I initially came across 1st Direct Computers of Preston around three years ago when I was looking to get my first PC for home use. I'd been looking around for a PC for a few months and was having to use all my manly wiles on Mrs D to get her to agree to what we both saw as a quite extravagant purchase. This meant that I'd had a long time to get my act together and get fairly exact about the detail of the spec I was interested in. I was all set to make the biggest mistake of my life and go with either Time or Tiny cos they seemed to offer a pretty reasonable deal, but then someone I knew suggested I go and check out 1st Direct, a small independent organisation based in the middle of Preston, and am I glad I did. 1st Direct gave me an exceptional price for the machine spec I'd come with and what really impressed me was the amount of time they spent with me, advising on the best deal and giving me some good tips on a better fit for my own particular needs, rather than what I thought I wanted. I was more than pleased with my eventual purchase and the added value that 1st Direct provided. They gave a good guarantee on the deal with two years' full fix and/or replace offered as standard for nothing, and when my CPU went a while back they were as good as their word. They've changed that deal somewhat now in that they now give a three year guarantee, and all you need to do is take your kit in at the end of two years for a check up at a fairly minimal cost. 1st Direct are based at 54 Friargate, Preston PR1 2AT, telephone 01772 202480, fax 01772 202288, website www.1st-direct.co.uk, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. They were formed a few years ago now and are run by Guy Vass, who has built up a useful team with a bunch of young technicians and sales guys supporting him. Their shop is fairly small and compact (with a car park round the back) and doesn't have a lot of stuff on display because they're pretty tig ht on space. However, 1st Direct operate on a made to order basis and put together something to your required spec when you place your order. It normally only takes about a week from placing your order to taking delivery as long as they can get hold of the parts and 1st Direct have the quite unusual policy of pricing on an item by item basis so you can see exactly what you're paying for. Word of caution here, however - if you want to pay by credit card or on a credit deal then 1st Direct will pass the cost straight on to you as part of the price and that can sometimes work out quite expensive. They will take a cheque though as long as you can get it cleared and once you're established as a customer then there's no problem a second time. I've recently gone in and bought a second PC from them, because I was so pleased with their service offering and they gave me a wonderful service and bespoked exactly the package that I wanted. Originally I was going to get a second printer, but in the end we worked out that the better approach was to network the two PC's so that they could share files, programs and printers, and even network connection, although I haven't managed to get that one sorted yet. 1st Direct offer a number of standard packages for sale as follows: ALL OUR SYSTEMS ARE MADE TO ORDER ALL SYSTEMS HAVE WINDOWS 98 PRE-INSTALLED ALL SYSTEMS HAVE FREE COPY OF SUN MS OFFICE ALL SYSTEMS COME WITH FREE LIFETIME TECH SUPPORT SYSTEM DELIVERY ONLY £20 ANYWHERE IN THE UK AMD STARTER SYSTEM 1000MHz - 128Mb - 20Gb Case - Midi tower, AT / ATX, 300W - £38 Motherboard - AMD M-ATX, Via SDR, 3D+snd, CT-7aivl - £54 Main Processor - AMD Duron 1000, 200fsb - £50 Heatsink - Heatsink/Fan, AMD, max 1300mhz - £15 Memory (RAM) - 128 MB Dimm, PC100/133, M.Tec - £34 Hard drive - 20 GB, Fujitsu/WD/Seagate, 5400rpm, DMA100 - £66 Floppy drive - 1.44 MB, 3.5", Alps - £12 Monitor - AOC/Belinea, 15", 1024x768, 0.28dp, 3 yr wty - £109 Keyboard - Genius, non-click, ergonomic, PS2 (AT=2036) - £10 Mouse - Genius Netscroll mouse, 2-Btn + Wheel, PS2/Serial - £8 CD-ROM drive - CD, 54x, Artec - £29 Speakers - Multimedia 200 Watts PMPO, amplified - £8 Modem - 56K, V90, int PCI, software, >300mhz, Jetway, ret - £15 Labour - System build (entry level system) - £35 SYSTEM PRICE ONLY: £411 - £483 inc VAT INTEL STARTER SYSTEM 1000MHz - 128Mb - 20Gb Case - Midi tower, AT / ATX, 300W - £38 Motherboard - P3/Cel M-ATX, Sis, 3D+snd+lan, Jet630tcf - £54 Main Processor - Intel Celeron 1000A, 100fsb - £71 Heatsink - Heatsink/Fan, Intel, max 1000mhz - £10 Memory (RAM) - 128 MB Dimm, PC100/133, M.Tec - £34 Hard drive - 20 GB, Fujitsu/WD/Seagate, 5400rpm, DMA100 - £66 Floppy drive - 1.44 MB, 3.5", Alps - £12 Monitor - AOC/Belinea, 15", 1024x768, 0.28dp, 3 yr wty - £109 Keyboard - Genius, non-click, ergonomic, PS2 (AT=2036) - £10 Mouse - Genius Netscroll mouse, 2-Btn + Wheel, PS2/Serial - £8 CD-ROM drive - CD, 54x, Artec - £29 Speakers - Multimedia 200 Watts PMPO, amplified - £8 Modem - 56K, V90, int PCI, software, >300mhz, Jetway, ret - £15 Labour - System build (entry level system) - £35 SYSTEM PRICE ONLY: £425 - £499 inc VAT INTEL POWER SYSTEM 1700MHz - 512Mb - 40Gb Case - Midi tower, AT / ATX, 300W - £38 Motherboard - P4, Sis DDR, snd, Jet s447 - £64 Main Processor - Intel Pentium 4 1700, 400fsb, skt478 - £168 Memory (RAM) - 512 MB DDR Dimm, PC2100, M.Tec - £132 Hard drive - 40 GB, Maxtor/IBM, 7200rpm, DMA133 - £88 Floppy drive - 1.44 MB, 3.5", Alps - £12 Graphics card - 64 MB Jetway GeForce 4 MX440, TV-out - £95 Monitor - AOC/Belinea, 17", 1600x1200, 0.26dp, 3 yr wty - £169 Keyboard - MS Internet keyboard + Optical mouse, PS2 - £37 CD-ROM drive - ## CDRW, 24x 10x 32x, Artec, BURn-proof ## - £65 DVD-ROM drive - DVD, 16x, Artec - £46 Sound card - Sound Blaster Live Player 5.1, Creative, oem - £32 Speakers - Mercury 880 Watts PMPO, 2-way + Sub - £19 Modem - 56K, V90, int PCI, hardware, Speedcom, ret - £25 Labour - System build (advanced system) - £99 SYSTEM PRICE ONLY: £927 - £1,089 inc VAT Now what I did was choose the AMD Power System package and upgraded it to fit the spec I wanted as follows (sorry about all this geeky stuff, but I?m nearly done now, promise): Agfa Snapscan Scanner - £75 HP Laserlet 1000W Printer - £199 Case - Midi tower AT/ATX 300W - £38 Motherboard - AMD Via DDR snd Jet v333da - £73 Main Processor - AMD Athlon XP 1800+ 266fsb - £130 Heatsink - Intel P4 max 2000mhz - £25 Memory (RAM) - 512Mb DDR Dimm PC2100 M Tec - £132 Hard drive - 40 Gb, Maxtor/IBM 7200rpm DMA133 - £88 Floppy drive - 1.44Mb 3.52 Alps - £12 Graphics card - 64Mb Jetway GeForce 4 MX440 TV-out - £95 Monitor - AOC/Belinea 172 1600*1200 0.26dp 3yr wty - £169 Keyboard - MS Internet keyboard + Optical mouse PS2 - £37 DVD-ROM drive - DVD 16x Artec - £46 CD-ROM drive - CD-RW 16x 10x 32x Philips Burn-proof £65 CD-ROM drive - CD 54x Artec - £29 (to replace the knackered drive in my old machine) Sound card - Soundblaster Live Player 5.1, Creative, oem - £32 Speakers - Mercury 880 watts PMPO 2-way + sub - £19 Headset & Microphone Nicole - £6 Modem - 56k V90 int PCI hardware Speedcom ret -£25 Labour - System build - £99 Software - Microsoft Windows XP Home oem with CD - £99 Networks - PCI Fast network kit and cable - £29 Overall cost - £1,522 Now, honestly I'm not really a techie, and an awful lot of this stuff doesn't mean a blind thing to me, but I just wanted to give you a good insight into what you get for your dosh. The big point is that 1st Direct work with you to get the spec exactly righ t for you and then deliver a hand built lovely machine to keep you happy for a couple of years at least. This machine really impressed me - it's ultra quick and the networking is an absolute dream - those nice chaps also loaded on a lot of software and got my MIDI keybaord working for me - which I'd struggled with unsuccessfully for ages. They're always ultra busy when you call in, so you may have to bear with them, but they certainly know what they're doing and will give you excellent service... So, if you're thinking of getting some new kit and are anywhere round Preston, I'd urge you to check 1st Direct out.