A couple times a year there are big holidays in China which mean massive sales from Chinese sellers. Later this week is 11.11, also known as singles day, which is basically China’s equivalent of Black Friday sales. It is the biggest sale day of the year so this will likely be the cheapest prices on import tech until 2018 and Chinese New Year.
In honor of the sale I decided to make a quick video with a few tips for buying from overseas sellers. Hopefully this will help you get a great deal when buying from overseas and not get ripped off.
1) Do your research:
The most important thing is to do your research about any product you buy. For example, with action cams I recommend only buying cameras if they are a well-known brand name, or explicitly state what sensor and processor is in them because otherwise you’ll get the cheapest possible. It is important to do your research because if you get a bad product and want a refund, chances are the seller will require you to return the product to them, and shipping costs back to China often exceed the cost of the item in the first place.
Since returning items is often out of the question, it is imperative to know exactly what you’re buying and why you’re buying it beforehand.
2) Buy from a reliable source:
Aliexpress has pretty solid buyer protection and you can use PayPal on both Gearbest and eBay. I have found from personal experience that you’re most likely to get a fake product from eBay and from 3rd party overseas sellers on Amazon. AliExpress has a strict policy against selling fakes so they are more rare. I don’t recommend buying from eBay unless you are very confident in the seller.
3) Buy with buyer protection:
The problem with buying cheap tech is that quality control isn’t always as good, and there’s always the possibility of getting a product that doesn’t function properly. So look for sellers with a good policy on this. I’ve dealt with Quality Control issues after buying things on AliExpress a few times and almost every time the issue was resolved in my favor. I’ve also dealt with Gearbest’s Dead on Arrival policy before with success. Although it might take a little pressure sometimes, don’t be afraid to push for customer service. When in doubt, buy with Paypal, which has a good claim system for buyers.
4) Warranty may not apply:
If you buy a product from an overseas seller and it is not a well-known brand name, the chances of getting warranty support if the item dies after a few months are slim. You may be required to send it to China for repair. A quadcopter I bought had the camera die for example, and I sent a few e-mails to the brand name’s “support” and never heard back. Even on Amazon, there are so many trash 3rd party products. This is why I recommend buying products from 1st party brands like SJCam, Gitup, Viofo, Eken. Any brand that has a moderately active social media presence will usually have more responsive customer service and warranty.
5) Be careful of scams:
It is a good idea to act like everyone is out to scam you – if the price is too good to be true, chances are you’re going to get an inferior item. Some sellers like to increase prices in the weeks before sales to make it seem like the items are a huge discount. Be wary of fake products from unreliable sellers.
6) Be ready for long shipping times and customs fees:
Depending on your country, shipping can take forever, and there can be customs fees upon import. If you ship any of the faster carriers, like DHL, you will almost certainly be charged customs fees if the value of the item exceeds the minimum threshold for your country. In Canada, that threshold is $20 Canadian, and shipping carriers will charge a minimum $25 fee, which can make a cheap item suddenly more expensive and not worthwhile. Usually, if you choose standard and slow shipping it avoids customs fees.
7) Do not trust reviews:
Overseas sellers are not bound by the code of ethics and advertising laws that domestic sellers have to abide by, and many of them prune negative reviews on their site to make their products seem better than they are. Reviews from independent 3rd parties are usually more reliable, but this isn’t always the case. Due diligence is necessary to separate the shills from the legitimate reviews.
Now, if that didn’t scare you off, you can save a ton of money buying stuff from overseas. Just make sure you do your homework first and buy from a reliable source. Hopefully this helps you have a positive shopping experience and save a bit of money on 11.11.
