Let’s face it—geeks have been the notorious champions of gadgets in the past, but today, gadgets are fair game for everyone. In fact, we maintain that they’ve become—dare we say it?—cool. Because seriously, who wouldn’t want a motion activated toilet nightlight, a self-stirring mug, or a Star Trek phone case?
Okay, maybe the last one not so much, but the point is, the mass appeal of gadgets today has expanded far beyond Trekkies and comic junkies to reach a wider audience that, frankly, can’t get enough.
Evidence to support the theory? Hundreds of websites selling gadgets! And if websites are selling, people must be buying.
If you’re into gadgets but not necessarily into geek/game culture, you have loads of options in front of you.
Some sites offer curated lists featuring select gadgets chosen by a group of people who take this stuff seriously. If you prefer to find cool stuff on your own, there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding which gadget sites to shop at.
There are two kinds of reviews out there: website reviews, and gadget reviews. Google is your friend when it comes to finding reviews of websites, as is the fine print to find out about each site’s policies (more about that later).
As for gadget reviews, the best part about shopping online is that you can read reviews from (often) hundreds of purchasers, as opposed to shopping in stores, where you have to take the seller’s word for it. Reviews can give you insight into how the product works in real life, not just how it looks on your screen.
The only caveat about reading product reviews is to be aware that some may not be real. For example, many businesses on Amazon pay users to write positive reviews (even though it’s not ethical). On eBay, reviews are more likely to be genuine since the sellers tend to be individuals, not companies. Of course, this is a generalization—there are real reviews on Amazon and fake ones on eBay—the point is, be a smart shopper!
What the heck are you looking for? If you’re looking for gadgets for cell phones, computers, video games, and cameras, chances are you will find the same or similar products on a number of sites. In this case, the site you buy from will probably depend on price, customer service, return policies, or ease-of-use.
However, if you’re looking for off-the-beaten-track gadgets, you may find that you prefer specific websites. For example, CoolThings and Fry’s highlight advanced, niche, or lesser-known products that may not be as easy to find on other sites. If you absolutely love the products on one of these sites, that’s a pretty good reason to visit.
Prices can vary greatly when it comes to gadgets, so it’s worthwhile to compare pricing when looking for something generic. Some gadgets, however, are exclusive to certain websites, which means that if you want it, you’ll pay whatever they’re asking. This is just business. The important thing is to know is whether the product is sold exclusively at a certain site or whether you can find a less-expensive version somewhere else (eBay, cough cough).
Additionally, many sites offer promo codes, coupons, and daily sales that can significantly reduce the total cost, so that’s something to keep in mind when it comes to deciding where to order from. Frys.com and Bestbuy.com even have a match program, in which they guarantee to match a lower-priced item on another site (if you find one).
Another factor to take into account when reviewing prices is shipping. For example, many people like Amazon because they can get free shipping with Prime. But other websites also offer free shipping occasionally or for orders over a certain limit.
Aliexpress offers free shipping all the time, along with significantly good deals on phones and other gadgets. The catch here is that most products come from China, so delivery can take a few months and there is virtually no customer service.
Before purchasing anything, anywhere, always check out what the store’s exchange/return policy is—will they give you a hard time if you want to return? Will they charge you extra? Will you have to pay for return shipping? Furthermore, if you have questions about the product before you buy, will someone be able to answer you?
Remember that certain sites, including Amazon, Aliexpress, and eBay, will have site policies, and then the individual sellers will have their own policies. Make sure to read the fine print for both if you anticipate wanting to return or exchange your product. Other sites like Frys.com and Bestbuy.com don’t have individual sellers, so you can just read each store’s policies—all of which are fairly, well, fair.
The preeminent online retailer is a safe bet to find gadgets from a huge spectrum of brands at many price points. While the diversity of its inventory is a huge reason so many flock to Amazon, perhaps the main appeal is the convenience. More suited to the lay customer than the gadget-geek, Amazon offers plenty of shopping tools, from customer reviews and ratings that can number in the thousands to detailed product specs and Q & As. Lastly, Amazon’s shipping and return policies also make it an attractive choice for those who aren’t well-schooled in gadgets and tech.
