The difference between a business line computer and a home computer.
“What computer should I get?” Is a question I get a lot. For businesses I always recommend a business line computer. For HP this means something from the ProDesk, EliteDesk, or z series line. Typically you don’t find these models on the shelves at Staples or BJs. So what’s the difference between a home computer and a business class machine?
- Production cycle
- Product testing
- Operating system
- Hardware compatibility
First of all the production cycle is different. Home users only buy a computer once every few years and when they are buying only look at what’s in front of them that day. Home users are very price sensitive from one brand to the next. To be competitive each manufacture needs to use the cheapest parts they can get that month. Once in a while there are quality issues, but the manufactures are more concerned with price than putting out a bad model.
This also means that if you’re reading a review of a home computer, there likely isn’t a month’s worth of reliability data. If you wait much longer, that exact same model might not be available. On the pro line, you can look at a model that has been out a few months and check the reviews.
Being able to order the same model month after month is important to a business. Having all the same model makes it easier for a company to deploy, troubleshoot, and manage their computers. Most large companies create an image of their computer with the software exactly the way they want it and deploy a copy of that image to each new machine. Changing models means they have to redo the image in some cases. Also it makes it easier to troubleshoot hardware issues if you can just swap parts from one machine to another. If an application isn’t working on one machine you can try it on another identical machine to narrow down the problem.
On the business side, a manufacture typically commits to production runs of a year or more for each model. If a model is going to be sold for a while, it has to reliable. They can’t afford to produce a machine that costs them in lots of warranty work. This is especially true for models that are intended to be ordered by the thousands by universities or large businesses. If they put a bad model out, that organization may never buy that brand again.
Support – Most business class machines have better support from the manufacture. This means 3 year warranties instead of 1 year, and next business day service instead of a mail in service that can take weeks. In some lines this also means US based support. These are important things to consider when selecting a machine.
Operating system – The obvious thing here is that many home systems come with Windows Home vs Windows Pro. The main difference is that with Home, you can’t join a Windows Domain. (Active Directory) You can put a home computer on the network, and even map drives manually, but the computer can’t be connected to the server for things such as Active Directory and Group Policy. Upgrading from Home to Pro can be done through the Windows store in Windows 10 for $99 at the time of this writing.
Hardware compatibility – In some business lines, such as HP’s z series, they offer application support if you think their hardware isn’t working properly with an application. This can be a big deal for some CAD applications.
Stable Drivers – Sometimes the specs on things like video cards look similar, or even better for the same price when you compare a business computer to a gaming computer. The truth is that with different target audiences, the manufacture makes choices favoring speed over stability when making a gaming card instead of a CAD card. For a designer they are more than willing to give up a few frames per second (FPS) if it will keep AutoCAD from crashing.
This is at the bottom of the list for a reason. Business class systems typically aren’t that much more than similarly configured home computers. When the warranty is factored in, it’s almost always a better idea to go with a business line computer.