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Time to buy that first PC!

With competition hotting up, and component prices falling, Home PCs are becoming more affordable. Now might be a good time to go in for one.


IN CASE you haven't noticed, personal computer prices are falling. The well-known Indian brands of home PCs are competing aggressively with the multinational (MNC) models that have come up with attractive offers for the Indian market. To add to the competition, companies such as Samsung and LG, who were hitherto selling elements of the PC like monitors, drives, and keyboards are now offering fully built-up systems.

Indian brands such as HCL, Zenith, and Wipro continue to offer their tried and tested models with updated specifications. Their combined pitch is: "We give you multinational quality and specs at very `desi' prices."

The MNCs aren't just sitting around either. In recent weeks, Hewlett Packard re-launched its range of Pavilion PCs, while simultaneously releasing some models in the marginally lower Compaq Presario range, for those whose budgets are in the range of Rs. 30-40,000.

The Taiwan-based Acer this month launched its most affordable home PC, the Aspire T300, priced at just below Rs. 30,000. LG has a model in its MyPC range priced at Rs. 32,700, while Samsung's BuildurPC starts at Rs. 39,000.

The majority of these home PCs are multimedia machines — they come with good 15-inch colour monitors, a CD or DVD drive, and a pair of speakers, which turn your PC into an entertainment station — you can hear music, watch movies, and even create your own songs. By and large, these are machines that come pre-installed with the Windows XP (home) operating system. But, for the more adventurous (and those who want to save a couple of thousand bucks), quite a few of these manufacturers will be happy to provide the machine with a version of Linux instead of Microsoft's Windows.

For those thinking of buying their first PC, the following is a rough guide to the bare minimum specs you should look for:

— Chip: Go for a Pentium 4 clocking at least 1.8-1.9 gigahertz.

— Memory: 128 MB of Random Access Memory (RAM) is the bare minimum you need these days. If you can afford to pay another Rs.1000, ask for 256 MB.

— Hard disk: 40 GB is okay for starters, but double that will cost you just Rs. 1,500 more.

— CD Drive: these budget home PCs will not give you a DVD drive, but try and go in for a CD drive with Read/Write (RW) capability. It's great for burning your own CDs.

— Monitor: A 15-inch colour monitor is good enough. Flat screen (LCD) monitors are available, but these will add almost Rs. 10,000 to the price of the PC.

— Internet: All home PCs come with a modem to access the Internet. These days that's always thrown in with the basic package.

Colour inkjet printers are so cheap (around Rs. 3,500) that it makes sense to buy one along with the PC.

Somewhere out there, there is the right PC to match your purse and your need. Go and get it.

A. VISHNU

vishnua@hotmail.com

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