September 2010 edit: 3.5 years have past since I wrote this article, and all of the items are still available, but substantially cheaper! The universal power adapter that cost me $7.70 now costs just $3.89, and that's still with free shipping (even if you buy just one)
My review of how much crap you can actually buy for just over US$20 from Hong Kong (including shipping and tracking) from Deal Extreme. This is the kind of place where you can pick up a cheap R4 DS, R4 NDS, remote controlled helicopter, LED flashlight or miscellaneous stuff like I did. The numbers now don't add up anymore, I'm trying to find out what went up in price or wasn't selected properly.
Here's what I bought (The Products):
- A set of screwdrivers (The special kinds, like those used to open up hard drives with their star tips, and for prying open iPod cases)
- 4" Metal Tripod for my Digital Camera (A Casio EXILIM EX-Z600 )
- Truly International Power Adapter (That converts the plug from any country to just about any country). This is the kind that DOESN'T do voltage conversion, but my digicam and cell phone power adapters are just fine with that.
-Stapleless Stapler (A truly earth-shattering invention that will surely save the environment and put staple manufacturers out of business, or at least change their product into stapleless staplers)
-USB Flash Memory Card Reader
First, a little background. Their website seems to periodically go down at times or require multiple attempts to access it, but I'd say it is more a matter of growing pains, rather than being untrustworthy. All of their products have ignore-worthy Ikea-esque names.
This was a set of non-standard screwdrivers, the type that can be used for prying open snap-together devices, like the iPod, and funky-shaped screws, like those on cell phones, and hard drives. I liked how the red top can spin independently of the screw(driver), which allows one to use one hand to apply pressure, and use the other to turn the screwdriver. Unfortunately, I did find that the metal that they are made from is somewhat soft, so when I used an inappropriately sized screwdriver to open up one hard drive, instead of rounding the screw, I actually ended up rounding the screwdriver. With that exception, the set was rather diverse, and would make an excellent complement to the usual mini-screwdriver sets, at a good price too.
The tweezers and magnifying glass were certainly a nice touch as well.
Most digital cameras have a tripod mount, just look at the bottom for what looks like something that a bolt would screw on to. This particular tripod was recommended over the other tripods available from DealExtreme. It seems that this advice was good, as this Tripod was exactly as I expected it to be. The legs bend as one would expect, making it easy to balance and aim, and it seems rather durable. The few pictures that I did take with the tripod certainly had a more stable appearance than the pictures taken without the tripod.
Again, the price was good too.
This unit (which even came with the gray carrying case), as you can see in the pictures, has a wide variety of modes of operation. You can plug into the device any format in which it can plug into (if that makes any sense). The countries listed on the device itself are Europe, Spain, UK, North America, Brazil, Japan&China. Likely, this covers every format that does exist. The North America/China/Japan plug actually rotates by hand to adjust to each country. The green tabs lock the plugs so that they don't go back into the device while plugging them in. These are present because the plugs are spring loaded, and it seems like they used very powerful springs on these units.
The adapter does say that it has surge protection, but I doubt I'd really trust it. I should note that the device does NOT do voltage and/or frequency conversions. It is good for appliances that are listed as being able to handle the voltage/frequency that you are using it in. For example, my laptop, purchased in North America, states 100VAC-240VAC on the adapter, so I can use it in any country in the world (Japan using 100VAC, Europe/Australia using 240VAC).
I had seen this on Ebay auctions previously, but couldn't justify the shipping cost of one unit. But since DealExtreme carried them, I added them to my order. It's a bit bigger than I thought, but works well if you don't have too many pages. I find that you shouldn't really try to attach more than 5 or 6 pages together. But it really does work pretty well, you can turn pages both backward and forward without having them come apart. The device works by cutting a flap through all the pages, while somehow folding the flap into a linear cut it also makes into the paper. I'm sure this invention will change the world. The translucent blue plastic looks neat too.
Apparently this unit isn't particularly fast, but that wasn't really my concern. Nor was my concern in which formats it can handle (SD/MMC/MS/DUO/XD), as long as it could handle SD. I believe MicroSD requires an adapter, which is usually included when you purchase the memory itself. I wasn't able to take a picture of it (for obvious reasons), but it can hold regular sized SD cards with the cap on. This makes it a good device for those that want to use those old cards to make a DIY memory key. It IS very small too, rivalling that of most USB memory keys, although it is a bit wider, causing clearance issues with some computers. It was rapidly detected as a USB Mass Storage Device under both Win2k and WinXP with no drivers needed, so this is a good device for a digital camera user that needs to periodically dump photos at places like internet cafes.
Ordering & Packaging
The Deal Extreme Website could use a bit of cleanup as far as its interface goes, but it does work quite well. Feel free to combine orders that include free shipping and ones that do not include free shipping, it will only add the shipping cost to the appropriate items selected.
Paypal is accepted for payment. Deal Extreme runs a loyalty points program called DX Points, but they amount to 1% of your purchase. Be sure to create an account in order to collect these points if you so desire them.
They really do keep you in touch along the ordering process. Right after my order I received an email with my order # and a receipt # (why they need two numbers for this is my guess). The email also included information on how to login to check my order.
My particular order was submitted on April 24th and shipment was on April 26th (two business days).
Deal Extreme says that it ships via "Hong Kong Post Registered Mail", but I imagine that "registered" to them means with proof of receipt of the package by the post office, not special shipping. Your package will end up being delivered by Letterpost or Regular Parcel, or your country's equivalent. All that the post office tracking number told me was that my package left Hong Kong on April 29th, and the destination was Canada. My package was received on May 14th, which is as I would expect coming from HK to Canada. No signature was required.
Not that I had to send them an email, but they do provide various contact addresses, and even a Hong Kong phone number to call (which is not that expensive with decent long distance plans or VoIP). They even provide a US address for product returns.
Because Canada has a rather low limit for a package to be received duty free (CAD$20, about USD$18), I deliberately ordered (minus shipping) a quantity of goods that would be worth less than CAD$20. It turned out that the green CN22 customs declaration label was rubber stamped "LED Flashlight" with a value of something like HKD$50, which works out to about USD$6.40. Interesting since I never ordered any flashlights :) So, Canadians and citizens whose nation likes to charge VAT, rejoice when you order from them.
The packaging itself was just a bubble envelope, which I consider sufficient for the goods I was ordering. All information was typed out, not hand-written as I submitted it, so be sure to enter in your address according to international standards. After buying and selling items over eBay for years, I've learned that a bubble envelope is usually sufficient packaging for most goods. Rarely will something become crushed or such. I felt that the cost of reimbursing users for the rare damaged good was less than the costs of additional packaging and postage.