With the Aussie dollar booming, it’s almost a no-brainer to jump online and scoop up a bargain from overseas.
When you compare the prices retailers generally ask for tech gear here compared with what you can buy it for online, it’s no wonder everyone is flocking to online shopping.
However, it’s not all plain sailing and you need to keep your wits about you when you shop as it’s easy to make mistakes and end up with something you can’t use.
For example, make sure that any electrical device powered by AC mains comes with a suitably rated power supply unit. Australian AC voltage is nominally rated at 240VAC. That means any power brick or power device you get from overseas must support our 240VAC power voltage. If it doesn’t, it’ll likely blow up as soon as you plug it into the power point.
Most notebooks these days come with what are known as “universal power bricks” that can handle pretty much everything from 100 to 240VAC. But you should always ask before you buy.
If you’ve picked up a 110VAC device, you can generally get it working using a bit of gear called a “240 to 110VAC step-down AC transformer”. These come in various power ratings and turn our 240VAC mains voltage into 110VAC for your gadget. It’s important the transformer is rated at least to the same power rating as your device, otherwise the transformer may fail. If in doubt, go for larger than smaller.
Another thing is to consider warranties. For example, don’t expect the local arm of a big-name brand to support your widget if you bought it from overseas unless it comes with an international warranty. Apple is one brand that offers this, there are some others but they are the exception rather than the rule.
If you buy a gadget overseas and it dies, warranty service is likely to be difficult and expensive. It’s not necessarily a deal-breaker but you need to be aware of what you’re getting yourself in for. If you’re buying a $25 remote-control helicopter from eBay, you’re not talking about a huge amount of money but if it’s a $800 notebook, think carefully.
Then there are also the scams – and there are a few. Like fake SD card and USB flash drives. I’ve heard plenty of stories of people buying what they thought was an absolute bargain card that even formatted correctly but failed as soon as you wrote more than a quarter of its nominal storage.
You also need to beaware of what insurance you’re getting when you purchase a device. There a chance anything coming from overseas could be damaged or just plain lost in the mail. Getting mail insurance will at least cover you if the worst happens.
This isn’t all to dissuade you from shopping online – rather just to get you aware of what might happen and how you can prepare for it.