How to Buy Gadgets You Can’t Get in the US

Don’t be that person with another iPhone

Key Takeaways

  • Hardcore gadget lovers might want to check out the China-based websites Alibaba and DHgate for unusual items and steep discounts. 
  • One buyer says he’s had great experiences buying items from Chinese sites. 
  • For only $190 you can buy a PC that looks very much like an iMac.
A person receiving a delivery from a delivery person.
Witthaya Prasongsin / Getty Images 

It’s easy enough to order up the latest iPhone or Samsung phone, but for hardcore gadget lovers who want something a little different and to save money, there’s always the option to buy gadgets directly from China.

The phones, tablets, and gizmos that can be delivered straight to your door vary in subtle but delightful ways from the ones you can pick up at Best Buy. It’s sometimes hard to tell exactly what you are getting and the warranty service might be sketchy. But the uncertainty can be half the fun, some say. 

"Gadgets from overseas come a lot cheaper than the stuff made home, therefore you can find pretty good deals at low prices," Zohar Gilad, the co-founder and CEO of InstantSearch+. "There's also more variety and you can choose gadgets that fit you the best."

Too Good to be True?

Perusing China-based sites such as Alibaba and DHGate turns up some intriguing finds. For only $117.72 you could pick up a Goophone 6.5 11 Pro Max. That seems like quite a deal but the fine print is a little disconcerting. "System could be show fake 64GB/256GB/512GB, and I will send you it with 64GB/256GB/512GB box," the seller writes. 

Gilad says you have to take the good with the bad. "One major disadvantage is that there is no guarantee for the quality of said gadgets, and you may end up with a broken piece in a few weeks," he added. "I've had some bad experiences, but 95% of the time it ended up just fine. Another downside is the wait time—you'll have to wait a few weeks for the items to arrive."

A man receiving a package.
adamkaz / Getty Images 

In the market for an iMac but don’t want to shell out the cash? You might want to check out the all-in-one PC listings on Alibaba. For only $190 you can buy a PC that looks very much like an iMac.

It’s got that famous Apple-aluminum-look shell with a 27-inch screen and i7 4.20 GHz processor. This one’s sold by the Shenzhen Riguan Photoelectric Co., which boasts "over 5 years experience manufacturer in All in one computer."

For true junk lovers, the real gold is in the cheaper items. "I'm mostly interested in electronics and tech gadgets like batteries, adapters, watches, and other miscellaneous stuff," Gilad said. "There's also plenty of jewelry, cosmetics, home appliances, and sports stuff."

Fancy some men’s harem pants inexplicably emblazoned with a cough syrup label? They can be yours for only $22.81, although as with most items on DHgate there are discounts available if you order in bulk. Both DHgate and Alibaba handle business-to-business as well as consumer transactions. 

Stuff You Didn’t Know Existed

I spent countless hours browsing the categories and found many things that I didn’t even know existed. For example, there’s a surprisingly large variety of electronic fireworks displays. Only $81.15 for an entire boxed set including a remote igniter, in case you were wondering.

DHgate should also be your destination if you are in the market for a laser pointer with 1,715 listings at last check. Some of these lasers appear to be pretty powerful such as this $108 “military” model, which thankfully includes safety goggles. 

"One major disadvantage is that there is no guarantee for the quality of said gadgets."

The digital aisles of Alibaba are an Aladdin’s cave of weird things. You can buy everything from a $900 dentist's chair with an X-ray viewer to items you probably don’t want to skimp on such as this $130 portable oxygen concentrator

Getting your items shipped from China seems to be fairly painless, even if it might take a while for things to arrive. "Ordering from overseas is a fairly standard process with a small chance of getting broken stuff," Gilad said "You can always get reimbursed, but it usually takes forever."

Even for Gilad, who says he "regularly" orders items from overseas, there are limits. "It's good for ordering gadgets," he said. "But I still prefer ordering my phones, laptops, and expensive electronics from local stores."

I’ve personally got my eye on that all-in-one PC. Surely, for only $190 you can’t go wrong?

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