Buying a computer is always a little tricky for me, since it involves decisions, and I'm very good at avoiding them or putting them off or dithering over them for ages (star signs are almost completely worthless, but yes, I am a Libran). First, I had to choose whether to buy a complete system or buy parts and make the system up myself, and then, if buying parts, where to get them from, and which ones. I also had to fit under my budget, of course.
Some of the complete systems looked tempting, but didn't quite hit the combination of performance and cheapness that I was looking for. Also, I wanted to be sure that everything would run happily under Linux.
So, I went looking at reviews to try to decide which components to get, and looking at various online computer stores to find the best prices. Ironically, in the end I decided to buy all of the components from one place, since shipping costs would otherwise have eaten up quite a bit of the budget (most places have a minimum shipping cost and a maximum - and the maximum from one place is much less than sum of the minimums from seven or eight places), and the prices from this place weren't always the cheapest, but were generally among the cheapest few. Also, they had a pretty good reputation, as far as I could tell.
I'll end up with an Athlon XP 2400+ (at the lower end of CPUs these days, but if an Athlon 1700+ was good enough for me three months ago (before I sold it and moved to Scotland), then 2400+ should be fine now. Choosing a graphics card was a bit trickier, because I had a GeForce 4 Ti4200 before, and they were at the "sweet spot" of price vs performance in the GF4 range. Unfortunately, on some benchmarks (the ones that matter, like Unreal Tournament :-) ), about half of the GF FX range is no better than the Ti4200. I ended up getting a GeForce FX 5900XT, which definitely has better performance than the old card, and didn't completely blow the budget. I got 512 Mb RAM (couldn't live with less), 120 Gb hard drive (I'm a digital pack-rat), wireless network card, and the case, motherboard, keyboard, speakers were chosen to be functional, rather than luxurious (not the very cheapest, though, a £2 keyboard is likely to be clunky, noisy, feel awful and have keys dying within 6 months). With luck, everything will arrive tomorrow (the case has already arrived, not that much can be done with an empty case), and I'll get to put it all together and start playing with Linux (and eventually Windows).
Of course, this does mean that rwrylsin won't get to use my 17" LCD as an external monitor on her 12" PowerBook - this may lead to a revolt, or at least a shopping expedition.