Back in the pre-Internet days, you had two options in regards to buying computer hardware. You could head out to a local store and see what was on offer there, or use mail order. Many shops advertised in magazines so that you knew about price and what was on offer before you went there.
The rise of the Internet made things more comfortable. Not only could you browse multiple stores -regional or not - in rapid succession, you could also browse foreign country stores or use price comparison engines to get the best price on a piece of hardware that you were interested in.
If you ever wanted to get something that was not available in your country, say the latest Japanese video game system, a modchip, or a specific video card or processor, now was the time to get those things delivered to your doorstep without having to rely on back channels to do so.
Today computer users have two options: buy local or on the Internet. So which is better and which should you choose? This cannot be answered this easily as factors need to be considered, including:
Most local hardware shops have a website that you can use to check out their offers before you head out. It is usually also possible to call them to find out if an item is available or needs to be ordered first before it becomes available again.
You may not get the best deal when you compare the price with what is offered by Internet shops, but it is usually not that far off. It is still recommended to compare prices and maybe try to broker a deal by pointing out that you could order on the Internet for less.
Local shops have other advantages. First, if the item is available, you can get it right away. If you order online, you may have to wait a day or two, or even longer, before you get the package.
Second, you often get better support. If you are inexperienced, you may have troubles adding the new shiny Solid State Drive, video card or processor to your system, or may have questions about compatibility in first place.
While you may not get those answers in most chain stores, you will certainly find experienced shop owners in smaller stores that can help you with that. Many stores offer to add the new hardware to your system for a price which may be an option if you do not want to do it by yourself. That is also one of the advantages they have over Internet stores.
You can also still use the Internet for research, say to find out what other customers say about the item.
Internet stores are just like mailorder stores, only faster and easier to search and navigate. It is usually the case that you get better deals on the Internet than you get locally.
You can use price comparison engines to find the best price or the most trusted online store out there to buy your hardware at.
The second advantage over shopping locally is that you do not need to go out and buy the hardware. That's not a big advantage if the local store is right across the street, but if it is not, you may prefer delivery to your doorstep, especially if the hardware you want to buy is heavy and you do not have suitable means of transport.
When I look at my buying habits, I have to admit that I buy on the Internet usually. I tend to get better prices there and do not need any special support for the devices I buy.
There are exceptions to the rule though. If I need something urgently, say a new keyboard or mouse because mine broke, I usually hop to the next local store and buy them from there. While they may be more expensive, it provides me with a replacement on the same day.
Generally speaking: if you need tech support then your best bet is to shop locally. If that does not matter, you may prefer to buy on the Internet as you get better prices there.
What about you? Do you buy computer hardware online or locally?
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.