Shop Smart: Buying a Computer

Most of us have seen it: the blue screen of death.  And it’s a sad day.  Not just because you may have lost hours of work, precious photos and videos, music, and saved personal information; not just because you may have to spend a large sum to try to recover your information.  But because you must now embark on a quest for a new computer.

Whether you have a few hours to go out and select a replacement or a couple of days or weeks to take your time, finding a computer to fit your needs is daunting and expensive.  If you’re not careful, you can drop a couple hundred dollars and buy little more than frustration.  To avoid such a misstep and save yourself some money, check out the tips below.

Know what you need it for

Sit down and figure out exactly what you need in a computer.  Do you like to play games, download music and movies, or use your computer for design or video editing?  Or do you just check your e-mail, surf the web and watch the occasional Youtube video?  If you don’t know much about computers and don’t know the vocabulary you need to start shopping, do a little research or talk to a friend.  To meet your needs and find a good deal, you have got to be an educated buyer.

Decide: laptop or desktop

Again, before you start shopping, decide what will meet your needs best, a laptop or a desktop.  Do you need the portability of a laptop or do you prefer the less mobile, but less expensive, desktop?

Research reliability

Get online and look into reliability ratings for various brands and models.  There is no point in buying a computer that will just crash, break, or be otherwise unusable.  Be open-minded in your comparison; many people have stereotypes of what they think a specific brand of computer is like, and it may simply be untrue.

Consider building it yourself

This is a scary thought to most people, but there are many reliable guides online to help you out.  Do a little research.  Or talk to a tech savvy friend or the technical department at your work, if you have one.  You can ask them to build you a computer, pay for labour, and you should still be able to get what you want for less than buying out of a box.  Many people think that home-built computers have no warranty, but this simply isn’t so.  Each part comes with its own warranty; and these are often longer than what you get on a whole computer.

The devil is in the details

Once you’ve narrowed down your options, really look at the details.  What kind of tech support do you need or want, and how good is it with the company you’re considering?  What kind of warranty do you get?  Look at battery life for a laptop and power supply output for desktops.  Examine and handle models in a store if you can to make sure you’re happy with things like keyboard layout and size.  These things can be deal-breakers.

Read the customer reviews

Professional reviews are great, but they don’t often have the computer long enough to have something go wrong.  I was looking for a new laptop a couple of months ago, and narrowed it down to two machines.  Then I read the customer reviews and discovered that a disturbing number of people had issues with pixels going out on one model.  The choice became pretty clear.

Be patient, watch and wait

Assuming you aren’t desperate to replace your computer, be patient and keep an eye out for sales or coupons, either online or in store.  Then the power is in your hands instead of the salesman’s.

You can shop around looking for deals on computers; you can haggle, bargain, clip coupons or send in rebates; you can build it yourself to save money.  But if the machine you end up with doesn’t meet your needs, it will all have been a waste.  So plan carefully and prioritize to make sure the computer you buy is the computer you want.

Filed in: Saving Money

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