If you know what to look for when it comes to computer stuff, these are the places to go.

So you’ve decided not to go to one of the big computer dealers to buy a PC. “Why should I go to Dell / Sony / HP / IBM / Apple (delete whichever you feel like) and pay a bomb when I can build my own machine?” you say.

Well, the main reason is that few people – especially here – actually have enough knowledge to actually BUILD their own machines. If you are someone who thinks that wetware has something to do with the latest beach fashions, you should probably stick to your friendly neighbourhood vendor.

For those who are made of sterner stuff, there’s always the option of going out to the various shopping “districts” located in the country. The only question is: where do you go for the best deals?

There have been several rather famous ones overseas. Anyone remotely interested in the Internet and IT certainly heard of the Akihabara Electric Town in Tokyo – THE Mecca for net-savvy tech-heads – whilst the Golden Computer Arcade and Golden Computer Centre in Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong actually have their own Wikipedia entry. Happily, we’ve got some pretty good ones right here in KL itself.

Probably the most hip place to be now is Low Yat Plaza in Bukit Bintang. Ever since it made its debut a few years ago, it has fast overtaken Plaza Imbi as the centre for getting your geek on.

This is definitely a one-stop centre for all your IT needs (unless, of course, you intend to buy a Cray or a Silicon Graphics server / machine that will cost you a bomb. Go to Los Angeles, you rich freak). You can get components for many (and we do mean many) shops – and it really pays to shop around, as the different vendors don’t actually charge a uniform price.

There are several vendors who specialise in just components alone – cables, USB ports, switches, DRAM, VRAM and any other combination of letters that will leave you with a very expensive headache. Some shops are actually big enough to encompass several lots – I bought my home PC a few years ago from one such vendor, and they were kind enough to actually install everything because I bought all the components from them barring the software (which was original, thank you).Give yourself a medal.

Really, you can get stuck there for hours, and still not have enough time to see everything. The only real problem is that there is always a large crowd of people – even during the weekdays. Forget going on weekends, especially at the end of the month when everyone’s gaji comes in. Unless you happen to be a pickpocket.

If the thought of coming into the heart of KL at any time of the day to buy a few computer parts is enough to drive you up the wall, a new player has come to offer an alternative. We’re talking about the Digital Mall in Section 14, PJ, which is located where Metrojaya used to be.

The concept of the building is rather cool – there’s a huge monitor screen on the outside which is actually live, because there’s someone inside doing stuff on his desktop. It’s all transmitted for all to see – so it’s safe to say that there won’t be any surfing to, shall we say, risqué sites.

There’s also a new model Toyota on display outside, which is part of a competition – to guess the number of blank DVDs in a box which is next to the car. Quite a challenge, actually; you might want to try your luck.

The Digital Mall opened its doors officially on Wednesday, Aug 9, 2006 – and like all new places, is a bit on the undercrowded side. When we visited the spanking and rather swanky new place – the counters were gleaming so well, you could probably eat char kwei teow off the floor (we don’t recommend that you try this. If you do, make sure it’s not kwei teow sup).

Still, you can sense something in the air – the intangible feel that you can get good bargains. And believe it or not, you actually do. Creative Editor Pravin Menon and I were literally glued to the first kiosk alone for at least 10 minutes each – the price of recordable DVDs were awesome. He got Ricoh double-layer DVD discs for RM12 each, whilst I got 100 unbranded single-layer DVD discs for RM50. Score!

We haven’t even begun to talk about the shops that are selling more components. Needless to say, quite a few of the weekends for the Cache crowd are going to be tied up.

There were fewer shops at the Digital Mall than at Low Yat, certainly – but that’s only a matter of time. And though there are alternatives to Low Yat like the IT Centre on the MidValley Megamall’s fourth floor, they do not offer as diverse a selection.

The Digital Mall looks set to be a permanent fixture; and though it means competition for Low Yat, it is the user who will win – and that’s what counts the most.