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Printed vs. Etched - photo courtesy of PCPop

Unmarked TSOPs - photo courtesy of PCPop

Can you spot the fake memory module?
Counterfeit components on the rise

Counterfeit technology saw took its first baby steps when less than reliable merchants began selling overclocked Pentium 2 processors as factory clocked CPUs.  Of course, this went on and continued with Intel's Pentium 3, AMD's Athlon and virtually any other PC product manufactured since 2000. 

Sony is currently facing a problem with memory, but not because it can't remember how to keep a firm schedule on its PlayStation 3's launch, but its popular Memory Stick products are now being counterfeited. According to several reports in Canada, counterfeit Memory Sticks have made their way from China over to US and Canadian shores. A quick search on eBay will reveal numerous online auctions that claim to sell legitimate Memory Sticks, but we managed to get word from a popular online eBay merchant that most Memory Sticks being sold on eBay are manufactured in China and are not the genuine Sony. "Fact is, you won't find any real Sony [Memory Sticks] on eBay from US or UK sellers. All [are] made in China. That's the truth," said the eBay merchant who wished to remain nameless.

Comparing the authentic Sony Memory Sticks to the counterfeit ones is not easy. Some customers are now reporting that even official Sony reps are being fooled and are unable to tell. Despite being fakes, the China-made Memory Sticks are nearly identical (English) to the real deal except for some very subtle details.

On the outside, genuine Memory Sticks Duos have laser-etched information on the back of the cards compared to the printed information on the counterfeits. The authentic modules are etched into the plastic shell, so the words don't rub off like they do on the counterfeits. The dimensions between the two will also be very slightly different. Some users reported having difficulties inserting and removing their MS Duo products from devices such as the PSP. On the inside, the counterfeit sticks also do not use the same Sony-marked PCB and are actually unmarked. The real sticks also use Ball Grid Array (BGA) memory chips where as the counterfeit ones use TSOP (Thin Small Outline Package) chips. The chips inside the counterfeit products are also unmarked and perform unreliably. Users who've purchased these sticks tell DailyTech that they are also experiencing differences between usable capacities when compared to genuine Memory Sticks -- the counterfeit products show a smaller capacity.

Some eBay merchants are also claiming that they will ship a "SanDisk Memory Stick Adapter", which is "factory sealed" along with the purchase of a Memory Stick Pro Duo. Unfortunately, Sony does not "factory seal" a memory product from its competitor along with its own memory products. Sony, in fact, has its own adapters. Another eBay merchant we tracked down even Photoshoped a Sony logo onto a SanDisk adapter.

Sony has not issued a warning or a statement in regards to the counterfeiting of its products, but it is advisable that buyers should be cautious of where they purchase their products from -- especially over eBay. As with most electronic products, you often do get what you pay for, and if it seems too good to be true, it often is. While buying Memory Sticks from Sony commands a price premium, it's clear from customer stories on many online forums that the discounts offered by unreputable sources are often just not worth it.




"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007




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