PC Hardware Hunting

I've been buying a few parts last couple of weeks for two new systems that I'm building and I thought I'd take this opportunity to share my experiences with computer chop-shops in Sydney, Australia.

Whenever I begin researching a new build, I typically start out on either IJK (formally umart), auspcmarket or the infamous MSY. These sites give me a good idea of current local market prices and availability for the various components. After reading some reviews and performance benchmarks, I start putting together a spreadsheet with all the parts I want along with price and location.

MSY is the McDonalds of computer parts in Australia. They have the lowest price average across all parts, so if you're looking for the best bargain, you can't go too wrong here. Having said that though, the MSY service leaves a lot to be desired. Their online website is terrible, with only a highly condensed PDF parts list to go on. You need to know exactly what you're looking for and do your research elsewhere before coming to MSY. Not only that, but you have no way of knowing if they have the parts you're after in stock (forget about calling to ask, they never answer phones). Walking into the 'store' is equally unpleasant. Expect long lines of people waiting out the door and a long 30 minute to 1 hour wait (more during lunch time). The Auburn store reminds me of the Soup Nazi episode from Seinfeld. 

IJK on the other hand are still fairly cheap across the board and have a much, much better business model. Their website is very informative and easy to use. It's easy to browse and search for the parts you're after (and see inventory stock levels), add them to your shopping cart and proceed to checkout. They allow cash payment on pickup from their Enfield shop, as well as credit-card payment for delivery or pickup. Good thing with them is, there's never a line in the shop. They take all the orders online, prepare the parts at the back, and once you go in to pickup you're out the door in 2 minutes flat! 

AusPCMarket is similar to IJK in many ways: good website, online shopping cart with integrated inventory control, pickup available (Auburn). They also offer free assembly for custom system builds, which is a very nice bonus. Their prices can vary a lot however. Some items are surprisingly cheap, whilst others are well overpriced (in comparison to MSY/IJK/etc). You need to double-check street-prices when buy from them.

Another place I turn to now and then is ITEstate (North Rocks). Very similar deal to AusPCMarket, very cheap prices on some items, not so cheap on others.

If you really want the best deals in Sydney however, you can use sites like StaticIce, PriceBot and AusPrices. Once you have the model number of whatever component you want to buy, type it in one of these sites, filter your search by state and hit go. It'll return a list of shops ordered from cheapest to most expensive (it's how I came across most of the above stores in the first place). Of course, cheapest price on an item is not always the cheapest price overall (do they offer pickup and are they close to your location? otherwise how much do they charge for delivery? and what's their DOA policy?).

These days if I buy multiple components I typically go to IJK for everything. Unless one particular item is available much cheaper elsewhere, it's often not worth the hassle driving out and lining up at three different stores to save an extra ten or fifteen bucks. It all depends on location of course. You may find a similar store with good all-round prices and good service that's more convenient to where you live. StaticIce and co are your friends!

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