Sales slump spurs buyers' market in computers
by Alan Zisman (c) 2002
First published in Business in
Issue #645, March 5-11, 2002, High Tech Office column
Recently, I broke down and bought a new computer.
Mac or PC?
This time, a PC.
Desktop or notebook?
More on how to choose soon, but this was a desktop.
A big question for many is where to buy. Often, this
narrows down to
two choices: name brand or a so-called "white box" from the shop on the
But there's not necessarily a single right answer. Big
need to deal with other big corporations. Some of the rest of us feel
comfortable with known-quantity name brands with large corporations
(hopefully) stand behind them. (Though given the instability of the
industry at the moment, today's name brand can easily be tomorrow's
In Vancouver it's hard to throw a rock without hitting
a PC vendor.
As a result, there's little difference in price between retailers.
Moreover, PC components are standardized.
Motherboards, memory, hard
drives, video cards and so forth are pretty much the same between
and are even the same whether you choose name brand or white box.
If you want to specify a particular brand component,
your local dealer
can get it and install it for you. And that's the real benefit of
with a local dealer: While they may have a list of their typical
it's not a problem if you want to have it your way.
I do most of my business with my local shop on the
corner (in my case, Nantron
Systems in East Vancouver), where I've gotten to know the
and staff over the years, and who have been established long enough to
have continuity and credibility.
I wanted a relatively high-end Intel-based system. I
chose a Pentium
4 processor, running at 1.9 GHz. Slower is cheaper, but in my
buying near (but not at) the high end gives me a system that I'm
with for a longer period of time. And the price spread between low,
and high-end has narrowed considerably. I specified DDR memory, which
a little bit more expensive, but quite a bit faster than the standard
I also specified a 60-GB hard drive, rather than the
40-GB hard drive
that the store lists with their typical system. That's still up from 10
GB in the system I purchased just more than three years ago. I got both
a DVD drive, and a 24-times CD-recordable drive, an affordable upgrade
from the stock 16-times model. I opted for their standard video card,
kb/sec modem and 10/100 mp/sec network adapter.
I shaved some cost off the system by opting to use the
mouse, and speakers from the computer I was replacing. Further, I did
need to order an operating system copy. (Most of the name brands will
sell computers without a Microsoft operating system installed.
Note that the software licence does not allow users to
install a copy
of Windows on more than one system.)
The system came in for about $1,000 cheaper than the
computer I replaced. Windows XP installed without a hitch (more on that
My son reports that games look and play decidedly
better with the new
For me, the most immediately noticeable improvement is
that CDs burn
in about five minutes, instead of taking about 30, and on a drive that
costs half as much as the 4x unit I had been using.
Computer sales are down, but so are prices, while
performance is continually
If you can justify it and afford it, it's a good time