Have you ever suffered the consequences of being ripped-off or endured the pain of making the wrong decision when buying a new PC, even after you thought you did the necessary due diligence? The unfortunate truth is that PC resellers are like secondhand car salesmen, they will tell you everything you want to hear, and nothing you need to. On the flipside, buying your next PC component can be quite a ticky task, even if you have a supplier that you trust.
It is because of these reasons that we have combined our “learning’s” (by this I mean our experiences of being ripped off, lied to and otherwise irrational decisions) into 5 key considerations users should always take into account when looking to buy a new PC so as to completely avoid any feelings of regret or dissatisfaction. Here they are:
1) Never buy from large tech retailers
Possibly the most obvious, but it is important to mention that you should never buy a complete desktop PC without having selected the parts yourself or if not, without knowing exactly what components have been used.
Companies who sell “off the shelf” systems (like the large tech retailers do) often skimp on important components such as motherboards, hard drives, RAM and graphics cards. These are things that will come and bite you in the long run. They are able to do this by capitalizing on the broader public’s ignorance towards hardware. Really what they are doing is giving you half the facts.
Case in point, it’s one thing to buy a complete PC with a Quad Core processor and 4Gigs of RAM that has 2 Terabytes of space, but if you intend on using it for gaming or extreme workloads, you will most certainly be disappointed. A good tech company/PC components reseller will always disclose every facet of every component in all the complete PC setup’s it sells. Why? Simply put, it is because components are divided into categories that are designed for specific jobs and then priced accordingly. You will be surprised at what you can get in terms of bang for buck when you source the internal components of your new PC yourself in comparison with a complete setup from a large retailer.
Apart from being cheaper, you can rest assured you will not be in for any nasty surprises down the line, when and if you are looking to upgrade or overclock.
Evetech is a great online PC component retailer who offer very affordable prices on all their components. They are a great benchmark if you want to get an idea of what you should be spending for Mid to High end gaming components. They also offer really cool upgrade packages if you already have the shell and only want to replace the internals.
2) Know what will you be using your new PC for
This is the first -and in most instances the only- question people ask when they set out to buy a new PC. Sadly the answers are often limited to one of two things: work and/or gaming. That is where the proud owner to be will leave it, satisfied that they know exactly want they want from their new PC.
Interestingly enough though, those two answers are both so broadly defined, that without any further investigation can leave the proud new owner bitter at his or her new purchase or unsatisfied with the money spent. Also, this question is pivotal to understanding what category of components to be looking for.
So, the next time you decide to buy a new PC and the answer is either for work or gaming purposes, ask yourself the following:
- If its for gaming:
- What type of games will you be playing on it?
- How often will you be playing games?
- Are you happy with running games on the highest settings, or standard settings?
- Will you be attending a lot of LAN parties?
- If its for work purposes:
- Will you be typing word documents and editing excel documents?
- Will you be storing, compiling and running huge database files?
- Will you be uploading, converting and editing video files?
- Or will you be designing hi-res images in Photoshop?
- If it is for both:
- Ask these questions together, bearing in mind that a high volume of files (both large or small in file size) will impact system performance, so you might want to look into either having separate hard drives for both work and games or having a dedicated Hard drive for your OS, at the very least partitioning your drive into two segments – again, depending on how you answered above.
An important question that is often not even considered is, who else will be using the PC?
Again, this is an important consideration given the above answers, as the other people who need to use the computer may want to use it for different things. More importantly, the answer to this question is often not one-dimensional.
Consider that if someone else will be using the PC, the following questions may need to be answered:
- What is the computer literacy of the person using the computer?
- Will they be using the PC for the exact same things as you?
- Will be using it for gaming at the same time? i.e. Two player or co-op.
- If not for gaming, will you be working on the PC at the same time?
- Do they need to connect to the PC remotely?
Having a basic understanding of the answers to these questions upfront will help to determine whether you need a laptop or workbench PC, as well as if it needs to be an entry, mid or high end machine, which in turn will dictate the amount of money you will need to spend. Once you are satisfied that you have addressed all the answers you can proceed accordingly.
In addition, the answers to these questions will help you deduce what type of security and access measures you need to put in place, which will help you decide what components to focus on. E.g. A high-end graphics card for concurrent or 2 player gaming, or a high-end motherboard that includes a Wi-Fi router for seamless remote access to the PC.
3) How long do you intend to keep it for
This is a question that many people overlook completely. Again the answer is not as simple as it may seem. Many variables need to be taken into consideration. As a rule of thumb though, I like to always start with Moore’s law: The number of transistors on a single component doubles every two years.
Further to this, you want to do as much research as possible on the components that are currently on offer by retailers, so that you have the answers to the questions below:
- How long ago were they released into the market?
- What level are they in the range? (Entry, Mid, or Enthusiast)
- How do they stack up against the competition?
- How much money do you have to spend
Toms Hardware is a great place to start if you want to learn more about individual components and how they stack up against the competition.
Long term, you also want to invest in good components that have as much upgrade headroom as possible. AMD are renowned for maximizing the life of their motherboards by ensuring that their latest CPU’s are backward compatible as an example. Which brings us to the next point:
4) Do you intend on upgrading or adding to the PC over time
This often gets taken for granted as a consideration. As mentioned above people, relish in the comfort (ignorance) that the systems they are buying will either last for an indefinite amount of time, or will be fully compatible with all next-generation components.
When considering upgrading the golden rule is to research, research research!! You need to be 150% sure that the components you have are compatible with that extra graphics card or those gaming RAM modules or the fact that your PSU is strong enough to power that many hard drives as basic examples. Aftermarket CPU coolers can also be troublesome, as many of them are so big they either block access certain slots or don’t fit at all on some motherboards!
In a nutshell, it is not always easy to find the latest hardware that is 100% compatible with an already aging system. Which means, most of the time you will be in for disappointment when looking to buy new. Good news however is that people are always looking to sell their aging components that may be better or newer than yours.
The very best place to buy or sell second had computer components is Carbonite Classifieds. Like other classifieds, you can often find really great deals on not-so-old components. Words of caution though, try stay away from buying secondhand hard drives or solid-state drives. These tend to wear faster than most PC components, and are also a lot more volatile; with the result the risk for disappointment is quite a bit higher.
Please note: This only applies if you have a PC that is not older than 18 months and provided you spec’d it out yourself, i.e. know the intricacies of the internals. Don’t even try if you bought if from a large tech retailer, even if you are lucky and the components are compatible, you will most likely not get the full headroom out of them.
5) Shop around
In a perfect world we would not get ripped off, ever. Period. Unfortunately, people take chances – its inevitable. The good news though is that PC component retailers are a dime a dozen, review sites and blogs are even moreso. Take your time do the research, understand fair market related prices, if you are short on cash and don’t want to buy second hand, there is often a cheaper product offered by a competitor brand that pushes out similar performance with great overclocking headroom than a more expensive product.
Regardless of whether you are looking for components for a new PC or new components to upgrade an aging PC, I would suggest that you shop around for prices. Get a feel for what you can expect to be paying. Again, this is to avoid getting ripped off by the same people who are supposedly saving you money.
If you don’t know any PC resellers, or at least not enough to do a moderate amount of shopping around, then check out Price Check – it is a site that will aggregate the prices of the product you are looking for from all over the net. A end point once you have selected and understand the components you want, so as to ensure you are getting the best bang for your buck.