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Buy a PC for Christmas and Yule be sorry

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Even though the prices of PCs have consistently dropped over the last four years, the question of whether to buy a machine is still a serious one for most families. And around this time of year, as the tinsel starts to appear, draped over otherwise unappetising looking boxes, the pressure to buy increases. The question that we at The Register are often asked by our readers is "should I buy a PC now" and, as usual, there's no clear answer to the conundrum. In this country, at least, there's a big push towards using PC technology in school. We even found our 12 year old boy putting together a spreadsheet a week or two back and because we're from Aberdeen, Scotland, can assure you it's nothing to do with the amount of pocket money he gets. But the introduction of faster technology in the shape of "Coppermine" Intel processors and Athlon "Pentium III Killers" is not irrelevant to the choice consumers make. After all, the Internet may be OK, and spreadsheets might be alright, but let's face it, people want to play games on PCs too, don't they? As we've pointed out many a time before, if you buy a machine with a Pentium III inside it, you can't be sure whether it is a Coppermine or older technology. Intel currently has a long list of Pentium IIIs on its price list and it is our understanding that there will be an attempt to rationalise this in early December. You have to be sure that the graphics subsystem is expandable or good enough for your needs too. Specify a machine with the biggest hard drive your budget can afford. Software expands to fill the space it needs now or in the future. Should you buy a machine using the AMD Athlon architecture? The company has shown steady progress at being able to deliver faster and faster microprocessors during this year, and it will carry on doing so well into next. But don't forget that there's an increasingly bitter price war in progress between Intel and AMD, and that is bound to lead to more and more frequent price cuts in the New Year. If you're constrained by your budget, do consider buying a machine with the Intel Celeron processor inside. This chip, given its performance, is a bargain, and will continue to be so for some time. But if you want the highest spec machine you can find, why not wait until the tinsel has left the trees, just after Christmas, and wait for the technological fall out generated during the last six months to give you a very fast machine at a very good price. In January 2000. Every roadmap we've seen suggests that is the best time to buy, despite the flim-flam we're all currently being exposed to. ®

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