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.

News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
News
scienceScientists try to explain the moon's funny shape
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
As Loki in The Avengers (2012)
filmRead Tom Hiddleston's email to Joss Whedon on prospect of playing Loki
Voices
voices In defence of the charcoal-furred feline, by Felicity Morse
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Sell it with flowers: competition is 'intense' for homes with outside spaces

Gardens add a tenth to the value of your home

A London estate agent yesterday put a price on having a garden. David Pollock of Greene & Co reckons it can increase a property's value by a tenth.

Spectators at the Isle of Wight music festival watch the World Cup on the big screen. Betting promotions were a feature of the tournament
Lenders have been accused of persuading vulnerable people to borrow expensive credit

Payday loan firms accused of bombarding vulnerable people with nuisance phone calls

Payday loan firms have been accused of bombarding financially vulnerable people with nuisance phone calls, after a debt charity reported that a third of its clients were plagued by the messages.

The foundation proposed that the Government sets up a scheme to help people avoid losing their homes

Mortgages: 'Homeowners could trade down to shared ownership to defuse rate rise timebomb'

A plan to defuse a “mortgage debt timebomb” when interest rates rise is published today amid warnings that 2.3m households could struggle with their repayments.

Current accounts are too costly and confusing, says CMA as it announces investigation into Britain's biggest banks

Competition regulator to investigate market where it's hard for customers to make comparisons and the big banks' charges can be set too high
All the signs have been pointing up for buy-to-let, but there are clouds on the horizon

Buy-to-let: is it a boom or a bubble fit to burst?

People borrowing to be landlords could face the same restrictions as homebuyers, with MPs voicing fears that property speculation may be overheating the market

Moment of truth for payday lenders: Watchdog plans to curb cost of short-term loans

The chief of the City watchdog, Martin Wheatley, spoke exclusively to The Independent's Simon Read about its attempts to control the worst excesses of unscrupulous high-cost credit companies

Consumers given power to choose a green deal

How would you like to be able to choose how your electricity is made and even where it come from? It may sound futuristic and fanciful but the independent supplier Co-operative Energy has made it a reality this week.

'Scrap the trap': calls for change grow as banks are told to play fair with loyal savers

City regulator says existing customers suffer worst rates

Motor insurers divided on proposals for whiplash ban

MPs want medical evidence for claims. Will this bring higher premiums?

British Gas repays £1m for mis-sold deals

British Gas was yesterday forced to pay back £1m to its customers after mis-selling them energy deals.

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

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    1st Line Support Technician / Application Support

    £20000 - £24000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider of web based m...

    Team Secretary - (Client Development/Sales Team) - Wimbledon

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Secretary (Sales Team Support) - Mat...

    Accountant / Assistant Management Accountant

    Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an Assistant Management Ac...

    Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

    £600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star