How to buy a Dell

Choose Your Machine

Buying a PC from Dell online is different from buying one in the high street. When buying from Dell, you are afforded a degree of control over what you get. Rather than having to buy a computer with a pre-set amount of memory and a pre-configured set up, you are able to effectively build your computer from scratch. You decide on the processor speed, hard drive size, monitor size, number of speakers, memory size, what type of graphics card goes into your computer, all depending on what you want to use your computer for.

Dell offer their customers the ability to build up a complete package around a single separate computer tower, with no peripheral attachments, or select from a range of fully set-up desktop and laptop computer packages, certain features of which can be customised to suit their needs.

After browsing through the selection of machines on offer, and deciding on the one that you want, you click through to a screen where you can add and remove features; customising an order on Dell's website is quick and easy – after selecting the order that most resembles what you are after, you can easily change individual components such as processors, monitors, memory or whatever you want on the online order form.

The form allows you to tell what components you can and can't mix, and what needs to be changed if a feature you want to include is incompatible with your current configuration – i.e. if having the Premium version of Windows Vista is a must-have requirement, then you might have to add more memory to your order.

Choose your Dell based on what you intend to use it for and where.

I want a Dell for…

Playing Games

If you want a computer solely to play games on, then you should seriously consider buying a Dell XPS desktop or laptop. They are the most expensive computers available from Dell, but they are worth it for the sheer processing speed and amounts of memory available which will be able to handle anything you can throw at it.

XPS desktops have a slight edge over laptops in the graphics department as their visual capabilities can be enhanced by purchasing a big monitor, extra speakers and installing a graphics card – laptops are nearly impossible to upgrade in this way due to the nature of their design, although external hard drives and speakers can be added if space restrictions are an issue or want a gaming machine that's more portable than a desktop PC.

Having said that, gaming laptops are fast becoming popular items, as they can now come close to matching desktops in terms of graphical power, and have the added bonus of portability, although the large amount of battery drain running games places on a laptop means that you would any lose the benefit of your machine being portable as you would have to be playing near a power supply.

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Playing and Editing Music and Movies

If you intend to store a large amount of music of movie files, for the purposes of editing or just general entertainment, then the most crucial thing to consider when looking for a computer is memory. The more memory you have, the more information (tracks, edits, recorded audio/video, etc) you can store.

Additionally, a fast processor is also required, as if you are working with large amounts of data, you will want your computer to be able to retrieve information in as fast a time as possible. Computers with dual-core or multi-core processor units are more useful for multi-tasking than a single powerful processor unit as, theoretically, they are more efficient, as the workload would be handled by more than one component.

In terms of peripheral attachments, if you want to be either watching or editing movies then, a large monitor with a high resolution is a must – if you are editing anything – this goes for editing audio too – you many want to consider purchasing one or more extra monitors so that you have more screen space on which to arrange multiple windows.

Purchasing extra speakers is also a good idea, for purposes of listening back to recorded audio, and again, for general entertainment. External speakers are also essential for playing music on laptops, as the built-in speakers that they come with rarely provide decent quality audio output. If you want to be able to transfer music files on your computer to and from a portable music player, make sure that you will be able to connect with your Dell computer.

If you want a machine that you want just to be able to play music and movies for entertainment purposes, then it might be more advantageous for you to go for a laptop instead of a desktop PC. Dell laptops in the Entertainment range come equipped with more than enough memory to be able to store an extensive music library, and you can pick and choose from a selection of extra speakers, meaning you can effectively turn your laptop into a portable sound system.

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Photo and Image Editing

A big screen (19" to 20" minimum, but the bigger, the better) with a high resolution (dpi) is essential for editing images, as you will want to be able to view the images you are working on at the best possible quality.

You should also consider investing in a decent graphics card if you are going to be retouching photo-quality images. This means that your computer will be able to display a greater range of colours and tones.

As many graphics cards are designed for enhancing the visuals on the latest games platforms, it is not important that you get the most expensive one out there. However, if you are going to be playing games on your PC as well as edit images, you might as well kill two birds with one stone and go for the best one available.

A Dell Entertainment Desktop from the range, possibly with some extra memory, or a laptop from either the Entertainment or High Performance range would be a good choice, but if you want a machine to be able perform other functions as well as edit images, then you should consider adding more memory and a faster processor, or opting for something with a bit more power instead.

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Word Processing and Data Management

If you are after a computer to handle office-based tasks such as word processing, data handling and spreadsheets etc, then you are probably better off opting for any of the computers in either of the Home Essentials ranges. As tasks such as these do not require a comparatively large amount of memory to run, you won't have to fork out a large amount if you want a machine that is going to be purely dedicated to writing documents and spreadsheets.

Optical drives on Dell Home Essentials machines are capable of playing DVDs and CDs, so you can use your machine for work and entertainment purposes, although consider getting a bigger hard drive and more memory if you have a particularly large music collection.

Students, who may be living in halls or similar accommodation may find that a laptop for word processing may be good, as the machine takes up less space, and can be charged up and taken into lecture halls, libraries, IT suites, etc.

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Register an account with Dell

Once you have decided on your order, you will have to set up an account with Dell before you can make the purchase.

To create an account, you will need to enter valid email address, preferably one which you use frequently, and basic contact information such as your home address including your post code, and contact telephone numbers. You will be asked to create a password which contains a combination of letters in either lower or upper case, and at least one number, and must be at least six characters long.

If you are buying machines on behalf of your company, you will be asked to provide the name of your company, and other contact details. When buying any Dell product, for use in the home or anywhere, you should specify where they will be used (in the home, office, retail or government environment etc).

Dell will contact you through the email address you provide with information on the progress of your order, and will send you an email as a receipt of you purchase which you should print out for safekeeping as soon as you receive it.

You will also receive news on any new deals, new product releases, and more importantly, information such as reference numbers, confirming any purchases you have made have been noted and/or dispatched, with a summary of the cost, and an estimate on how long it will take for your order(s) to arrive at your home address.

It should not take more than five minutes for you to create and register an account with Dell. After the process is completed, you should be taken to a screen where you can decide how to pay for your Dell product.

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How to Pay

You can purchase your Dell product by either using a credit or debit card, or you can opt to apply for a 12 month fixed rate repayment plan.

If you're paying by card, you will need to enter all the relevant card details (card number, your name as it appears on the card, etc) and the contact details of the card holder. Check to see if Dell will accept your card (Dell accepts Visa, Master Card, American Express, and Switch cards).

If you intend to pay for your purchase over a period of 12 months, you will need to provide the same contact information as above, along with details of your employment history, you current address, details of any previous address you may have lived at in the last three years, and details of the bank account from which the monthly payments will be withdrawn – all the information that you would have to provide a bank, building society or other moneylender with if you were applying for another other sort of loan elsewhere.

You will also have to make a deposit equal to 10% of the total cost of your order. The application process for payments in this manner is reliant on credit scoring, so be aware that if your credit history isn't exactly spotless, you may be refused this option, which in itself will have a negative impact on your credit history. If you're unsure about your credit status, it is a good idea to check before you apply.

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