Buying a graphics card from AliExpress or Alibaba – what you need to know

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You’ve probably seen the crazy graphics card deals on AliExpress, and like any other person looking to snag a pretty competent graphics card on budget, you’re thinking, maybe I should take a bite.

But it’s Chinese-owned AliExpress, and Chinese e-commerce sites have a nasty reputation for dealing substandard products, right? Well, Not quite.

Read my AliExpress shopping guide if you’re new to shopping on AliExpress

First things first, AliExpress is a reputable e-comm site

One YouTuber called it the Chinese eBay, and I couldn’t agree more. Chinese eBay because it runs pretty much like eBay and because you get all the payment protection and buyer protection services you know and love on eBay.

Since being founded in 2009, AliExpress has gone from niche website copying off American brands to a fully-fledged global E-commerce enterprise shipping to virtually every location on the planet. Part of that expansion means they now deal high-tech digital electronics like graphics cards.

They’ve been knocking (and taking up valuable market share) off big brands like Amazon and eBay in the low-tech digital electronics (earphones, household appliances) and general consumer products segment for years leading on to now. And with the huge influx of graphics cards onto the marketplace now, I guess they’re now pulling out the big guns.

What kind of graphics cards can I buy on AliExpress?

Image of graphics card selection on AliExpress
On AliExpress you can buy a broad range of genuine graphics cards from different third party sellers

Like Amazon and eBay, AliExpress is home to a huge selection of graphics cards from different manufacturers. On Amazon, you’ll see graphic cards from familiar names like MSI, Gigabyte, and ASUS.

On AliExpress, the graphic cards are from less popular Chinese brands with weird sounding names like SZMZ, Maxsun, and XFX. Fair to note that some AliExpress sellers still stock popular brands like ASUS, and vice versa for Amazon sellers – some stock Chinese brand graphics cards.

These graphics cards will be AMD-manufactured (Radeon series) or NVIDIA-manufactured (GTX/RTX series). NVIDIA and AMD are the actual GPU manufacturers. They produce the chips, sell them to third-party companies (the ones I just mentioned), who then pack them up with cooling units and all the other extra components to form a graphics card.

  • GPU or graphics processing unit is the actual computer processor optimized for computing graphics-related tasks.
  • Graphics card is the entire package, including the GPU, cooling system, lights and other design elements, PCB, and memory configuration.

If any of that sounds confusing to you, don’t stress over it, all you need to remember is that a graphics card is the whole package.

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What exactly am I getting with graphics cards available on AliExpress?

The prices are low, with some graphics card prices outrightly in the too good to be true range.

So, what’s the catch?

Here’s the thing, graphics cards on AliExpress are graphics cards alright, and provided you find a reputable seller (I’ll discuss that later), any graphics card you buy on AliExpress should work as advertised.

Let’s break it down; what do I mean by work as advertised:

  • If a listing for a graphics card says you’re getting an NVIDIA GTX 1050Ti with 4GB of VRAM, then it’s almost guaranteed that that’s exactly what you’ll get if you bought the card from a reputable seller.
  • If the listing says it’s brand new, then it will be brand new.
  • If it says the RAM architecture is DDR6, then it will be a DDR6 based graphics card.

When buying a graphics card on AliExpress, you can pretty much trust the listing details PROVIDED it is from a reputable seller.

Now, will the graphics card have the best cooling system you’ve seen on a graphics card? Probably not. Will the build quality be as durable as something you’d get from MSI? Certainly not. It also might not have the best build components or architecture available on the market now.

For instance, the going RAM standard for a graphics card in 2021 is DDR6/X. Most graphics cards you’ll see on AliExpress will ship with DDR3, DDR4, and rarely DDR5 RAM architecture.

And this all makes sense. To keep the prices of their graphics cards in the range that attracts buyers (like you), Chinese manufacturers (third party manufacturers) cut some corners with their graphics cards.

Imagine taking an Uber to work every morning – you have the choice of taking one cab with a functional air conditioning system and another without it. The latter are AliExpress graphics cards, it might not be the most pleasant trip to work, but you’ll definitely get there.

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Buying a graphics card on AliExpress is only secure if you’re dealing with a reputable seller.

Everything I’ve said before now only holds true when you’re dealing with a reputable seller. Just like eBay, anyone living in China can set up an AliExpress store and then go on to list products they presumably have for sale. You can see how someone could run a potential scam operation.

Luckily this rarely ever happens thanks to AliExpress’s strict buyer protection program. Still, you don’t want to get your money tied up in a dispute – disputes can take up to three months to settle but more on that later.

