ASSOCIATES (vol. 10, no. 2, November 2003) - associates.ucr.edu

*A Search Engine for Computer Buyers*

by

Michael D. Brooks
Saint Josephís University
Francis A. Drexel Library
Philadelphia, PA
brooks@sju.edu

If you are computer savvy and are looking for good deals on computers and computer equipment (the holidays are fast approaching) then check out Price Watch.com (http://www.pricewatch.com). The site promotes itself as the "Street Price Search Engine." One caveat: the site is not for the casual computer user. The casual user may find the site a bit disconcerting initially, but the seasoned computer enthusiast will find it to be a useful tool. Instead of looking through an office supply catalog, you can pinpoint just what you are looking for and get a price list of manufacturers and merchants who sell the products you are interested in buying. This site is for the serious PC enthusiast who knows what he or she wants. If you provide PC and other technical support for your department, are unafraid of opening up a computer and replacing CD-ROM drives, memory chips, or daughter cards, then you might feel right at home here.

Another caveat: turn off any pop-up ad blocking software. Much of what you will want to see will be interpreted as pop-ups and get blocked by such software.

The site is more of a search engine than a conventional Web site, but it is a search engine with a specific purpose. That purpose is to permit you the opportunity to comparison shop and get the best deal you can find on whatever computer-related device you may be in the market for.

Many IT professionals and practitioners use this site. When they want a good deal on computer items for themselves, friends and family, this is one of the sites they visit.

The site is divided into frames. So if your browser can handle frames, you should have no problem. The top half of the home page lists eleven major categories. Within each of these are small lists of related sub-categories. Click on what you are interested in. For instance, letís say you are in the market for a new hard drive. Simply go to the category Storage and click the "Hard Drives" link. The bottom half of the page will list the available types that are available by price usually with the most expensive systems listed first. Click the link that interests you.

A six-column table will list the: Product, Description, Price and Shipping, the Dealer and Phone number, and Address and other pertinent information like email or other Web addresses or company or ordering information.

Depending upon the number of hits of a search, the available products will be divided among individual pages according to price starting with the lowest and ending with the highest. This information can be found at the top right of every page. Active links will be in the Product column, the Price and Shipping column, and the Dealer/Phone column. Clicking on the product link will cause a black or dark colored bar to appear across the top of the page. This bar will allow you to go to the product manufacturerís Web page to review any information about it. For instance, if you click the link to Western Digital, information about Western Digital will appear in the bar across the top of the page. A link called "Website" will be just below the manufacturer company name in the top left corner. Clicking on this will take you to the Western Digital Web site.

If you like what you see, you can order it from the manufacture, but if you want a better deal, click on the name of the vendor in the Dealer/Phone column. A tan or lighter colored bar of information about the vendor will appear across the top of the page. Again, as with the Product link, a link called "Website" will be just below the company name in the top right corner. Clicking on this will take you to the dealer/supplier Web site.

If you like what you see, click the "Buy Now" button and go right to the dealerís ordering page. Of course, if you are uncomfortable about ordering online, simply call, email, or fax the dealer.

What if you need to order memory chips for an entire department? Click the "Volume Pricing" button at the top of the page and select the "System" link from the Memory category. A hit list with a Price per Piece column will list the minimum number of items accepted for volume ordering by each dealer.

Of course, if you donít see what you are looking for, type in your choice using the search feature.

You can also search for good deals on software and standard electronic devices that are not computer related. What if you work for a small library with a minimal budget and your department manager asks you for a reasonably priced VCR? Click the "Electronics" button and then the "VCR" link.

One last caveat: check out what Price Watch.com (http://www.pricewatch.com) is all about by clicking the "About" button. It is a straightforward statement of their mission. And while you are there, check out their Disclaimer page.



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