Here's our Hardware Tip for.. January 15, 1999
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PC's - Buy or Build? Part 2
In our last Hardware tip, we talked about buying PC's locally. This time, let's have a closer look at the world of mail-order buying.

Buying Mail-Order: While this obviously requires a leap of faith for most buyers, it is almost always the choice of computer-savvy users. It can almost always lead to much better bargains, not to mention technical support. First of all, most of these mail-order houses don't really manufacture any of the components used in their systems, they're merely "assemblers". They try to construct the very best systems possible, using custom work orders to insure you get the system you really want, and more importantly, nothing you don't want. Let's face it, most of the system hardware is manufactured by only a handful of vendors anyway. Therefore most systems of equal specifications are more or less the same. These companies can only compete with each other in other areas, most notably CUSTOMER SERVICE.

I once had an experience where a new monitor (purchased via mail-order) went bad after only about 6 months. I called the toll-free tech-support number given me, a real person actually answered the phone, and within about 5 minutes, I was assured a replacement was on its way. Sure enough, before 9AM the next day, the FedEx truck dropped off a brand new monitor on my doorstep, with instructions from the vendor of how to return the old one for credit. I seriously doubt I could have gotten that kind of service from the local vendor - and this mail-order company was halfway across the country!

Another benefit of going mail-order is quality. With competition being as stiff as it is, it's really a buyer's market. You can almost always be assured of getting absolutely the best, most cutting edge technology in all of the components. Even in mail-order there are exceptions. Don't be afraid to asks questions of sales reps, ask them who makes their monitors, floppy drives, what hard drives they use, etc.

Check out a list of Computer Mail-Order Vendors.
..Or take a look at the "Big Three": Dell, Gateway and Micron.

For another source of great information, check out just about any of the PC magazines at your local bookstore. Many of these magazines contain monthly "ratings", comparing for example, the "Top Ten" buys that month, along with evaluations of hardware, workmanship, reliability and tech support ratings from actual customers.

Next time we'll talk about building your own system.