How to save money on computers and hardware
It’s easy to spend a lot of cash buying and running your PC, but there are ways to keep your cash in your wallet.
We share eight ways to save money on PCs, printers, and all the other hardware you need.
AVOID MANUFACTURER UPGRADES
Paying for upgrades at the point of purchase is often a false economy. Dell is the past master at the upsell: you start with a £300 laptop in your basket, and by the time you’ve finished tweaking the specification, you’re checking out a £500 package.
Save even more
Examine some of those upgrade options carefully: to upgrade a Dell Alienware M17x laptop to 8GB of DDR3 SDRAM at the point of purchase costs £330 inc VAT; Crucial sells an equivalent 8GB package for the M17x for only £123 inc VAT.
Apple is equally famous for its preinstall premiums. Want an extra ATI Radeon HD 5770 in your Mac Pro? That will be £199, or £114 if you buy it from Amazon and pop the card in yourself. That’s why it definitely pays to pick up a little PC maintenance know-how.
DON’T FALL FOR THE HYPE
It’s easy to become distracted by the allure of the biggest and best, the latest and the greatest. Don’t forget, though, you can save yourself some serious cash by setting your sights a little lower.
It might be tempting to go top-of-the-range, but these days there are few areas in computing where the mid-range isn’t more than good enough.
If your computer is relatively modern, you may find adding some extra RAM, or a second hard disk, is a more economical upgrade than a whole new PC. And if your PC isn’t too shabby, why not upgrade the parts that really make a difference: your elderly monitor, that dusty pair of speakers alongside.
The best upgrades don’t always have to cost a fortune, and a new TFT monitor or a pristine 2.1 speaker set can rejuvenate your music or movie collection better than an entire PC will.
If performance really is crucial, you could overclock a modestly priced processor or graphics card to match the performance of high-end parts. With many of Intel’s processors delivering big speed increases with minimal hassle, we’d rarely recommend anyone empty their wallet on the fastest CPU. That said, Sandy Bridge is tempting.
USE CHEAP INKS FOR DRAFT DOCS
You’ll get the best print quality and permanence from a genuine ink cartridge, but with their high cost it’s always worth considering the alternative: compatibles.
With many top-end inkjets having five, six or even seven replaceable tanks, a full set can mean a big saving. For example, Canon’s inks for the popular Pixma MP640 cost around £8 each from Amazon, whereas refills from any number of internet sites can be found from as little as £3.
Manufacturers are increasingly rewarding buyers of genuine inks – Canon gives access to its Creative Park Premium website, for example – and if you regularly print photos you’d be mad to invite early fading and reduced quality to save a few pounds. But if you mainly use your printer to run off documents, compatibles can save you a small fortune.
FREECYCLE YOUR WAY TO SAVINGS
You can’t get cheaper than free, and that’s exactly how much it will cost to get the things you want the Freecycle way. Rather than chucking that old PC in the bin, or digging through your local dump, head over to Freecycle to sign up, and then search to find the nearest group in your area.