Tom's Hardware Shopping Analysis
Buying computer gear can be much more exciting than you imagine, as there are many differences in local markets such as those in the United States or in Europe. The recent exchange rate developments account for the most obvious difference, making it very attractive for European users to shop for electronics and hardware when they're in the United States. But shopping habits, different taxation, varying retail models, different product brands, store hours, the type and amount of inventory and payment can turn a shopping trip in foreign countries into an interesting exercise.
The way retail outlets are designed also vary around the world. In China or Taiwan, you'll typically find multiple stores that look alike at a single location. These outlets often sell the same gear. This is a reflection of cultural habits, just like the heavy air conditioning in Asia. German-speaking Europe is well familiar with stores that resemble such outlets as Best Buy or Circuit City (though they're called Media Markt, Medimax or Saturn there); yet knowledgeable users in Germany still prefer smaller, more specialized stores or cheap and efficient etailers. In recent years, lowest-cost one-time offers for PCs, displays or printers could be found at low-budget supermarkets and discounters such as Aldi or Lidl in Germany. The United Kingdom also has its Currys, Dixons or PC World, but the typical shopping behavior there is different from that of Germany and is more U.S.-like as people just often go to these outlets to spend money instead of to heavily scrutinize price differences.
The buying process in Europe is different from that of the United States; don't expect stores of any size to accept credit cards or cash-back offers when in the old country. Even financing for more expensive products has only been available for a few years. Most stores will accept debit cards, if they accept any cards at all, and you might still be limited to daily transaction limits. However, sales tax or value-added tax is included in most European countries, as it normally doesn't differ from state to state like it does in the United States or between different Canadian territories. Inventories of average PC stores are oftentimes smaller than those of many stores in the United States. Also, stores do not open on Sundays in many European countries, and up until last year, Germany still had a rather restrictive shop closing law, forcing businesses to close at 8:00 PM.
Once you know about certain pitfalls and differences, you can start to compare some prices. And you will see that a simple currency conversion (while taking taxes into account) does not reflect the actual pricing differences. We picked several components and compared their costs in several international markets relative to U.S. dollars and euros.