Until this afternoon I had never been to a computer expo. You know – the shows held at convention centers, Holiday Inn banquet rooms, or VFW halls Saturdays and Sundays every few months. Computer expos feature vendors you’ve never heard of and the whole place reeks of grey market merchandise. It’s a swap meet for computer enthusiasts. I don’t have much swap meet experience so I trolled the aisles of parts, software, and hardware with curiosity – mostly about where the merchandise actually came from.
Deals can be had, but unless you are a walking encyclopedia of the current market prices for PC hardware and software (especially peripheral parts like video cards, memory, CD/DVD burners) be wary of the “deals” offered. Since I just bought some wireless equipment I was curious as to what kind of bargains I might find. The prices for Linksys wireless routers and Linksys PCMCIA cards were no less than those at BestBuy or Circuit City. If you are fortunate enough to live in a city with a Fry’s Electronics, there really isn’t anything (aside from some software of dubious authenticity) for you at a computer expo. I wish we had Fry’s on the East Coast…
There was one vendor who had absurdly low prices on what were allegedly the innards of machines that were previously leased. Had I wanted to build a new machine from scratch I think I could have put one together for less that $100. I had not researched the last 2 years of motherboard innovations or I may have picked one up with CPU for $30. If I do decide to assemble a super cheap box I may go looking for those guys again.
My impression: The shows are handy if you have a hankering for buying each cable, fan, and chip individually. The brand name merchandise (Dell and IBM were the ones I saw most often) seemed to focus on laptops. I would be very leery buying a laptop at one of these shows. Most vendors highlighted their physical locations; likely as a nod to buyers apprehension about finding them again after the sale. I imagine there are plenty of fly by night vendors in attendance.
My advice: Don’t bother attending unless you have a specific purchase in mind. There are a few deals to be had, but much of the merchandise is priced the same as you would find other places (assuming you could find it). If you know exacly what you are looking for and how much it retails for you may find it cheaper at a computer expo, but caveat emptor.
Oh yeah, I am happy to report that I bought nothing