Retailer Reviews - personal experiences with online shopping
Price Comparison Engines
If I had to pick one online computer retailer as my favorite, NewEgg.Com would be it. I've placed quite a few orders with them over the past year and been happy with their prices and services every single time. Be sure to check out their "refurbished" section, which I've found especially good for getting deals on motherboards--and a lot of their "refurb" components include free Fedex saver shipping (!).
Yeah, it's wholesale only, but if you've got a valid reseller's license, check 'em out. They're usually a little slower at processing orders than most (orders tend to ship 2-3 days after being placed) but on the items that are making the rounds on a lot of "clearance and closeout" webpages, they consistently have 'em beat pricewise. Inventory changes constantly, but their quantities are updated real-time so I've never ordered anything and didn't receive it because it was really out of stock.
Louie the Liquidator's surplus hut is definitely worth checking out. There's a large, categorized list of surplus and closeout computer components with somewhat random pricing. Every day, somewhere between five or twenty items get discounted by half or even 75% for a day or two (the more oddball the item, usually the bigger the discount). Every page entices you to sign up for their "insider newsletter" which doesn't give you any prices or sales you wouldn't see on the web, but it does mean you get a daily list of which items have been drastically reduced that day. They're a little slower than most when it comes to order-processing and shipping and, though they list how many they have in stock for each item, it's not quite accurate, so several times I've placed orders and had them get cancelled when they turned out not to be in stock after all.
- addedum (2004.03.09): not sure what's up with these guys. A few months ago, their site went down and they said they were moving their warehouse. The site went back up, but it hasn't changed since then and clicking through on the sale products on their home page gives you a non-sale price. Every once in a while, I get a test email from them, but their newsletters stopped months ago.
A random hodgepodge of surplus equipment, but hidden in the pile are usually at least a few shining deals. Their search functions usually don't work, and their descriptions range from limited to nonexistent, but I've still found some deals there that I've been happy with.
Here's a place that stocks a wide range of high-quality cables, connectors, and adapters at about half the price that the rest of the world is trying to sell them for. They don't seem too knowlegeable about what they have, so don't expect much in the way of technical support or clarification on whether an item is the particular kind of connector you're looking for. Once in a while, they've had items listed incorrectly or otherwise misidentified in their catalog, so you may want to order a sample before going whole hog and taking advantage of their great deals on what may turn out to be the wrong products. I haven't had any problems personally with the quality of their products, but I've gotten email from people who have said they have; another reason you might want to order a few sample items before getting anything in bulk.
I can tell you, however, that they now have the 13w3-HD15 adapters that do work for separate synch monitors (previously they had the ones that didn't) and they have great prices on internal SCSI cables of all varities. (Their external cables have great prices too, but a few of them are misidentified so you might not get the ones you want.)
Not nearly as cheap as Cable Club, but they actually know what a VHDCI cable is and their prices on that type of cable and most others are pretty good.
HSSDC to DB9M 1GHz fibre channel cables for $16.50 (quantity 5+) and UPS 2-day shipping at the UPS Ground rate with no outlandish shipping/handling charges? Can't complain about that; I placed an order over the weekend and I was already putting them to good use by Wednesday. 2 GigaHertz Certified cables are a little more expensive, but not bad either. Good selection of Cisco router cables too.
Another good source for accessories and cables; big selection, pretty good prices.
Specializing in CPU and case cooling fans, they also carry video cards, external drive enclosures, and hot-swappable drive racks. Prices are generally good and without absurdly overinflated shipping and handling fees. Best of all are their quantity prices on (unsurprisingly) CPU coolers, so if you're going to be building or upgrading several systems in the near future, this is a good place to stock up.
These three are where I've found the best prices on inkjet cartridges, specialized paper and labels for inkjet and laser printers, and packaging for CDs and DVDs. They usually have a few more random bargains in the mix.
I've bought generic inkjet cartridges from this company; the prices looked good enough, but the cartridges seemed to last only about half as long as the generic cartridges I've gotten from other companies.
While this list is primarily concerned with online computer and electronics retailers, I'm going to mention Action Computers anyway. While you could consider their eBay auctions to be online sales, but they mainly do business out of their Denver, Colorado, area retail locations. If you're in the area, be sure to stop by on Saturday mornings when they have their "final cycle" sales, where they blow through hundreds of computers and lots of surplus IT equipment in a few hours. Pretty much everything is untested and in unknown working condition, but a Pentium II or Celeron system may go for twenty bucks, and even if you're looking for something more state-of-the-art, you've still got yourself an ATX tower case with power supply, floppy, CD-ROM, etc., and if it's got the kind of memory or a hard drive you can re-use, that's a bonus.
Ever buy from Firesale.Com? (no link; the site vanished a year or two back) While 80% of Firesale's stock was partially complete surplus/used equipment going for about what the manufacturer's suggested retail price had been three to five years ago, the prices would just keep marching downwards steadily until somebody bought it, and I actually found quite a few good deals just by poking around long enough. Looks like Firesale has been reincarnated as "Tech for Less," but I haven't found anywhere as many good deals lurking there as I did before.