If you are uncomfortable with buying from overseas sellers, black friday sales are almost here. Check it out on Amazon:
The SPCA 6350 / OV4689 Processor and sensor combo does a decent job faking 4K. Some Youtubers even claim (incorrectly) that it’s better than GoPro 4K! You might not be able to tell the difference on a smaller screen… But it is only 1/2 the resolution of real 4K, and since it uses MJPG instead of H.264 for 4K mode, there is a lot of compression artifacts. It is also only 25FPS instead of 30, making it jittery at times. Some shots even got corrupted. This was filmed with an H9R clone (same cam as Akaso EK7000, but unbranded). It is also found in Eken H9 and a bunch of other cams around $50 – 60 on Amazon/Gearbest/AliExpress/etc.
When deciding on a dash cam it is important to consider the type of mount it uses. There are several styles of mounts, but I’m only going to discuss some of the more common types: the suction cup mount, the adhesive mount and the rear-view mirror mount. Each one has its benefits and drawbacks, so the goal of this video is to help you decide which one is right for you.
We’ll start with the suction mount. This is probably the most common mount style of the inexpensive dash cams and is found on a number of cameras such as the G1W, the Yi dashcam, and a whole host of other cameras. The biggest benefit of the suction mount is its simplicity. It is easy to install, easy to remove and leaves no residue. This mount uses a suction cup to stick to the windshield, and typically a camera clips or slides into place on a plastic joint. This type of mount is best for individuals who want to use one camera across multiple cars, or for commercial drivers who cannot install a permanent mount into their vehicle. The real drawback to this mount is that it isn’t very low profile and sometimes has trouble sticking to the windshield, especially if you have these little black dots. That can make it difficult to hide behind the rear-view mirror. Also, watch out for this style of suction mount, where the camera screws into place, because this type of mount is a pain in the butt to take the camera off of.
The second type of mount is the adhesive mount. The camera generally clips or slides onto a flate plate, and the plate is stuck to the windshield with double sided tape. Because this type of mount sticks so close to the windshield, cameras that use this mount are often lower profile, such as the wedge shaped A119 or many remote lens cameras. This kind of mount is best for the set it and forget it user – the type of person that has one car and wants to install their camera more or less permanently. The permanance is the biggest downside – this mount can be very difficult to remove. When I wanted to move the camera to another car I had to buy an additional mount.
Rear-View Mirror Mounts
The last type of mount I am going to discuss is the rear-view mirror mount. This type of mount clips directly onto the rear view mirror, or in some cases is a full replacement to the cars factory installed mirror. The benefit to this mount is that it can look like a factory install once the wires are hidden, but the downside is that many of the rear view mirror cameras are made with low end hardware that has reliability issues, for example the first few results on Amazon film in AVI format, and some even some eschew basic safety features such as anti-glare coatings. If you have features such as a power mirror or a backup camera built in, you may lose these by changing over to a rear view mirror camera.
For most users, who want a dash cam in their daily driver, the adhesive mount is the way to go because it is very low profile, stands up to heat and is semi-permanent. The downside is that it is difficult to remove, if needed. The suction cup mount is good for a first dash cam or for one that will be used in multiple vehicles. Just keep in mind that if you have these little black dots it is hard to hide the camera behind the rear-view mirror. Rear view mirror cameras, I wouldn’t currently recommend getting but that may change in the future.
This USB power bank resembles a normal battery bank, but it has a “unique” feature that makes it potentially deadly. The hottest I measured this battery at was about 80°C / 175°F – and lithium ion batteries do not like heat.
In most cases dual lens dash cams are a bit too expensive to be worthwhile because they do not offer the same video quality as single channel dash cams. They usually:
Have lower video quality (resolution or bitrate) than 2x single cams that are the same price or less expensive
Have lower reliability because more data is being written to a single micro SD card
Have a lower quality image sensor for the back cams.
The benefit to dual lens cameras is their ease of use to set up compared to 2x single cams. Everything is done in a single body, including wiring, memory cards and wi-fi connections.
Dual lens dash cams will usually not be the best choice for the money until a camera with a reasonable price point and high resolution becomes available. It is cheaper to install two standard cameras instead and the result is far better video quality. There are several 1080p and 1440p cameras available for less than $100 per piece that will have significantly better video. If you’re buying a dual lens dash cam buy it for the other features it offers, not just because it has two cameras built into one.
