I am often asked by friends or friends of friends to help them get a new computer for their office. Since I know a lot of people in the NGO sector who are highly budget conscious, they all prefer to get systems that not only help them get the job done but would also like to keep maintenance costs to a minimum.
Here are a few tips on buying a new computer either for the office or for yourself or as a gift to someone you know. There are a lot of sites giving you the technical information so I am not going to be covering the specifications and prices. You can visit npithub.com or itwares for latest prices in India. Some excellent forums where the members are helpful and provide excellent advice are thinkdigit forums, suggestafix forums and techspot forums. All these are Indian so you can even get the best configuration for your budget. You will have to register at these sites before you can post.
Before you decide on a system to purchase, here is what you should ideally do.
Decide on the purpose of the computer system
Your needs define the configuration of the system you are going to buy. If you need a system for gaming, you probably need lots of RAM, a good graphics card and probably the latest processors. Same for a design rig.
If you plan to watch a lot of movies and want a home entertainment machine, you will need lots of storage. If all you plan to do is draft email, write up reports and play the occasional game, a modest configuration will do quite well. Making a list of activities you plan to do on a system will help you avoid purchasing a costly system when you have no need for it, or rather, using the money saved to buy you some accessories and/or cool gadgets.
Decide on your budget and stay within it
This is the second thing you need to do. Or it could be the first. If you aren’t clear about how much you are willing to spend, you are going to spend more than you can afford and will then have to cut back on other expenses like getting a good branded UPS or external hard drive or whatever. Decide on a price range and when you start looking, look for a computer that matches your lower limit. You ARE going to get suggestions to go for a better system and before you know it, reach the top limit. Stop there. The lastest specifications aren’t going to be the latest for more than a month, so don’t bother getting more than your needs.
Decide what all accessories you need
While budgeting, make a list of what all you need to buy. If you have frequent power cuts, get a UPS. If you need to have data portable, get an External Hard Drive. Need video chatting, get a webcam and a microphone/headset. Plan for speakers. Plan for your Internet connection. Do you need a printer? How many prints are you gonna need each month? Less than 100, get a inkjet printer. If more than hundred or if you can afford a laser printer, it has less running costs.
Get prices from various brands and compare with an assembled machine
Visit the websites of popular brands like HP, Lenovo, Dell and have a look at the available configuration and their prices. Get to your local assembler and ask for a similar configuration. Check the quality of the components, brands etc. Compare the prices. Sometimes branded machines come cheaper. Visit showrooms of the brands and see if there are some sales or old stock being pushed off at discount prices.
Read the fine print
While budgeting, don’t forget the taxes. It is 4% in Delhi for computers, may be more in your case. Especially while purchasing for your office, include it. What about installation charges, does it cost extra? Is the operating system included? FREEDOS is pretty useless as an OS if you did not already know. Are other software like Office Suites bundled?
Check the warranties
Prefer systems with the longest warranties, preferably onsite. If the warranty is only for one year, ask how much an extension would cost. IBM provides MA packs through its partners that cost about 3000 for a Thinkcentre per year. Extending a warranty while buying would save you some money.
Decide the software needed
And finally decide on what software you are planning to use. Does the system have bundled software. Is it licensed? Are they full versions or trial versions? Avoid using pirated software. Consider using linux distributions which are user friendly, like Ubuntu.
So these are a simple set of guidelines which I hope will help you. If you have any more queries or suggestion, do leave a comment.