Have you noticed how desirable new tech often first goes on sale at sky-high prices, with the price tumbling later as the product becomes commoditised? That’ll be the ‘trickle-down effect’ that can benefit consumers who don’t want to pay over the odds for their gadgets.
Prices start high because the companies know that early adopters will shell out regardless, and also to help recoup the cost of developing new tech with, initially at least, limited production runs.
Like the concept cars put together by the R&D teams of motoring design studios, Dell’s expensive Latitude Z business laptop has a whiff of sci-fi tech about it. Witness, for example, the cable-free battery charging, or its ability to send its screen image to a remote display without wires.
We’ve also reviewed some power PCs this month - read our reviews of the Dino Fermiodon, the CyberPower Ultra Scylla GT and the Palicomp Excalibur X6 1055OC35. These deliver very fast performance, at the same or lower prices than comparable systems in our group tests, but they use overclocked processors. It’s now easier than ever to supercharge an Intel or AMD chip, revving it beyond its advertised clock speed – to as much as 50 percent higher, in the case of the Dino PC.
UK vendors are seizing the opportunity to deliver quicker PCs for less. With the CPU being the most expensive component in most machines, overclocking lets you use a cheaper chip and then hot-rod it to run like a more expensive one.
Except there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Overclocked chips run hot and need lots of cooling to prevent meltdown. Multi-gigahertz computing also demands plenty of mains power, so factor your electric bill into the cost of ownership.
And then there’s the question of long-term reliability, as supercharged systems stress the components more than ever. Herein may lie a reason why no big-name brands sell overclocked PCs.
Overclocking is great for enthusiasts who like to tinker and get the fastest-booting Windows PC on the street. But the heat, noise and bleeding-edge performance won’t appeal to someone who just needs a quiet and quick-enough computer for work or play.
If you’re tempted by a sped-up PC, it’s worth checking whether the supplier can back up their modifications with an extended parts and labour warranty, preferably with a collect-and-return service.