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Large Online, Catalog and Mail Order Vendors
There are thousands of companies that specialize in selling computer equipment, including PCs, components and supplies, mail order. Most started out selling from catalogs and taking orders over the phone, and then expanded to include sales over the Internet as Web business exploded in the late 1990s. These companies are only vendors, not manufacturers of equipment, so for PCs they generally only sell pre-packaged retail systems. Examples of this sort of company include buy.com, Computer Discount Warehouse (CDW) and Outpost.com. You'll find ads for hundreds of these companies in any computer magazine.
These businesses are sort of like "computer superstores without the store". You can buy the same types of items as you can at a computer superstore, but everything is done over the phone, or the Web. Here are the advantages of this type of store:
As you can see, what these places are mostly about is getting your choice of items at the best prices. They do have several important disadvantages however:
These stores are the absolute best place to buy computer components and supplies-- if you already know what you want to buy, and are willing to wait to get the item. (And assuming the company has the item in stock and doesn't overcharge for shipping!) Prices are usually hard to beat, but you get almost nothing in terms of service and support. If you want to buy a retail PC and know exactly what you need, this is where you'll usually find the best price. You have to weigh that against the disadvantages of buying over a telephone wire.
Next: Small Online PC Shops