Buying a new PC – how to get the PC you need

Buying a new PC

I am often asked the question “what PC should I buy”?

I will try to answer this question here although it is not an easy one to answer.

The information below applies to someone replacing an old PC or equally to someone purchasing their first PC, but it only applies to desktop (tower) PCs, not laptops, or notebooks (I will write about laptops later).

First of all I want to say that I am not a fan of brand name, or retail desktop PCs, for reasons I will try to explain. I prefer to use and to supply “white box” or built to order, no-name PCs.

Brand name PCs are sold through retail outlets or online. In most cases you have a limited choice of models within a brand and may or may not be able to customise these to meet your needs. These models are often sold at a perceptual price point to make them more appealing (e.g. $995 rather than $1000). Often they will “throw in” some failry useless or super cheap additions to sweeten the deal.

Also you really do not know what you are getting! For instance:

  • What is the make, model, warranty and reliability of all of the many parts that make up the PC?
  • How readily available are spare parts and at what price?
  • What is the warranty on the PC and most importantly what is the repair process if there are problems?
  • Is the PC upgradeable at a later stage if your needs change?
  • Can you do repairs, replace parts or add parts within the constraints of the warranty, and how easy is it to do this?

These and many more questions need to be asked when buying any PC.

Now to white box PCs. 

I have a supplier in Moss Vale, Bruce, who builds all of my PCs for me. Between us we have many years experience of supplying, building and supporting PCs and we know what is needed to make sure that a PC will meet all of the requirements of our customers, that it will perform as required and that all the parts used are good quality, reliable and easily replaced/repaired if the need arises (and it does occasionally).

We do not supply “cheap” PCs but we do supply reliable, robust PCs built for each persons individual requirements. When building a PC we will build it either to specifications you supply or we will work out from discussions with you what is required. Either way it is tailored to your needs.

Also Bruce only uses well known brand name parts such as Gigabyte, Kingston and Seagate. Even the PC case and power supply (PSU) are quality parts, and we always supply a PSU that will be able to provide adequate power to the PC (more important than you may realise).

Bruce will always thoroughly test the PC before delivering it and make sure it is ready to go.

So how much do they cost?

The usual answer: “how long is a piece of string”.

I usually talk about two types of PCs, a basic home model and an office model. There are other, higher end PCs but we don’t often get a call for these (we also build and supply Windows servers but that is a completely different story).

The basis of any PC is the CPU (central processing unit) and we generally only use Intel CPUs. The 3 main types of Intel CPU at the moment are i3, i5 and i7 with the i3 the least powerful and the lowest priced of the three. Within these 3 models there are “sub” models that vary by speed and other factors (and of course price).

Then there is the RAM, or memory where the work in progress is stored and then the hard disk where your data (documents, photos, email, etc) is stored. We would always supply a minimum of 4GB of RAM and the basic hard disk we supply is now 1TB (1 Terabyte or 1000GB).

We would only use an i3 processor in a very basic home PC which will be used for email, Internet browsing, some document writing or spreadsheets and maybe to store photos from phones and cameras. You should be able to get away with some other things like bookkeeping with, for instance, MYOB but you would not want to try anything heavy like working with raw photo images or video editing. If price is not a big issue we would supply an i5 CPU.

For an office PC which will be on a network sharing resources with other PCs or for more powerful processing requirements we would probably supply an i5 CPU or maybe an i7. We would probably put 8GB RAM in it as well to handle the more resource hungry programs. You could edit photos on this and probably videos as well and you could certainly do bookkeeping and run many other programs at the same time.

As for the i7 processor, we don’t supply many PCs with this processor unless asked to do so or unless it is really necessary as it is quite a lot more expensive than the i5.

So how much?

Last month I supplied a couple of i3 PCs with 4GB RAM and a 1TB hard disk at about $1050 (including Windows 8.1). This price varies from day to day and order to order as Bruce buys parts as required and the prices are subject to currency fluctuations and other factors. For instance a few years ago a factory in Asia which manufactured RAM burnt down and this pushed the worldwide price of RAM up considerably and this was reflected in the price of PCs we supplied.

Note that these prices are for the tower only. Monitors (screens), keyboard, mice are extra.  Monitors vary in price according to size and quality and keyboards and mice cost very little these days.

Installing your new PC.

I should point out here that when you receive your new PC from us it will have the latest Windows installed  and configured (assuming you ordered it with the PC) and any other programs you bought with it such as Microsoft Office will also be installed. It will not have any of your data. e.g. documents, photos or email, you will need to transfer these from the old PC as well as install other programs and configure email and other things such as printers. We can assist with this but obviously this will be at extra cost (I can usually do this in 1-2 hours).

So I hope that has explained a bit about how to select a new PC and how much it will cost. As usual if you have any questions please do not hesitate to to contact me.

End note:
What if price was not an issue (i.e. my dream machine)?

Then I would probably suggest a high-end i7 processor (maybe 2),  32GB of RAM, a 240GB SSD for windows, 2 x 3TB hard disks in RAID format (i.e. duplicated) and a high-end video card (this would aid with games, video editing, or allow for dual monitors for instance). This would make a great gaming PC or a video editing or music processing machine! At today’s prices that would be in the $2500-2700 range (not including Windows).

Note: All prices are indicative only and are not quoted prices. All prices will be subject to many factors such as exchange rates.

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