For Cheap PCs, It’s Hard to Beat the U.S.

PCs are getting cheaper and cheaper and cheaper in the U.S.

After our Acer desktop PC gave up the ghost recently (we think the culprit was the video card) and after a few half-hearted attempts at fixing it, we did what most people do in this country when something breaks down – we trooped over to the store and got ourselves a new desktop PC.

This time too, we got an Acer machine. You see, it’s hard to beat an Acer on the price and features.

While our earlier Acer came from Circuit City, the new one came from Best Buy since Circuit City also breathed its last recently.

At $379, a Steal
For $379, we got an Acer Sempron X2 Dual-Core processor 2300 with Windows Vista Home Premium, 3GB RAM, 320GB harddrive and a 20-inch LCD monitor.

The PC/LCD Monitor combo was On Sale (a retail trick in the U.S. to draw customers into the store with big discounts on some products in hopes you’ll buy other high-margin products but obviously they haven’t reckoned with our cheapo desis).

The PC has 9 USB ports (5 in front and 4 in the back), DVD±RW/CD-RW, built-in LAN and 1 expansion slot available (PCI-E x16).

Setting up the PC took us about 30 minutes. After setup, we quickly downloaded the latest Windows updates via our broadband Internet access (about 18 Mbps downstream and 2 Mbps upstream). Immediately after that, we downloaded our favorite Firefox browser (3.0.9) off the web (an update 3.0.10 is available now).

A couple of days later, we created a System Restore disk that lets you recover the PC to its factory state should the PC fail for some reason (a hardware failure, for instance). That took about 45 minutes to complete and required two DVDs (our actual time on the process was no more than 5 minutes).

Our new PC is good enough for routine tasks like browsing the web, writing a blog post, playing YouTube videos and the like. But if you are a gamer, this cheap PC might not be the one for you.

We also like the fact that the PC is compact and does not make much noise.

What We’re Not Happy About
The speakers look cheap and the keyboard is not great (some of the keys are not raised enough for our taste and the keyboard itself moves easily). Also, there are a couple of dead pixels on the monitor and we’re wondering if we should exchange it for a different monitor.

Decent Deal
Overall, the few blemishes notwithstanding we feel $379 was not a bad deal for a dual-core PC with 3GB RAM, Windows Vista Home Premium, 320GB harddrive and a 20-inch LCD monitor. What say you?

Say No to Warranty
The folks at Best Buy tried hard to sell us the extended warranty.

We recommend you decline it. There’s no sense in paying $240 for an extra year of warranty for a PC that costs only $379. Even if you’re not a tech-savvy desi, you can always get your friend to help you out with the promise of a $10 weekend or $6.99 weekday buffet lunch at the crappy local Indian restaurant.

We also said No to the Best Buy salesman’s offer to create a System Restore disk and install an anti-virus software for $89.99 (does not include the anti-virus software itself). Both are simple tasks and you can do them yourself in the comfort of your home or seek the help of a fellow desi. Promise him a 50-cent Samosa and he’ll gladly do it for you.

You must buy a security software like Norton Internet Security 2009 software suite (comes with anti-virus, firewall, antiphishing and anti-spyware features) that you can install on upto three PCs. Although the Norton security softwware is listed at $69.99, it’s frequently on sale for at least $30 less at retailers like Best Buy, Office Max and Staples.

Indian Scenario?
How much do home PCs cost in India and what configuration do you get for the price?

Are brand-name PCs popular with consumers or do unbranded PCs assembled by your friend’s cousin-brother’s nephew still rule the roost? Do people pay for anti-virus software or are they ‘gratis’ in India?

17 Responses to "For Cheap PCs, It’s Hard to Beat the U.S."

  1. Dr.UnkHaf D. Aktar   April 28, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    Cheap desis have become smart cheapos. Here (in kerala) schools use Debian and Openoffice and general awareness about free and open source software is high. So that saves about rupees 10K. Concerning hardware.. You can get an orchid pc for 10K. For something compared to your hardware, it would cost Rs. 25K or $500. You can get it for much cheaper-by way of assembled sets but no warranty or anything. I think you should also switch as it seems you use apps native to linux like Firefox. And you wouldn’t have to spend a dime on anti-virus too. Responds:

    1. For Rs 25,000, if you can get a similar PC PLUS 20-inch LCD monitor that’s not too bad. We thought it’d be much higher.

    2. We tried installing Linux on a partition on an old HP Windows XP PC. Used an old Linux disc that came in the sleeve of one of those Linux for Dummies books.

    Messed up the PC and finally had to do a system restore back to XP.

    For countries like India and China, an open source OS like Linux is ideal, both cheaper and more secure.

    BTW, Firefox 3.0.10 update is out.

  2. Dr.UnkHaf D. Aktar   April 29, 2009 at 3:08 am

    If you have trouble installing, try Ubuntu. It can be installed ‘like a game’ in Windows. No partitioning required. Although I don’t understand why it’s difficult… Responds:

    We think something went wrong when we were installing Partition Magic and that had a cascading effect and led to a situation where we started having booting problems.

    One of these days, we will install Linux on a PC and play with it. Maybe, we’ll buy a machine just for that.

  3. Dr.UnkHaf D. Aktar   April 29, 2009 at 3:17 am

    SI:BTW, Firefox…
    I use Iceweasel which is the unbranded version of Mozilla Firefox. Its the same. And its the default browser of debian. I usually update debian and not individual programs. When you do that everything gets updated i.e if it has an update. Responds:

    That’s really cool…update Debian and its components get upgraded too.

