Performance Differences Between Identical Laptops or PCs Explained

Performance Differences Between Identical Laptops or PCs Explained
Geschreven door Marcel Martens op 03-09-2020 Laatst bijgewerkt op 22-03-2024

We are regularly asked the following question:

How can it be that two laptops, which were ordered at the same time, are not equally fast? This is a good question. It is a difficult one to answer, however.

Yes, but those laptops or PCs were manufactured in the same factory, weren’t they? They were indeed, and there are actually only about five hard drive / SSD factories in the world.

So, how can such vast differences occur? I’d like to explain this using an example that I personally witnessed during my time at Imtech. The company bought all its workstations, PCs and laptops from Dell in those days.I therefore placed an order with Dell for five standard office laptops, for our CEO, financial controller and three other members of staff. All five were the same type and model. Once I had set them up for use and the recipients had had a few weeks to get used to them, my manager (the controller) enquired how it was possible that the CEO’s computer was faster than his own. It was an entirely valid question, too. And, while it is also a difficult one to answer, I will nevertheless do my utmost to explain the reason.

I initially thought it must have been the software, as they were identical laptops... I therefore proceeded to reinstall the software (including the latest drivers and firmware updates) on my manager’s, the controller’s laptop, before returning it to him. Unfortunately, this hadn’t improved its performance at all. 

This irked the nerd in me, prompting me to get to the bottom of the matter. 

As I had yet to hand over one of the original five to its intended recipient, I decided to set to work on three laptops simultaneously. These were the quickest one belonging to the CEO, the controller’s slow one, and the third one that was still in its original box. All three had identical versions of Windows other software installed, as well the same drivers and firmware versions. 

I then used a benchmark tool to establish the speed of the laptops. To my astonishment, it came up with three entirely different results!!! The reason was a total mystery to me. I therefore opened a support ticket at Dell, in an attempt to find an explanation... which also failed to yield an answer, unfortunately. 

It was therefore time for a closer look under the hood, I concluded. I dismantled the laptops and examined the components that have an effect on their performance. This includes the hard disk / SSD, memory, processor & graphics card.

And, would you believe it? All three were equipped with exactly the same components. (I had actually previously experienced a single production batch being fitted with different brands of hard drives).

So, what was causing the difference?

Having carried out extensive research and testing, I ultimately discovered that the hard drive was to blame.  

That’s also how I discovered why Dell is always more keenly priced than HP.  

The factory in question produces series of the same type of hard drive. If they pass the standard factory test, they are offered for sale on the market. As the tests in question are not particularly extensive, errors sometimes occur in reading or writing data. The process therefore has to be repeated, before the drive can inform Windows that the transaction has been successfully completed.

As it turned out, Dell purchases those drives that fail to sell quickly enough. It can therefore acquire them cheaply.

HP, on the other hand, issues the factory around ten additional tests, and HP stickers may only be applied to those hard disks that pass all of them, which implies that the firm will purchase the disks.

HP therefore purchases only the best disks from a production batch, while Dell buys the inferior ones, which are much cheaper due to their abundance and reduced saleability. 

I was therefore unable to solve my manager’s problem, without either buying a faster laptop or replacing components.

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