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Sim Lim Square, the best and only place for D.I.Y. computers

Sim Lim Square wide

By Terry Xu

I know some people have called for a boycott of Sim Lim Square following the recent Sim Lim Saga where a tourist was made to beg for his refund over a purchase of an iPhone 6.

But note this: Sim Lim Square was never a place to buy handphones to begin with. You might have better deals at Funan Centre or Far East Plaza which would probably give you a hassle-free purchase experience.

Sim Lim Square for as long as I recall is a place for Do-It-Yourself enthusiasts who want to assemble their dream personal computer (PC), with the latest and highest end component they can afford to buy, to play the latest game in market or to render a high end multimedia project at office.

It is practically the only place in Singapore where you can find such a variety of PC components and hardware. You might find such shops around your neighbourhood but they do not offer the high-end components as what the shops in Sim Lim Square do.

People say you should avoid the shops on the first and second floors. I would instead say just avoid the mobile shops and camera shops. The other shops are still running a decent business, catering to a niche group of individuals.

I do not have any shops to recommend as shops do come and go as the years go by. I have since assembled four PCs from Sim Lim Square since my days in polytechnic and never have I felt conned by the shops there.

Like many say, don't go to Sim Lim Square if you are not sure what to get there.

Visit Sim Lim Square only if you want to buy:

  • Personal Computers (not laptops)
  • Computer peripherals (mouses, keyboards, etc.)
  • Printers and its compatible third party refill cartridges (save money from costly manufacturer ink)
  • Latest electronic gadget/device (not from the first and second floors)
  • CDs, DVDs and other recordable medium - it is here where you can buy in bulk
  • Second-hand monitors and computers - at the back alley shops, third and fourth floors

For those who may be interested in visiting Sim Lim Square to get a computer but unsure how to go about it, here's some raw advice in getting one from Sim Lim Square.

1. Set a budget for your "dream" computer, stick to your estimates else you will easily burn your pocket.

2.  Before deciding on which shop to buy from, you can either download the price list from Hardware Forum or just drop down to Sim Lim Square to obtain the price list from the stores. Go down to the foodcourt in the basement, the cafes in the back alley or somewhere near the IT mall to go through the price list, comparing what the shops have to offer.

Note: Different shops offer different price on components so add up the items to see which shop will offer a better deal.

3. Consider bare essential items you will need to buy:

Central Processing Unit (CPU)

  • Motherboard
  • Hard disk
  • Random-Access Memory (RAM)
  • Computer casing (To house the motherboard, hard disk, etc.)
  • Keyboard and mouse
  • Optional - monitor screen (If you do not have an existing screen or are looking to upgrade.)
  • Optional - speakers
  • Optional - Windows operating system (If you already have an installation disk, then there is no need.)
  • Luxury - Graphic card (Most motherboards come with a on-board graphic card, purchase one if you have the budget or intend to use the computer for gaming.)

The main bulk of the cost comes from the central processing unit (CPU) and its motherboard. The CPU has to be compatible with the motherboard. All the PC shops will label the compatible CPU and its motherboard on its price list as shown below. ( There will be people asking, "Can I buy a cheap CPU and motherboard but with high end devices with my budget?" You can... but that would be akin to driving a Porsche with a cherry QQ engine.)

cybermind price list
Screengrab of pricelist from Cybermind

So looking at the table, you can see the total cost of the motherboard (column) against the processor (row) of your choice.

4. After deciding on which shop to approach. Ask the friendly staff of the shop if the choice of the motherboard and processor is available from their store (If they are not friendly, just move to the next shop). I had been told more than once that my choice of motherboard and processor is out of stock after confirming the items I have wanted, so do make sure.

Also, if you are intending to use the computer for specific purposes or intend to upgrade your computer in due time, do consult the store assistant if the motherboard you are purchasing is able to upgrade further, with more RAM (readily accessible memory, memory for programs to be run), more hard disk slots, multiple screen support, etc.

5. I would recommend looking at the peripherals next, such as hard disk, RAM, mouse, and keyboard, because they generally cost cheaper (not the case for high end gaming) and therefore does not need much consideration.

6. Then comes to casing, ask the store assistant which computer casing can fit all the stuff you just said you want to buy and whether the power unit which comes with the casing can support them. You might have to purchase a higher end power unit if the original power unit cannot provide enough power for the devices.

Note: Generally there shouldn't be any issue with the computer and monitor compatibility, but on the safe side, just ask to confirm. Also please ensure that your monitor can fit your table top - I have seen people buying a large monitor who end up selling it away before they can't fit the monitor in their desk.

7. Once you have confirmed the items and made the payment, they will pass you a reciept and ask you to come back in half an hour, an hour's time or more depending on the crowd. They will bring you to a "shady" back alley which the computer is assembled and show you that the computer is installed with all the items that you have purchased.

8. Lastly, consider your monitor if you do not have one at home, 25 inch wide, 27 inch wide, or even 30 inches. Just browse the wide range of monitor screens available in Sim Lim Square which suits your needs. You do not need to purchase from the shop you got your computer from. Again, only in Sim Lim Square can you find such a variety apart from the computer fairs.

The shops will generally provide you with a warranty of a week so that you can return to the shop if there is any issues. However, certain items will be warranted by the manufacturer instead of the retail shop, so do take note.

Try to go with a friend when you D.I.Y. your computer, especially if you are unsure. You would need a third party to advice on whether you need to extend your budget, or to go for a higher specification as "suggested" by the store assistant. Nothing wrong with that, but it is about working within your budget and fitting your needs.

Although Sim Lim Square management touted the place as one for bargaining, the only "deals" I have seen so far would be getting a few dollars off, like $2 off a $12 item, or anything just to round off the figure.

Nevertheless, there is hardly any hard sale tactics employed by the shops dealing with PC components as the target consumers are people who know what they want. The shop assistants are merely there to assist the consumer to compile their picks.

So if you're feeling up to it, drop down to Sim Lim Square and visit the D.I.Y. computer shops. While you're at it, take photos at the shops blacklisted by CASE, just for the fun of it.