Shopping for a Computer
by Gilda Spitz
Note: This article was first published in 2007. Some material in this article may be out of date.
Congratulations – you’re buying a computer!
It’s an exciting decision, but also a difficult one. What type do you need? Where should you go? How much will it cost? To find some answers to these questions, read on.
PC or Macintosh?
For the average computer user, you will probably choose one of two types – a PC, manufactured by many companies, or a Macintosh, manufactured by Apple.
No matter which you choose, you can perform all basic activities – surf the internet, receive email, create documents, listen to music, and so on. Pricing is relatively similar, so your choice depends on personal preference.
PC: This is the type that comes from most computer manufacturers, such as Dell, and comes with Microsoft Windows. Most software is designed to work on a PC, and most electronics stores and websites sell PCs.
Macintosh: The Macintosh, created by Apple, is less popular, but has several advantages. Most users believe it is easier to use and has or suffers from fewer problems. It may be inconvenient because some software is not designed for the Mac, but it is now possible to run PC software on some Macintosh computers.
According to www.systemshootouts.org/mac_sales.html, Macs represent less than 5 percent of all recent computer sales but their numbers are growing.
Laptop or Desktop?
This choice, too, is a matter of personal preference.
Laptop: The most important advantage of a laptop computer (also called a “notebook”) is that it is portable. If you need to carry your computer back and forth to work or school, you may need a laptop. On the other hand, if you need to transfer files between two computers, you can do so more inexpensively with a flash drive, rather that a whole computer.
Desktop: A desktop computer is larger and not really portable. If you buy a desktop computer, you also need a monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse.
A laptop is usually more expensive than a desktop computer, although the price difference can vary widely.
You can buy a new computer in person from a store, or online from a website. An advantage of buying from a store is that you can see the computers on display, and you can discuss your questions with a knowledgeable salesperson.
You can usually find good deals at stores that sell electronic equipment, such as Future Shop and MDG. In addition to their regular prices, which are usually quite reasonable, they also offer specials. Check their websites, ads, and stores to learn what’s on sale on any particular day.
Future Shop “has a culturally diverse sales staff who can often speak your language,” says General Manager Sanjeev Katoch, who is originally from India. “You can find well-trained staff who take the time to ask questions to find the right computer for your needs,” he adds. If you can’t pay for the entire purchase at once, you can arrange financing for various lengths of time. You can also defer payment for 90 days, with no interest, if you use a Future Shop card to make your purchase.
You can find large ads from MDG Computers in your local newspapers. According to Conrad Galambos, Senior Marketing Manager, MDG’s prices are competitive because they have “special relationships with suppliers such as Microsoft and Intel.” When you call MDG Direct’s culturally diverse call centre, you can “speak to a representative for a half hour or longer, to discuss your needs in terms of both the computer and financing,” says Galambos. You can also finance your purchase for varying lengths of time.
Best Buy is another store that sells computers at reduced prices. They even have a clearance outlet in which they offer special prices for certain products.
For more information, check your local newspaper for ads, or go to:
• 1-800-663-2275 or www.futureshop.ca
•1-800-665-8505 or www.mdg.ca; computer financing: 1-800-462-8201;
• MDG Direct: 1-800-462-8201 or www.mdgdirect.ca
• 1-866-BEST BUY or www.bestbuy.ca
If you know exactly what you want, you can buy your computer directly from the website of a store, as listed above, or directly from the manufacturer.
For more information, go to websites such as:
Used and Refurbished Computers
You can also find good deals on used or refurbished computers. A refurbished computer is a used computer that has been checked and fixed by a qualified technician.
You can save a lot of money if you buy a used computer, but be careful – it’s possible that it may not work properly. If you don’t have the technical skills to evaluate the performance of a computer on your own, be sure you trust the vendor. It’s also a good idea to consult a knowledgeable friend, if possible.
Stores and websites
You can get good deals at Future Shop if you purchase an “open box” computer says Katoch. Because Future Shop offers its customers a no-hassle return policy, they sell returned “open-box” computers at a discount. “The open box computer is tested by certified technicians, and carries the same warranty as a brand new one,” he explains.
Factory Direct is a company that sells both new and used computers. Their new computers are priced very inexpensively and they also sell refurbished computers at a price well below the original price. For more information, go to their website and click the Hot Deals tab.
If you’re interested in a Macintosh computer, Apple sells refurbished Macs as well as new ones. According to their website, they test and certify all products and provide a one year guarantee. For more information, go to their website and type “refurbished” in the Search field.
For more information, go to:
- 1-800-663-2275 or www.futureshop.ca
- 416-847-1660 (Toronto store) or www.factorydirect.ca
- 1-800-MY APPLE or www.apple.com/ca
If your employer, or some other company you know, is replacing older computers with new ones, you can often purchase an older one for a great price. Ask people you know and watch for these types of opportunities.