More on buying electronics in Hong Kong, Part II

We've covered buying computer stuff in part I of this article. Now it's time to consider all the other items that make the digital life such fun -- sound and video equipment, cameras, and other electrical appliances.

Hong Kong has a reputation for being a good place to buy A/V equipment and cameras, but it's debatable. As Mr B warns, the smaller shops in the tourist areas in and around Tsim Sha Tsui are probably best avoided. That leaves several large chains of electronics shops which have branches all over the city, and a couple of other cheaper, but potentially more risky, alternatives.

The main AV/electronics chains in Hong Kong are as follows:

Fortress is the biggest electronics chain in Hong Kong, so if you're looking for the most solid establishment with the most mainstream selections, this would be it.

Broadway is pretty close behind Fortress; in almost every mall or other location in which you can find a Fortress, there's usually a Broadway nearby. I find their selection and display of products slightly inferior to Fortress, and their prices typically identical, so I don't often spend a lot of time in Broadway shops.

Tai Lin and Chung Yuen are smaller chains that have a more 'local' feel to me, and for some reason I've often found that their staff seem a bit older, and possibly more experienced and knowledgeable than staff in Fortress and Broadway. But your mileage may of course vary.

As I mentioned above, a cheaper alternative to the big chains is to check out the six or eight shops that each take up a floor in the tiny Yau Shing Commercial Centre in Mongkok. These shops look respectable enough, although they're often very smoky, and they tend to offer higher-end AV equipment at cut-rate prices. Often the best prices are on 'parallel imports', which Mr B has explained. You have to be a bit careful in these shops, both in terms of the provenance and warranty the actual item you're interested in might have, and also in making sure you don't go over the top and get talked into buying a product way up the scale from what you initially had in mind. You reach Yau Shing Commercial Centre by taking the MTR to Mongkok, hitting street level via exit E2, and then finding the entrance to the building just on your left. Its actual address is 51 Sai Yeung Choi Street, but the building entrance closest to the MTR exit is on the pedestrianized section of Nelson Street. It's worth visiting at least several of the shop in this building, since they tend to have quite different product ranges and specialties.

You can find out a bit more about what it's like to make purchases there in the description of a buying trip I made there some time ago:

Mrs Tall and I did go to a shop in that infamous building in Mongkok when we bought all the electronic stuff for our new flat a couple of years ago. It was a big purchase (an amp and surround-sound speakers, two flat-screen TVs, cabling, etc.) so we were able to do some heavy bargaining.It all went pretty well, in the sense that everything worked, and that the shop delivered and installed everything, so we didn't have to take a savings-wasting taxi ride!There were a few 'exceptional' aspects to the service, though, that might put some people off buying from this kind of shop. First, the same guy that sold us the stuff was the one who came along with the delivery men to install it in our flat. Nothing really wrong with this, I guess, but it gives you a sense of the scope of these shops' operations. More pertinently, the goods were delivered at 11:30 pm, and our guy didn't get done installing them until 2-something the next morning! The whole experience was mildly fraught, to say the least.

But we did save several thousand dollars over what we'd have paid at Fortress or Broadway!

Note also that if you're also interested in buying computer stuff, Yau Shing Commercial Centre is just a couple of blocks from Mongkok Computer Centre, which I described in part I of this article.

Mr B, as you'll see later on, also checks prices in a smaller chain of shops called Citicall. There's one at 87 Fa Yuen street in Mongkok, i.e. also in the Yau Shing/Mongkok Computer Centre neighborhood.

One other option for buying bargain-basement electronics is Ap Liu Street in Sham Shui Po. It's very near the Golden Arcade computer center, so again if you're going to one, you might want to check out the other. Like Golden Arcade, Ap Liu Street can feel a bit chaotic, but it's interesting and there's no denying there are lots of good deals to be had there. Mrs Tall and I have bought a couple of cordless telephones for our flat there with no trouble. Here's a bit more on Ap Liu Street from one of our readers:

Dave says:

If you're looking for cheap stuff, probably the best place to look is Ap Liu Street in Sham Shui Po. It's sign-posted from the MTR. At first glance, it's just another market street, but some of the stalls sell DVD players, HiFi systems, etc. Also, many of the shops behind the stalls sell general electronics and whatnot. It's the place to go if you're looking for electronic components, tools (multi-meters, etc) or just gadgets (electric shavers are about $70, for example.)

Also, there are quite a few second hand camera stalls there and some second hand computer places. You need to know what you're doing with the computer places: it's usually secondhand components sold as is. If you know what's what, there can be incredible bargains there, and it's a great place to find older stuff.

Now, a few more notes about buying electronics in Hong Kong.

Although the chain stores all provide marked prices on all items, you can bargain. Mrs Tall has been told that the shop staff are given a 'bottom line' price they can go down to if a customer pushes. We've had success doing just this a couple of times recently. First, we bought a Philips LCD TV from one of the chains earlier this year, and were indeed able to knock about 15% off the marked price. The existence of this practice was confirmed when we recently bought a DVD recorder. The particular model we ended up buying was marked at HKD 2790 in every shop I checked (and I checked all the big chains). We ended up buying it in a shop in Yau Shing Commercial Centre in Mongkok for HKD2100 -- but we noticed our receipt said HKD2380. We asked the salesman why, and he said that 2380 was the manufacturer's baseline price in Hong Kong, so they had to pretend that's what they charged. The big chain shops, of course, won't pretend: that 2380 would indeed have been the lowest price we could have bargained down to. As you can see, it's again about a 15% reduction. But obviously the best price was to be had in Yau Shing Commercial Centre. In fact, if you shop in Yau Shing, you really must bargain, as in most cases prices are highly negotiable. And you should always pay less for a given item in Yau Shing than you would in one of the chain stores.

