficiently to be very affordable. A good question to ask yourself is: if you take the component with double the price, will you get double the performance? If the answer is yes, then it's worth it as long as it's in your budget. If not, then it means it's not worth upgrading. Be careful to compare performance increase in benchmarks, and not in pure technical specification values, that don't scale proportionately.
The low-end units are inexpensive because of their low quality, but the mid-range is also inexpensive for its performance because of mass production. On the other hand, the high-end is expensive because of quality and rarity, shown in here in the graphic: as the number of units produced rise, the cost stays about the same until either the price rises too much for the demand or the demand is too low to produce affordable components.
The other advantage of the mid-range mass-production is that a lot more people will have reviewed and tested it beforehand so the software updates and compatibility will be maximized.
The Technology Life Cycle
What this actually means is that technology will advance, but the price curves will stay the same because they aren’t related to the object being sold, as much as the technological business model. In fact, old technology will be discarded, and it will be replaced by newer ones of the same range. Eventually, high-end will be replicated in a mid-range mainstream and mass producible version, but rarely directly as is.
Therefore, aiming for the mid-range market will allow you maximize your investment, by getting the best performance for your money, while allowing a good lifespan of your computer. Computers on the low-end of the spectrum will not last as long before software updates make it irrelevant and slow because they are no longer supported.
To get the best deals on electronics, take yourself in advance, research your components and all their alternatives using our guide, and don't fall in the trap of buying everything for right now. Register for the newegg newsletter, check out the daily deals and set price watch on items, so that you can grab them when they're on sale. Also it can be useful to watch a price history graph, to have an idea of how the price trend looks, how often there are sales and how low you can expect to pay. Sometimes you can grab them during holiday sales, but those are often not as discounted as the boxing days or end of season/old products clearance sales.
www.pcpartpicker.com - Computer Building Assistant
www.camelcamelcamel.com - Price Charts & History
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