If you’re in the market for a computer for an industrial or business application, you’ve probably noticed that low specification embedded computers are often more expensive than desktop PCs from the likes of Dell, Lenovo, Acer or HP. This isn’t just an anomaly – it’s actually well justified; the following will explain why low-spec embedded computers cost what they do, and why they’re still quite often the right choice…
One of the most common reasons low-spec embedded computers cost more than desktop PCs is because of their mobility. Embedded computers are designed to be compact and lightweight, and therefore require more precision engineering and specific component selections. They must feature a small form factor and be more robust, all while being easily maneuverable for installation. In comparison, desktop PCs are typically bulky and heavy which can allow manufacturers to get away with domestic-grade components without the worry of them being robust and resilient to the environment they’re placed in.
Low specification embedded computers also tend to use low-power components. This is often done to preserve battery life, reduce heat and save running costs. However, these low-power components come with a more expensive price tag. Desktop PCs tend to boast high-performance components that are more affordable (and designed for occasional gaming – such as computers from Fierce PC or Overclockers). Despite the fact that performance may not be as good on the embedded computer, the hardware often only needs to run its intended application, nothing more and nothing less.
Furthermore, the casing of embedded computers is usually more complex than desktop PC cases. This complexity requires more precision engineering and manufacturing costs which adds to their higher price tag. Companies have to ensure the case of the embedded computer provides adequate thermal management, cooling solutions, robustness, dirt/dust protection and any waterproof requirements, along with maintaining its small form factor.
In addition, embedded computers also aid in reducing development times for specialized equipment such as automated kiosks and control systems. Since the development is tailored to a specific application, the device designer gets to choose which components go into the embedded computer and completely customize it based on the product requirements. Some suppliers, such as Assured Systems also modify cases, flash bios and tailor systems to meet very specific requirements. This level of customization often isn’t available with desktop PCs.
Finally, many embedded computers come with additional features that are needed for their intended use such as dedicated connectors for data capture, signals and power. To ensure compatibility with other systems, such as medical equipment and digital video surveillance, embedded computers often far exceed desktop PCs in terms of standards compliance. These added features can drive up the price point, but they’re also necessary to ensure the embedded computer is able to adequately perform its assigned task.
To sum it up, lower specification embedded computers cost more than desktop PCs because they must meet certain criteria of small form factor, low-power components, robust casing, and additional features; all of which require more expensive components and more precise engineering. Despite their higher cost, embedded computers still offer a lot of value in terms of portability, customization, reliability, and performance. As such, if portability and/or specific features are necessary for your application, then investing in an embedded computer is still worth your hard earned money.