I'm building a new Sandy Bridge system. I have spent quite a few days browsing through some of the major UK retailers. I thought you might want to know what my experience has been so far.
By the way, do share your own experiences and advice!
*Overclockers: a bit overpriced for some items, the item description is usually very detailed and useful. Be careful with the pre-built systems, some components may not be fully compatible! Otherwise fine, they have good warranty terms and support looks good. Only bought a few components from them. They probably have the widest range of enthusiast+ components, and decent offers from time to time.
*Aria: quite cheap, but they are missing some products (compared to overclockers or ebuyer). Product descriptions are not as detailed. I only had a quick browse.
*Scan: I only had a quick browse. They may have some good offers, but overall it seemed more expensive than Aria or ebuyer for a full system worth of components
*pcspecialist: they sell fully customisable complete builds, good value. Their online tool to configure the system is brilliant, it checks for wattage, incompatibilities and missing components. The downside in my opinion is that they don't specify the brand of some components, you have to ask them and find out they are quite cheap. Sometimes that is OK, I did not go for their build because they are currently using Powercolor cards, which I have had bad experiences with, and longer build time. They said I could buy the card elsewhere and send it to them for assembly, but that implied an even longer wait. Another downside (or upside if you are not the techie kind) is you can't see full specs of each component.
I did browse (briefly) other sites, I'll add some comments if I recall anything noteworthy.
And now to my love/hate story with ebuyer.
Ebuyer looks great, browsing through the products is easy, the descriptions are quite good and it has good prices (I did find slightly better deals for specific components, but the overall system is ~10/15% less than its equivalent in any of the other shops I mentioned). They don't have an assembly service but they do have within-5-days free delivery + reasonable prices for Saturday delivery (oh joy!).
So, I let my inner techie take over and placed my order. Surprise! A bit later I get an email saying that I need to send them photographic ID scans and a recent bill since they need to verify my identity (this is according to some 2007 UK laws to prevent identity theft). The order is automatically cancelled.
OK, I think, just my bad luck: in theory this is a random check. I send them said documents straight away, they fix the problem within a few hours. I need to rebuild my order from scratch, losing any discounts that no longer apply (they change some deals several times a day) and realise they are now out of stock on two of the components. Still OK, I'll buy my RAM somewhere else.
I place the order again, check all the steps... Oh surprise! Automatically cancelled within a few minutes because they want identity proof again! Now I'm beginning to feel like a criminal. This is definitely NOT a random check! Lost my order again + need to wait till tomorrow to call them and see what's going on.
And that is the story so far. I will let you know how it ends.
Will they have me send them a copy of my primary school grades and a recommendation letter from my grandmother?
Will they find out that I'm really an alien undercover, trying to copy human semiconductor technology?
Or will they just lose a customer to the competition?
I spoke to them on the phone (20 minutes, so about £2 for the call...) and they semi-fixed it and apologised.
I said semi-fixed because the processor is out of stock (in theory just until later today) so they can't allocate the items yet, and the PSU may go out of stock in the meanwhile
Plus I'll have to call them again when the processor comes in...
OK, I must say that after all the experience wasn't so bad.
I had to call them another couple of times and they solved the problems quite efficiently. I am not too happy about having received the processor in a separate delivery on Thursday, rather than on Saturday (when I had scheduled it so I wouldn't have to miss work), but other than that everything arrived in perfect condition, I've assembled the PC and it runs smooth.
Plus they didn't blow my cover as an alien spying on semiconductor tech.
So the final word is: ebuyer is OK. Good prices, semi-good service, fast delivery.