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I work for a small, (very small) company. I'm known as the IT-guy there. Over the last two years, we've bought six computers from them. Most of them have been trouble free purchases. As youcan imagine, after buying six computers, I've gotten to know Gateway's procedures pretty well.
One of the computers I bought from them came with the video card badly inserted - it meant that the monitor wouldn't work. I called Gateway's tech support, (which was closed - understandable at 11pm on a Sunday night). I had the option of being put through to their automated service, which I went through. I was first asked a series of yes/no questions about my computer - does your screen display a certain message (ans: yes/no). Then I was guided through the process for finding out what was wrong. The 'voice' told me to open the case of my computer and to check a particular card in a particular slot. Since it would take me some minutes to open my PC, I was given the option to call back later with a reference number. When I was ready to call back, I simply keyed in my reference number and the 'voice' carried on from where it left off. In short, I had solved my problem at 11pm on a Sunday night when normally I would have had to have waited until Monday morning. However, don't forget that I was solving a problem Gateway should have sorted out at their manufacturing plant.
When I bought the latest computer, the sales advisor was trying to get me to buy things for my computer that I didn't really need. For example, a more powerful video card than I really needed etc etc, and if I was a novice at buying computers, I would have been sucked in. My advice: do your research before you buy a computer - don't believe everything the sales guy (or gal) tells you.
Their web site is also very useful for ordering computers. I have now bought three computers from their web site without ever having to speak to anyone. Actually, I lie - I did speak to someone from Gateway once, but that was them calling me to tell me that the system would be delivered tomorrow. How curteous. Ordering from the website meansyou can take things at your own pace - spend hours if you want taking a look at all the computers and their options and working out how much each option costs without feeling pressured by a sales person. BUT - if you ever do have to talk to someone, Gateway are just a free phone call away.
With all the computers Gateway sell, they give you lifetime technical support over the phone. This is great if you don't have a mate who knows all the ins and outs about computers who can help you out once your standard warrenty runs out.
Gateway are expensive though. I once bought a system for £2000 from them which I knew I could get £100 cheaper from another manufacturer, but I knew how Gateway worked, and I knew that they would sort out any problems I had. I knew that they were efficient (delivering my PC in only 4 days compared with several weeks for some other brands).
I have also experienced very little system crashes with my gateway computers, and they have caused me the least hassels to date. The precious brands of computers we used to operate were very troublesome compared to these.
All in all, if you know what you are buying and what you want, and don't mind spending a little bit extra for peace of mind because you know you'll be buying from one of the best, Gateway's your company.