When to Buy a PC

computer graphic image
Illustration: Harry Campbell
There are four best times of the year to buy a laptop or desktop PC. The first three are the holiday shopping season, the back-to-school period in August and September, and inventory clearance time in late January and February.

The fourth time is variable from year to year and involves product transitions. "When a new technology is introduced, the channel typically tries to flush the older stuff," says technology analyst Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates. "That's not predictable as a time of year, but has to do with when products are launched."

The larger issue is this: How much computing power do you need? "If you're just doing word processing [or Web surfing], for example, you might do very well with an older computer," says Richard Doble, editor of Savvy-Discounts.com, an online shopping guide. If modest performance is unlikely to be a stumbling block, a close-out model may be a good choice

If your computing needs aren't too demanding--consisting primarily of word processing and Web surfing, for example--closeout models may be a good choice. Vendor outlet sites, such as Dell Outlet and HP Business Outlet are good online destinations for finding closeout, overstocked, and refurbished laptops and desktops. At press time, for instance, Dell Outlet was selling a refurbished Vostro 1700 laptop for $700; an identically equipped new model at the main Dell site cost $1363 (or $900 during a limited-time sale).

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