I have recently decided to buy an arduino over a raspberri pi and have been shopping for a good deal and learning about which model I need and where to buy.

I have come across a few very cheap arduino uno boards that are identical to every other board. These range from an unbelievable $4-$15. Are they officially branded and/or are they trustworthy?

Here is a link to a few links to some I've found:



  • The second link is not an exact UNO replica (different FTDI circuitry for USB -> potential driver issues). The first one seems an exact clone (from the PCB view), but obviously not officially branded, and probably using cheap components, all made and assembled in China. Personally I would not go for it.
    – jfpoilpret
    Apr 3 '16 at 8:56
  • @jfpoilpret I think it's worth a shot for 1/10 or the normal.arduino price
    – J.Clarke
    Apr 3 '16 at 12:59
  • @J-Clarke I would not because it may appear to work for some time or for some fatures, but if some day it does not work for a new experiment, you will waste a lot of time finding out whether it is due to your program, your circuit or to this poor quality chinese clone (2nd link) or counterfeit (1st link). I can tell that, when working with reliable material, it is already difficult to "debug" your experiments, let alone when using crap...
    – jfpoilpret
    Apr 3 '16 at 13:06
  • @jfpoilpret Well the way I look it is like.your first car you buy a wreck because you have no idea howbto use it and you will probably overvoltage it or short the pins by accident
    – J.Clarke
    Apr 3 '16 at 13:12
  • @jfpoilpret - the official Arduino Uno does not use an "FTDI" either. FTDI is a brand, and perhaps semi-legitimately a casual reference to their flagship FT232 USB-serial chip. But it is not a valid term for the USB-serial function in general especially in a case where the leading product - the Uno - doesn't even use that chip either. You are right though that the ch340 can cause some headaches. Apr 3 '16 at 15:31

Caveat Emptor.

If it's not genuine you can never be sure quite what you are getting. You have to ask with some of then just how they can make them so cheap. Poor quality components is one way. Either counterfeit or reject components which may fail after a short time, or under certain conditions is a big risk.

There are different grades of board each with their own risks...

  1. Genuine. High price, good reliability and quality. Good after sales support. Supports the Arduino cause.
  2. Arduino clone. Genuine Arduino design made by a reputable third party. Almost as good as option 1 but doesn't support Arduino financially.
  3. Arduino Based. A board created for a specific job that is based around genuine Arduino design. Support really only from the (often smaller) manufacturer. Quality varies.
  4. Chinese clone. Low grade components made to original Arduino designs. Little or no support. Poor quality. Often with different USB interface that is unstable and low quality.
  5. Counterfeit. Low quality components. Claims to be a genuine Arduino. Bad build quality.

Options 1-3 are ones I would consider buying. 4 and 5 I would stay well away from.

  • 1
    All the comments on these boards appear to be positive and reflect high quality. All the cheap boards on ebay have 4.5 or more stars. I think they are worth a punt
    – J.Clarke
    Apr 3 '16 at 12:58
  • Be wary of high reviews these days, most of those are fake too. i.huffpost.com/gen/2575582/thumbs/o-WET-570.jpg?7
    – deltaray
    Apr 4 '16 at 22:23

How many Arduinos do you need? If you are just getting one to learn on, for heaven's sake pay the extra fifteen bucks and support the cause.

If you are manufacturing something and need a few dozen boards, buy 50 Chinese ones and chuck the ones that don't work.

  • 1
    I live in Australia and arduino costs about 40-60 dollars
    – J.Clarke
    Apr 4 '16 at 6:15
  • 1
    Actually I find many of the ebay shops very conscientious about their items, I have had a few experiences with defective items from ebay and must say that I've still not had a bad experience whether i get my money back or they resend the item, the downside is that it will take a new month for the replacement to get to me, money back usually goes within a few hours.
    – Hans Neve
    Apr 4 '16 at 6:38
  • I wouldn't recommend using ebay-arduinos for "manufacturing". For fun little hobby projects it will be okay. @HansNeve, indeed, I had received a full refund because 2 out of 4 servo's were lost in transit. So I received 2 servo's and didn't have to pay for anything :) (and didn't have to send them back)
    – Paul
    Apr 4 '16 at 9:31

While, yes, caveat emptor, I have purchased a number of devices which are based on the Arduino open design. I have not yet had a problem.

Remember that, if you buy more expensive, prominently "Arduino" branded parts, from a third party, you also have no guarantee that they are quality controlled by Arduino. Even "genuine" electronics parts are usually manufactured in China, often in the same factories.

To answer your question, there are a number of ways the costs can be kept down:

Lack of unions, lack of labor laws, economies of scale, markup by the "official" companies, lack of development costs (remember, Arduino is open hardware, copying is allowed), cheap labor, tax, transport costs (there is some trickery in some countries, including Hong Kong, which makes shipping essentially free), shorter supply chain, cheaper components, smaller marketing budget.


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