When Are Off-Brand Gadgets Good Enough?

Gadgets can get expensive quickly, and we technophiles can end up spending a lot on our toys. We're wondering which tech products you're more likely to skimp on (and which ones you're not).

Photo by RogueSun Media.

I used to buy expensive earbuds, but after my last pair, I opted to go for a cheap, off-brand, $20 pair instead. They may not sound as good as the $100 pairs out there, but I found that if I'm in a situation where I'm wearing earbuds instead of a full set of headphones, I'm not going to notice or care — so I'm fine using cheap ones as long as they fit in my ears. And in some cases, like HDMI cables, there's no point spending more on "name" brands — they all work the same.

We're wondering what similarly generic tech you guys use. When is cheap and off-brand good enough? Whether it be photo equipment or MP3 players, let us know what tech you prefer to spend less on in the comments below.


    I always buy cheap cables, mostly for AV and computing and also for photo eq like shutter release cables for my DSLR, a 3rd party one is about $5 via eBay when compared to about $50 for the brand version

    I’ve also just started buying cheap camera filters – they’re a few dollars instead of the top of the line “pro” filters and they seem about the same – they’re both glass with some coatings

    I’m fairly sorted on the gadget front so I don’t buy huge amounts of tech and mostly I don’t skimp but I’ll always keep an eye out at the Aldi special buys – they’re GPS’s have always done me well as have their laptops and other eq including keyboards, mice, amps, speakers, dvd players etc – I think of them as skimping prices but (mostly) good quality

      'their gps's have always done me well'?

      How many have you bought?! Is it because they break down?

        Either that or thrown them out the window in frustration. :)

          On my second, lost the first to theft - theives don't seem to care if it's off-brand or not

    When they are cheap enough, providing they perform reasonably well, to rebuy when they break. Having said that though, I've noticed a trend in the last 15 years where even the most expensive brands are now a lot lower quality than they used to be.

    The $15 earbud headphones I got from Dicksmith were great.. I have since opted for Sony ones (around $69) and the difference is astounding. The bass on them sounds better than some home stereos.. but again, there were earbuds for hundreds of dollars available.. some of them Sony brand..

    When you buy off-brand stuff in China, you know you're getting a particularly poor quality item but it does the job (and sometimes does a better job due to innovation and ingenuity.. for example phones with dual-sims when everywhere else is selling single sim phones) but the off-brand items are so cheap you can buy a new when it breaks.

    My general rule of thumb is: The simpler the item, the less the brand matters.

    For instance, audio visual cables - it's some wires with metal tips. Go no name.

    Wireless earphones - there's a lot of complex stuff in there. A large company is more likely to have put the effort and research into it. Go brand name.

    Also works for food. Sugar? 1 ingreditent. Home brand. Pasta? Several ingredients. Brand name (this particular one I learned the hard way. Gross).

      I've starting buying the $1 Coles pasta lately and haven't noticed any difference in quality.

      re: tech stuff, I'm with you on the cheap earbud headphones. I lose them all the time, so I can't afford to pay premium prices on them. I currently have one pair at work, one pair at home, and one pair in my bag. I think.

        You wouldn't lose them if you paid more. For example, I recently bought $169 pair of canal-phones, and I know exactly where they are at all times! The $2 pair from Tandy: got no idea where they are...

      75 cent packs of pasta are THE BEST!
      I eat pasta all the time, there is stuff all difference if any at all.

      used to work for a major sugar company. coles homebrand is EXACTLY the same gear

    The only items I have where I think the brand counts are monitors.

    I prefer my $50 no-name GPS over the TomTom or Garmin ones I own.
    The major brands have maps which are *decades* out of date.
    (Hint: the Hume Highway is not 100 km/h)

    When the major brand sells you crap, you may as well buy cheaper crap elsewhere.

    My approach is to try the super-cheap option first - if it's adequate for my needs I've saved plenty of cash; if it turns out to be inadequate I've not wasted too much of my hard-earned. So far my cheap ethernet, HDMI, D-Sub cables have done just fine.

    Having tried low-tier and off-brand options for pretty much every kind of gadget, these days I pretty much stick with branded stuff. But *only* because I've actually given the cheaper options a go first.

    So for example I have owned half a dozen "low tier" and "off brand" headphones/earphones and none of them have come close to my branded gear (Sennheiser, FWIW). One pair of off-brand 'phones even electrocuted me!

    I used to believe that cheap AV cables were the go and still do for audio and hdmi. However, getting a 1080i signal through cheap component cables didn't work for me. No problems for the thicker and dearer Crest cables I borrowed from a mate.

    After killing some $50 SkullCandy ear buds, I recently purchased some $6 Memorex earbuds from Officeworks. For the price, to say that I'm amazed with the audio quality would be an understatement

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