Electronics and Component Distributors: Where do you buy your toys?

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This post comes all the way from Raleigh North Carolina! I was out this morning looking for some Excedrin and Gatorade when I passed a store branded “TigerDirect.com”. Any one who is remotely familiar with purchasing cheap electronics online should know this place, but an actual brick and mortar establishment?! I was so surprised, I had to snap the above photo. Since I haven’t posted anything worth reading in the last month, I figured I would take this opportunity to talk a bit about buying electronics, and who to stay away from.

Firstly, I love Newegg.com. I have purchased thousands of dollars of electronics, parts, and components from the popular online store and have never had one problem. Their review system is very accurate and helpful. But the part I love most is the protect specs and details section. When I shop for a component, I am usually searching for very specific features, chip sets, or firmware. Newegg.com is the only online place I have found that actually explicitly details product specs with the fine resolution I am looking for. If you don’t really understand what I mean, go to BestBuy and as the geek squad if a specific WiFi USB dongle has a ralink chip set and if it supports injection. I have actually had a squad member flip over a box 5 times looking for the chip set type on the product specs. I could have done that, I was looking for expert knowledge of the product. If you are looking for something specific, Newegg.com is your best bet. They also have some killer deals too!

Now, BestBuy. I would advise anyone reading this to stay away from BestBuy. At least for anything computer related, that is. More often than not, it obtains “customized” system configurations, they are called blue label products. BestBuy says they are tweaked based on customer feedback to provide the perfect ideal configurations to its customers. What it is really doing is adding system “fluff” and buzzwords to a configuration to peak interest, and waters down important components to keep the price low. Several years ago I purchased a blue label Toshiba satellite laptop. I thought I was getting a great deal and I really liked the spec I found online. The problem was, the online Toshiba specs were not the same as the blue label version from BestBuy, and best buy didn’t provide the full details of its model. The result was and $800 14 inch laptop, with a cheaper processor with less cache, 1 year older GPU, slower hard disk, and a screen resolution almost 2 times worse than that of most low end smart phones. The blue label version, however, advertised Bluetooth, back-lit keyboard, and more hard drive space. Which were indeed bonuses compared to the original specs. I was very disappointed that those three “perks” were included at the cost of performance.

In short, if you want the best bang for your buck, and you don’t intend to return it, or need a new computer right now, stay away from BestBuy. They even tried to charge me $50 to optimize a band new PC and $100 to move over my files! It’s brand new, why isn’t it already optimized ( another topic for a later discussion ).

Now, I understand the anxiety of purchasing expensive electronics online. I myself have been screwed multiple times, stay away from zip-zoom-fly. They are pretty poor. I understand that sometimes you might want to take the PC back shortly after using it because it may be horrible, or not what you were expecting. If this is you, I would look into purchasing your PC from Walmart, or better yet, Sam’s Club or Costco. Both of those places get good deals on electronics because of their nature of being bulk purchasing big box stores. They also sell less than awesome machines, however, the prices are fair, their warranties are usually amazing, and you can return them if the machine turns out to be less than acceptable. These stores typically don’t parade poor machines as custom top of the line, like BestBuy. Just remember, in the world of technology, you most certainly get what you pay for!

Now, I have covered Newegg.com, Walmart and the lot, “BestBuy”, and briefly mentioned zip-zoom-fly. You can tell by now, I am heavily biased for Newegg.com, with my reasons. Let me talk about TigerDirect.com. They are another popular online electronic retailer. I have purchased a few things from them. I would say, as a rough generalization, TigerDirect.com sells decent and cheap Chinese things. They have good deals on monitors and hard drives now and then. They are reputable and reliable. But, to me, it seems that Newegg.com has a better selection of higher quality products. Be warned, however, Newegg.com does sell some cheap crap! Pay attention to those eggs!

The egg rating system at Newegg.com is second to none. Its shoppers know technology and know what to expect for the money. My rule of thumb is to not consider anything lower than 2 eggs, be weary of 3 egg products and always look for a product that is well reviewed. If there are only 2 reviews, consider yourself a pioneer on that product and really taking a gamble. If the product has a solid 4 eggs with over 400 reviews, be confident you are purchasing something decent!

Another good tip for purchasing electronics online, use wishlists! Newegg.com has a great wishlist system that will send you alerts if something in your list goes on sale. This takes some time, but every one knows time is inversely proportional to money, so again, you get what you paid for, and you pay for getting it now. I build a very beefy gaming system for about $400 by selecting top components and waiting until they were placed on sale. I saved well over $500! It did, however, take me nearly 4 months to aquire my main core components.

If you have the time, order something online from a reputable retailer like Newegg.com or TigerDirect.com. If you are in a hurry, Costco, Sam’s, or Walmart will get you something decent for a good price. Stay away from BestBuy!