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Why PC Customization Doesn't Go Far Enough

When it comes time to buy a new PC from a major vendor, customizing it is one of the most important aspects of the process. Currently, you can decide what kind of processor your next computer will have. You can decide how much RAM you need. And if you need more storage, you can invest in a bigger hard drive. Companies like Dell and HP will also give you the option of choosing your operating system.

But that's about it. Some might say that that's all we really need. Others might say that too much customization means too many options to confuse consumers.

I don't. The way I see it, the more options available to us from companies like Dell and HP, the greater the chance that we'll be happy with our computers.

Motherboards, anyone?

There's nothing quite like being given the opportunity to fully customize a PC. Although the major vendors are coming around and starting to allow us to pick our graphics cards (something that was almost unheard of a few years ago), we still can't pick the motherboard.

And in most cases, that motherboard is one of the most important components. It might not store our data or load applications quicker, but if it's outfitted with more bays for hard drives, it sports more slots for RAM, and it boasts some extras like FireWire, it's more valuable than its generic alternative. It ensures that we're giving ourselves an opportunity to grow with the changing tech world.

When I tried customizing Dell's (NASDAQ: DELL) top of the line desktop, the XPS 730X, I was given more customization options than on any other product in its lineup. But I wasn't able to pick a motherboard.

Having that option would have been nice. Maybe I want an extra graphics card bay for future improvements. Did anyone ever think about that?

Smaller companies get it

The PC business is a tough place to make money nowadays. It's being dominated by big firms, like Dell, HP (NYSE: HPQ) and Acer. The barriers to entry are extremely high.

But the boutique vendors, like Velocity Micro and Falcon Northwest, understand the real needs of consumers. They might sell advanced equipment that appeals mostly to geeks, but they also offer the kind of customization that makes them ideal for those who want it.

If you want a high-end Velocity Micro desktop, you can fully customize it. You can pick a motherboard, add a wheel kit to make your case easy to move, choose a heatsink, decide if you want an airflow video card cooling system, and much more. Your options are endless. You can literally build your own PC from your desk chair and have it delivered to you.

Even better, companies like Velocity Micro will optimize your operating system. So, if you want Windows Vista to run as quickly as possible, the company will remove all the features you don't need to make it perfect for you.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. Today, we have the capability to fully customize our PC experiences and yet, we're not allowed to do so. And in the process, we're forced to endure a less- than ideal computing experience because of those few options.

And that's a shame.

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist whose work has included popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.