Buying computers in another country (Japan)

My mother is going to Japan next week and she says buying computers there is cheaper than here in the U.S. So if she comes back with a Japanese computer, will there be any compatibility problems? Say, if you were to install AOL on to it, would you be able to? And if you do, will all the text be in Japanese?

I cannot see any reason that the hardware would not work (power supply issues notwithstanding). I mean, most of the motherboards (and possibly most other components) come out of Taiwan or Korea, and there are few problems with those.

The difficulties would come from things that are language based. The operating system, and the keyboard most notably.

The OS would be the Japanese version of WindowsXX, and the keyboard may (or may not) have a slightly different layout, due to the nature of the language.

But if you are not talking a laptop, it’s easy enough to plug in a new keyboard, and reinstalling an operating system is not that diffifult either.

I am not so sure you will get that much in savings though… especially not from Japan. Hong Kong or somewhere like that, yes, but I am not so sure about Japan.

Huh? What PC(s) is she saying this about? DELL US desktop prices will blow away any deal available in Japan (esp transported to the US). With the exception of some “Japanese only” notebook models not available in the US I was under the impression that PCs are almost always less expensive in the US than in Japan. I can get brand, new powerful 1 gigahertz + notebooks for $1000- $1500 in the US with full US warranties, never mind any import duties or transportation charges she would have to pay.

I can’t imagine what models or deals she is talking about.

Umm, this is not a real good idea for lots of reasons.

The power supply compat. is an issue. It’s not a 120-250 switch on the back deal. Japanese AC is sufficiently lower than US that it can harm the PS. People buying Japanese version VCRs (Betas) have learned this the hard way.

I don’t know if this is true anymore: Once upon a time in Japan the main type of PC, while it used Intel CPUs, was NOT at all compatible with the IBM-PC type (Wintels) we use here. Something a consumer should be informed about. How many other such issues there are I don’t know. Being in an “don’t know” state is not good when buying overseas.

Just because they also make the US versions of things does not at all mean that the US and (their) domestic version is the same.

(I also seriously doubt a price advantage in Japan. Maybe Taiwan, but not Japan.)

If she’s going to be shopping in Akihabara in Tokyo, she’ll likely discover that many of the larger stores there have separate sections for “domestic consumption” (stuff intended for use in Japan) and for foreign consumption. At least, that’s the way the stores were set up the last time I was there in 1996.

Forgot to mention something else about stores in Akihabara: Never mention a price yourself until you’re telling the merchant, “Yes, I shall now purchase that item for XX Yen.” Keep asking them to come down some on the price they’ve posted. I’ve gotten a few things for well under 1/2 the posted price by finally haggling that way instead of my previous method of asking the merchant if he’d sell the stuff for 1/2 the posted price.

This tip learned from a Japanese televison show entitled “Infoquest” back in 1992 or thereabouts.

There won’t be any power issues or otherwise. Computers here will work over there, and vice-versa. Most BIOS menus are written in English as well, and the only computers you’d have to worry about would be laptops (maybe). I have five PCs over here, and they’re all in English.

ftg is thinking of the NEC PC9800 series computers which used to be the standared PC in Japan. They were similar to IBM-compatible PCs, but had hardware support for Japanese language and were not quite compatible with standard MS-DOS and Windows software. Thankfully this “standard” is now completely dead. All Windows systems sold in Japan now are standard Intel systems.

The differences, as already noted, are the keyboards and software. The keyboard layout may look similar, but it is different enough to completely drive you nuts (e.g. the quote mark is Shift-7, and double quote is Shift-3) The Japanese version of Windows will be useless unless if you can’t read Japanese. You could wipe out the hard drive and install an English version, but if the PC has specialized hardware (e.g. non-standard ports and video on laptops, video capture, etc.), an English-language driver may not exist at all, and a Japanese-language driver may not work on an English-language operating system. There’s also the warranty issue.

As Monty said, if you shop in Akihabara many stores have duty-free export-only sections. These sections do carry English-language computers. But those are probably the same models sold in the US, and usually at higher price.