Here is a very helpful and systematic research into comparative pricing from Mr B:

To give a better picture of the differences in prices, here are the prices I've found on my hunt for a video camera (proving the saying that you can tell the age of a man's firstborn child by the age of his video camera!).

I'm looking for the Sony 105E model, and found the following prices (all in HK$)...$8,990 - this was the 'official' price, quoted at the Sony showroom in Causeway Bay, and also the price at Broadway

$8,540 - Fortress$8,150 - Citicall

Added note: The day after I wrote this I went to buy at the Citicall in Central, and happened to ask in a nearby shop 'Wah Kiu Radio Ltd' at No 7 Queen Victoria Street. This price included local warranty, so they got the sale:$7,740 - Wah Kiu Radio Ltd$6,888 - Shop on Johnston Rd, Wanchai$5,980 - Several shops in 'Yau Shing Commercial Centre' (the building in Mongkok by the 'Bank Centre' MTR exit).The first three are all covered by local warranty, while the last two are parallel imports. A closer look shows that the parallel imports are the 105 NTSC model, instead of the 105E PAL model that is used locally. The $6,888 model is from the US, while the $5,980 model is from Japan.Given that it's a digital video camera, and our TV supports multiple standards, I'm not sure if the PAL/NTSC difference is important or not?

Finally, a quick visit to shows the 105E available for $9,360, and the 105 available for $7,800.

Another note about the chain shops: the quality of the staff and their knowledge of the products they're selling varies widely. At the chain stores we have had both excellent and appalling service. Fortress is in fact notorious for the indifference of its staff, and I've found this to be the case disturbingly often. When I bought an electric razor recently I starting looking at a Fortress, just because I happened to be near one when I thought about it. I looked over several models that were locked up in a display case. I wanted to take them out and play with them a bit, but there was no one behind the counter. I then looked over to another counter a ways away: five Fortress staff gathered around laughing and talking. I gave them the Look of Interest, got no response; waved, nothing doing; then finally walked over and said 'Do you think one of you could spare a minute to sell me one of your products?' or something similarly snide, which was of course utterly lost on this slack-jawed quintet. I did stay for a couple of minutes so that a sullen Fortress salesgirl was compelled to stand up and open up the display case, but I wasn't about to buy my razor there. When shopping for the DVD recorder in the chain stores, I also heard some remarkably creative accounts of the capabilities of the model I was looking at. In fact, the most seemingly-knowledgeable and competent salesman I talked to was just wrong wrong wrong about any number of things, it later turned out.

Finally, as you sift through the name-brand items from Sony, Sharp, JVC, Philips and so on in Hong Kong electronics shops, you'll also come across some brand names you might not know -- Malata, 'Super', and many others. The great majority of these are Chinese made, i.e. either in Taiwan, the mainland, or even occasionally in Hong Kong. They're often far cheaper than the big brands for items with comparable features. If you're living overseas, I don't know that I'd risk taking one of these products home, unless you're sure it's compatible with your home country's specifications/requirements, and you're really not worried about warranties/repairs. But if you live in Hong Kong, you might succumb to the temptation to buy one of these off-brands: in fact, both batgung have done so, with differing results:

Mr B writes:

Something to keep in mind if you'll be playing DVDs in HK ...I wrote the first 'buying electronics' article after I'd just bought a new Sony DVD player, with built-in tuner and surround-sound amplifier. It had all the speakers, looked slick, and I was a happy camper.

The problem with it only appeared later -- it is a very picky eater, and fussy about the quality of DVDs it will play. To add to the frustration factor, it often starts playing a DVD ok, but half way through it starts skipping and pausing before finally giving up completely.Hong Kong is awash in fake DVDs. Whether you buy them, or borrow them from friends & family, your DVD player will likely have to digest more fake discs than real over its lifetime. The general wisdom is "Buy a China model, they'll play anything!So, last night I became the proud owner of a "Super"-brand DVD player from a local store, for just HK$468. Sure enough, it happily plays all the DVDs that the Sony spat out. Surprisingly it has more features than the Sony. It even has an "Optical Out" connection, and after hooking that up to the Sony I still get the Dolby/DTS surround sound.

It isn't going to win any design awards, and as an added challenge the remote control buttons and their legends don't match up, but it certainly does its job.

Mr Tall adds:

On the other side of the coin, a cautionary tale: Mrs Tall and I also went the 'cheap and cheerful' route in buying an LCD TV several years ago, when they were just starting to become common. Instead of a name brand like Phillips or even Samsung, we got a 'locally made' brand called 'Konka', thinking it'd likely show the same robust characteristics as the VCD/DVD players manufactured in these parts.Well, it turned out to be a piece of junk. Its built-in tuner was nearly worthless, and eventually it started losing the signals coming to it both from our TV hookup and from our DVD player. It became essentially unusable, and since we were loath to put any money into trying to repair it, we just cut our losses and replaced it.

So beware! The DVD-player principle does necessarily hold for other electronic goods!

Happy shopping!


Still expensive to buy cameras in Chain Store

I don't know about other electronics products but yesterday I went to Broadway and Fortress Hill to buy the SONY TX1 camera but I found out that it's nearly 375US$, but in US Sonystyle Store it's only 199US$.

You can see it's a big difference. Almost double! Can't imagine!

A good place you can search cheap products is

in it's only 266US$ for TX5 camera!