I hate shopping for computers. (Bare with me, there’s some good advice for people buying at the bottom).
The first thing I hate is the research. You not only want to get something that works now, but also works in X years. I then have to combine that information with something it’s taken me 3 systems to learn: I’m not going to upgrade anything. By the time I want to upgrade, I’ll want a new system anyway.
The second thing is that it has to be a better system. That wasn’t so bad when I bought my laptop, my desktop had 1.7GHz P4, 256 RAM, 20G drive, and a GeForce3. Most of those stayed pretty close with only minor upgrades, except for the graphics card which I upgraded to a 256. Now I have to upgrade that.
I don’t know if you’ve looked at laptops recently, but 512 cards are only in the best systems which are just under $2k at cheapest. I’m at a bargain-priced point right now, so that’s out of the question. After a long talk with my friend where the phrase “Don’t look at the memory, chipsets have evolved quite a bit” was repeated like a matra to my complaints, I got the hint. I would have to settle for 256 with the knowledge that todays 256 is better than my old 256.
I then set the other factors that seemed reasonable, but important. RAM – 4G, 7200 RPM drive, monitor quality, and let the processor and other extras fall where they may. After weighing my options, I settled on the 17″ version of Dell’s studio. The inspiron line has dropped the 17, and the 17 XPS was rediculously out of my price range. I also considered the 15″ XPS, but part of my brain kept reminding me 15″ < 17″. Both could easily be under my $1.5k limit.
I then spent the weekend going through various “deals” so see the best bang for my buck. Let me tell you the ending first: the best deal was…
…in their print catalog.
They had suggested systems in their Studio 17 webpage. The best deal there was actually the base system with just my upgrades for $1199. They had 2 systems in their 17″ deals webpage. The best there was also $1199 with my upgrades, but I’d get extra warranty. They even had a weekend promotion that I almost bit on, because for the $50 more, I’d get a $140 GPS that my wife really really wanted for C-mas (she had to settle for Stephanie Meyers books and a 13″ laptop of her own, poor girl).
I sat down to buy my system today and thought I’d browse their site just a bit to make sure the small business section didn’t have a better deal, or there was a system I over looked or whatever. I saw their catalog and thought I’d just check things out. Checked through a couple pages until I got to the Sudio 17, and my jaw-dropped when I saw a $999 system listed with 2 of my mandatory specs 4GB RAM, 256 card. The $849 system ended up being better for me.
So I checked through the other deals with my specs and found that for the $1199 I was going to spend, I got a better processor (2.0GHz/800BUS/1G cashe -> 2.2GHz/1066BUs/3G cashe), added LED lighting to the monitor, a finger print reader (meh), and a Vista upgrade of some kind(double meh and possibly yuck), which would have been an extra $385 if I had added it to the previous “best priced” system. I actually could have gotten what I wanted for $150 less, but getting the LED monitor and the back lit keyboard makes me feel like I’m getting a top-line system instead of a bargain one.
Or as my friend who love racing cars says: “The decals (stickers )add at least 50 horsepower.”
Bottom line – Deals online seem to add stuff like warranty, software, RAM, and harddrive, which are cheap to upgrade, while print deals have to sell you with specs.
It’s simple for them to give an extra year warranty and then be able to advertise “extra $100 off.” The other common one was an upgrade from MS Works to MS Works plus (includes Word) for $75 that I didn’t care about. Likewise for network cards, and fingerprint readers. A trick I found often was drive “upgrades” from 250GB to 320BG, but with lowered RPMs (“Get 16,000 more MP3s” the slogan says). Suddenly, you have pretty much the exact same system, but it says “$245 off” at the top. Now they’ve got you thinking that spending an extra $150 on upgrades isn’t so bad because you’re still saving almost $100.
Anyway, it’s on its way.
Also, my wife’s lappie has shipped a week early so I might be able to at least login on a min specs computer before we go to Disneyworld next week.