One warning--when I have bought items that were listed as being package of several (e.g., "ACME NetThingie, pack of 10") either from them or Firesale, I've only gotten a single item, and while the price was decent for a pack of ten, it's waaaay above full retail for just one.
Sorry, they're gone now. At least they sold me most of their hard drive inventory in one aggressively-priced lump before they closed their doors.
I guess these may be two different companies, but it's hard to be sure, since they act the same way. They're both in Illinois, but the addresses aren't the same. Both advertise temptingly low prices on processors (Intel Pentium and Celeron, AMD Athlon) but have whopping huge surcharges if you order more than one of any given type, typically adding another 30-50% (!). They also advertise low shipping charges...but sternly warn you that you don't get any warranty and your order might not ship for a few weeks unless you cough up a wad of cash for special "premium" shipping and handling.
"Ah-ha," I thought, "I could just go through their list and order one each of ten different speeds and types, and I guess I can stand to wait an extra week or three for them to ship!" Seemed like a good enough idea, but when I've tried that, the orders simply never showed up.
Need to replace the failing NVRAM on your Sun Sparc-based computers? Here it is. Lots and lots of electronic parts and accessories for fixing anything on the individual chip or component level.
Speaking of Sparcs, this place has by far the cheapest price on current version Sparc Open Boot Prom (OBP) chips; they'll also include the updated OBP if you buy a Sparc system base from them, either installed or "on the side" (which means you get the old one too). So, for $55 apiece, I got in a pile of Sparc 20s with the old OBP (half with 2.18, half with 2.22) with an equal number of 2.25 Open Boot Proms.
Unfortunately, I haven't found a good source for 200-pin DSIMMs. Sometimes the cheapest way to get them is to snarf up a memory-packed but otherwise unexciting Sun server on Ebay.
Looks like some good prices on tape media, but I'm still waiting for them to arrive. I'll let you know.
Broad-line retailer of all kinds of camera and video equipment; usually not the best price, but not the worst either, and a lot of parts that can be hard to find anywhere else. Check out their used, demo, and open box sections--there have been a couple of times when I'd been looking for a specific oddball item and it just happened to be in their markdown section and pretty darned cheap. I may have just been lucky, but you could be too.
I've picked up a few harder-to-find digital camera accessories and optics from this company; the prices seemed reasonable and I've had no problems with my orders.
Lots of electronics, especially home theater and video stuff. Not usually the best prices around, but sometimes pretty close and every once in a while they'll have a special sale that puts them in the lead price-wise. Decent prices on DVDs and CDs too. Fast delivery and no hugely inflated fees.
I've often found eCost to have the best prices on consumer VCRs and miniDV tapes. They have this odd "countdown" section with a list of popular items, each listed with one to thirty units remaining and some number of hours to go, urging you to buy them before they're all gone or the time runs out. When they run out or the time's up, they just start over, so it's not really a limited-time offer. There's usually something at a decent price on the countdown list (and usually several items that are not much of a bargain) but you can only get one item off the list per order; if you try to get more than one, it sometimes messes up the shopping cart function and you have to start over with an empty cart.
eCost advertises "free shipping" on orders over a certain amount, typically $250 or $500. While that sounds great, "free shipping" doesn't actually mean that the shipping is free. For example, I ordered $250 worth of miniDV tapes--which is not a large box at all--and at the very end of placing the order, a $10 "handling fee" leaps into the shopping cart. Since my order was being shipped UPS ground, it probably was less than $10 in actual shipping charges.
One of the most creative sites around in the "piling on of extra fees" category. I tried buying a consumer-model VCR from them (10.8 pounds, according to the manufacturer) and when I placed the order online, it popped up with a $42 shipping charge for UPS ground. That's more than a little exaggerated, but, even with that added, it was still cheaper than buying it in my local electronics store.
...then, two days later, a salesperson called and pushed (hard) for me to get their extended warranty. After I declined, he told me that there would be an additional $40 "overweight package" fee, because he claimed that this ten-pound VCR exceeded UPS' weight limits. Before he got to telling me any of the rest of the fees they were going to add onto the amount shown on the order, I told him to cancel it; by that point it was cheaper to buy it in town.
They claim to have good prices, but I've never successfully ordered anything because they turn out to be "out of stock" on advertised items if I don't buy the extended warranty.
Same here. The prices may look good, but when I decline to get the extended warranty, its "out of stock."
Seeking the Secret of NiMH? Here's where I get mine; they don't have much besides rechargeable batteries, but they've got a lot of those--and you know that's one thing you can never have too many of.
This is now my new favorite source for AA and AAA NiMH batteries. Great quality, even better prices, especially in quantity. Not the place to go for one or two cells--or for anything nonstandard--but if you want few dozen or a few hundred, this is the place.
Two warnings, though--their "powerizer" AA batteries are physically slightly larger than standard AA batteries, so they can make for a tight fit, and their 10-cell "smart chargers" take three times as long to charge batteries as any other charger I've ever used, and they run hot and smell funny. No explosions, however, at least not so far.
|back to the FAQs|
|the base of the tree|