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[ The PC Guide | The PC Buyer's Guide | Designing and Specifying PC Systems and Components | PC Types ]

New Configure-To-Order PCs

Description: Configure-to-order PCs are built using a specific design created by the manufacturer's engineers, but options are provided for most of the important components that go into the unit. For example, you may be able to choose from three or four different processor speeds, to select the amount of memory you want, and perhaps even the brand of hard disk your PC will use. They are most commonly sold directly by the manufacturer. The best-known makers of such systems are probably Dell, Gateway, and Micron PC.

These systems differ from prepackaged machines in that they are not pre-made but rather assembled after your order is received, giving you considerable say in how your PC is made; there are usually hundreds or even thousands of different combinations. On the other hand, they are not as flexible as build-to-order systems: you have some choices in how the system is set up and what you get for many components, but there's no "open-ended" control to radically change the basic nature of the PC.

Advantages: These are some of the best PCs available on the market. They are generally a very good value. Their performance is usually above average, and the systems are usually complete, including a monitor and speakers, and in some cases a printer and other peripherals. They usually also come with the operating system and a good bundle of software pre-installed. Intense competition, especially online, keeps prices low, as do the lower costs of not selling retail.

Disadvantages: The systems usually must be purchased non-locally, meaning delays in getting your system, and no local support or service. Some systems use proprietary components which can make upgrading more complex. Shipping costs can be substantial for larger units.

Notebook Availability: High. Manufacturers who these systems also usually make notebooks models. It is very typical for the number of options on notebook PCs to be considerably smaller, however.

Most Common Sources: Direct-channel PC manufacturers, small online PC shops, and to some extent, local PC shops and computer shows (the latter two more commonly sell build-to-order machines.)

Recommended Uses: Pretty much any; configurability causes these machines to be very flexible, so they can suit almost any need, but the limited number of options keeps ordering them fairly simple. I would probably recommend a build-to-order machine, however, for anyone who needs more control over their system.

Cost: Usually around $1,000 to $3,000, but more for special setups or high-end hardware.

Special Considerations: Always make sure you find out exactly what is included, since some manufacturers include much more than others. Be sure to speak to a salesperson before ordering; there may be other options or choices not listed on a web site. Confirm pricing before you order, as it changes rapidly. Be careful in selecting a vendor, especially if a smaller or newer company. Get details on service and support policies in advance.

Next: New Build-To-Order PCs

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