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In addition to indexing all the best price comparison shopping bots, PricingCentral.com has reviews of many of the most popular price comparison shopping services. This review contains a detailed analysis of PriceWatch's features, options, ease-of-use and quality of results. It also contains tips for finding the best prices and price comparison shopping more effectively with PriceWatch.
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Price Comparison Shopping Reviews
Among computer enthusiasts, PriceWatch is one of the most popular sites to use to find low prices. From video cards and sound cards to processors and memory, you can find great prices on just about every type of PC card or computer add-on component from a large number of vendors, each competing for your business on price.

PriceWatch is a satisfactory resource for finding low prices on peripherals such as monitors and printers or even complete desktop, notebook or handheld computer systems. Although they also have listings for computer software, electronics and cameras, their offerings are pretty weak with just a small number of vendors listing a few products. Therefore you do not have the intense price competition as you do with PC components.

Finding merchants with low prices on computer components is PriceWatch's specialty. You can find components of just about every type and brand, typically with many merchant listings for the most popular brands and hottest new models. There are often many listings for low priced OEM versions and generic models. Many PC cards that use the same chipset are built using a standard reference design, so a generic version can be a good way to get equivalent hardware for less money.

OEM models of computer hardware are also a great way to save money. OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer and refers to products sold to system integrators such as Dell or Compaq rather than retail versions of a product, which are sold directly to consumers and are what you see on the shelf at Best Buy. Besides for price, another difference between OEM and retail products is that the OEM model usually is in a plain white box. This saves money and causes OEM models to be referred to as 'white box' components.

However, there can be other important differences between the OEM and retail models that may be important to you depending on the specific situation. OEM models may have a shorter warranty period or no warranty at all and may not come with extra pack-ins, such as the game software bundle typically included with video cards. More significant is that while they are usually identical, the OEM model of the hardware may be different compared with the retail version, even though they have the same product name. For instance some video cards have a lower end RAMDAC on the OEM versions.

Besides for the ability to find gray market OEM products, PriceWatch is different than other price comparison services in additional ways. PriceWatch is not a shopping bot-it doesn't automatically visit online stores to collect their latest pricing data. In fact, prices do not come from merchant's web sites at all. Instead it is like an advertising service and only lists products and prices when merchants pay for the listing.

On the merchants' websites the prices are often higher than the PriceWatch listings, so you need to mention that you are a PriceWatch user to get the expected price. It may be best to phone in such orders, to be sure you actually receive the price you expect. However, several orders we placed via the web did end up with the correct price charged to the credit card after mentioning the pricewatch price in the comments during checkout, even though the shopping cart always showed the higher price.

Although its listings are basically just advertising, PriceWatch is still a good way to find great deals on computer components. This is because products are listed in order of price starting at the cheapest. Because PriceWatch is a popular service, being listed first can bring a lot of business to a merchant. Therefore, they compete viciously on price to try to be one of the top listings.

One thing to watch out for is shipping and handling charges, which are not included in the prices listed by PriceWatch. However, if it is known, they do list the shipping cost next to the price. Regardless of whether they list the shipping cost or not, vendors on PriceWatch are notorious for charging exorbitant shipping fees, well beyond the actual cost from the postal service.

What happens is that vendors lower their price to get one of the top listings in pricewatch, but make up for the lower product price by jacking up their shipping fees. They may not make any money on the cost of the product, instead all their profits come from the shipping charges. A shipping and handling charge of $15 or even $20 for a single stick of memory is common. Typically you are limited to a single item at the PriceWatch price, or the shipping charge is per item. Therefore you cannot work around the high shipping costs by ordering multiple items. The bottom line with this or any price comparison shopping service is to always include shipping costs before your final buying decision.

Many of the listings in PriceWatch are from very small "mom & pop" shops and gray market resellers. For this reason it is always good to run your price comparisons through other price search engines and shopping bots to be sure to find the lowest prices. Sometimes large online stores like buy.com have the lowest prices because they can negotiate better deals from suppliers, yet they are not listed in PriceWatch. These larger sellers are also usually easier to deal with if there is a problem with your order or if you want to make a return, compared to the smaller resellers who may not even offer live customer support. The smaller stores are also more likely to charge you a restocking fee on returns (such as 15% of the purchase price) or not except returns at all.

PriceWatch is a great place to find low prices on computer components, but for other products other comparison shopping services will better serve you. You should always also use other shopping bots to supplement your PriceWatch search, since they are not very inclusive of stores, especially large online stores that may have better prices. (11/05/00)

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