Taipei's Guanghua markets — and its newly-opened Syntrend mall — offer up a frenetic tech-buying experience unlike any other.
More than most cities, Taipei is big on technology. The Taiwanese capital is home to major global tech brands like ASUS and D-Link, with the likes of Acer, HTC and Foxconn headquartered close by in neighboring New Taipei City. It's also home to a big competitive gaming scene, and no end of outlets stocking the latest mobile gadgets.
For decades, the sprawling Guanghua market has been the go-to location for consumer electronics in Taipei. In recent years it's been joined by the Guanghua Digital Plaza, and in the past month by the new Syntrend Creative Park. From bustling outdoor marketplaces to polished multi-storey malls, with dedicated stores for most major brands, it's a tech shopping experience like no other.
Join us after the break for a guided tour.
Winding outwards from the indoor Guanghua Digital Plaza, Guanghua Market presents a maze of gadget and technology stores from some of Asia's — and the world's — biggest brands. But it's presented unlike anything you'd find at your local mall back in the U.S. Dozens of tiny stores for major names like ASUS, HTC, Acer and Lenovo are packed into these streets and alleyways, right alongside more traditional market stalls.
The selection can be overwhelming, but you never have far to walk before you've arrived at yet another outlet bearing the branding of a major name in consumer electronics.
That's in addition to smaller independent sellers set up in the streets alongside them. The whole scene is set against a background of restaurants, street food vendors and often cacophonous advertising.
You'll just as soon run into an HTC store as a 7-11.
You'll just as soon run into an HTC store, or an outlet casually selling stacks of high-end gaming hardware, as you are a 7-11.
Off in the distance in the shot below can be seen the newer Syntrend Creative Park, an ultra-modern counterpoint to the market's hustle and bustle.
Just like the famous Shilin Night Market, all that technology is sandwiched between a broad selection of Taiwanese street food.
Elsewhere, on the main streets, store fronts and billboards compete for attention against a vibrant, if occasionally dilapidated backdrop.
Most of the market stores themselves are fairly small, presenting a small cross-section of each manufacturer's product line. This Sony store was packed with camera gear, headphones, phone accessories and of course smartphones. Sony's still promoting the Xperia Z3 in Taiwan, with no sign of the newer Xperia Z4 in any of the stores we visited.
Across the street, another store is draped in the branding of Lenovo, the world's biggest PC maker, based on the Chinese mainland.
If there's one constant to point out, it might be Samsung's many experience stores throughout Taipei.
Samsung's Taiwanese outlets are pushing different products — the Galaxy A smartphones and Galaxy Tab A tablets, in addition to the GS6 series — but the overall look and feel of its stores is familiar wherever you're coming from.
The big Taiwanese tech brands dominate, with prominent placement given to the likes of ASUS and Acer.
There's a whole lot of ASUS going on, though. And the same is true of the other Taiwanese tech giants like Acer and HTC.
ASUS in particular is all over the place. Ads for the recently launched ZenFone 2, as well as its Republic of Gamers-branded gaming gear, are a regular sight.
Gaming is also big business, and PC gaming accessory maker Razer has several authorized resellers set up at Guanghua market — again, against a backdrop of traditional restaurants and other market stalls.
PC gaming hardware stores are common too, often with a repair business tagged on. So it's common to see PC towers stacked up, entrails exposed, alongside piles of the latest graphics cards from NVIDIA and others.
The market also houses a curious collection of digital relics.
But it's not only about the latest technology. The fast-paced nature of things means relics from previous generations of hardware are often left behind.
We ran into a few such digital antiques — an ASUS Padfone model from way back in 2013, and what we were informed was the last LTE Nexus 7 in stock (erroneously labeled as "Intel Inside", and ours for NT$5,500, around $175).
Nearby, a lonely Core 2 Duo ad stood neglected by a utility box.