Bargain bytes galore
This month, why not invest in computers? By Steve Homer
Saturday 11 January 1997
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.
23 January 2015 08:00 PM
I had dinner with the pensions minister Steve Webb this week. There was a wide-ranging discussion about the new pensions freedoms starting in April, and changes to the state pension. Crucially, I also got to ask Mr Webb whether he had any plans to have another look at the injustice that is frozen pensions.
23 January 2015 08:00 PM
23 January 2015 08:00 PM
While the health of the economy is not insignificant, Mark Dampier finds it incredibly unpredictable in terms of its impact on the stock market
21 January 2015 12:32 PM
A new free app is aimed at the three-fifths of Brits who have never switched supplier
20 January 2015 09:34 AM
Regulator’s investigation into the market found that around £160bn was held in easy access savings accounts that pay interest lower or equal to BoE base rate
17 January 2015 12:00 AM
Simon Read: Information is power. And it's in the wrong hands when people are cold-called by companies that know they're in debt
17 January 2015 12:00 AM
In debt? You're likely to be targeted by unscrupulous companies that hope to profit from your misfortune. They may try to pretend to be your friend by offering what they call "help" – but almost certainly that help will come with a cost and leave you worse off than you were before they got in touch.
17 January 2015 12:00 AM
In less than three months' time radical changes to pensions will take effect, providing investors with more freedom. Yet for those who prefer to make their own investment decisions, the choice of funds available is overwhelming. And an income drawdown account is also not particularly easy to manage.
15 January 2015 12:23 PM
The minimum amount for which you can be forced into bankruptcy is being raised from £750 to £5,000
14 January 2015 08:55 AM
A shock report reveals that fuel poverty is affecting desperate families – and their children
14 January 2015 08:59 AM
Most people are too confused to know how to use their pensions for a secure income
10 January 2015 12:00 AM
Simon Read: Inflation is riding the slow train. So why have we been given a one-way ticket to travel on the fares express?
10 January 2015 12:00 AM
I struck a chord with many of you when I wrote a piece earlier this week about rising train fares. It seems there is an army of travellers who feel they've been ripped off by increased transport costs.
- 2 Mystery man who gave mum heart-warming note on train 'wanted to put a smile on her face'
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent answer to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
iJobs Money & Business
£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Technical Report Writer is re...
Competitive salary & benefits!: MBDA UK Ltd: MBDA UK LTD Indirect Procurement...
£16500 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Finance compa...
Day In a Page
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village