If you live and work in Silicon Valley, knowing where to get computers; components like memory and hard drives; peripherals like printers, mice, and small speakers; consumables like ink cartridges and special paper; as well as gadgets like MP3 players and PDAs is essential. Here are some of the best places to get your equipment!
Fry's Electronics (Best Selection)
Fry's is legendary for its enormous stores, each of which has a distinct theme like Mayan Temple or Old West and carry just about everything that uses electricity down to primitive components like resistors and breadboards. Think of it as Best Buy, Circuit City, Radio Shack, and Disneyland rolled up into a single building the size of a Target. It's this amazing atmosphere that attracts knowledgeable shoppers, and their knowledge is essential because of the unimaginably bad customer service. But since prices are generally very good and returns are extremely reasonable, Fry's has developed a loyal following.
Central Computer (Best Components)
Central Computer specializes in selling individual components and building white-box PCs for resale. It's the right place if you're an enthusiast looking for the perfect motherboard, a professional looking for OEM equipment, or represent a company that would like a local vendor for their desktop PCs. Customer service is generally good with knowledgeable, though not overly attentive, personnel. Like Fry's, they have multiple locations in Silicon Valley, but their stores are much smaller. You'll find a strong selection of most computer equipment except printers, which they do not carry.
Surplus Computers (Best for Experts)
There are some good deals to be had at Surplus Computers if you're comfortable diagnosing and fixing computer-related issues or need a component which may not be readily available in a mainstream computer store. The policy for returns is that there are no returns, so being sure of your purchase or being able to make your purchase fit your needs somehow is essential.
Costco (Best Prices)
What Costco lacks in selection, it makes up for by having the lowest prices and the most liberal electronics return policy anywhere. Desktop and notebook computers may be returned up to six months, and it's one year for other electronics. A little bit of patience waiting in the checkout line is rewarded with a great price and the security of knowing your purchase is "insured."
Micro Center (Honorable Mention)
Micro Center is a good choice for buying computers and equipment because of its organized aisles, broad and deep selection, reasonable customer service, and better than average prices during sales. They used to have the premier technical book section of all major retailers, but have pared back their selection considerably. Micro Center compares favorably to Best Buy, Circuit City, and CompUSA, and is a reasonable (but not spectacular) alternative to Fry's, particularly if you expect stronger answers to your technical questions.