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[ The PC Guide | The PC Buyer's Guide | Designing and Specifying PC Systems and Components | PC Types ]

New Retail PCs

Description: These are the pre-built, pre-packaged PC systems sold primarily through retail channels. They commonly include a PC box with a set of standard accessories such as a keyboard and mouse; the exact equipment varies from one manufacturer to another and even one model to another. Almost always, these PCs are made by a big-name manufacturer and sold by a vendor different from the maker of the system. Common manufacturers include Compaq, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Sony.

Advantages: The main advantage of this type of PC is simplicity and speed of purchase: you can walk into a retail store and walk out with a fully configured machine 20 minutes later. They are generally of acceptable quality, and since they are sold as specific models with model numbers you know what you are getting. They usually come with the operating system and a reasonable amount of software already installed, and may also be supplied with special utilities or other software specific to the unit. Some include a year or more of Internet access. Support is usually 24/7 by telephone or Internet.

Disadvantages: Many. They are usually rather expensive for what is included in the box, and you may have to buy other peripherals you will need, especially a monitor. These systems usually use proprietary components and can be difficult to upgrade or expand. You typically have no local service or support. Performance can be poor on lower-end systems that sometimes skimp on the less flashy components. You have little ability to customize the systems to your needs. Software included often does not come with source disks, making disaster recovery very difficult.

Notebook Availability: High. Manufacturers who make retail desktop PCs also usually make retail notebooks.

Most Common Sources: Department stores, membership warehouse stores, office stores, electronics stores and computer superstores. Large online and mail order stores, group buying clubs, and sometimes online auctions.

Recommended Uses: Family PC, student PC, small business / home office system.

Cost: Usually around $1,000 to $2,500.

Special Considerations: Be sure to find out exactly what is included with the package; very often the monitor is a (substantial) additional charge. Watch out for flyers from retail stores that feature a picture of the PC next to a nice monitor and a tiny footnote saying "monitor not included". The specific choice of source can be very important with this type of machine--since you are buying a specific model number, you should be able to comparison shop specific vendors. Be sure to research the specific model you are considering before you buy, to eliminate those that current owners have a lot of problems with. Watch out for older units that are close to being replaced with newer models. Watch for "refurbished" or "remanufactured" in small print.

Next: New Configure-To-Order PCs

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