Just about every major city in Australia has a big, shiny Apple store now. And the major eastern cities are even lucky enough to have Microsoft or Samsung stores. Some have both. But if you want to buy your tech at a PC store — well, it's like stepping into the 80's.
Taiwan's Syntrend is the opposite of that. It's houses concept stores for some of the biggest PC and technology brands, and I'm officially jealous.
The first floor of Syntrend, which is located around 20 minutes west of Taipei's CBD depending on traffic, has a bunch of telco outlets and the Intel Experience Store.
It's the kind of store that really puts Australian retailers to shame.
The Intel store is kind of what I wish Apple and Microsoft would go for in their stores. It's inviting and flashy enough without being suffocating. You don't feel like your senses are being assaulted by the Intel colours. It's a store you'd be happy to walk in.
There's things for you to play. I don't know why they have GRID Autosport and not one of the many better titles — Assetto Corsa, Project CARS, F1 2015, DiRT Rally — but hey, it's a racing seat and a decent setup for a store nonetheless. There's even Street Fighter and a HTC Vive setup, although a kid was playing at the time and I couldn't be bothered photographing a child.
But then it got better. Our Intel handlers graciously allowed us to explore the rest of Syntrend which housed even more cool PC stores. Like MSI's.
Racing chairs seem to be a bit of a thing. Not as big a thing as VR, but there's plenty around. The MSI figurine was pretty neat too.
By this point the stores seemed to have a common theme: come sit down and play. Not just for two or three minutes, but for a fair while.
And then I saw the Razer concept store.
According to a South East Asian journo who'd been to Syntrend before, you can play in the Razer concept store all day and you won't be kicked out. That's not too shabby given that they've got plenty of decent machines, decent games and decent gear to play on.
All the big brands were represented, although I didn't have enough time to visit the higher floors. ASUS was just around the corner from Razer, and their branding ... well, it leaves a bit to be desired. Grey and beige stopped being a thing a while ago.
Although some people might look at the traditional ASUS styling and think of comfort and stability. In that light, having a couch to chill on is a really good idea. And their offerings are just as upper class as Razer and Intel, if you're in the market for wearables with a touch of designer fashion.
Syntrend was really beginning to feel like Taiwan's tech equivalent of the 109 department store in Shibuya. There's way more room for foot traffic and the retailers themselves on each floor, but there's a common thread. Lots of style, a touch of sophistication, and plenty of places for customers to relax and enjoy your products.
Your high-end tech products, that is.
There was just one gimmick I saw that came off as a little creepy. In the store sporting the Samsung Gear VR chair above, there was a small alley. In it, tens of iPads were suspended from the roof.
They were hooked up to an A/V system where you could select either a movie or a piece of music — and the iPads would turn and rotate as your selection played, although it wasn't entirely clear where they were rotating to.
More creepy than cool, that one. But when you've got a building that craps on what the vast majority of the shopping experience is like for tech in Australia, one or two misses won't hurt.
The author travelled to Computex 2016 as a guest of Intel.