Nerd alert! Inside Taipei's PC and gadget shopping paradise

Six floors of PCs, components and gadgets await nerds inside Guanghua 3C mall, a central Taipei shopping wonderland.

Guanghua 3C Shopping mall entrance
Martyn Williams/IDG

Welcome to Guanghua 3C Shopping Mall

Guanghua 3C mall is worth a visit for any techie on a trip to Taipei. It’s located in the center of the city, and can be accessed on the MRT (from Zhongxiao Xinsheng Station — 捷運忠孝新生站) or by taxi. It’s a good idea to have the mall’s Chinese name (光華商場) written down in case you need help finding it. And if you’re feeling adventuresome, hit the mall’s Chinese-language website to do a product search before you visit.

Laptops at Guanghua 3C mall
Martyn Williams/IDG

Laptops, lots of laptops

As you walk into the Guanghua 3C shopping mall, you’ll find lots of laptops. Many of the machines come from major local brands, such as Acer and MSI, but you’ll also find systems from other corners of Asia, including Lenovo and Toshiba. Many will run Windows, but look carefully as they are probably running a Taiwan version, and warranty support is of limited use overseas.

MSI rigs on sale
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Specialist shops for gamers

Taiwan is home nation to several top PC gaming system vendors, so you’ll find specialist retailers like this one showing off the latest MSI gaming rigs. Products on display range from the big, powerful latest gaming machines to the MSI Cubi, an Intel Celeron-based mini PC that can fit in a bag.

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Wacom if you got'em

You’ll be surprised by the variety and depth of products on show, like this retailer selling nothing but Wacom products. Even if you don’t buy, it’s a great chance to see a much broader selection of products than might be available at your local mall. Then, when you’re back home, you can make a more informed mail order purchase.

Motherboard price lists and comparison shopping
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A comparison shopping wonderland

Foray a little deeper inside the Guanghua 3C mall, and you’ll find individual PC components. There’s a huge variety of motherboards, cataloged down to chipset and socket. Many stores post price lists, like this one, to aid comparision shopping. Enlarge the image and prepare to be amazed.

Motherboards on show at Guanghua mall
Martyn Williams/IDG

Everything's in stock, no more waiting

The advantage of having a fantastically stocked local mall is you don’t have to research Internet prices or wait for items to be delivered. Everything is sitting on the shelves, so you can walk right out with it. Many shops will offer discounts if you start to bundle purchases, so consider getting your chips and other components from the same place.

CPUs on show at Guanghua mall
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Lots and lots and lots of CPUs

You can pretty much find any major Intel or AMD chip inside the Guanghua 3C mall. Stores will make sure you match the right chip with the right motherboard, but do your research in advance and decide what you’re after. While many store owners speak English, it’s not the place to start mapping out your system. Go with a certain purchase in mind.

Mio drive recorders
Martyn Williams/IDG

Japanese quality reigns

Taiwanese shoppers have a lot of faith in Japanese brand names and are willing to pay more for the technology. To wit: These Mio dashboard cams are advertised as using image sensors from market-leader Sony. Mio has similar products built with cheaper Chinese image sensors, and, according to shopkeepers, don’t have as good a nighttime image.

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Martyn Williams/IDG

RGB for days

Gaming keyboards make for a particularly colorful display in many stores in the mall. But unfortunately for foreign shoppers, the keyboards are targeted at the local market—so if you take one home, be prepared for the odd character to be in a new position, and for Chinese to be doubled up alongside the alphabet on keys.

Laptop batteries on sale
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For invasive laptop surgeons

If you’re looking to revive or refresh an old system, you’ll probably find what you need. One store (pictured) had a huge selection of laptop battery packs. It’s a great example of the kind of thing you can walk in and buy at the mall, where elsewhere you’d be relegated to mail order.

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Martyn Williams/IDG

Brand names you don't know

One of the delights of electronics shopping overseas is seeing all the brand names you’re not familiar with. Many of the dashcams on sale are from major Taiwanese brands, such as Mio, but westerners probably won’t recognize the name.

HP drive recorders on sale
Martyn Williams/IDG

Be prepared for surprises

I was in the market for a dash cam and a shopkeeper helpfully suggested I might be better with an HP model as I would be using it in the U.S. Wait, HP makes dash cams? Yup. In Asia, the HP name is used under license by a local vendor to make a range of video recorders for cars, but don't expect product support from HP back home.

Hello Kitty smartphone cases
Martyn Williams/IDG

Lots of cuteness

You don’t need to be a hardcore nerd to find something at Guanghua 3C mall. Lots of shops sell more general goods and plug-and-play peripherals, like external hard drives. It’s a great opportunity to shop for cute and unique accessories like smartphone cases with anime, manga or computer game characters. They’re the kind of thing you won’t find hanging on the shelf of U.S. stores because they’re too niche or because of—cough, cough—product licensing laws.

Shopkeeper works on a product
Martyn Williams/IDG

The shopkeeper is your friend

Sure, they’re trying to sell you stuff, but the storekeeps are also very helpful. When I chose a dashcam produced by local brand Mio, the shopkeeper helpfully plugged it in to ensure it was working and switched the language to English so that I wouldn’t spend the first 30 minutes back home in frustration.

PlayStation and Xbox games
Martyn Williams/IDG

Don't get too carried away

It’s tempting to go nuts at a place like Guanghua 3C mall, so make sure your purchases are well thought through. For example, this game retailer is packed with current Xbox and PlayStation games, but before your cart is loaded, make sure the region codes and languages match your system and what you understand.

Syntrends electronics mall
Martyn Williams/IDG

Ready for round two?

If you managed to leave Guanghua 3C mall with cash, energy and time, then good news! A second place, the Syntrends electronics mall, is right next door. Happy shopping!

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