US members-only retail giant Costco has opened its second Australian store in Sydney, with some staggeringly cheap tech bargains. We dive in.
How about a 3TB USB hard drive for $169? (27% cheaper than we could find it anywhere else.) Or a high-powered Intel Core i7 HP dv6-6012tu notebook for $699.99? (23% cheaper than the lowest price we could find elsewhere.)
We've catalogued and compared the best tech deals we found at the end of this article.
What it's like inside Costco?
Inside the cavernous warehouse in Sydney's bargain outlet suburb of Auburn, Costco is a bit like a cross between an Aldi, a Bunnings and an Ikea. It's Aldi in that stuff is sold on pallets. There are no neatly stacked shelves with a bit of this and that like in Woolworths.
The queues are bedlam so come prepared.
It's like Bunnings in that it's housed in a big tin shed with no fancy trimmings, and it's like Ikea because it's absolutely vast and you have to constantly dodge other people's (oversized) trolleys and children.
You certainly would not want to pop in to buy some milk and eggs at Costco, because the cash register queues are like Ikea on the weekend.
It's also like nothing you've ever seen before, because meat is sold a stone's throw from 55in LCD TVs, with 48-packs of toilet paper in the next aisle, whole atlantic salmon on ice round the corner, and hearing aids being sold along the wall.
Costco covers nearly every category of retailing, from groceries to tyres, and aims to have Ikea-like drawing power, with one big box store in each city.
Shoppers check out 1TB hard drives stacked high.
You need to pay a $60 per year membership fee to get in the door, which must make a tonne of money for Costco, but at the same time, is clearly good value due to the very low prices you can access as a result.
Getting the best deal
When APC did some comparison shopping at the new Sydney store, we noticed that Costco's strategy is to have amazing bargains on some things, and then sell other things at prices closer to the bottom of the market of regular retailers.
If you do your research rather than buying on impulse (which is pretty easy these days with a web-enabled smartphone), you'll come out well ahead by shopping at Costco, even taking into account the $60 annual membership fee.
Uniden three-pack cordless phones for $139 and a Sony MP3 dock for $89.99.
However, if you simply buy things because they look cheap, and don't bother to check prices at other retailers, you may find you're not getting such a great bargain.
Of course, there is something to be said for a store that has stock in front of you that you can purchase and walk out the door with. Some online retailers advertise extremely low prices but then take six weeks to source the product for you.
You won't necessarily find the brand you're looking for at Costco. It seems to have a maximum of two or three brands in any category of product. In laptops, it's Toshiba, ASUS and HP. In USB memory keys, SanDisk is the only brand. Oh, and there's no sign of Apple anywhere
in this store. The MP3 players on sale were Sony Walkman.
Unfortunately, unlike its US parent, Costco Australia does not list its prices on its web site
or provide online shopping. So, you'll have to brave the queues to find out whether the store has the product you want.
Big-screen LCD TVs are just another type of grocery alongside hearing aids.
Do keep an eye on Costco's web site, though -- weekly coupon deals are published on there, and they can be very good (with very short expiry dates). For example, a current coupon offers $110 off a $959 TV.
For people in Melbourne, there's the store in the Docklands that opened in 2009
, and Canberra is about to get one too, in the Canberra Airport precinct.
In a country where electronics retailing is dominated by Harvey Norman, a company that insists on generating 30% profit on any product it stocks, the competition from Costco will likely have a significant effect on prices across the board.
Eye-popping opening specials
3TB Western Digital MyBook USB hard drive, $169 (cheapest elsewhere $229, MSY)
Sony KDL40EX520 Bravia 40in LED LCD TV, $849.99 (cheapest elsewhere $968, Billy Guyatts)
HP dv6-6012tu notebook, $699.99 (cheapest elsewhere Kickstart Computers, $900.90)
ASUS n53sv-hdu2 notebook, $899.99 (cheapest elsewhere $1,089, Wireless One)
ASUS k53sj-sx172v, $599.98 (cheapest elsewhere $796, JB Hi-Fi)
Sony DVD-R media 100pk, $24.99 (cheapest elsewhere $34.05, iiBuy)
This LCD TV is an unbeatable deal, $110 off at $959.
Not everything's a bargain
Microsoft Mouse 3500, $29 (beaten by MWave, $27)
Toshiba DX1210 21.5in all-in-one PC, $1599 (beaten by Penta Computers, $1,548)
Samsung UA32D5000 32in TV, $699.99 (cheaper at "Cheap Bargains", $672)
Sony kdl46ex720 46in LED/LCD TV, $1699.98 (cheaper at StreamMaster, $1,549)
Samsung ua55d7000 55in LED/LCD TV, $3099.99 (cheaper at TopBuy Superstore, $2,800)
Two SanDisk Extreme 16GB Class 10 SDHC memory cards, $99 (cheaper at Advanced Frontier, which sells them for $39 each or $78 for two.)
Three pack of SanDisk Cruzer 8GB USB memory keys $36.99 (on par with Apus Computers, which sells them for $12.35 each or $37.05 for three).
Toshiba Satellite i750/04k, $749.99 (not much cheaper than Penta Computers, $777)
Toshiba Satellite p750/02t, $799.99 (not much cheaper than Penta Computers, $847)
HP dv6-6026tx, $1399.99 (more expensive than KickStart Computers, $1340)
Western Digital My Passport 750 GB USB HDD, $87.99 (Landmark Computers has it for $89)
Canon eos550d twin lens kit 18-55 and 55-250 with 8GB Sandisk SD card, $1,139.99 (cheapest elsewhere $834.57 at TopBuy, not including memory card)
3TB USB 3.0 hard drives for $169... amazing.
The non-tech deals
If you do happen to drop in to Costco to pick up one of the tech bargains, be sure to check out the whole store.
We spotted Levi's jeans for $46.99, Adidas running shoes for $49 and many other unbelievably good bargains.