How to identify a reputable seller selling genuine graphics cards on AliExpress

Thankfully reputable sellers on AliExpress are like neon signs on a dark winter night – very easy to find. You just need to know where and what to look out for, so let’s get into that:

Check the average rating and number of units sold

When you run a search for any one particular graphics card on AliExpress, you’re going to get a results page with several listings of said graphics card from different sellers. It looks something like this;

Image of graphics card selection on AliExpress
On AliExpress you can buy a broad range of genuine graphics cards from different third party sellers

On the bottom left corner of each listing, you’ll find the name of the seller, the number of that graphics card they’ve sold as well as the overall average rating. Each rating delivered by a customer is over five, and the average rating is the sum of all ratings the seller received for that product.

Snapshot showing the number of  graphics card sold and average rating for a particular AliExpress seller
Snapshot showing the number of graphics card sold and average rating for a particular AliExpress seller

Generally speaking, when a seller has a high average rating (closer to five) and a large number of sold units, it theoretically means a lot of buyers are getting value from the product they’re selling.

This follows through for graphic cards sellers as well. When their average rating is between 4.8 – 5, in the context of a significant number of sold units, it’s an indication that their card does what they’ve claimed it’ll do.

Check out the seller profile

When you click any graphics card listing, you’ll land on the product page, and just down below, before the product specifications, there’s a summary of the sellers’ profile. There are three important things to note;

  • The percentage positive feedback
  • The number of followers
  • The seller badge

The percentage positive feedback

Snapshot showing percentage positive feedback for one particular graphic card listing on AliExpress
Snapshot showing percentage positive feedback for one particular graphic card listing on AliExpress

This is a measure of how many of the seller’s reviews for that product fall into the positive range. In the five-star AliExpress rating system, any review above three is considered positive. When it’s less than two, then that’s a negative review.

When shopping for a graphics card on AliExpress, you ideally want a seller whose percentage positive feedback lies above 90%.

The number of followers

Snapshot showing the number of followers an example AliExpress graphics card seller has
Snapshot showing the number of followers an example AliExpress graphics card seller has

The number of followers is an indication of buyer interest in the said seller’s product catalog and how long they’ve been on the AliExpress platform. Higher numbers are better, and the best graphics card sellers have followers in the 10k and above range.

The seller badge

Snapshot showing the seller's badge
Snapshot showing the seller’s badge

When a seller has a great track record of selling and delivering great products, AliExpress might decide to award them a badge. There are three badges in the AliExpress badge caste system – Gold badges, Diamond badges, and Metal badges.

The highest is, of course, the Gold badge. If a graphics card seller has a Gold badge, then you’re beyond sure they’ll deliver on quality, reliability, and shipping times as described by their listing.

It’s basically the same case for Diamond and Metal badged sellers as well – any badge on AliExpress takes a great deal of effort and consistency to earn. Exactly why not many graphics card sellers have one.

Performance ratings

Check out their reviews.

Unlike Amazon, AliExpress is still in the green for fake reviews. There are fakes, don’t get me wrong, but not to the extent that it renders the review system useless. With reviews, you want to be tacit. Here’s what I do;

Ignore the five-star reviews

They’re from pleased customers, or they might be fake. Usually, it’s the former, but the point is five-star reviews don’t tell you anything you don’t already know.

If you got to this graphics card seller using the methods I’ve outlined above, then it means a lot of people think the graphics card is great – all the five-star reviews you’ll see will basically say the same thing.

Be negative

Not literally ? (a positive life is key to happiness), but when buying a graphics card on AliExpress, your focus should be on the negative reviews. They’re the ones to point salient issues with the card that positive reviewers might have missed.

Image showing This is a sample graphics card listing from AliExpress
This is a sample graphics card listing from AliExpress

Let’s take a look at this example Radeon HD7450 2GB DDR3 graphics card. Click on the customer reviews panel, and well over 85% of the reviews are five-star, which is nice.

Image showing Sample graphics card listing with multiple five-star reviews
Sample graphics card listing with multiple five-star reviews

One thing’s, however apparent, a huge bunch of the five-star reviewers are sort of fixated on the fact that they received the product in great condition, highlighting the point I made earlier when I said five-star reviews don’t really say much of the important stuff.

Image showing negative reviews for sample graphics card on AliExpress
This negative review for the same HD Radeon graphics card shows it’s flaws

If we sort the reviews to show only one-star ratings, we get to see some of the more important stuff. Starting with the fact that this card is not recognized by AMD and as such doesn’t get updates, and the fact that it’s a card that won’t do any heavy lifting. In fact, the seller made that known from the get-go in the product description.

If you were to go by five-star reviews, this would’ve been a great buy, but again, not all that glitters is gold, and that’s certainly true for graphics cards sourced off AliExpress.

