Sunday, 30 June 2013

Adafruit versus Sparkfun versus Seeed review. Two years on.

If you're wondering who to buy your electronic doo-dads from, you've come to the right place!

Deathmatch: Sparkfun versus Adafruit

Waaaaay back in 2011 I posted a review of SeeedStudio vs. Sparkfun vs. Adafruit.

Two years on here's the dirt:

Adafruit rocks! Why? Thorough tutorials; most new products include great tutorials! Top notch product support and community forums. Discount code every week (check out their youtube channel). Well packaged parts with part numbers on every bag. (total 11 orders)

Sparkfun sucks! Why? No new tutorials, wrong datasheets, they'll swap parts on a whim won't say anything and won't update the fucking website! They package parts in sealed bags with no part numbers! So you get these fucking useless parts with the WRONG datasheet, no part number and spend hours tearing your hair out trying to get the godam circuit to blink. (still FUMING mad!). (total 6 orders)
BUT, they do have cooler shipping boxes than Adafruit.

SeedStudio sucks! Why? See Sparkfun; only it's worse because any data they do provide is in Chinglish.
Included with every shipment is that pervasive offshore "ICK!" smell. Mothballs and shrimp ramen?
 (total 3 orders)

Also of note; if you want to build your own boards and need components Digikey is awesome. Fast, good and cheap! You'll notice that a metric shit-ton of manufacturers use Digikey to ship samples, TI, TE, Renesas...

With a score of 80 lime mojito jello shooters, Adafruit takes the prize!

To the victor go the spoils: lime mojito jello shots!


  1. To be fair, the last order I received from Adafruit came in a cool black box, in contrast to Sparkfun's signature red ones.
    (Also, their captcha is cooler than yours. ;^)

    1. Yeah, like it or not; packaging is important! It's the first physical interaction with a online supplier. And cool, robust boxes get re-used; free advertising!

    2. re: captcha, I'll get Blogger right on that.

  2. Hi, i'm an engineer from seeed. I find this post very interesting, and sorry for the Chinglish T_T. I like Adafruit too for their community building. Sparkfun's curriculum and national tour, which put community from online to offline, it's also great. We did a lot workshops in China, to improve the open hardware community. Currently we lack an clear introduction to our products, we really wanna provide good products "made in China", China is not a symbol of "cheap and bad", we are innovating with China. We are planning a meeting-up in san francisco, to know consumers' experience in US. Thanks for your review and if possible i can get further communication with you.

    1. Thanks for your comment! I've worked in China many times, though mainly in Tianjin and Pudong. What I don't understand is: why not spend a little money and get a young native english keener to help with tutorials? I agree with you that made in China doesn't equate with cheap and bad, but small details make a huge difference!
      When I receive a DHL beat-up brown box and open it up to be greeted by a wafting stench of off-gassing plastic and street noodles; it's a very strong message! (edit-fixed typos)

    2. Sonic,
      I'd be happy to email you to discuss anything your little heart desires. Please provide email addy.

  3. Hi,

    From my point of view:
    I never used Adafruit or Sparkfun. I'm using regularly SeeedStudio with great satisfaction. Al the things I ordered arrived without any problems. The price and the qualyity of the custom made PCBs are exceptional.
    The reason because I don't use Adafruit of Sparkfun (same as Mouser or Digikey) is the price of the shipment. I live in Hungary. I wouldn't like to pay shipment cost what is comparable to the price of the goods.
    I'm using SeeedStudio where I pay $0 shipment cost above $50 orders.
    I'm using Farnell (Newark/Element 14) where the shipment rate is flat HUF 1400 (~ $6).
    In addition: I'm addict of dangerousprototypes products what are distributed by Seeed.


    1. Zoltan! (Awesome)
      Yes, last order with Seeed was just to get Dangerous Prototypes. But if I recall, there was some hassle with payment, paypal only or credit card through local Chinese company that wouldn't accept my cards. When it's difficult to purchase something... FAAAAACK!!! WHY? "surely these brainiacs can get their ones and zeros to line up and make things simple?"
      I have heard that the custom boards are good quality, but I haven't ordered any myself.
      I can understand why you prefer Seeed to US and A suppliers. They are not focused on international customers. I'm lucky to be in Canada, and we can skirt customs and duties... What is your experience in Hungary trying to purchase from the US?
      Thanks for sharing!

