You’re on the holiday shopping trail. You’re almost done. You sling your bags over your shoulder as if you were the superhero of shopping.
But wait: A large-screen TV stops you in your tracks. It’s on sale for $327. What a deal! Or is it?
When it comes to electronics, the value of the purchase is far more difficult to calculate than the dollar amount you pay for it. In fact, many of the “deals” this season employ last year’s technology or capabilities — making the “bargain” you’re getting, well, not so fabulous.
Here’s what to look for when eyeing electronics.
TVs: When you’re buying that LCD, check the resolution before slapping down a credit card: 720p is a lower resolution than the 1080p you can abundantly find now.
“You could live with 720p with smaller than 42-inch or 46-inch TVs,” said Andrew Eisner, director of content at Retrevo, a consumer electronics shopping website. “If you’re sitting close and have pretty good vision, you’re going to start seeing problems with a larger TV at 720p.”
The other component of picture quality is the refresh rate. Look for something with at least 120 Hz — not the 60 Hz versions flooding the sales.
GPS systems: Although the quality of most GPS devices doesn’t differ greatly, the extras do. Look for a navigational system with a lifetime subscription to real-time traffic information and map updates. Without lifetime subscriptions, you’ll have to pay up to $90 per add-on. Consider the larger models, because the smaller versions can be difficult to view while driving.
Cameras: “Some of the older cameras may not have some of the newer features,” Eisner said. “For example, facial recognition technology, optimizing the flesh tones in the picture, etc.”
Don’t settle for any camera with fewer than 10 megapixels; you can find a good sale price on one in the 12- to 14-megapixel range. With more megapixels, you get higher-quality images, especially for printing.
Laptops: There are deals on laptops with older processors, but a dual-core processor will land you a significantly better machine. Fork over a few more dollars for a faster, more competent system.
eReaders: Make sure you’re not getting yesterday’s product. The latest readers have built-in Wi-Fi, are lighter and offer faster page turns. They’ll provide a better experience for only a bit more than last year’s models.
-By Lauren Davidson, Atlanta Bargain Hunter