(Very, very) cheap and hopefully safe
January 20, 2013 3:06 AM   Subscribe

Inspired by all these threads (1, 2, 3) I was wondering which products are much cheaper than other products in the same class, but offer comparable, or exceptional performance. Generally, I would suppose these would mainly come from Chinese companies that aren't very well-established internationally.

For example, FiiO is generally regarded as making some very bang-for-buck amplifiers and DACs, and the recent rash of pendroids are very cheap and offer good performance for the money.

  • Much cheaper than other similar products

  • While cheap, it must be good - comparable or class-beating performance, essentially

  • Ships internationally

  • Reliable

  • If it's a tech product such as the pendroids referenced above, software updates and technical support
  • posted by titantoppler to Shopping (17 answers total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
    Dealextreme is a Chinese "no mimimum order" site selling more or less everything, but of varying quality. What makes it a little different is that there is a large (and largely western) community reviewing the items and will really let you know if it's worth taking the risk of the couple of dollars.
    posted by Iteki at 3:30 AM on January 20, 2013 [9 favorites]

    Seconding DX.com. Almost everything I get is cheap and functional and cheap. You just have to read carefully to avoid bad design or clunkers which the reviews often indicate. For bigger ticket items check AliExpress.com, the single-unit sister site of AliBaba. Watch the shipping rates carefully though.
    posted by seanmpuckett at 5:22 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

    There are lots of Hongkong-based webshops like DX. I've also successfully ordered from TinyDeal.com. Sometimes they're cheaper than DX; it's interesting to compare.
    posted by Too-Ticky at 7:22 AM on January 20, 2013

    Fibrox/Victorinox kitchen knives (vs. hundreds-of-dollars Henckel and Wusthof).
    posted by mendel at 8:14 AM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

    Second Victorinox kitchen knives - that's the company that makes Swiss Army Knives. They are cheap but they are not cheap IYKWIM.

    No wooden handles. (No problem as far as I am concerned.)
    posted by leafwoman at 9:03 AM on January 20, 2013

    Mass-produced oil paintings from China are a nice way to decorate a room respectable and cheaply. We've bought 7 or 8 from aliexpress.
    posted by miyabo at 10:34 AM on January 20, 2013

    Also I've heard good things about bikes from bikesdirect, although in my opinion used bikes are probably a safer bet.

    I recently had to order some electronics hobbyist stuff -- perfboard, little LCD screens, etc -- and ordering from China was like 90% cheaper.

    RGB led strips are increasingly popular for accent lighting, and are way less than half the cost if you buy from China.
    posted by miyabo at 10:40 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

    I've found tons of jewelry on aliexpress.com that looks identical to the "handmade" stuff on etsy at a buck or two a pop (as opposed to $60+). Generally there are a lot of manufacturers selling stuff like craft supplies, toys, clothes, for dirt cheap on there, but since it's all through individual sellers I can't speak to the quality.
    posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:58 AM on January 20, 2013

    Harbor Freight Tools has lots of great deals, again, you've got know what's not junk, often from word of mouth. Their spray guns are other air tools are a good deal, and I know lots of contractors who will go in and buy 2 or 3 angle grinders, becauses no matter what brand they all burn out from heavy use.
    posted by PaulBGoode at 7:10 PM on January 20, 2013

    Old Navy clothing. Especially their t-shirts, which fit me better than anything else even 5x the price. Great for simple basics.
    posted by mgr at 12:03 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

    The jewelry stuff linked to above on aliexpress.com is a known etsy scam. Regretsy has a section tracking them - people buy stuff, take nicer photos and list it as handmade for a huge mark-up.

    Generic pharmaceutical supplies direct from small specialty suppliers in Asia. I know families that buy medical supplies inbulk from these companies, contacting them directly, to share with other families for home care of sick children.

    I bought pregnancy test kits from dx.com for about $0.10 a strip. The instructions are in Chinese, but they are the same in contents as a $6 brand also made in China sold at my pharmacy.

    We also routinely buy home electronics made for the Indian or Chinese market by major brands like Philips - the model isn't listed on the main websites, only popping up in Indian store catalogues for example. AFAIK, it's usually minus one or two features and the price is a big discount. We live in Singapore, so I'm presuming they are just imported here.

    My kids buy coloured contacts (non-prescription) from Korean stores online for about half the price at retail. They come in a regular box, just all Korean instructions.
    posted by viggorlijah at 12:07 AM on January 21, 2013

    Response by poster: Hi all - would it be possible for you to name the websites that you shopped at, e.g. when you say "from Korean stores online", which websites in particular?

    If it's not convenient to put it out there, feel free to MeMail me.

    Thank you all so much for all the responses so far!
    posted by titantoppler at 4:00 AM on January 21, 2013

    I'd be remiss in not mentioning our Hong Kong-based optical supplier, Optical 4 Less, which is the perfect combination of very, very, very inexpensive and yet still precisely made. (It's cheaper than most of the other suppliers, and while the Pakistani shops give it a run for the money, I've never had a perfect optical grind on my strong 'scrip from Pakistan, while O4L has never sold me an imperfect lens.)
    posted by seanmpuckett at 4:22 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

    Want an amp that'll blow your mind? Google the phrase "Lepai TA2020" ...I bought one on ebay for less than $20. It outperformed my RACK MOUNT STUDIO AMP. And it sounds so very clean. Holy cow. Sure, the rack mount amp has the ability to crank out more sheer volume, but the Lepai can still reach louder volumes than my ears will tolerate, and did I mention it sounds better?
    posted by 2oh1 at 2:43 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

    My cheap Chinese cellphone case was in the realm of $2 off of eBay (which seems to be a treasure trove for this kind of thing). It actually looks and feels nicer than anything that Verizon were selling, and cost me less than the bus fare it would have taken to get to the store.

    It's got a small crack in it, so I might buy another, but hey... $2, right?
    posted by schmod at 7:26 AM on January 22, 2013

    I've gotten eyeglasses from Zenni and MyOpticalShop, and while neither were the best glasses I've ever owned, they were $30 prescription eyeglasses instead of $500+. The construction quality was top notch, but you need to buy the frames without actually trying them on first, which is the reason for "not the best". After finding those shops, I imagine the CEO of Lenscrafters swimming in an ocean of coins like Scrooge McDuck.

    Also, HDMI cables - and pretty much all cables - are best bought online and not retail. Best Buy makes it's money on the accessories, which are occasionally 10x price in the store.
    posted by talldean at 9:46 AM on January 24, 2013

    I think I'm going to go this route next time it's time to buy a new monitor. Buying a brand name seems silly when you can go so much cheaper with the same manufacturers.

    posted by kostia at 5:44 PM on January 24, 2013

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