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Shenzhen – The new hardware and electronics shopping Mecca?

Going to Tokyo or Taipei to find fancy electronics? If your local electronics mall doesn't have what you want, or not at the price you want, try Shenzhen's Huaqiang Road first – it's likely much cheaper with wide choices, and just a budget flight away… 

Huaqiang Road instead of Akihabara

For quite a long time now, it is Far Eastern cities that have the largest, glitziest and choicest computer and electronics shopping malls around. While the tradition started in US and Europe long before, it's here now that every major city has a full fledge 'electronics district' with multiple large centres covering everything from consumer electronics to computers and components. Singapore's combined Sim Lim Square + Tower may look small compared to Shanghai's Xujiahui or one of Seoul's multiple 'digital complexes', not to mention the old champion, Tokyo Akihabara.
However, one particular place is seemingly bound to overtake them all. Shenzhen, the 15-million populated centre of China's electronics industry and of the new 50+ million supercity starting from Foshan and Guangzhou then continuing all the way to Hong Kong, houses thousands of companies manufacturing and increasingly designing everything from ICs, display panels, flash storage to mainboards, enclosures and of course whole systems. Being right at the source means that any shopping for the stuff we want would be quite direct without too many hops, and also greater likelihood of finding some unusual stuff.
While Shenzhen and neighbouring Dongguan city have the electronics factories and design centres spread across their whole municipalities, the focal area of electronics shopping, both end user and channel wise, is Huaqiang North Road (Huaqiangbeilu), a long street located in the centre of the city between the Luohu (Lowu) and Futian CBDs. The main street, as well as its numerous back alleys full of even more electronics related bazaars, is served well by two metro lines, one of which connects to both the main Lowu HK border crossing and the Shenzhen airport, while the other one, with a station in the northern part of the street, links to the Shekou international ferry port with its direct service to HK Airport departure halls, bypassing HK immigration and the security. So, no problems getting there.

The roughly half a mile of length of Huaqiang North road street level between these two metro stations contains about a dozen electronics malls of different sizes, with the two largest ones – SEG Plaza and the Huaqiang Electronic World – being million square-ft sized gigantic establishments. SEG Plaza, topped up by a 72 storey 354 m tower. The rest of the malls, along the main street, as well as another dozen or so malls in the back alleys, focus more on specific areas, like only communication electronics, mobile phone accessories, or security products, or batteries, or LED displays, and so on.
We focused mostly on SEG Plaza and the Huaqiang Electronic World, as your exploration adventure should start from there. The lower floors are a good point to look at first, as it is a heaven for component seekers. Any kind of PCIe connector, or memory or FPGA or flash chip, or funniest wires, batteries, disk drives, even screws, you could ever think of – have a look!

The higher floors will normally house the same stuff you'll find on floors 4, 5 and 6 of Sim Lim Square in Singapore, or Low Yat Plaza in KL. There are all the mainboards, cases, monitors, enclosures with PSUs and such. You'll find the same high end offerings too, just like here. The difference? Many things are cheaper, especially things like enclosures and, yes, monitors. A miniITX casing with PSU here will cost you some 30 singapore dollars cash and carry, while a 24-inch 16:10 format (!) Samsung LED-backlit super slim LCD monitor will go for around S$ 250 or so. For the parts such as memories and disks, usually the price will be slightly lower than here, but there were cases where, on the first inquiry, some vendors will try to play too smart with high prices. Note that a little bit of haggling is expected anyway, but only that much literally – little bit as in able to squeeze prices by maybe 10% on average. Electronics is quite a challenging business to make high margins anyway…

Either way, SEG Plaza and the Huaqiang Electronic World will pretty much take you most of one day – the other day should be there to check the smaller malls and their oddity of things on offer. The places are so huge, there is so much on offer, and with very special offers for things you'd never think you could find – whether it's a super custom cellphone enhancement, or an odd chip from days gone by, or parts for your own home radar – this is the next mecca for electronics afficionados.

Nebojsa Novakovic
In the spare time over the past two decades, editor and writer of high-end computer hardware and design features and analysis for European and US media and analyst houses. Reviews of high end hardware are my specialty for 28 years already.

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