Steering off fake graphics cards on AliExpress

So far, we’ve focused more zeroing in on reputable sellers, but how do you know you’re getting a great deal of a graphics card on AliExpress and not a lemon? Well, the obvious start point is making sure you’re dealing with a reputable seller – what we just covered – but aside from that, here are a few tips to keep you safe when you shop for a graphics card on AliExpress.

Be wary of overly cheap graphics cards

If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t. That’s basic online shopping 101, and nowhere is it more relevant than when shopping for a graphics card on AliExpress. Yes, you can save $50, maybe $100, buying a graphics card from AliExpress, but anyone offering to sell you a GTX 1050TI at a 70% discount is either shipping a fake or stolen card.

Stick with known brand names

No, I don’t mean ASUS, MSI, or any of the other popular brands. I mean the popular Chinese graphics card makers, and there’s quite a handful of them.

  • Huananzhi
  • Veineda
  • Gigabyte
  • SZMZ
  • Maxsun

The quality of cards from these manufacturers pales in comparison to the traditional brands ( I already explained why), but with them, you’re sure you’re getting a good deal. Not the best in terms of quality, maybe the best in terms of bang for buck, but certainly a graphics card that will do exactly what it’s advertised to do.

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Read the product description thoroughly

AliExpress, as a marketplace, goes hard on deceptive sellers, so most of the people you’ll meet on the platform are pretty transparent with the quality and authenticity of what they sell.

Case in point was the Radeon HD HD7450 seller I used as an example earlier – he made sure to point out that that card wasn’t going to run resource-intensive games.

Most times, all you need to know about the graphics card is detailed in the product description. There’ll be notes on the exact specifications, shipping details, product configuration, and other relevant details. 

Contact the seller

Reaching out to a seller on AliExpress is as easy as pie. There’s a contact button on each seller profile. Ideally, this is something you’d use to clarify whatever doubts you have about a particular graphics card.

One thing to note, though, these are Chinese sellers who don’t have a strong command of the English language. You want to keep your questions short and simple. AliExpress, on its own, has a built-in translation engine, and it does a good job of translating Chinese to English and vice versa.

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Buying the graphics card

The actual process of buying the graphics card is simple, straightforward, and very similar to the buying process on sites like Amazon or eBay.

First, you need an AliExpress account

And for that, you need to type in your name, phone number, email, and home address. Any address you type in is automatically set as your default address.

But you can always change this later on. Alternatively, you could set up your account by signing up with Google if you’re logged into your Gmail account on your browser.

Paying for the graphics card

Once you’ve set up your account, the next step would be to make the actual purchase. Payments on AliExpress  can be completed through one of four means:

  • Credit/debit cards
  • Wire transfer
  • Alipay
  • Western Union

As a first-time shopper, I strongly advise against using anything other than the credit/debit card option. That’s the default payment method on AliExpress.

All other options will likely involve you settling payment off-platform, which disqualifies you from the AliExpress Buyer Protection program. Not to mention, disqualify you from having any sort of protection from your bank – debit/credit card payments can be charged back, wire transfers, almost certainly not.

Is your money protected on AliExpress?

Yes! Like I just mentioned, AliExpress runs a super-effective buyer protection program. Once you’ve completed the payment (on AliExpress), your money is insured from whatever eventualities.

If the buyer fails to ship the graphics card or outright cancel the order, you get a full refund right back into the bank account you paid from. This refund typically takes a week or two to settle but more on that later.

Now it’s important to note this protection is only valid for purchases made on the AliExpress platform through AliExpress. Some sellers might try to take you off-platform to complete the purchase because, well, AliExpress takes a cut when it’s settled on their platform. If you do this, then you lose the AliExpress platform protection.

Shipping the graphics card to your location

The exact shipping method available to ship a graphics card on AliExpress is determined by the seller. Usually, it’s more than one option, so you might see shipping via DHL, FedEx, SingaporePost, or my personal favorite AliExpress Standard Shipping (AESS).

Each option varies in terms of cost, speed, and reliability.

  • AliExpress Standard Shipping is my personal favorite cause it sorta finds the middle ground. It’s not the fastest, but it’s certainly fast enough. It’s also very reliable and doesn’t cost too much.
  • FedEx or DHL is what you’d use if you want expedited shipping, but it might be expensive, often 10X the shipping cost when you use AESS. 
  • SingaporePost or Cainiao are the cheapest options, but they’ll take eons to get the graphics card delivered to you. They also, unlike the former options, lack global tracking, which means you’ll be pretty much in the blind once the graphics card leaves the originating country.

Now it’s important that your address and especially your phone number are correctly spelled out. Before you finalize any purchase, AliExpress allows you to customize the shipping options (address, phone number) on the order page, so make sure to crosscheck everything.

How long will it take for my graphics card to get to me

That’s dependent on several factors, including;

The order processing time

There’s a window for sellers to process any order you’ve placed, and depending on the seller, this could be anything between a few hours to a few days. Most orders I’ve placed on AliExpress are processed in under a day.