    2. Hi,

      About my experiences with the US suppliers. Usually I've two issues with them:
      1. Many of them doesn't ship things outside the US. Fortunatelly I've a friend live in California who handle this problem to me (but using this opportunity is not so cheap because of the two shipping cost). One funny example: I ordered a Lytro camera for my wife as a present for christmas. Thay send goods only to US and Canada and thay have some distributor in Australia. I placed the order with my Luxembourg issued bankcard invoice to me in Hungary and ship to my friend in California. As the result was a letter from the company that my order is a possible credit card fraud (finally I provided tons of information and explanation what convinced tham that the order is real). An other (not so funny): I've ordered an iPod adapter to my car in the same way. UPS lost it somewhere in LA. :-(
      2. The shipping cost what I mentioned in my first post. Most of the parts what I'm ordering today is for my prototype projects. As such I need small amount of various electronic parts therefore the cost most of the time is below the free shipping limit of Mouser or Digikey. That is the reason why I was not so lucky to experience quality of the ordering process. The shipping and packaging is good (I see it on the processing and shipping of various engineering samples what I requested from the semicondutor manufacturers)

      This post become a little bit to long. Sorry for that.


    3. No no, not too long! Interesting, I see there could be lots of frustration not just with shipping and duties, but also evil Credit Card Companies!
      I have some of the same frustration with US companies not shipping to Canada or ridiculously expensive shipping. For instance, Adafruit shipping was $30 to Canada, plus UPS will add a $50 sneaky surcharge for "brokerage". Or I get shipped withing US for $10 and drive to pick it up...
      But that's normal for us living in 'Merica's Hat.

  4. Digikey isn't cheap. You can almost always find the parts cheaper elsewhere, but they have the best site hands down. Digikey and mcmaster fill the same niche. Awesome website, fast service, and a few extra bucks.

    I sadly have to agree that Sparkfun seems to be falling lately. They don't do much to keep their back catalog up to date. They have a few innovative items, but things like the MegaShield Proto kit (look at the comments there) show you how they can't keep their exiting products up to snuff.

    I think you should try Sure electronics if you want to compare with Seeed. Seeed does very well for an area that has a bad reputation. I've had very good luck with Seeed and they are an up and coming seller, especially to places like Australia and Asia.

    Sure is an odd one, the pricing looks good, but you pay shipping on a per item basis, so it can be tricky.

    1. Cool, I'll check those Sure guys out. I've found Digikey to be cheap and FAST! I ordered $300 bucks worth of widgets one night and it was here THE NEXT DAY! Buy now that you mention it, I'll have to see if I can shave half a penny on my next order of 10 resistors...

      McMaster Carr; the holy grail! They stopped allowing new Canadian accounts. Alas, I'm out in the cold.

    2. But the website nav is like a red hot poker in your eye. Do I have the right site?

  5. Adafruit does have very good guides and that's a serious plus for the beginners. My biggest annoyance is that sparkfun will mess up my order about 30-50% of the time. I order 5v regulators and I get relays. I order a component organizer box and i get one that's smashed.

    I'm not going to bother with them if the screwup is less than 20$, but after so many screwups I rarely use them.

    On a positive note all the companies are awesome. Sparkfun and adafruit go far beyond what most expect from any company!

    1. Thanks for your input!
      Yeah, Sparkfun needs to step it up. You can tell that the picking/shipping gnomes just don't give a fuck. Probably very little accountability either.
      Team meeting transcript:
      "Jimmy, why are so many orders fucked up?"
      "Well Ted, the website ordering system isn't updated!"
      "that guy that quit last week, it's his fault!"
      "That's the last straw! I'm ordering one of those inspirational posters that says,'be a fixer; not a finger pointer!' "

  6. You should see what it's like getting parts from any of these places shipped to UK.

    Might as well fly to china and buy them the prices they charge on international shipping for parts that weigh only 1 or 2 grams. Will be buying all my parts from ebay for £1 for what Adafruit charges £10 for.