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Part 2: Choosing The Right Vendor

Best Of Tom’s Hardware: How To Build A PC

So you've followed our advice, assessed your usage patterns and come up with a list of suitable components. Then you read component reviews and found the exact manufacturer and model for each part. When you weren't sure, you even questioned the members of our community forums. Perhaps you've even based some of your own picks on our System Builder Marathon article series, designed for this exact purpose. And now you're ready to make the big purchase.

With so much money on the line, you want to make sure the transaction goes smoothly, of course. Cruising through the building process you suddenly slam on the brakes: where is all this stuff going to come from?

Experienced builders often have a favorite source that they will recommend exclusively, but their reasoning might not apply to your circumstances. Each type of seller has strengths and weaknesses, and even hazards to avoid. Among these are the "big box" computer shops, smaller local stores, online vendors large and small, and even auction sites. Each varies in terms of the selection, convenience, cost and support they offer.

Purchasing Convenience

Online Merchants

Not everyone has the time or inclination to shop. Fortunately, the online buying process starts with easy site-to-site comparisons and ends with the parts being delivered right to your door. Customers no longer need to battle traffic driving between stores or make special trips to other parts of town (or even to other towns entirely) to find everything on their lists.

Vendor search engines like Tom’s Hardware Stores compare prices on a huge selection of parts from such popular sites as Directron, Newegg, TigerDirect, and ZipZoomFly, but often miss a few specialty parts. Online specialty stores like EndPCNoise and FrozenCPU provide less common parts, and locating competing sources is as easy as entering the specific part name into a generalized Web search engine. This may require filtering through dozens of "hits" to obtain a short list of sellers, but that takes only a few extra minutes.

Local Stores

Buying locally eliminates shipping time and avoids any potential inventory screw-ups that might further delay the shipment. While local variety is less than the Web offers, national chains focus on popular items that meet the needs of most buyers. Smaller, locally-owned shops may specialize in lower-volume parts, but finding the right one could be difficult.

In addition to instant-purchase gratification, local stores offer the convenience of display samples. This hands-on approach allows one to feel the action of keyboard keys, check out the weight and fit of a mouse or game controller, and examine the visual quality of displays. Seeing an item in person also allows one to more easily judge its visual impact, something simple photos and measurements don't always convey.

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