The ship out time

After an order is processed, the seller has another window to ship the graphics card out for delivery. Again this varies by seller, and sometimes ship out times can extend to 30 days – it has happened to me before.

Luckily there’s a way to check for this before placing an order for your card. Click the shipping tab on the order page, and it should show you all the shipping details, including the estimated ship-out time for that seller.

If the information is not there, simply buzz the seller and ask for confirmation on how long it’d take them to ship the graphic card out.

The shipping method

As I said, there are several shipping options on AliExpress. How soon your graphics card arrives at your doorstep depends largely on the speed of your selected shipping method.

  • DHL or FedEx are the fastest, usually taking no more than two weeks to get the item delivered to you
  • AliExpress Standard Shipping comes in at second with an estimated 1 – 2 month delivery window.
  • Singapore’s and Cainiao are the slowest options, and sometimes it might take up to four, five months to get your card to you.

Obviously, faster shipping methods cost more, but I’ve found the AESS option to be quite fitting. It’s not that expensive, and I usually get my item in about a month.

The customs clearing time

Custom clearance can delay your graphics card shipment, although this delay doesn’t usually exceed two days. It might be longer or shorter depending on how your country handles clearance of imported items.

Something to note about customs clearance

You might need to pay an additional fee as customs duties before your graphics card is cleared. Again, whether or not you’ll pay this fee and the exact amount in question depends on your country’s importation policies.

Most times, you won’t need to pay, and I’ve found that especially true when I use the AESS method to ship my items.

Receiving your graphics card

Depending on how the local postal service in your country runs, you might get doorstep delivery or have to pick up the card at a post office near you.

In my country (Nigeria), the former is what happens, but whatever the case, you should get a text or call to clarify if there are any issues with getting the item to you. That’s why I emphasized inputting your phone correctly earlier on.

Something to note about deliveries

Once you’ve got your graphics card, it’s important to do a package opening video – that is, a video that shows you opening up the package. This can come in as handy evidence you’ll need to win a dispute if the graphics card was broken during shipment, damaged or fake.

What happens if I get a defective graphics card?

If a graphics card is different from what was described in the product listing or if it arrives in damaged condition, you’re liable to a full refund. All you need do is file a dispute directly from the order page (on AliExpress) through the ‘open dispute’ button.

This should take you to a dispute page, where you’ll need to provide additional details. The details you fill in will depend on the particular situation.

Something to note about the refund or refund and return option

When filling the dispute, you’ll come across the ‘refund’ or ‘refund and return’ option. They mean very different things.

Refund only means you get a full refund if you win the dispute. Refund and return means you’ll get a refund if you win the dispute. But, additionally, you’ll have to return the item to the seller. Shipping an item back to China is ridiculously expensive. Don’t select this option.

You’ll be asked to provide supporting evidence either in the form of photos or videos – reasons why it’s important to do a product opening video. Once you click the submit button, either of three things can happen

Seller approves your dispute and immediately refunds

Though rare, a seller can accept your reason for opening a dispute and refund you the money. It might take a while for the refund to show up in your bank account, but once the dispute is cleared, you can rest easy knowing it’ll eventually show up

Seller negotiates a compromise

The seller might, on viewing the dispute, say, hold on, I’m making too much of a loss here and ask for a negotiated deal. Usually, the new deal will be something in the lanes of splitting the refund amount into half or reshipping another unit of the graphics card.

Whatever the case, you can either accept or reject the offer. If you accept, whatever terms were agreed on becomes the new and binding contract.

Dispute is escalated to AliExpress’s support

If you reject a negotiated offer or if the seller doesn’t respond, the dispute is automatically routed to a dispute mediation officer. If your claims are valid and supported by strong evidence, the dispute will be closed in your favor.

Emphasis on strong evidence, you need to upload photos, videos, screenshots, and anything else to support your claim when filling a dispute on AliExpress.

Provided you stick to what I’ve described in this piece as to finding a reputable seller and a good graphics card deal, you wouldn’t need to file a dispute anyways. I’ve ordered countless items on AliExpress, including several graphics cards, and I can count on one hand how many times I needed to file a dispute. For the disputes I filled, AliExpress ruled in my favor, and I got full refunds straight to my bank account.

To conclude

Buying a graphics card on AliExpress is not so much different from doing the same thing on eBay, Amazon, or any major e-commerce retailer really. To make sure you’re not getting ripped off, three things are paramount.

  • Read and understand the product listing.
  • Vet the seller thoroughly
  • Follow the tips I outlined for identifying fake cards

That should do the trick and if you ever get shortchanged, remember there’s a buyer protection program; don’t be scared to file a dispute.