Buying a New Computer - Retail


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"How many people have actually documented the REAL purchase, sale, and set up of a new computing rig? What are the challenges for someone who knows NOTHING about computer hardware? What is the thought process that goes into buying either a PC or a Mac? What are the networking considerations? That was the question that turned this idea into a short documentary about the purchase and sale of a new computer. The documentary concludes that someone has to actually buy a $999.99 high performance desktop, retail, in order not to get stuck with sub-par hardware if they are not doing their own kit assembly. From nearly every system evaluated, we found that ones sold with older processors were also being included with DDR2 RAM and weak, integrated graphics cards that were vastly overpriced. The best systems we could find were at Microcenter, while Costco, which is a membership based store, had a significantly better choice of computer monitors."

Price Range: $500-$999
Intel Quad Core 2.3+ghz Intel Processor
4GB DDR3 Memory
500GB 7200 RPM Hard Drive
Windows 7 Professional
ATI Radeon 4 or 5 Series Video (1GB GDDR5)
HDMI Monitor

Intel Core i7 2.8ghz
1TB 7200 RPM Hard Drive
Windows 7 Home Premium
ATI Radeon 5 Series
Samsung 27" HDMI Monitor

Some challenges that were not disclosed in the video was a massive debate against Apple salesmen who were trying to sell a primitive Dual Core system with 2GB of RAM for over $1500 because it had a stylish design! The purchase was an intense debate, and hopping between stores to find the best deals made it obvious that assembling a system on our own would have been the best way to cut costs - however it would have taken much longer. Ultimately, the decision making process came out to be "How do we not get ripped off?" as system after system was priced with a $600-$800 price tag without a dedicated video card, only using integrated video. Since Rob wanted to use his system for multimedia, it became important that he at least have a good mid-range card. There was not a single computer we could find - retail - that had this capability, except the higher end Intel Core i7 machines. The Apple debate turned somewhat wild amongst the salesmen, as I continued to point out to them that Windows software would be difficult to run and that my friend needed this system for gaming. They kept insisting on using the BootCamp feature on a system with 2GB of DDR2 memory with a low-end video graphics card, compared to the PCs. In a final attempt to allow my friend to make his choice, I left him to his own devices, and he ended up buying the most sensible computer in the store, albeit for a $1000 price tag. The situation is a good look into how retail computer store outlets make it easy for those who don't know anything about computer hardware to buy a sub-par computer, but hard for those who do know what they are doing to buy a good one, and still not lose all of their money in the process. Myths like "Apple computers don't have viruses" were repeated like some kind of holy mantra, as I tried to debunk this myth amongst these salespersons.

Today, Rob is completely satisfied with his purchase - and he has no problems, or packet loss, using his system wirelessly. The actual computer set up took about 20-30 minutes, while the "finding out how not to get completely ripped off" period took almost 6 hours or more. In the end, we only exceeded Rob's budget due to the monitors, which were not being included at any store we visited, and realizing that Samsung had a superior option going. Towards the end of the computing purchase escapade, we raised hurriedly to the final store to get this monitor, as we now had everything we needed - desk, chair, lamp, computer. Sadly, due to the poor salesmanship of the people in all stores we visited, and after trying out Apple computers for almost an hour, Rob still begged the question, as his final concern, as we raced to get a monitor: "Does this computer really have Windows?" I assured him, that yes, the answer was yes. This assuring answer secured the purchase in his mind, and he was amazed with the hardware - and software - once it was completely set up: in a manner of minutes.
Mike, what a great and unique idea to document the difficulties in getting value for money on a computer purchase! I'm sorry to see that you and your friend Rob did not get your desired OS, Windows 7 Professional, but I'm glad he has had no problems using his purchase. I hope you can expand this into a series. Best, Andrea Hofer, Windows 7 Professional Outreach Team. If you like, you can follow us on Twitter @Win7ProSB for small business related updates, news, and contests.