Bargain bytes galore

This month, why not invest in computers? By Steve Homer

If Santa didn't bring you a computer for Christmas, now could be the ideal time to buy. Something like 30 per cent of all home computers are sold in the Christmas period. But after Boxing Day, prices start to tumble.

So what should you buy? The big choice is between a Macintosh, a Windows type computer or a games machine. Apple Macintoshes still have it over the Windows PC in terms of ease of use, so for the absolute novice they represent a good start. Though there is significantly less software available for the Apple Macintosh, packages operate more comfortably together, so, in theory, you should be more productive with the software you have.

The Windows PC can often feel a bit kludgy. Even with a powerful Pentium machine, a piece of modern software may take a while to "load", and 10 seconds can seem an eternity.

However, the range of software for the PC is stunning. Educational packages such as Microsoft's Encarta encyclopedia; Maris's Red Shift II which helps you explore the galaxy; Notting Hill's wonderful Art of Singing: there are thousands of titles to choose from. As for games, there is everything from a package to help three-year-olds count, to a game that allows 17- year-olds to eviscerate monsters. Don't assume games are only for kids. There are plenty of engrossing titles that adults will enjoy.

One thing that should make buying a PC even more attractive now is that a new technology is just coming in. MMX is a new type of add-on to existing computer chips that allows multimedia applications, such as video, to play better. But there are few games and other applications that will really take advantage of this new technology. If you mainly want to use a PC for word processing, spreadsheets and the like, the MMX will be of no use. Even for games, MMX is not likely to be worth bothering with until games specifically written for it appear.

If you really enjoy getting your aggression out on imaginary characters on the screen, than perhaps you should consider a games machine. This Christmas the Sony Playstation and the Sega Saturn continued their war to the death. According to Computer Trade Weekly, Sony outsold Sega by at least six to one this Christmas. However, they are both excellent games machines, now on sale for around pounds 200, compared with pounds 800-pounds 1,200 for a good multimedia PC.

Not all the Playstation and Saturn games involve you killing things. Race games look good, too. Of course, what is missing are worthy titles. There really are no encyclopedias, language courses or design packages for the Saturn or the PlayStation. These are machines built for one thing: fun!

If you know someone who already has a computer there is one cost-effective late Christmas present they will love you for. For about pounds 50 you can buy them some extra memory.

When you select a program on a computer screen, the program and associated data are loaded into memory. This so-called random access memory, or RAM, was very expensive. Most PCs sold today have 8-16Mb of memory. Last year very few machines were sold with 16 Mb, as it was just too expensive.Particularly with Windows 95, more memory equals faster performance. The good news is that memory is quite easy to install and prices have never been lower. To buy an additional 8Mb of memory last year would have set you back more than pounds 200. This year you can probably pay less than pounds 60. All you have to do is note down the make and model of the machine and check with the manufacturer to see what type of memory you need. Armed with the model number and type of memory, ring round a few suppliers. Installing memory shouldn't take more than 10 minutes. If you are buying a new computer, don't be a skinflint. Make sure you have at least 16Mb in your machine. Most stores will install it for you if you buy it while you are buying your computer.

There are still companies selling computers with only 8Mb of memory. Avoid them like the plague. Ideally, go for 24Mb or more. Finally, if you are buying, make sure of after-sales support. Most computers will function well for several years, but if they break down it can be a major headache. Check to see whether the engineer will be coming out to you, or you will have to take the machine to some repair centre. Check how long the warranty lasts. And if you have a problem, is there a number you can ring? If so, how long after buying the computer can you use it, and will it be a premium rate call? You do not want to pay up to 65p a minute dealing with a problem that might be the manufacturer's fault. And if you plan to use your computer at home, check that technical support is available in the evenings and double-check on cover at weekends.

Also, telephone support for most software that is pre-installed on your machine may last 90 days or less. You may need to purchase extra support.

But don't let all this careful thinking put you off. For less than pounds 1,000, if you shop around, you can buy the most amazing tool that the human race has ever had to play with. Accessing information around the world on the Internet, receiving and sending faxes and electronic mail, opening up windows of excitement on CD-Rom on everything from Beethoven to basketball, listening to music, perhaps even watching movies and television, controlling your home finances and writing that great novel: all this and more can be done on the average multimedia PC.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Yorkshire Building Society is a leading player in offsets

Offset mortgages: How to save thousands of pounds and reduce the term of your home loan

Offset mortgages make even more sense when savings rates are at rock bottom

A physiotherapist helps a patient – a service one ex-employee was denied after paying for it

Questions of Cash: I've been chased for a phantom debt. What can I do to stop it haunting my credit status?

An Independent reader received a letter stating that a debt with O2 had been sold to a firm called Lowell Financial for collection

My Travel Cash card charges a punitive 'inactivity' fee of €2.50 a month

Simon Read stored the card away for 24 months, which cost him €60

Renting from a rogue landlord? It’s time to know your rights

Some 125,000 tenants have been victims of abusive landlords in the past year

This year's models: buyers have plenty of options as they try to get the money together to drive away from the dealer in a new car

Car finance options: Best way to buy a 65 plate

Sales could find another gear as the '65' registration hits the forecourts next week. Rob Griffin looks at the finance options
In too deep? Travel cover is among the benefits offered by packaged bank accounts

Claims firms blamed as complaints soar over packaged bank accounts

Many customers complained they were switched to the accounts without their knowledge

Finger on the interest rate trigger: the Bank of England

The best deals on personal loans: Peer-to-peer providers are more competitive for smaller sums

Meanwhile, high-street lenders continue to cherry-pick and be more competitive on larger loans

China stock collapse: Five things you need to know about 'Black Monday'

The market plummeted this week, losing all the gains made for the year

Which? warns sports fans about Rugby World Cup ticket scams

GetSporting.com offers deals that may be too good to be true

Could it be the time to focus on Japan? Some believe the country has no choice but to boost consumption and the economy will get back on track

Investors told to travel the world in the search for higher returns

Assets have risen in value across the board and volatility isn't going away. Rob Griffin asks where we should put our cash
As rising house prices push up demand for renting, so tenants are having to dig deeper than ever

Starter home initiative is urgently needed as rents go through the roof

Rents in England and Wales rose by 1.9 per cent in July to an average of £804

Peer-to-peer lending rates put Nisas to shame

The returns from P2P providers look more attractive than ever

Questions of Cash: Log-in problems turned eDreams booking into one-way ticket to nowhere

The company failed to provide our reader's flight ticket - or a refund

Hot property: business has been booming in estate agents this month, even though it’s the height of the summer holiday season

Heat rises for mortgage deals as UK homeowners sense a rate hike coming

The housing market should go quiet in August but instead people have been acting like cheap loans won't last. Do we really have to rush, asks Simon Read
Phones have now overtaken personal computers as the most used way of accessing the internet

Who you gonna call? The Complaints Busters

Unhappy customers have been given their own Ombudsman to help fight for them.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Foreign Exchange Dealer - OTE £40,000+

    £16000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Foreign Exchange Dealer is re...

    SThree: Experienced Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...

    Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

    £14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

    Day In a Page

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea