When the question of recommending computers comes up something that everyone wants to know is what make to buy so they don’t get a duff one and where to buy so they don’t get stiffed on price or service. I used to build my own machines, but you don’t save much, your only real gain is flexibility. So here’s a few suggestions.

For laptops I typically recommend the following brands:

Dell Acer Fujitsu-Siemens Samsung Toshiba HP/Compaq Sony

I’ve heard good things about Lenovo but never had one personally

Essentially I recommend the big brands. We’ve had two Dell laptops, both were great value and solid performers (still going strong with relatives). I’ve been very impressed with my little Fujitsu-Siemens, and when I did blow it up their service and warranty were excellent. We’ve also owned a Samsung for some time and it’s been great too. Personally, I don’t like Sony products (I’ve had too many which have been a pain or had usability issues), but they look great, they’re supposed to be good, but they’re pricey.

For desktop machines, similar story really, stick with big brands generally:

Dell HP/Compaq

Fujitsu-Siemens

I’d tend to suggest avoiding budget machines, they look great value, but they lack longevity and use cheap components. I also don’t like Packard Bell computers, I forget why, but there was a good reason. We’ve had a Dell PC for a long time, it’s been shipped to the US and back, I blew the PSU when no adjusting the voltage back to 240, and it’s been nothing but rock solid.

Where to Buy

So, now I’ve said what to buy, where should you go buy it? For laptops I’d suggest hunting about, online is definitely cheaper, although it changes for each machine.

Dell
Obviously the Dell machines can only be bought via Dell, but don’t forget to check out their outlet section for cheap machines.

PC World
PC World offer a cheap place to walk in and walk out with a PC and they’re fine, unless you have to take something back, their customer service is practically non-existent.

Ebuyer
Ebuyer are an online retailer that sells all sorts of electronic goods, and have consistently been the cheapest for me. Their weird rules about registering multiple people at the same address and where you can items delivered to is the only annoying thing.

Dabs
Dabs are another online selling all sorts of electronic goods, they used to be my preferred choice, but lost out to Ebuyer who are generally cheaper. Like many online stores, Dabs returns and support helplines are a nightmare to use (not sure if they’ve improved), so great until you have a problem.

Novatech
Novatech build and sell their own systems. I’ve not used them personally but they’ve come highly recommended to me a number of times.

Staples
One of those places you don’t think about for PCs, but generally do good prices.

John Lewis
Not the cheapest on the block by any means, but they do generally offer 2-3 year warranties as standard, well over the normal 12 months you get with the manufacturer, so it might be worth the extra dough (although I generally find if your PC doesn’t go wrong in the first year it’s good a long time).

So, there you go, my advice for what and where to buy, it’s not a guarantee, but it should stand you in good stead and you should stray too far.