Friday, 20 May 2016

How To Get The Best Deal On A New PC

How To Get The Best Deal On A New PC

Here are a few tips to ensure you don’t pay too much...

If you simply don’t have the time or enthusiasm to build a new PC for yourself, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with buying a pre-build instead. Indeed, while in the past it may have been cheaper to construct a system on your own time, and hunting around for the best deals on parts a way of saving serious amounts of cash, these days the price difference is often bordering on negligible. Indeed, in many cases, pre-builds can work out even cheaper than the parts inside them would be at retail, thanks to the bulk-rate discounts manufacturers can get. There’s no doubt you surrender a fair amount of control over the components your system, but is it worth it for the amount of money you can save?

To help you get the best deal on a pre-build system, we’ve assembled our best hints and tips for buying full systems – everything from where to look to what to look for. Follow this advice and you’ll end up with a PC you can be smug about – if not for what’s in it, then for how much it cost!

1 Choose Your Retailer Carefully

One of the most important factors is the retailer you buy from in the first place. The market contains a wide spectrum of retailers, from highstreet giants to indie enthusiasts. Generally speaking, chains are good at providing generic, low-priced systems, while indie stores are better at custom-building machines that are highly specialised, even task-specific, but slightly more expensive overall. You might get a free printer and copy of Microsoft Office by buying your system from PC World, but it’s not going to offer you anything like high-end water-based cooling and a custom overclock like an independent retailer might.

The important thing is not to simply rush to the first name you find. Since most retailers have websites that allow you to custom-build a system, take your time and compare the prices. Try not to get distracted by ‘extras’ that you don’t want – recycling centres are probably still littered with unused flatbed scanners that were provided ‘free’.

2 Balance Your Components

Properly balancing your budget is essential to getting a good deal, and knowing what components to look for can be the difference between your money getting you an average PC or a fantastic one – or the difference between getting an okay deal and a great one. It’s hard to be exhaustive given the number of options available, but there are a few simple rules to follow.

First: prioritise RAM. Pre-builds very rarely have a lot of RAM in them, mostly because it’s easy to upsell. The fact is that more RAM is always worth having (up to a certain point – say 16GB) because it’s cheap to add and offers performance increases in almost all aspects of a PC’s operation. Unless you’re aiming for a truly stripped-back budget PC, you’ll want at least 4GB, but 8GB will ensure you’re never at a loss for memory.

Similarly, you might be able to save a lot of money by going for a slower CPU. Contrary to what you might expect, slowing down the CPU won’t affect non-gaming, non-specialist systems too much, so it might be worth the saving. Indeed, if you’re looking to save money then stepping down from Intel to AMD can save you a fair amount without having a huge impact on casual applications, such as browsing and office work.

Similarly, if you’re buying an Intel system, a Core i7 is only worth considering if you’re running software that can take advantage of its hyper-threading (hint: if you don’t know you are, you’re not.) so buying a Core i5 instead will result in a substantially better value system.

3 Skip The Extended Warranty!

Maybe it goes without saying, but extended warranties on PCs are a terrible idea for various reasons, even more so than on any other consumer electronics. Where most extended warranties simply end up outpricing the cost of a replacement over their full lifespan, an extended warranty on a PC practically accelerates their decline. Warranties prevent you from opening up your system and tinkering with the hardware in any way, whether adding or removing - and a PC that you can't upgrade might as well be actively rusting.

Assuming you get a free 12 month warranty with your purchase (which is more or less standard at this point) it's worth waiting out the first six months or so before cracking open the case, just in case any hardware is faulty and needs to get some wear in before it breaks down. After that point, you can more or less do what you like. The chances of a fault that'll require you to replace your entire PC are miniscule, and mostly related to freak events like fires or lightning strikes. New computers almost never explode on their own!

The real kicker is that even if you were to take advantage of a replacement under warranty, most retailers will simply restore the PC to its factory condition. This means you'll lose anything you had stored on it anyway. If that's an option you want to pursue, you can do it at home without any great difficulty, and if you want to actually recover your data there'll be countless local shops and retailers who can help you out for a reasonable price.

4 Keep Your System’s Purpose In Mind

Before you make any decision about a system, ask yourself: what is it you want this computer to do, and how will your decision affect that? It’s understandable that you might want to make sure your new PC is a cutting edge machine with the best hardware but, unless you’re looking for a specialist gaming or entertainment machine, a lot of the hardware you’ll be introduced to is simply unnecessary. For example, things like separate graphics and sound cards are the domain of gaming and home theatre PCs only, while 3D monitors are next to useless in almost all circumstances.

Again, the good thing about desktop systems is that you’ve always got the chance to upgrade them later, so it always makes sense to start them as stripped down as possible. Adding new components is easy. Getting back money you’ve spent erroneously isn’t. For example, buying a 3D monitor because you may want to watch 3D movies at some point in the future will prove a false economy: by the time that happens, it’s likely that the 3D monitor you could’ve bought will have dropped in price anyway! It’s worth asking these questions about every component – at this point, even optical drives might be unnecessary additions to a new PC!

5 Time It Right

A big part of getting the best deal on a system is timing your purchase to take advantage of market trends. Prices tend to drop significantly after the announcements of new hardware generations, because retailers are keen to sell through their existing stock before it becomes obsolete. Likewise, there are usually big sales over Christmas/New Year and over the Back to School period, so if you can wait a month or two to take advantage of those, it’s a good idea to do so. With a little patience, you could save yourself a couple of hundred pounds without having to do any extra work.

There’s a risk involved, of course – manufacturers tend to keep release dates close to their chest in order to prevent this kind of behaviour damaging their retail partners, and even planned retail dates can go off course. Don’t base your purchasing decisions entirely around upgrades!

6 Cannibalise Your Old System

Assuming you’re buying a system to replace an existing one, you can save tonnes of money by stripping parts out of your old system. There are some things it’s always good to replace periodically – power supplies and hard drives, for example – but if you’re buying a new system it’s unlikely that optical drive technology will have moved on substantially since you last bought a computer.

Even if you don’t want to open your computer and get your hands dirty, it’s worth remembering that there are plenty of peripherals that you don’t have to buy new,  but which will work fine with a new system. Printers, speakers, and even monitors can be upgraded separately when the time is right so, if you want to make your system cost as little as possible, you can throw their replacements out of your basket and reap the savings.