Not quite distributors, but not tiny either. These are medium-sized companies that have a lot of all-around good stuff
saelig A small company with USB, USB-on-the-go, Ethernet, and RFID ICs, but also wireless modules, and test-gear like bargain LCD scopes, dataloggers and spectrum analyzers. I've bought stuff from them and they always seem to stock interesting things.
Sparkfun caries all sorts of neat stuff. They also have a hobbyist PC board service.
Jameco Good selection, no minimum order, reasonable prices and very good service. Good place to find old-school TTL, power supplies, tools and robot parts.
Elexp I love this site. Its a bit old-skool but they stock pretty much everything for hobbyists and very good prices.
FuturLec Man, I have no idea who these guys are, but they sell some really awesome chips for really cheap! (Unfortunately, they may never ship to you, I've had some bad experiences and so have others! Caveat emptor…)
Russ says: I have used quite a bit, shipping sometimes slow, and not cheap, but shipping is disclosed before the buy and I have always gotten everything I ordered. Lots of selection, cheap 1 % resistors, lots of selection on PIC's and Op amps to mention only a few.
Chris says: I had a really bad experience using futurlec. I made an order on their website (everything was indicated as "in-stock") which totaled around $800. I heard nothing from them for over a week, and the status page indicated that my order had not yet shipped. I emailed them to ask about this and they told me they needed my 3 digit security code from the credit card. I sent this to them promptly… Again over a week passes and no update as to the shipping status. I receive another email telling me not all the parts are in stock , and they don't know when they will be. I wanted to get building as soon as possible so I told them to cancel my order (so I could order from say digi-key). It took over a month for them to finally refund my money after several emails (beware of companies that charge you before they ship). My friend also had problems with this type of issue (items that appeared to be in-stock but weren't). I would personally never order from them again. Also you can expect a week turn around time for your emails to them. My 2 cents.
Martin says: I had a great experience with them… I live in Canada so I have relatively few inexpensive means of attaining parts for my projects. I am working on my own MP3 player built around the STA013/CS4340 combo, and I ordered a pair of each, for $6.90 and $2.40 respectively, as compared to $17.14 and $5.16 from Digikey. Since it was such a great price, I also got an assortment of diodes, IC sockets, some 74xx logic, some prototyping boards and a pair of SSOP adapters, and 100 assorted LEDs. Shipping included, it came to only $55.80. Took 3 weeks to ship, though, and came straight out of Thailand :) Apparently Futurlec is Australian, and they ship from Thailand. I would buy from them again. I mean, the thing is that just the STA/CS parts were less 66% and 50% cheaper, so even if they lost 1 order, I could buy from Digikey any still have not lost all that much money.
Blankname says: I have also a good experience. At first I had troubles because I don't have credit card, but I contacted them and I paid with paypal. I took less than two weeks to arrive, very well packed. They don't give you a proper tracking number using the cheap shipping (4-10$ depending the order amount), but they give you the "receipt number", you can use it to track your packet using thailand post. They also don't have minimal order. They are Australian, with some offices in certain countries, and they send from his warehouse in Thailand. The bad thing for me is that they doesn't have some infrarred sensors I need (CNY70, TSOP17xx), but for ICs, diodes, resistors, some hardware (breadboars…) are good&cheap. If you buy, check the value packs, a lot of mixed value components (resistors, transistors, capacitors) at very cheap price.
Nate says: eeeh. I have to give these guys a serious caveat emptor. I ordered a few pieces of a single part, and aside from seeing my account debited within minutes, I didn't hear anything for a week. Finally, I emailed them asking for a status update, and a day later a rep told me that the part I requested was out of stock when I ordered, and was given a list of alternatives, and that they weren't going to see any more of my part soon. I checked the page, and it still said they were in stock. I replied, questioning the dubious nature of taking someone's money, and not bothering to tell them that their paid request couldn't be fulfilled. I also mentioned a possible replacement piece, but first wanted to know if they had any idea when my specific parts would be in. Another day or so went by, and I simply received an email stating that my account was charged an additional amount (price difference) and that the other parts would be shipped immediately. …not what I asked for. In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have even mentioned the other part. I didn't push the matter any further, though. The parts will get used, for sure, and it wasn't a huge amount of money (less than $15, including shipping). But, overall, I'm not at all thrilled with their service, and would seriously warn anyone from buying from them without giving it some thought. Next time, I'll go through eBay for cheap parts.
These are all the new(er) mini/boutique shops that have appeared in the last year or two. Usually run by one or two people, they sell a select or specialized set of products