Buying Your Next PC
Goldsborough, Reid, Consumers' Research Magazine
These days there are almost as many ways to buy a personal computer as there are ways to configure one.
You can buy from a computer superstore, small local computer store, office supply store, electronics store, department store, mass merchandise store, warehouse store, computer show, value-added reseller, mail-order catalog company, or directly from the manufacturer. To make things even more complicated, a number of vendors in the above categories now let you buy through the Internet.
How do you decide where to get the biggest bang for your buck? Much depends on your particular situation. But each buying channel has its advantages and disadvantages, and some have more advantages than others.
Going Retail. Despite the newer whiz-bang buying options out there, walking into a store, sitting down in front of a number of display PCs, and taking a system back with you is still the most common way to buy a computer today.
Buying from a retail outlet can be reassuring if you don't have previous experience buying a computer. Looking at a monitor, testing out the feel of a keyboard, and seeing how much space the system takes up can be important clues to how you'll like the system once you get it back home or to the office.
On the other hand, you may think that being able to look your salesperson in the eye will help ensure you get a good deal. But some computer salespeople have little knowledge about computer technology, aside from which models the store has in stock and what their selling price is. This is particularly true with stores that don't specialize in computers. Likewise, you likely won't get expert support after the sale from department and discount stores.
Still, there's something to be said about the instant gratification of being able to pick out a system and take it with you, which you don't receive when shopping with your phone or over the Internet.
Many people have had good experiences with smaller computer stores that others have recommended or that they've built relationships with over the years. Some of these stores sell their wares on weekends at computer shows held at racetracks and convention centers. Consider getting a recommendation first before buying an expensive system from an unknown vendor.
Value-added resellers are vendors that add value to the hardware they sell by including configuration, installation, or training. …