While most products are produced in China, there’s a big difference between products produced to order for companies like Apple and products that are churned out to be sold as OEM accessories for the lowest price possible. I use a lot of such accessories and the price normally justifies the odd issue with the products, but there’s one very big exception: Products that handle power. I simply don’t trust a $2 AC charger to charge a $500 device. Not with what I’ve seen.

Paying more for power related accessories is a small price to pay for that extra security, but every so often I find power related accessories that I can only find as cheap OEM versions. The latest examples is this $5 AC USB charger from DealExtreme, which immediately caught my eye. My favorite AC USB adapter ever is the Hama Piccolino, which I’ve had for years, but unfortunately it doesn’t see much use these days due to the low 800mA output. That’s not even enough to charge my phone at full speed, let alone my tablets. So despite the size being so awesome, it’s practically outdated, and creating small AC chargers is not something many companies do.

The $5 charger’s 1600mA output on the other hand would do the phone with ease, and even charge my tablets at close to full speed. It’s about the same size as the Piccolino too, and has two USB ports so that  I could split that 1600mA output if I needed to. It’s basically the perfect USB charger, but I don’t dare to buy it. I’ve seen more than one example of cheap chargers like that either catching on fire or frying a device, and I just wouldn’t ever buy one because it’s so cheap. Typical problems with such chargers is lack of quality control for the solder jobs, solder paths being too close, and components being cheap. Micro sizing a charger isn’t easy, so with chargers like this in particular it’s an even bigger risk.

As for the various markings, well, printing CE on something isn’t exactly hard. If you think these products actually went through the required testing to qualify for those marks, think again.

I still hope that this is a cheap copy of an existing product, but I haven’t had much luck in the past finding alternatives to the Piccolino – not for EU plugs anyways. That’s why it’s so annoying to see cheap OEM products that would have been perfect if they weren’t fire hazards. It’s ironic, really: Chinese OEM manufacturers are infamous for copying brand name products, and here I am, hoping a brand name company copies a Chinese OEM product.