Consumer Tech Radar

About this Blog: Bill Snyder analyzes the consumer technologies--gadgets, software, electronics, and everything else--that matter to everyday techies and businesspeople, and explains why these technologies and products should be on your radar -- or not.

Consumer Tech Radar

Five Shopping Myths That Will Cost You Money

Don't believe it when a salesperson tells you should buy an extended warranty on your new HDTV or pay an extra $100 for a faster processor. Here's the myth-busting truth.

to Consumer Technology |

You spent big bucks on that HDTV so the best way to ensure that video you're streaming from your laptop will be top notch is to spend lavishly on HDMI adapters, right? And when you're buying a new laptop, nothing's more important than the speed of the processor, am I right again? Actually, the answer to both questions is no.

When it comes to HDMI adapters, cheap is just fine, and processor speed is no longer a benchmark you need to worry about. Those are just two of the many high-tech shopping myths that fool consumers into spending too much money. Web site DealNews.com has come up with a list of a dozen of these money-sucking myths, but I'll go over five of the most important ones.

Processor speed is the key metric in judging performance. That was the case a long, long time ago. But Intel and its smaller rival, AMD, have long since developed a whole bag of tricks that boost performance without speeding up the processor. If you’re sticking with Intel, as most people do, the number you want to watch (besides the price) is the name of the processor for your laptop. There's the i3, the i5 and the i7. The higher the number the more robust and expensive the chip. Unless you're heavy into graphics-intensive gaming, you probably don't need the i7.

Megapixels are all that matter in a digital camera. This is another number that used to be important, but except at the very low end, it isn't any more. Unless you're planning to print very large photos or do some extreme photo cropping, any decent camera has megapixels to spare. Much more important are the quality of the lens and the size of the sensor.

More money buys you a better quality HDMI adapter. While you may think the quality of your media relies on the cable that transmits it, you don't actually need to spend a lot of money on an HDMI cord. Various outlets have debunked this myth, and based on the deals we see, consumers should spend no more than $4 on a 6-foot cable. In fact, Monoprice offers one for $3.50.

Always splurge on an extended warranty. Extended warranties are pure profit for retailers, and they often cost you more than paying for a repair yourself. Rather than be bullied into buying one the next time you're at a retail store, take a look at the warranty provided by the manufacturer (which is often more than sufficient) and research warranties provided by third parties like SquareTrade. Your credit card company may offer protection as well. Here’s a short video from ConsumerReports that has more information.

Refurbished electronics are always scratched or dented. While refurbs are often stigmatized as "rejects," many of them have actually undergone better and more rigorous testing than new products. In addition, they can offer savings of up to 50 percent. However, only buy them from a merchant you trust. DealNews gives good marks to Apple, Amazon, and Best Buy and says their refurbs have a good track record.


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