In the last couple of months I could collect some experience in where to buy the electronic components I use in my projects. Since in most cases I don’t care so much about several weeks of delivery time I usually order from one of several Chinese online shops or trading platforms. The following list reflects my own experience with these shops and platforms and does not have to necessarily reflect other opinions. I also should mention that the shopping links on this blog can contain affiliate links. This means that you are supporting this blog by clicking on the links and ordering something there.
DX or Deal Extreme was the first page recommended to me by several colleagues for direct Chinese shopping. I was amazed by all the shiny gadgets that you could order there for sometimes a fraction of the price you would pay in Switzerland. So I went ahead and ordered a bunch of Arduino items, USB power adapters and such. While some orders arrived within 2-3 weeks, others took like two months or didn’t arrive at all. My feeling is that the prices are very competitive to the other shopping sites described here but reliability is rather on the lower end of the scale.
I would call Seeedstudio the “Chinese Sparkfun” Online Retailer. It is whole heartedly focused on DIY electronic enthusiasts and usually has very good documentation about the components they sell. Many items have their own wiki page with code samples and diagrams. Compared to the other online retailers the prices are sometimes significantly higher. Take the NodeMCU V1.0 which at the time of writing costs USD $12.95 plus 2.95 for shipping compared to USD $7.99 with free shipping at Banggood. That’s 50% more! Ok, maybe the comparison is not fair and the NodeMCU V1.0 is of higher quality and from a genuine producer, whereas Banggood might have sourced it in some shady channels. But that is hard to tell from here…
AliExpress is not so much a wholesaler but rather a more or less secure e-commerce platform for many shops in China. An escrow mechanism ensures that you only pay for goods that are in pristine quality and customer/merchant rating creates some kind of trust-system between the trade participants. If you search for a specific item on AliExpress you often get multiple sources where you can buy the item. I usually pick the one with the best ratio of happy customers and with a good price. Here you often can find the lowest prices of all the sites discussed in this post. But be aware that you don’t really know who is shipping you the items in the end. On AliExpress you also can find goods that none of the other sites offer.
Personally I order very often from Banggood. They have good prices (although not so good as on AliExpress), they do free shipping to Switzerland and about 70 other countries as well and orders usually arrive between 10-25 days in good quality. By writing reviews you can collect points which in turn you can use as a discount for your next order and lower the prices further. Think of it as some kind of loyalty discount. I like the page which usually reacts fast (important for scanning for new items) and their customer care reacts quickly and tries to mitigate problems with the delivery. Banggood has quite a lot of DIY electronic items and I almost never had any problems with the quality.
|Price NodeMCU V1.0:||N/A||USD 15.9 (incl. Shipping)||USD 8.00 (free Shipping)||USD 7.99 (free Shipping)|
|DIY Electronics:||Good||Good||Very Good||Good|
|Documentation:||Poor||Very Good||Depends On Merchant||Good|