Desktop computers cost far less these days than they used to, so you won’t struggle to find a good bargain. Electronics superstores and online retailers routinely sell mid-range PCs for less than $500.
But if you’re looking for one even cheaper than that, you won’t need to look far. You’re in a stronger position if you can wait until the next computer sale, where manufacturers and retailers attempt to clear out ageing models to make way for their new ranges. Often there will be one or two “lead models” in the sale; these will usually offer the biggest discount in relation to their specifications, so be sure to ask which models they are.
Another avenue to explore is buying refurbished computers. These are computers that have been used or put on display in-store and then returned to the factory for reconditioning. They come clean and repackaged, with all of the accessories, but at a significantly reduced price; discounts of 50% are not unheard-of. Surplus stock also offers hefty reductions — and for the eagle-eyed consumer, there is an element of time-dependence here too. If you know that a hotly anticipated model is soon to be introduced, you can be pretty sure that you’ll find preceding models either in sales or that have been sold on in bulk to surplus-clearing retailers. These companies offer new stock that hasn’t sold quickly enough for one reason or another. If you aren’t fussy, there are a lot of superb bargains to be had.
Buying second-hand is always an option, but it does mean that you can’t enjoy the peace of mind of a manufacturer’s warranty if the computer should require repair. Second-hand computers are available through eBay and Amazon, as well as a range of other online retailers, and you’ll usually find adverts for them and other second-hand goods in the classified section of local newspapers or posted on small cards in local storefronts.
Build it yourself
Many people with sufficient knowhow choose to build their own desktop PCs from scratch. They buy in the components separately and can usually assemble them in the space of a few hours. The advantage here is two-fold: Firstly, you don’t pay the assembly costs, so it can work out cheaper, although major manufacturers can often beat the prices because of their economies of scale. Secondly, you get to choose exactly the specification — how much RAM, what size hard disk, which graphics card — you want, meaning you don’t have to pay for components or performance you don’t need. You can also avoid buying a PC with one component and immediately upgrading that aspect of the setup. In any case, this is a job for real experts — if you flinch at the sight of exposed circuit boards, leave it to the pros. Small computer stores sometimes build their own PCs to sell on and often offer a very impressive level of after-sales service, especially if they are in your immediate area.