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[ The PC Guide | The PC Buyer's Guide | Understanding PC Sources, Vendors and Prices | Researching Vendors and Prices ]

Offline Independent Research Resources

There are several well-known, established resources that can help you with researching vendors, manufacturers, equipment and prices. Some are more useful for larger companies, or for researching manufacturers; others are better for smaller or local companies:

  • Consumer Reports: This independent group is now famous for conducting tests and evaluations of everything from PCs to popcorn, and everything in between. They accept no advertising money and buy everything they test themselves, to ensure neutrality. This means of course that they are member-supported and you must subscribe to get their reports, including their very useful annual Buyer's Guide, which rates specific makes and models of dozens of different products. However, you can sometimes find copies of their magazines at your local library if you are not a member, or you may have a friend who subscribes. Their coverage of PC-related items is sometimes limited, but can provide a useful perspective. Their rankings of direct-market vendors and retail PC manufacturers are particularly useful; they cover not just features and prices but also service and support. They don't rank local stores and shops, since they are a national publication.
  • Better Business Bureaus: Most cities and larger towns have local BBB offices available for use as a resource. These are groups of businesses that have pledged to meet certain self-imposed ethical standards, and to work together to resolve consumer disputes and to provide information about local businesses. The BBB isn't going to tell you definitively if a company is good, but it will let you check to see if a large number of complaints have been filed against it. Some BBB offices are now available online as well; check www.bbb.org.
  • Chambers of Commerce: It's worth checking to see if local companies are members of the chamber of commerce of the town where they are located. Doing so is at least one data point that says the company is "legit" (though not being a member doesn't necessarily mean the company is not). Calling the chamber and saying you are a consumer interested in information about the company you are considering may be useful as well. Or, if you don't know of a local business in your area of a particular type, they may be able to make a recommendation for you.

You will also find PC-oriented magazines useful for doing research into hardware and pricing for larger companies, and of course, there are online independent research resources to consider as well.

Next: PC-Oriented Magazines and Magazine Ads

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