It's a buyer's market

— 12:49 AM on February 16, 2001

From time to time I'm struck like lightning by the realization that PC hardware is really, really cheap. There's a perfectly logical explanation for this phenomenon, of course, because PC harware is really cheap, and prices are dropping all the time.

But man, this stuff is really cheap nowadays.

After a slow Christmas, brimming with overstocked inventory, hardware manufacturers and vendors are pushing goods out the door priced like fake silver jewelry in a Mexican border town. That, and I've been getting the itch to upgrade, so I'm poking around on Pricewatch more lately. And, if you couldn't tell, I kinda like hardware. All of which leads me to report a number of semi-obvious bits of good news.

  • First and most newsy, a source near the memory distribution channels told me today that he's seen encouraging price trends on DDR SDRAM—the stuff is surprisingly cheap. Still definitely more than SDRAM (see below), but cheaper than RDRAM. The DDR folks projected and promised prices near standard SDRAM prices; maybe they'll deliver.

  • It'll be hard for DDR prices to fall to current SDRAM levels, however, since PC133 SDRAM prices have dug their way down to deep sub-terranean levels. DIMMs are being carried off by little, burrowing rodents, who use them to line their beds. Or something like that. I snagged a 256MB PC133 DIMM today for sixty-two bucks.

    Sixty-two. Two-hundred fifty-six.

    Not long ago, we'd have had to reverse those two numbers. I had been fighting the urge to buy more memory during the past few months as prices have stayed low, but today I finally cracked. It's time for serious enthusiasts' boxen to have their RAM capacities measured in GB, not MB.

  • Any discussion of cheap hardware has to touch on prices for T-bird Athlons. AMD is running something akin to a free needle program for upgrade addicts. 1GHz procs are running under $200 nowadays. And Durons cost less than that Valentine's bouquet you just bought/received/whatever.

  • Not to be outdone, Gateway is selling a 41.3GHz Pentium III box for about four grand. Although a friend of mine warns that the thing might just microwave everything around it, in which case it might not be such a great deal.

  • On the video card front, let me just say that there's no excuse for crappy 3D video now that cards like the Kyro, 32MB Radeon, and GeForce2 MX are on the street.

  • IBM's spectacular 75GXP drives are running from $130 for 30GB to $285 for 75GB. Makes me wanna buy a 75GB drive, then copy the contents of my 20GB drive into it four or five times just to prove some sick point.

  • Finally, there's networking stuff. You've gotta love these consumer-level networking companies like D-Link and Linksys. D-Link's DFE-530TX+ network card works every bit as well as an expensive 3Com or Intel NIC—at least as far as I can tell in day-to-day use—and the things sell for fifteen bucks on retail. Fifty smackers will get you a real, five-port switch for networking your home Pee Cees together, and about $100 will snag one of those NAT/firewall/router boxes for sharing a broadband 'net connection.
All of this may be horribly obvious to some of you, but every once in a while you've got to stop and take it all in. And you've gotta like it, especially right about now.
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