There is no doubt that building PCs can be an expensive hobby.
It used to be building your own PC using sites like PC Part Picker (opens in new tab) could you even save some money versus buying the best gaming PC you can afford off the shelf especially with the price of some components like the best graphics cards which have some incredible marks in recent years seen.
And for example I’ve been banging the drum for cheaper PC components in pretty much every review I do so you’d think Amazon is entering the PC component market with its Amazon Basics CPU air cooler (opens in new tab) would be cause for celebration. After all, it’s absolutely cheap, clocking in at just under $30, which is great for a budget-oriented build.
Still, I can’t think of any other company I’d like less in the PC component market than Amazon, and this foray into PC building doesn’t bode well at all for PC builders out there.
Yes, it’s cheap, but it’s still a knock-off
Like Tom’s Hardware (opens in new tab) notes, this Amazon Basic’s CPU Cooling Fan looks almost identical to this Cooler Master Hyper H410R RGB CPU Air Cooler (opens in new tab)which sells for almost three times the price as Amazon Basics CPU Cooler.
The two have comically similar specs, almost as if Amazon just copied Cooler Master’s CPU cooler design, used a 20% slower RGB fan, and ruthlessly undermined the company that did all the work to make the CPU cooler develop in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to shed a tear for the profits of a component company that makes a lot of money selling computer parts. But whatever we can say about Cooler Master, at least it has a vested interest in the market it targets, while Amazon is out to make a quick buck and not interested in the market beyond the money it can make to deserve.
Like it or not, Cooler Master has done the job of developing that fan that Amazon just totally ripped off, and Cooler Master has presumably invested money to make sure it does what it claims to do. Amazon has done no such thing, I can almost guarantee you.
What Amazon has done is see from its own internal sales data that a product sells well on its site, and using that internal data it went ahead and counterfeited it and now sells it alongside the product it copied at a high reduced price. This isn’t the first time Amazon has done this (opens in new tab)and it won’t be the last either.
If this trend catches on and Amazon moves aggressively into PC components, such as in home goods and elsewhere, PC builders will only be left out for the worse in the long run.
Why knockoffs are bad in the long run
The problem with counterfeit products is that the people who make them don’t really know what they’re doing. They have not developed an original idea or product, they are simply copying what someone else has successfully developed after a lot of time and investment.
The more people buy counterfeit products, the more it hurts the profits of the original manufacturers. Again, I’m not here to cry about lost revenue for Cooler Master, but I do care that Cooler Master continues to produce a quality product, and like it or not, that costs money. Money Amazon will never invest itself in developing a quality CPU cooler.
If everyone buys Amazon’s counterfeit cooler, Cooler Master has less incentive to build a better one, since Amazon just copies it and everyone else buys it instead. So what’s the point?
Over time, the quality of all CPU coolers will decline, as there will be less incentive to invest in good engineering, and we will end up with worse products, as everyone now has to scrape the bottom of the revenue barrel because Amazon sells fake products here.
Sure, build that straight away costs less to build, but future builds will have a hard ceiling on quality as a result.
Component manufacturers need to take budget products seriously
At the end of the day, Amazon does what it does because there’s a market there for cheap PC components. The best CPU coolers can be quite expensive even without getting into the AIO side of things, so it makes sense that Amazon would try to monetize this gap in the market.
The solution is ultimately for component manufacturers to fill those gaps with quality budget-friendly offerings. Component prices have gone up and up every year, putting cheap PC builders in a really bad place. Inevitably someone will come along to fill that gap, and it really sucks that it’s Amazon, but that’s totally predictable.
Unless component manufacturers want to be completely wiped out by Amazon undermining it with counterfeit products, they need to offer customers an alternative that Amazon can’t undercut. Let’s hope they heed this industry wake-up call.