How to Find the Best Deals on Desktop Computers
Desktops - Old, but Good
The old-fashioned desktop computer isn’t what’s hip and cool these days, but that doesn’t mean they’re not popular or that they don’t serve a purpose. Desktop computers remain the best option for consumers who need a computer but don’t care about being able to take it with them when they leave the house. Your average desktop computer will provide more computing per dollar than a laptop and will also be equipped with a larger display.
If you’ve decided that you want a desktop, and you have a general idea of what kind of desktop you want, it’s time to start looking for the best deals. There are a lot of stores, both online and off, that sell desktop computers. Obviously, not every store can offer the best deals on desktop computers - so where should you shop?
Ah, the old fashioned retail store experience. You walk in, browse, and find a product that you like. A nice young man or woman comes up and explains the pros and cons in a fair, even manner. Then, without any further hassle, you walk out of the door with your purchase knowing that, should you have any issue, the store will happily make things right with you.
Oh, if this were only true! In fact, retail stores are probably the worst place to buy a desktop computer. I do not believe this is true in the case of laptops, but that is only because laptops have a lot of components that are subjective, like the feel of the keyboard, that can’t be replaced. Desktops don’t have this issue - a keyboard, if the desktop comes with one, is easily replaced if you don’t like it - so the benefit of being able to see a desktop in-the-flesh is reduced.
Still, retail stores would be more compelling if they did not often use practices that make the shopping experience purposely annoying. Buying a desktop computer from any major retail store, like Best Buy or Fry’s, will inevitably force you to run a gauntlet of sales pitches for everything from upgraded monitors to extended warranties. The experience of buying a desktop from Best Buy is just barely better than the experience of buying a new car.
Yes, there will be rare occasions where a retail store does offer the best deal on a desktop computer. But if you do decide to shop at an old-fashioned retail store, remember to keep your cool. Don’t succumb to the endless sales pitches the reps will throw your way.
Most of the major desktop manufacturers, including Dell, HP and Sony, have their own online stores dedicated to their products. Normally, buying directly from a manufacturer is considered to be one of the most expensive ways of purchasing a product. With desktops, however, the manufacturer stores provide a decent experience.
Customization is part of the reason these online stores are so appealing. When you order a desktop direct from a manufacturer you have the chance to customize the components inside the computer. You can do this with laptops as well, but your choices there are much more limited. Desktops usually have the space to let you go hog-wild.
The value offered from manufacturer stores can be reasonable as well. I’ve recently noticed special offers and discounted prices on the Dell and HP sites that were not available through other avenues. Sometimes these offers are simple discounts, but often times they’ll involve free component upgrades, which is something a big-box retailer like Best Buy can’t do.
On the downside, shipping costs can be killer. Although free shipping is sometimes available, it isn’t always an option. Paying $50+ for shipping can easily offset the savings you’ve obtained by going direct.
Online Retail Stores
Online retail stores remain one of the best places to purchase a desktop computer. The prices that are offered by stores like Newegg and Amazon are usually the rock-bottom. There may, in rare cases, be an instance where a manufacturer or retail store can beat the online stores on price, but in general the online stores offer the lowest prices. Yet despite these rock-bottom prices, selection doesn’t suffer. If you walk into a retail store you may find that there are thirty models on display, but an online retailer usually has hundreds of options to chose from. Online retailers often beat the manufacturer stores, too, as they sometimes have stock of discontinued items that need to be cleared out.
Better yet, online retail stores are very likely to offer free shipping. Amazon, for example, offers free shipping on almost any order that is above $25 in value. The free shipping option may not be very fast, but it can help save you even more dough.
On the downside, online retail stores aren’t always the best when it comes to clearly displaying information about the products they sell. Amazon is particularly bad about this. Sometimes the listings for products will offer the processor and RAM, but forget the hard drive. Or sometimes the listing won’t mention the number and types of ports available, or the operating system included, and so on.
Another downside is the lack of customization. What you see is what you get. That’s fine for some users, but you may sometimes find that manufacturer stores are less expensive because they’ll sell you what you want as a specific upgrade, while the model found on an online retails store bundles up several other upgrades you don’t want.
So, where will most people find the best deals on desktop computers?
Surprisingly, the best general answer is the manufacturer stores. Although not always as inexpensive as retailers, they’re often competitive, and some of the special offers made available direct from the manufacturers are unique. Manufacturer stores also let you trick out your desktop so that you receive exactly what you want.
Online retailers are also a good choice, however, particularly for consumers that aren’t interested in customization.
Retail stores come in at a distant third. Retail stores have reasonable prices, but the barrage of extra offers that retail store sales reps hit you with isn’t worth dealing with. In the best case scenario these offers will simply annoying you - in the worst case scenario you’ll succumb to one of them and end up walking out the door with a $300 extended warranty of a $50 gold-plated USB cable.