This post was from my first time buying a laptop. Please see this post for advice & recommendations on how to get the best prices!
I came to Korea with a Samsung Galaxy and a tablet, the Nook HD. Together I had internet when I needed it and it met my needs but I knew I wanted to get some upgrades. After I got my Alien Registration Card I replaced my phone with an LG Optimus but was waiting until my first paycheck to buy a laptop. While in the States I read that non-Apple products were significantly cheaper in Korea but upon first inspection I didn’t find that to be true. Yes, my phone is paid off in monthly installments with my data plan and will only cost me about $50 but the first laptops I saw at E-mart were about the same as what I found in America.
In E mart I found Samsung laptops with prices between ₩1,000,000 and ₩1,800,000 ($1,000-$1800). They had some LG and other off-brand models for ₩800,000 ($800) and a few bare bones laptops with minimal specs for about ₩490,000 ($490). After a little internet research and speaking to a few Koreans I realized the place to go was Yongsan Electronics Mall but heard that I should bring a fluent Korean speaker to make sure I get an English version of Windows and everything else I wanted.
Luckily Ben wanted to see the electronics mall to look at camera lenses while I was working and confirmed that there were some great prices, what appeared to be about 30% cheaper than at E-mart. I convinced my new Korean friend Rachel to go with me in exchange for dinner afterwards at the Itaewon Global Food Festival. We hopped on the subway Saturday after I got back from fencing and took the 30 minute ride to Yongsan.
The mall is very easy to find. There are signs in the subway station that say “Yongsan Electronics Mall” and we arrived at about 7:30. Luckily even though they close at 8:00 PM there were still a few vendors open. Walking in there are dozens of vendors selling what appears to be the same thing. We passed about 12 camera & lens booths and 5 or 6 monitor stations before seeing the sign that said computers – 5th Floor.
Taking the escalator up we found multiple desktop booths with huge gaming rigs, tons of monitor stations and even a festive furniture section with colorful lounge chairs and sofas. While walking around we eventually found a laptop booth with Samsung’s in the ₩700,000-₩900,000 range ($700-900). There were a few other models and prices went all the way down to about ₩390,000 ($390). The best part was the attendant spoke nearly perfect English!
I told him I wanted a laptop that had an SD card for my camera, made sure it had wifi and an English operating system and said I’d like an upgraded display card but don’t need the top of the line. He asked about brand and price and I told him price was more important than brand. I wanted more bang for my buck and didn’t need it to say “Samsung” if all that meant was I would pay an extra ₩300,000 ($300).
He immediately asked if he could make a recommendation and pointed to the HP Pavilion G6 sitting on display. It had a nice widescreen display with a numpad built into the keyboard and was listed at ₩490,000 ($490). I immediately started playing around on it and found it easy to use and navigate. I asked if it could come with English windows and he said of course. I asked about Microsoft Office and he said that was included too! He showed me the display specs and that it was bluetooth capable before pulling up a K-pop video. The display quality was superb and I was practically sold. The upgraded graphics card made this machine cost about ₩800,000 ($800) in E-mart so when he told me he would give me “best price” of ₩460,000 ($460) for cash I just asked him where the ATM was.
In hindsight I wonder if he would have negotiated even lower but in my mind I just picked up a high end laptop for around $450. He threw in a laptop bag, a headset and a mouse for free too! Turns out I didn’t need my Korean friend but I would recommend bringing one to anyone else visiting the mall because I doubt all the vendors are this fluent.