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Buying a new computer--here's what I bought

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Greetings fellow thrifty accountants!

I decided to buy a new computer--and that's when the fun began!

  • How much memory?
  • How much hard drive space?
  • What type of processor?

and finally,

  • Where to buy it?

I researched all this information on the net, and started checking the Sunday newspaper ads. Was it worth all the trouble?


What kind of computer should you buy?

I buy a new computer every 4-5 years, and often make some minor upgrades in between new computers--usually when a component breaks. Since I use my computer for work all day, every day, I wanted to purchase a computer that was a little faster than the one I had. My budget was around $1,000.

Key components:

Memory: I wanted to get a computer with Vista (I had Windows XP) because from this point forward, most printers and other peripherals, as well as software will be optimized for Vista. Vista needs at least 1 MB or RAM and preferably 2 MB to run well. I ended up getting 4 MB of RAM.


Hard Drive: I don't make movies or record TV on my computer (yet anyway), so I didn't need a lot of hard drive storage. Most new computers come with 300-500 GB of storage, which is more than adequate for me.


Processor: AMD vs Intel? My computer geek friends tell me that both are fine, and the chips go back and forth between which is faster. My research indicated that the Intel Core2 processor Q6600 with Quad Core Technology was a medium-high speed processor, and a fair value at this time. Even within this processor category, the processors are available at different speeds--mine is a 2.40 Ghz chip.

Misc. components:

Video card: While I don't play video games on my computer, I do like to be able to view videos on web sites and we have started creating some "how to" videos for FunCPE.com. I wanted to get a video card that had its own memory (they tend to run faster than the type that use the system memory). The video card I selected is the NVIDIA GeForce 8600GT with 256MB of RAM. This is a mid-level video card (above average perhaps, but not what a gamer would use).


Media card reader: My new camera uses a removable 2 GB media card to store photos. I wanted to be able to read directly from the media card, without having to use a USB cable or a Firewire cable to transfer photos from the camera to the computer. It's faster to read directly from the media card, than to use a cable, and that's one less cable hanging around. My computer came with a "19 in 1" media card reader. You can add one of these card readers to a computer for less than $20.

 

Where should you buy your computer?

Office Depot? Not recommended.

My first new computer purchase was an HP M9152P (no monitor included) purchased online from Office Depot. The configuration was what I was looking for, and with an advertised price of $1,325, less a $200 rebate, the price was reasonable.

Unfortunately, Office Depot could not help me locate the necessary rebate form. Seriously. I was so annoyed, I returned that computer.

Oddly enough, the contractor who picked up the computer said his wife had had the exact same problem with the rebate, with the exact same computer--and had spoken to the local store manager about it. And the store manager was just as unhelpful as my online and telephone support.


Dell? Highly recommended.

I configured a computer online at dell.com, under the Small Business section (the Vostro line). I then called Dell with some questions--and I called the Home Computer telephone number by accident. Well, apparently the Home division competes with the Business division--which I think helped me get more for my money!

My Dell sales rep configured an Inspiron 530 computer for me that cost the same but exceeded the specs for the Vostro I had selected originally. And my sales rep threw in:

  • 3 years of on-site support,
  • 22" LCD monitor (WOW!),
  • speakers and
  • free shipping

--all for $1,120--less than the price of the Office Depot computer!!! And no rebate to hassle with!

You can read over 300 customer reviews of the Inspiron 530. I read through the reviews before purchasing to see if there were any comments about the noise level. Sure enough, several people commented on how quiet it was--and it is indeed whisper quiet!

So that's the long story of my recent computer purchase. I like my new computer and perhaps it will help me get more work done in less time!

Here is the specific computer configuration I bought.

Buying a computer can be a lot of work. And once you buy your computer, you will most likely see a better one adverstised for less the very next day.

April 2008 | Issue #013

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