    BTW, why is it that we don’t see your IP as coming from your country and the browser for your visits shows a non-Iceweasel browser? Perhaps, you are using a handheld device.

  4. Vasan   April 29, 2009 at 5:29 am

    I am using the HCL brand, its quite cheap Rs.10,000/ (including monitor)…I have seen ppl pay for anti virus software and use coffee shops/bowling alleys/railway stations for wifi connections… Responds:

    $10,000 for PC plus monitor is not a bad deal in India.

    But what configuration do you get for that? Processor, RAM, Harddisk, monitor screen size?

  5. bajurajan   April 29, 2009 at 8:21 am


    “unauthorized man”? news channels callin him “mysterious man”! Responds:

    Unfortunate for the poor victims. May their souls R.I.P.

    Maybe, it was Anniyan….Ambi was in the train at the end of the movie.

  6. Dr.UnkHaf D. Aktar   April 29, 2009 at 9:14 am

    Try Tor with Privoxy. You never know who is listening.

    BTW, Which country does the IP address say I am from? Responds:

    1. Does Tor cause a noticeable delay?

    Many years back, there was a service in the U.S. called Anonymizer, which effectively did the same thing as Tor. Not sure if Anonymizer folks are still around.

    2. You write: BTW, Which country does the IP address say I am from?

    Shows both U.S. and Norway.

  7. Dr.UnkHaf D. Aktar   April 29, 2009 at 9:35 am

    SI:May be it was Anniyan…
    Anniyan would never do something to injure/kill innocent people. And he would never be so stupid as to kill himself in the process even if he did!! Responds:

    Collateral Damage.

  8. Dr.UnkHaf D. Aktar   April 29, 2009 at 9:43 am

    1. No it doesn’t. Or maybe I got used to it. Even if there is, its small.
    2. “Both U.S. and Norway”

  9. Raju   April 29, 2009 at 9:49 am

    hmm.. coolfrog is a very tech-savvy hafdaktar.. I didn’t know daktars had this much time in their hands to try out all this.. if he is using an anonymizer that means he is an internet addict.. doesn’t bode too well for his future patients.

    nalla padi pa.. people’s lives are in your hands, if you are a real doctor. Responds:

    The next time an Indian doc screws up, blame it on Linux.

  10. Dr.UnkHaf D. Aktar   April 29, 2009 at 10:48 am

    Hey, can’t people have passions outside their work? Arthur Conan Doyle was a doctor but that didn’t stop him from writing. He said once that medicine is his lawfully wedded wife and writing his mistress. You don’t know how much I identify with that….
    @SI:Next time..
    From your lips to Microsoft’s ears. Do you know Vinod Vallopilil? Google that desi. Then google Halloween Documents. Responds:

    You write above: Do you know Vinod Vallopilil?

    No, we only know his two pretty sisters 😉

    For those too lazy to even Google ‘Halloween Documents,’ here’s the Wiki note on the subject.

  11. Dr.UnkHaf D. Aktar   April 29, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Might as well say it here. I don’t think nobody is going to “get” it otherwise. coolfrog is the screen name of a famous Chinese hacker who infiltrated U.S. Department of Defence networks late 90s. There.

  12. Dr.UnkHaf D. Aktar   April 29, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    He was just doing his job as I see it. You know he writes in Responds:

    So Vinod is no longer a Microserf.

  13. Dr.UnkHaf D. Aktar   April 29, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    I believe he has. And also Josh Cohen, the other guy. Good for them, I say.

  14. Raju   April 29, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Daktar, didn’t know about coolfrog.. there’s no wikipedia entry for him.. even google doesn’t give good results for “coolfrog”

    if you have the capacity to do both, good for you. Today I realized that “heart failure”, “cardiac arrest” and “heart attack” mean 3 different things.. that’s just a tiiiiny speck in medicine.. it is so vast that I thought that if one has a true passion for medicine it is impossible for them to indulge in anything else. Did Doyle practice medicine actively.. ok, ok, before I get chastised, i’ll wikipedia him.

  15. Dr.UnkHaf D. Aktar   April 29, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    I heard about him in a documentary on TV. I’m not surprised that he isn’t on the net. Ever heard of “screw”? He is a desi hacker residing in bangalore and does jobs for corporates/suspicious lovers by stealing e-mail passwords or by bringing down the enemy’s website by DoS attacks, DNS cache poisoning etc. You wouldn’t find him on google either. These people don’t like to be famous. Responds:

    Wouldn’t it be nice to have a bunch of White Hat folks that can prevent malicious attacks on web sites.

    If there’s one constant with SI, it’s the relentless attacks on our web site over the last 12 months (since this blog began to attract a wider audience).

  16. Dr.UnkHaf D. Aktar   April 29, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    There are white hats. But they need a motive. Patriot hackers have prevented countless attacks on Indian websites unleashed by Pakistani hackers. Usually a flare up occurs every few months. Try “pakistan india hacker” on google. So if you want help convince someone. And before doing that try hosting on Apache server, if not already. Just look for popular hacker channels on IRC on freenode or something or try 4chan. The best way is to learn some PHP/PERL and give it back up their a**es for trying to mess with you.

  17. yourmate   May 1, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    Check this article…What a pity. But this was a very hasty project (I guess the pet project of Arjun “Flop” Singh) Responds:

    Did anyone in India really believe that you could get a laptop for $10.

    Hey, you can’t even get a hooker in India to sit on your lap for $10. Let’s all get real, shall we.

    We remain skeptical even of the $100 laptop.

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