This ubiquitous gaming chain can be found in shopping centers and strip malls around the country--and for good reason. GameStop has become synonymous with new-release games and 2nd-hand stock from all the major gaming systems, and with its gaming-centric focus you can expect the staff to be well-versed in the best games, consoles, and releases. GameStop’s popular trade-in policy is limited to in-store visits, but the result is that even online shoppers can benefit from a huge selection of used games, consoles, and gadgets that more often than not are in exceptional condition.
A more affordable version of Amazon that also offers everything from clothing and household goods to consumer electronics, AliExpress is worth visiting for savvy shoppers looking for 2nd-hand gadgets, last-year’s models, or even bulk electronics. The inventory is hit or miss and the site itself can be a little cluttered and hard to navigate, but AliExpress is worth checking out if you have time to kill searching for that rare gem or impossible-to-pass-up deal.
As anyone who has shopped on eBay knows, you’ll need a little bit of patience. Not only because of the auctions, but because the independent marketplace offers a seemingly endless amount of gadgets ranging from new releases to vintage oddities and charmingly obscure tech. That said, if you have the patience to scroll through products and carefully read about their condition, eBay is a solid choice to find an affordable gadget.
Unlike some other sites on this list, GeekBuying is dedicated exclusively to tech and gadgets. Of course this means an easier search experience, but it also yields a more focused shopping experience curated by tech enthusiasts who are likely more knowledgeable about the products than your typical online marketplace. GeekBuying stocks everything from laptops and smartphones to drones and offers generous 1-year repair warranties and free courier shipping on most items.
Another gadget-centric seller with a charmingly diverse range of products, GearBest offers electronics for casual users, techy hobbyists, and everything in between. Take for example the large inventory of scientific and technical gadgets such as 3D printers, laser rangefinders, and remote control products and parts, which sit happily amongst more common offerings such as smartphones, tablets, and speakers, all at affordable prices with a 45-day return policy and free 1-year repair warranty.
One of the most respected and visited tech consumer sites in the world, NewEgg has racked up awards and millions of devoted customers since its launch in 2001. The site features one of the largest selections of techy products, spanning computer, phone, office, automotive, hobby, and even sports gadgets from trusted brands at reasonable prices. The site is easy to navigate and each product page offers a wealth of information about specs, features, and warranties. In addition to the consumer site, NewEgg also has a marketplace where you can purchase products from independent sellers.
BestBuy has brick-and-mortar stores across the country and a website where you can find the latest laptops, tablets, phones as well as more state-of-the-art gear like Oculus Quest virtual reality headsets. Expect prices to reflect the nature of the products--that is to say, brand-new and in-demand, so budget shoppers would be better served on marketplaces or other sites. That said, Best Buy does offer a select amount of clearance and open-box items where you may find some surprising deals.
If you’re into gadgets but not necessarily into geek/game culture, you have loads of options in front of you. One place you may consider starting is CoolThings, a curated site that features only the coolest gadgets, selected by a group of people who take this stuff seriously. This readable, eye-catching website does a good job of staving off overload with editorial features that read more like a lifestyle magazine. Though you can’t purchase anything off CoolThings, it’s a good place to start if you need to narrow the limitless options down to the best in class.
Founded in Silicon Valley back in 1985, Fry’s has been in the heart of the web and gadget movement for decades, So it’s no wonder that this site is still a go-to for those in the high-tech sector as well as those who simply enjoy high tech. Fry’s offers a solid selection of computers, video games, and smart home gadgets, plus a wide range of parts, kits, and passive and electromechanical components that aren’t easily found in the big-box chains. Perhaps most appealing, Fry’s offers a price-match guarantee that can save you money while still shopping with a niche business that you trust.
Have you decided where to shop for gadgets yet?
Well, if you’re a real gadget junkie, you may find yourself hopping around from site to site and not sticking with any one in particular. And that’s cool...we mean geeky. Gadgets tend to be things that are useful but that we don’t really need, so this is your chance to shop for them without pressure or urgency. Instead, sit back, relax, and enjoy the experience! Because gadgets are really all about fun, aren’t they?