In Singapore where hobbyist are generally understood as Gundam models collectors or Tamiya cars racers, Sim Lim Tower is probably the only market place for electronics lovers. With four stories of retro-style retail shops which essentially selling the same vintage, it never fails to bring me back to the good old days. I sometimes do wonder how these shops survived. Maybe because of our curriculum for the final year project never changes since 1985, or our consumers are nostalgic by nature. But one thing for sure is that the shop owners are able to turn mediocrity into magnificence. When a LED light is selling at chocolate bar’s price, it is not too hard to understand how this market works. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t mean that there is no bargain in the market. I do shop there frequently for some connectors or tools. But when I am quoted S$380 for a Chinese made hot air rework station, I’m totally turned off.
In the quest for alternatives I’ve tried Element14, RS Components, DigiKey, Robot-r-us, and some random ebay shops. All have their pros and cons. My personal favourite goes to China’s taobao.com. To those who are not familiar with Chinese B2C/C2C, this website is a Chinese fusion of amazon and ebay. There are millions of manufactures and private sellers setting up store front there. Virtually anything can be found, and usually without minimal quantity. The only thing prevents overseas users from buying from taobao is you need a Chinese Alipay (copycat of paypal) account and a China mainland address. Obviously you must understand Chinese too to be able to browse the website and communicate with sellers. Dealextreme.com ventured into the communication gap. They collect orders and divert them to respective taobao suppliers, with a pretty decent margin, of course. In the early years SingPost has also looked into this market. They setup VPost, a concierge service which provides a virtual China address for delivery and then they forward to you using their SpeedPost service, at Fedex-alike charge. I used to use this often but feel too expensive for bulky items and usually I do not need the parts in a hurry.
With the huge influx of Chinese immigrants these years, other small concierge services pop up. And I finally found my playground… Oh sorry this is supposed to be a blog not a shopping guide. So today I collected my recent shipment from 65daigou.com. Here is a partial list:
ATTEN AT8586 2-in-1 SMD rework station with TONS of freebies at RMB275 (S$57). I used to have an AOYUE 8032A portable hot air gun but it has serious heat controlling problem. I hesitated between AT8586 and AT858D (as recommended by EEVBlog, again), and finally choose AT8586 because it is more compact for my limited work space. Although I’m not a fan of ATTEN brand due to the incident of their reckless copying of Rigol digital scope, their soldering equipment seems to be pretty decent quality among Chinese products.
A LCD bracket at RMB109 (S$21.8). As I mentioned in previous blog I’m not totally satisfied with the iPad clip. The flex arm is too stiff to be bent into the shape I wanted. So I get this LCD wall mount bracket. After some modifications I’m able to mount the iPad clip onto the ball head and now I have a super steady iPad mounting solution.
Some SMSC USB2514 chips at RMB10 (S$2) each to repair the USB hub on my Dell U2211 monitor.
100 pieces PCB heat transfer paper at RMB30 (S$6).
6000x50mm cooper plated kapton tape for making flex PCB, at RMB25 (S$5).
Some small USB connectors, at RMB0.2 (S$0.04) each.
A set of small spudger tools, two rolls of Kapton tape and some solder mask oil at RMB62.5 (S$12.5).
Everything weights up to 6.5KG, and I paid S$127 for the products, S$13 for agent fee and S$26 for shipping by sea. It only takes 1 week to reach Singapore, same as normal airmail (woot!)
So next time I know where to shop.