I'm posting this thread to notify the community of a serious problem I've had with Uberclock, and a more serious problem with Smoothieboards in general. In time, I hope to discover whether this problem was just a forgivable technical issue, or something else.
I ordered two Smoothieboard 5XCs and two of the beefier 5V regulators from Uberclock.com on 7/31/15. I received them in the mail, and discovered that the first one wouldn't home correctly. You can see why in the attached photo:
That "QC PASS" sticker seems ironic to me. I was scratching my head at why it wouldn't home, when I looked down at the board and saw one of its own capacitors sitting on the table next to it. It had fallen off during assembly, without even being touched. I then tested the rest of the caps, and found that another peeled off as though it was held in place with a weak adhesive. The rest of the capacitors had no give at all, indicating that they had been soldered properly. I went on the Smoothie IRC channel and wolfmanjm (pretty sure it was him) said that this was a known issue - the caps aren't always soldered properly. They know this is going on - not just in my case, but in general.
On 8/11/15, I sent this email to email@example.com, which is published on their store page:
This was an order for two Smoothieboards. One is okay. The other is DOA. Wired up the board and discovered that two axes wouldn't move. Looked next to the board and saw a cap just sitting on the table next to it. It had come off because it wasn't soldered properly. I tested the rest and found another one peeled off with very little effort. The rest were in there solidly.
I'd like this to be replaced. Please send me a shipping label.
On 8/24/15, I hadn't heard back. I sent another email asking for an answer within two days, and stating that I would take action to recover my losses if it was not answered.
It's 8/26/15, after the close of business everywhere in the continental US. There has been no answer. I have filed a dispute with my credit card issuer in order to recover the cost of one of the boards.
I don't know whether Mark's email is busted/full/etc. Maybe that's the problem, and getting dinged by his bank will be what wakes him up to the issue. On the other hand, maybe it's something else. I can't know because I have no information about the man, or any contact from him concerning this issue.
The Smoothie team has acknowledged in public (the IRC channel) that this is a known issue. Because it's not a freak accident, and because they have been unable to get their QA process good enough to catch these duds before they're sent out, my recommendation is that no one buy a Smoothieboard of any kind unless and until they have this issue fixed "for real". Based on what I've seen and been told, if you buy one of these, you're rolling the dice for over a hundred and fifty bucks - and if you roll wrong, you'll have to go after them through whatever bank or credit card issuer you used to pay for the transaction.
The Azteeg X5 is one alternative. I went through two of those in less than half a year (one has CPU "stuttering", the other has a blown bed heater FET), so I can't say my own experience has been very good. However, if I don't see some immediate improvement in communication and QA process from the Smoothieboard camp, I just can't recommend that anyone allow their business (or even leisure) to rely on the Smoothieboard. If I wasn't so heavily invested in improving the firmware, this would be the event that sent me back to the dinky Arduino controllers.