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Buyer's Guide | Step-By-Step Summary Guide To Buying A PC ]
Step 3: Select A Manufacturer And Vendor
You have now, hopefully, decided what type of PC you want, have investigated PC
performance and non-performance issues, and have evaluated and chosen your hardware. The
next step in your odyssey is to select a manufacturer and/or
vendor for your new PC.
The exact approach you take depends on exactly what sort of system you have decided to
go with. All hardware has a manufacturer, of course, somebody has to make it. However,
sometimes PCs are sold directly by their makers, and sometimes through third-party
vendors: it depends mostly on the type of PC. And if you are building your own PC, you
will likely be dealing with several manufacturers and possibly more than one vendor as you
buy your components.
Here's what you need to do, step by step:
- Decide On A Source: Determine what general source
you want to use for your hardware. There are three main source categories:
Which of these is best depends in large part on what sort of hardware you are getting,
as well as your personal preferences and shopping style. For a pre-built PC you can buy
from any of the retail sources except a local PC shop, or from a large online vendor or
group buying club. Configure-to-order PCs are usually sold directly by the manufacturer
online or over the phone. Build-to-order PCs are usually made by local PC shops or smaller
online PC makers, or at computer shows. Used PCs are usually sold by individuals.
Components can be found just about anywhere, and auctions have just about anything. (This page shows a comparison of the attributes of different
sources, and this one provides a cross-reference between
sources and PC types.)
- Decide On A Vendor: Choose the vendor that you
feel is best for you, after thoroughly researching all the
important issues that distinguish good vendors from bad ones. I have broken these factors
down into categories, some of which will be more important than others for your particular
- Reputation and history issues, including time in business, reputation,
financial stability, and references and referrals.
- Pricing, selection and stock matters such as general pricing levels, selection,
stock levels and out-of-stock policy, and also price matching and price protection policies, if any.
- Other factors and issues that affect pricing from
different vendors, such as shipping and handling
charges, sales tax, rebates, discount
coupons, clearances, and credit card surcharges or cash discounts.
- Customer service considerations, including communication efficiency, order fulfillment competence, issues related to salespeople, delivery options, payment options, web
site quality, and also privacy and security.
- Guarantees and return policies, including return periods, polices
and a balanced look at restocking fees.
- Warranty service and policy issues such as warranty length, service,
and extended warranties.
- Support issues such as pre-shipment
testing, vendor vs. manufacturer support, and technical support quality.
That's a very long list of considerations, and you probably won't be able to thoroughly
assess every vendor's characteristics to this level of detail. Just focus on what is most
important to you. In order to make your decision, you will want to make use of various research resources to gather information about companies. A primary
way is reading their own web sites and other relevant information, but you will also
benefit from "word of mouth" research, offline independent research resources, PC-oriented magazines and online
independent research resources.
Some important thoughts to keep in mind as you make your choices:
Tip: If you want to get some advice
or recommendations on a vendor, try The PC
Guide Discussion Forums.
4: Make The Purchase
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