Micro SD cards are a fairly confusing topic when it comes to dash cams because there are so many options available.
The best cards for dash cams currently available are the Transcend High Endurance cards. These cards are well reviewed in terms of speed and reliability and are recommended on several dash cam enthusiast websites. Unfortunately I don’t have one myself as they’re a bit difficult to get in Canada at a reasonable price so I just printed out this picture of one for you to see. Also, I recommend getting a minimum of 32GB, and 64 if your camera supports it.
I’m going to get into some technical info about SD cards but the main point of this video is don’t cheap out. It was a mistake I made when I first started buying dash cam gear: when I got my dash cam, I also bought a Sandisk Ultra card. These things are cheap for a reason, and are unreliable in dash cams, to the point where Sandisk no longer warranties the cards if they are used in dash cams. I thankfully caught when the card started to have errors but there are countless stories of others who thought their cameras were working, only to find that their cards had no data on them. To understand why these cards are unreliable let’s take a look at the underlying technology inside of a micro SD card.
There are two common types of micro SD cards currently available for consumers: MLC or multi level cell and TLC or triple level cell. Data in a card is stored as a bit, located in a physical cell. The key difference between MLC and TLC is the number of bits per cell. In a TLC card, each of the storage cells can contain 3 bits of data. In an MLC card it is typically 2 bits. Most of the cheaper cards available are based on TLC because, well, think about it this way – if the cells are the same size, and you can squeeze 3 bits into the same area you would normally get 2 bits, that means a TLC card can have 1.5x the data storage that an MLC card can have. This is why it is a commonly used technology: todays applications demand more storage in these tiny cards. The trade-off for jamming more bits into a cell is that TLC storage does not last nearly as long as MLC. The lifespan of a TLC card can be as low as 1/3rd that of a MLC card because each cell is used more when data is written to a memory card.
A TLC card in itself isn’t inherently a bad thing and for most applications they work great. Dash cams, however, are quite the demanding application. We write data to the entire card over and over again, meaning that in a TLC card each cell wears out far faster because more data needs to be written to each cell.
All of these cheap cards over here are based on TLC flash. And even among these cheap cards there are differences. Different cards offer different speeds. Different cards have different warranties. Some cards offer features such as error correction. And others, well, they just straight up die one day. I do not recommend in any case using cheap SD cards because they are often not fast enough to keep up and they are nowhere near as reliable. That rules out this pile here.
Thing is, there are some cheap TLC cards that people use in dash cams and they work fine. MLC cards currently cap at 64GB so if TLC cards are required for more storage. I personally used these Lexar 633x cards for a long time and they didn’t fail me. If you’re going to buy one of these, grab yourself a 128GB. They’re around $43 and have a warranty that is not voided in dashcam use. They’re about the only cheap ones I can recommend off hand though I am sure there are some others that are ok too. Information about these cards from other manufacturers is scarce, and many manufacturers void the card warranty if they are used in dash cams.
That’s why I generally recommend the Transcend High Endurance cards over any of the other cheap cards. They are well – designed for dash cams. I don’t even recommend other Transcend cards because their warranty is void if you use them in dash cams. There are other brands with MLC out there – Kingston Industrial is more expensive and Adata Premier Pro is dirt cheap, but I haven’t tested it yet and I can’t find much in the way of reviews out there so it’s hard to say if it’ll be reliable.
In conclusion, buy cards designed for dash cams and buy them from a reliable retailer. Avoid Sandisk (even their high endurance lines!), Delkin, silicon power. Also keep in mind that MLC is a bragging point. If a card doesn’t advertise MLC, chances are is isn’t. Don’t waste your money on cheap cards because they might fail you when you need them most.
Thanks for watching! I hope this cleared things up for you. If you have any questions please ask in me in the comments.
