Twice as fast as its predecessor, the Pentium II hit the market last year. Prices then were close to $3,000. Today, entry-level Pentium II PCs are much less expensive, with prices ranging from $1,739 to $2,500. Prices could go even lower now that competing processing chips, such as Advanced Micro Devices' K6 and Cyrix's 6x86MX, are on the market.
Buying a new computer isn't as simple as it was in the past--but the expanded options work in your favor. You can purchase one at your local computer store, a discount superstore, via mail order catalog, or even on the Web. A growing trend in computer sales is custom-designing, whereby purchasers specify exactly how they want their new computer to be configured, depending on their business's requirements. Gateway 2000 was one of the first direct-marketing companies for custom-made computers. Dell and Micron Electronics are also direct-from-the-manufacturer companies, as is NEC, whose NEC NOW program builds its Direction PCs to order.
"Small businesses are looking for a [computer] company to be their partner and provide not only products but advice and problem-solving," says Michael Wong of Mountain View, California-based NEC.
Before buying a Pentium II, try to get a hands-on demonstration of the graphics, sound and video components. These PCs are the wave of the future, especially for SOHOs that plan to build and expand their businesses. Time is a precious commodity, and office equipment that can work faster translates into greater productivity.