The shop is something like an auto parts store. There’s a long counter, and most of the parts and surly sales assistants are kept behind it. Customers stand on the other side and wait their turns. You would almost expect to see a little machine dispensing numbered tickets, but no one calls your number here. If the shop is crowded, you need to be a little assertive. Stand at the bar and stare at whomever is most likely to be free to help you next.
You also need to know what you want. This isn’t a place for guessing games. The guys behind the counter (there are women working there too, but for some reason they’re almost never up at the front) are familiar with the parts and know what works with what. They’ll give you advice if you need it but they won’t make decisions for you. They’ll help put things together too, but they’re not ashamed to use electrical tape if the wires won’t stay out of the way, or brute force if the tolerances are just a bit off.
The parts and prices are listed on white boards in the customer area, reminding you how quickly things are likely to change. Prices tend to go down over time, and parts tend to be replaced by newer models with higher numbers of megabytes and gigabytes and suchlike. You can get slightly better deals on parts if you look online or go to one of the big discount retailers that are still in business, but you won’t get the kind of support you’ll get here. It’s worth the few extra dollars, and then some.
The shop will build a computer for you, if you want, or sell you the parts to build your own. Everything is geared toward mid-sized tower units. If you want a new desktop, you’ll get a tower. If you want a home server, you’ll get a tower. If you want a business server you can get a rack-mount case, but the parts inside will be similar to the parts you’d get in a tower. It’d be nice if they’d pick up and support the Mini-ITX form factor, but the number of variables they deal with already is fairly large and wimpy support for Mini-ITX would be worse than no support. You’d need a lot of parts and pieces to support a full line of Mini-ITX products, and that’s my guess as to why they stick with what they know.
When I first started buying desktop units from them, their prices were so much lower than the name brand PCs that I figured I could buy three for every comparable Dell or HP. I was told by management where I worked at the time that the “professional” systems came with better warranties and service. I figured (correctly) that the one year warranty from General Nano was just as good for that first year, and afterwards I could use the savings to buy another system if I had a serious enough problem.
Since then, the name brands have dropped prices quite a bit—but see my earlier post about the lack of service from Dell.
I’ve done business with General Nanosystems for years, and had a particularly positive experience just recently. We messed up and ordered the wrong thing from them, and they helped us get back on track. Very nice.
Summary: Recommended for true geeks who know what they want from a PC. All others: Bring a guide geek with you when you go.