The level of service, fast delivery but most of all, their amazing website leaves the others in the shade!
Although you can sometimes save a few pence (or even a few quid) by going to competitors such as RS, Rapid, Mouser, eBay etc, you often find buying a few bits from one, and a few bits from another - just to get the best deal - means waiting ages for all your different suppliers to send stuff out.
Wherever possible we try to source all our components in one hit, from one place. And more often than not, it's from Farnell.
The reason is because their website is so easy to use!
I've never really browsed by category, or spent any time just clicking from item-to-item. I go straight for the search bar, type in what I want and then apply different filters to the results until I get what I want. Unlike some sites (*cough* RS) where even if you provide the exact part number you don't always get a match, the Farnell site has some really clever search intellegence behind it. You can even type in a vague description of the sort of thing you're after and it'll have a stab at what it thinks you mean. And then alongside each set of results, are alternatives or related components. Not Amazon-style-other-people-bought-this, but actually complimentary alternatives to what you've found.
Now we must add in a caveat to this Farnell-love-in.
But it's just another reason we put them above the others - brand loyalty.
Like most other "tech" suppliers, Farnell recently entered into the "community" arena; RS have their DesignSpark community (and their, frankly, dismal PCB design software), Instructables was recently bought up by AutoDesk - suppliers of the eye-wateringly expensive AutoCAD - just to get a community base and even gave away free versions of their CAD software, and Farnell launched element14.
In fact, element14 was one of the first to recognise that what drives geek-communities is a challenge. So they set up the Global HackerSpace Challenge. They even gave each hackspace a budget to buy stuff with. Not drop their own branded "freebies" onto them as a cheap alternative to beta-testing, but gave away real, genuine cash, and said "go buy stuff, make something with it, tell us what you made".
Now Farnell are continuing in this vein, giving away yet more stuff - but allowing the recipient to decide what to choose, not just promoting their own range of products. It's called a "blogger outreach programme".
And we think it's a great idea.
But then again, we probably would, since we're one of the lucky recipients!
It's hard, being given the Farnell catalogue to choose from, to decide what to go for. Choose something too expensive and you just end up looking greedy and getting expensive stuff for the sake of it. But then again, a handful of resistors worth 50p are hardly worth bothering with! In the end, we took a look at the projects we had on the go, and decided to grab some freebies to help complete them.
So yesterday we received 100 SMT LEDs which originally were going to be for our word clock project (using SMT means not having to drill over 200 holes on the next board!) but we might just incorporate into a full-sized light-up guitar fingerboard.
Since we've spent many months working on our range of miniature instruments, we've neglected what it was that first sparked the initial idea - that is a love of cool/geeky (full-sized) guitars. With a load of LEDs, we started designing an acrylic fingerboard (yup, acrylic. Not rosewood or ebony or maple - the usual choice of wood for a fingerboard, but good old laser-cuttable plastic!) The idea is to create a "learn to play" guitar neck, which can light up and show you where to put your fingers. Such guitars do exist, from places like FretLight, but they're quiet expensive!
We've a load of cheap guitars (off eBay) that play ok so we're going to try to retro-fit a light-up fretboard onto an existing instrument. But once we're done, we want the rest of the guitar to light up too!
So our second freebie from Farnell was a selection of EL (electro-luminescent) wire which we're planning on putting around the guitar body, for the ultimate glow-in-the-dark finish!
[EL wire photo]
We're really looking forward to spending a bit of time doing what we do best - just nerding out with a bunch of components and seeing what we can come up with. And, of course, posting the results on our blog.
Check back for progress updates soon!