Buy new PCs at the end of the month

PC Pro once conducted a blind-buy exercise, where we called up the sales lines of major PC manufacturers. We feigned interest in a £1,000 Dell laptop and parted with our mobile number during the call. We didn’t buy the laptop but, over the next few days, were badgered by calls from the salesman, offering us greater and greater discounts on the laptop simply because it was month-end and he had sales targets to meet. In the end, he dropped the price to £850 – a £150 saving on the same PC online – and we’ve heard of other similar cases. The moral? Always attempt to negotiate a discount before buying online. Especially if it’s month-end.

£150 off a £1,000 laptop, by holding out for a better deal.

Overclock a mid-range processor for top-end performance

The bleeding-edge performance on offer from the latest quad-core or Extreme Edition processors can also be obtained by buying a cheaper part that can be overclocked. Intel’s latest Pentium Dual-Core processors, for instance, are based on the same architecture as the Core 2 Duo parts, they’re just branded differently. The 1.8GHz E2160 costs only £40, yet it can reach speeds approaching 3GHz with some fiddling in the BIOS.

If you’re not comfortable with that degree of overclocking, then a low-end Core 2 Duo part is just as happy to be overclocked. AMD’s Athlon parts are worth considering, too: the Athlon X2 5000+ costs £52, and can punch far above its stated weight.

£103, if you buy an E2160 for £40 and match the 3GHz performance of a £143 Core 2 Duo E6850.

Upgrade an existing PC rather than buying new

The processor is one of the most crucial parts of the PC, but new, top-end components are still cheap compared with a new system. Most AMD Athlon X2 and Intel Core 2 Duo parts are more than capable of any task you care to throw at your computer, and cost less than £100. Just make sure your motherboard is compatible with the new processor.

Graphics cards can be crucial for adding performance, especially if you’re a keen gamer or video enthusiast. Luckily, plenty of mid-range cards have recently been released that raise the performance bar without breaking the bank. ATI’s new Radeon HD 4850 costs around £120, and will play every modern game. If you’re willing to compromise on quality, then an older GeForce 8600 GT still offers plenty of grunt.

Other areas of your PC can also be upgraded for cheap performance boosts. A couple of gigabytes of RAM costs less than £30 for an instant speed hike. Laptops aren’t bereft of upgrade potential, either: if you’ve got a spare SODIMM slot, you can buy a 1GB stick of memory for around £15.

£400, by purchasing a new processor for £100 rather than a £500 new PC.

Buy multifunction devices

There’s little point in shelling out for a separate printer, scanner and copier if you can buy a single machine to do the job just as well. Each component can cost upwards of £50, so when the Canon Pixma MP610 is available for a fraction of the combined price (at £89), it makes sense to save money and energy.

It’s a quality machine, too, taking the crown in this issue’s All-in-one Labs megatest. Sharp, clear printing, detailed scanning and efficient copying make this the only machine you’d need.

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