On October 3rd, 2016, Amazon.com announced a terms of service update for its reviewers that affects everyone in a big way. Amazon announced that effective immediately incentivized reviews are no longer allowed on their service. If you’ve shopped on Amazon recently you’ve probably seen them: an incentivized review is when the reviewer has received a free or discounted sample of a product in exchange for their honest review. Under the old system it needed to contain a clear disclosure, “I received this product free or at a discount in exchange for an unbiased review”. Reviewing in exchange for products is now against the rules. On the surface this appears to be a good thing. I know from my fair share of shopping on Amazon that it was getting harder to trust the reviews there as there would often be garbage products with inflated scores. However, in my opinion this change is merely a bandage on the actual problem of biased reviews and this move appears to me to purely be a PR campaign as the way it changes things is not necessarily for the better.
I won’t lie to you: most of the products I have reviewed here I received at a discount or free through Amazon sellers. I try my best to review them honestly by pointing what I like and don’t like about all the products, but there are many others out there who received free products and are essentially posting advertisements, not honest reviews. A company called ReviewMeta made a video a few weeks back that said reviewers are the bane of Amazon buyers, and to an extent I agree. I’ve paid full price for several products based on their positive reviews that ended up being garbage and I’ve had many free products where I look at my fellow reviewers five-star ratings and wonder what could they have been thinking. But here’s the thing: in every case with these incentivized reviews, to stay within Amazon’s rules, the reviewers always had to have a clear disclosure that their review may have bias because they received a product at a discount or free. The new Amazon ruling is vague and anyone can still post a review on any product without it being a verified purchase. With the new rules updates there is a small potential loophole where sellers can send a product to a reviewer for free or discounted, wink a few times and magically the reviewer will feel inclined to review it without a disclosure as they did not promise a review to the seller.
Now that incentivized reviews are banned from Amazon, the honest people who were really trying to help buyers find a good deal within the rules of the system will get pushed away and those who were dishonest will just keep reviewing without the disclosure. This is a win for Amazon and a big loss for the customer. Amazon appears to have solved the problem to the general public when in reality there are still incentivized reviews out there, however, they’re now far difficult to differentiate from organic reviews. In the last two days alone, I have already had a half dozen sellers offer to send me money by PayPal so I can buy their product on Amazon and make it look like an organic sale. I did not go ahead with this but I don’t doubt a less honest reviewer will. Review websites like Amazon Review Trader are now listed as “discount sites” and no longer require a disclosure if a review is left so there’s no way to tell whether it was organic any more aside from the verified purchase badge. Have you ever went to a big tech website and read an article that appeared to be a review, then found out after that it was sponsored content or so called native advertising? This happens everywhere on the internet. Online people can literally say whatever they want. The difference was that on Amazon it was EASY to spot who was saying things with bias. Now it won’t be so easy.
Incentivized reviews were not all that bad in many cases. The reviews often included useful information because review sites rewarded word counts and in depth reviews. I see so many organic reviews that rate a product one star and say things like “box arrived dented” or give a product five stars and just say “works good.” Ok, what about it works good? At least with incentivized reviews there was an incentive to write a detailed analysis of the product. Even if the star rating was skewed a bit higher there was often still a lot of useful information about the product(s) being reviewed.
In the end this entire thing is in my opinion, a mediocre way of covering up the problem. To the general public the problem will appear to be solved but in reality it is not. The only thing you can do to protect yourselves as a buyer is take everything you read with a grain of salt. Look at actual review content instead of star ratings. Look for reviews on other sites, not just Amazon. And don’t be afraid to post your feelings about a product yourself. It’ll help everyone else who is considering buying it, whether your view is positive or negative.
I’d like to hear your thoughts and opinions on this change so please leave your comments below and I’ll do my best to reply to it. As of this article being published, Amazon Canada‘s terms of services have not been updated to reflect the changes at Amazon.com.