Check the warranty to avoid pain
Despite the Government's best efforts, service remains something of a dirty word in Hong Kong - and the consumer PC market is no exception.
This is a pity as there are few products that require as much post-sales care as a home PC.
There are a multitude of home users in the SAR who have horror stories about the number of times they have had to take their computers back to the shop before a problem was fixed.
Some friends recently had problems with their Compaq PC, and after Compaq Hong Kong decided it was unable to fix the problem locally, the computer was sent back to the United States.
The PC was returned several weeks later. Unfortunately, my friends are still having problems and understandably are highly upset.
When shopping for a new PC, it is worth checking the warranty being offered as well as the other specifications.
Among the points worth asking about are the length of the warranty; what it covers; where it is valid; and who does the repair work.
Most of the large makers will do their own repairs, although, as my friends' story illustrates, that is no guarantee of quality.
On the other hand, most custom PC shops also offer a warranty, although terms and conditions vary, so shop around.
For example, Winframe System in the Mongkok Computer Centre offers a one-year warranty for parts and five years for labour, which seems quite reasonable on a 350 MHz Pentium II PC with 68 MB SDRam and a 4.3 gb hard drive, costing $7,699.
However, the store does not do on-site repairs. This means that in the event of a problem, you will find yourself having to lug the PC up to Mongkok and carry it home afterwards, not a tempting thought if you live on Hong Kong Island.
Alternatively, Paradise Computer System in Wan Chai's 298 Computer Zone is selling a 350 MHz AMD K6-2-based PC with 68 MB of SDRam and a 4.3 gb hard drive for $6,680.
It offers a three-year warranty, with the first year on-site.
However, parts and labour are offered only for the first year, and after that the warranty covers only labour, with work being done by the store's own team of engineers.
Those who like the security offered by a well-known brand name should also be careful as terms vary among vendors.
Shoppers should be especially careful when buying some of these ultra-slim Japanese notebooks. Many are parallel-imported, and consequently do not have any warranty at all.
PCSHOP SHOPPING Shane Abrahams