Advantages Reasonable product descriptions and pricing
Disadvantages Tedious navigation, Limited range of stock
Pccrazy drove me crazy with its S...L...O...W navigation. With sites as bad as this, there isn't so much point in paying for broadband access. On the plus side, the product descriptions were helpfull and the prices not too bad - except for the delivery charges.
I decided to try using this site as if I was putting together a general-purpose home PC based around a mid-price Athlon on a good quality mainboard with plenty of memory (512 Mb) and two decent (60 to 80 Gb) hard drives. A DVD reader, CD rewriter, floppy drive and CF card reader would complete the spec. I managed to find most of the parts in reasonable time (1 to 2 minutes each), but believe that I might save up to 5% off the prices by 'shopping around' other sites - which would of course take longer.
Unfortunately, this hypothetical purchase could not be completed as there didn't seem to be a reasonable alternative for the following components:
Motherboard: I wanted something from a well known high-quality maker, with reliability as well as performance, as I believe the success of the system focuses around this component more than any other. I was happy to consider Gigabyte, Asus or A-Bit. Unfortunately I was only offered A-Open who are well known in the extreme budget end of the market.
Card reader: I wanted an internal card reader for transferring photo images from a digital camera to the PC, and MP3 music files to an MP3 player. No such luck. It seemed that I'd have to go to another supplier for this.
Graphics Card: I have a strong preference for Matrox products. Two reasons: image quality and dualhead (running two monitors). I was looking for either a G450 / G550 or, if funds would allow, the new 'Parhelia' (triple head and very fast). Unfortunately only a G550 was offered, and at the price I would expect to get a Parhelia for. This was well in excess of the price if buying from the manufacturer's web site - and they provided a link to it !
Most of the other parts were avaiable at a price I wouldn't mind paying - I noted that the quoted price has the VAT included. I was particularly pleased to be offered a Plextor CD rewriter, as I know their products to be good quality. The same goes for the Creative Soundblaster Audigy sound card I intended using.
Having (almost) taken care of the hardware I considered the software I needed. Keeping it simple, I decided to look for an operating system and office suite. Other applications could come after the system was 'bedded in'. Without software a PC is only a box of parts: it does nothing without an op system, and an office suite allows you to do something useful with it.
Given that there seemed to be little point in saving some money building your own machine only to blow a fortune on the software. I had decided that the best combination of reliability and compatibility would be provided by one of the latest distributions of Linux, either Mandrake 9 or Red Hat 8, and Sun's Star Office 6.
Oh dear ! Microsoft, Microsoft and more Microsoft, with a little Norton thrown in to smooth out the wrinkles. The cost of buying Windows, Office and Norton would come to almost as much as the hadrware. In all fairness, the cost of 'going Microsoft' was not down to Pccrazy but I believe the lack of alternatives was. Given that some of the larger office supplies retailers stock both Linux and Star Office, I would have expected a specialist computer supplier to do so.
So, in conclusion: A mediocre to average on-line shopping experience for hardware, but rather poor in regard to software. Once you get past Pccrazy's 'Intro' then the site is okay if you are just looking to buy a few bits, but not so good if you know what you want in a full system.
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