Bargain hunting for a computer can be hit-or-miss

Bargain hunting for a computer can be hit-or-miss

It's best to aim for a reliable manufacturer with a good warranty and ample technical support

Most of the computers in my office have been running for years'some for more than a decade'and all are quality machines from makers such as IBM Corp., Compaq Computer Corp. and Dell Computer Corp. There's even an old Zeos from the days when that company was doing well.

When I went bargain hunting recently, a Tiger Inc. PC arrived with broken speakers and loose RAM. The floppy-drive interface, not just the drive, failed within weeks, and the hard drive started making noise soon thereafter. Next, the CD-ROM drive failed.

All of these components, except the speakers, carried well-known brand names. There's obviously a range of quality, even within brand name component manufacturers' lines; how else can you explain so many failures on a single PC?

TigerDirect e-mail and telephone support were nonexistent at the time, and the depot warranty, which required that I send the computer back to the company for any repairs, was so costly that in the long run it was cheaper just to relegate the computer to unimportant tasks.

That's just one experience; not all low-end PCs are junk.

I recently purchased low-cost Compaq Presario and IBM 300GL PCs. Each is loaded with a fast Pentium III chip, 128M of RAM and a 20G hard drive for a price of $1,200, and each is fast enough to run computer-aided design and animation software. These computers have so far proved to be reliable.

If my work didn't involve high-end graphics, I could have selected Celeron processors, 64M of RAM, and 10G hard drives in both systems and each would cost less than $900'one-third less than my high-end monitor.

If you know what you need from a PC, you stand a better chance of getting a good one at the price you want.

- John McCormick

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