Guest post by TDL reader Ian Webster

We all love tech, we all love the latest tech and we all like the idea of getting that tech before anybody else. With this in mind I was tempted by the latest tiny PC to hit the market, the Tronsmart Ara X5. This device is powered by the newest 14nm Cherry Trail Z8300 CPU and is preinstalled with a Fully Licenced windows 10 so plenty of ticks in the right boxes.
So in September my mind was made up and it was time to buy, but the device was not available in the UK at that time, so I decided to buy direct from a Chinese retailer.

Now let’s get one thing straight from the start. I have no issues with the retailer in question, these guys are very popular with geeks who are buying tech and I have read many good reviews of their services but I thought it might be useful to describe my experience as a note of caution to other prospective tech buyers.

Order placed on the 13th of September, and at that time the retailer was clear that postage would be delayed by a few days but the courier company used was DHL so once despatched the item arrived within 3- 5 business days i.e the 22nd of September, all things considered a good result.

And this is where the story really begins. I eagerly unboxed the item, plugged it all in and ….nothing. Not a glimmer, nada..! I tested the supplied power supply and that was putting out the correct voltage but I could not get the item to power up despite my best efforts.

I emailed the supplier on the 26th and a day or so later I had a reply with instructions of how to send the item back. First disappointment being that I had to swallow the cost of international postage, £17. I put the item in the post on the 3rd of October and then the wait began. The supplier acknowledged receipt of the item on the 20th of October.

The replacement item was put into the post on the 27th of October and bizarrely the Courier chosen was NLpost who were quoting 15-30 business days delivery. So the item eventually turned up on the 16th of November. The good news is that it works perfectly so all is well that ends well.

Would I buy direct from a Chinese retailer again? No. The whole point of this exercise was to get the latest Tech as soon as it is available. With the setback of the faulty item and the long delays in the replacement I have had to wait well over a month to have the unit sat under my TV. As I have already said I don’t blame the supplier for the faulty unit, it was in a sealed box when it arrived so would have been subject to a manufacturing fault. Neither can the supplier be blamed for the fact that they are subject to delays with customs that are applicable in that part of the world. I was disappointed that they chose such a slow courier company for the replacement item and also would have been happier if they had offered to recompense me for the return shipping costs, but ultimately they have successfully replaced the faulty unit.

If you are aware of the risks of buying from overseas then there are advantages, whether that be one of price or early availability but it can go wrong. My experience was certainly not a terrible one but it did nullify my original desire to have the device before it was on general sale in the UK.

As always it is Buyer beware.

One thought on “Buying Direct from China: A cautionary tale!”
  1. FYI, this isn’t just China. I had a very similar experience when I bought a Zune HD from the US, years ago. And a worse experience last year with a $25 (£15) Xbox One accessory (which like the Zune isn’t sold in the UK) Where I had to pay an extra $29 (£20) to ship via USPS it to the UK. Only to have it stopped by customs who added another £25 ($36) import duty.
    Like Ian says none of this was down to the sellers, who in both cases were really helpful. Its just the way the logistic company’s and customs operate.

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