Avoid electronics deal “gotchas”

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

20 comments Add your comment

Chess

November 30th, 2010
9:00 am

I have seen a better researched article on turkey frying than this.

Jef

November 30th, 2010
9:06 am

“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.”

This is actually bad advice. At the store you may see a difference if they have a 60hz vs 120hz display. But at home you likely wont know the difference.

Broadcast TV is in 60hz and if you upconvert to 120hz it will confuse some people’s eyes. (My fiancee hates it)

If you plan on watching blue-ray movies all the time, it may be worth a few dollars to you, but for tv/netflix/dvd’s it’s just a shiny feature you pay extra for.

This biggest thing to look for is 1080p vs 720p and the brand name. Consumer reports is a must with all the bandwagon tv makers these days.

DW

November 30th, 2010
9:26 am

Good advise Jef. I know exactly what ur talking about on the upconvert. Things appear to be sped up and it just doesnt flow right.

Lauren Davidson

November 30th, 2010
9:38 am

@Jef: “If you plan on watching blue-ray movies all the time, it may be worth a few dollars to you, but for tv/netflix/dvd’s it’s just a shiny feature you pay extra for.”

This is especially true. If you’re not a movie connoisseur or only use the tube for 30 minutes of news every night, a less expensive model can easily suit your needs.

Al Faretta

November 30th, 2010
9:44 am

a 10-megapixel camera is fine unless you’re printing photos 8″x10″. For the 3×5″ and 4×6″ prints most people print, 8-megapixel is suitable. 12-14 is overkill for all but professional photographers.

DW

November 30th, 2010
9:50 am

Top o’ the mornin Lauren :)

DonH.

November 30th, 2010
9:53 am

Don’t agree with Andrew Eisner as just last week bought a Samsung 50 inch PLASMA 720p for an incredibly low $599 and don’t see any difference vs. the 1080p and saved about $250 versus 1080p LCD. Jef is right as we don’t watch Blu-Ray..just regular DVD’s and high def TV so 720 is fine. We looked at MANY comparisons between LCD and PLASMA and Plasma alone saved us $200 versus LCD and is a better picture IMHO.

Jef

November 30th, 2010
9:56 am

The best thing about a 12-14 megapixel camera vs a 10 megapixel camera is that you can crop+zoom the photo and still have a high quality image for printing. But that isn’t needed if you don’t plan on messing with photo editors.

Another note on 120hz tvs, you can turn the feature off which I usually do for standard tv.

GaPeachy

November 30th, 2010
10:00 am

Where did Rana go?

Guy Incognito

November 30th, 2010
10:25 am

Who cares?…..Lauren is hotter!

consumertech

November 30th, 2010
10:26 am

Chess-nice to know you like to compare electronics to turkey frying. Thanks for your input bubba, very helpful. These short articles list specific points to prompt useful discussion, hence the comment box. If you want extensive research and reviews go to cnet.com.

Jef- I agree when you’re in the store you can see the difference between 60Hz and 120Hz, but I wonder how many people realize the stores are running in high definition? I think a lot people don’t even have a hi-def signal coming into their house unless they’re using an antenna to get it for free. Many TV’s allow you to manually adjust the refresh rate also. I have a LED 1080p that allows you to adjust the refresh rate to 60,120 or 240 depending on your preference. When watching action flicks or sports the 120Hz works extremely well and eliminates motion blur, but I don’t think paying extra to have 240Hz is worth it because you really don’t notice a big difference. BTW-I spotted a 42″ 120Hz LCD on Black Friday for the same price as a 42″ 60Hz LCD, same top name brand, too. Deals are out there.

Ted Striker

November 30th, 2010
11:07 am

Good column and advice.

Here’s my 2 cents on 120 Hz HDTVs. If the TV has the “motion interpolation” feature — and that’s common on 120 Hz models — be sure you can change the levels or turn it off if you don’t like it. Not knocking it. Some people love it. However some don’t like it at all. Myself, I enjoy using it for some DVD and Blu-Ray movies. However it’s somewhat distracting to me when watching a network broadcast show.

Without going into a technical discussion, motion interpolation sometimes has the side effects of giving what you’re watching appear to have a “shot by video camera” or “soap opera” effect. At least that’s how some viewers describe it.

Different manufacturers have their own unique names for motion interpolation. Examples are: Sony/MotionFlow, Toshiba/Clearscan, Samsung/Auto Motion Plus, Panasonic/Intelligent Frame Creation, Vizio/Motion Estimation Motion Compensation, etc.

Here’s a decent article that mentions it a little.

http://bit.ly/dHIdXa

Just something to think about because a network TV broadcast will probably not look like what you’re seeing running on a loop in the store.

Tuckergirl

November 30th, 2010
1:20 pm

Ah, yes, mention TVs and the men will come out of the woodwork! I’m not being snarky, just appreciative. My husband could talk about this stuff for HOURS. That’s why I left it up to him to purchase our latest TV last month. He did great, as always.

willie

November 30th, 2010
5:17 pm

I thought the article was great. Absolutely go for the 1080p and the 120 Hz TV…why buy old technology if the newer stuff isn’t that much more. And the advice about buying only a GPS that has lifetime updates is good too….I got stung on that one! Thanks!

JCarson

November 30th, 2010
5:21 pm

Lauren, a bit off topic, but I would love to hear your opinion on front-loading washing machines vs. the big high efficiency top-loaders. Are the rumors about leaking and bad smells on the front-loaders true? thx

Andrew Kenedy

December 1st, 2010
5:14 am

A great topic! i will look for your next blog. Thanks for sharing.

Native Atlantan

December 1st, 2010
3:32 pm

@JCarson….personal experience is the front-loading washers are terrible. They do smell so you have to leave the front door open when not in use to allow them to dry out. Even given the greater water savings, I’d trade my front-loader in for a top-loader today if I could. Front loader just doesn’t seem to clean as well….but I’ve had no leaking problems.

Lauren Davidson

December 1st, 2010
3:59 pm

@JCarson: I haven’t done a lot of research on those before! I personally have a top-loader set that works fine for me. Maybe good material for future blogs. =D

Andrew Eisner

December 1st, 2010
5:34 pm

Thought I’d chime in with a comment on refresh rate. Yes, HDTVs often do in fact, “interpolate” between frames in order to add extra frames and yes, some may find that undesirable however there is a reason that most new HDTVs offer 120Hz and even 240Hz refresh rates and that is to compensate for LCD panels tendancy to show blurring on fast action content like sporting events. The other reason has to do with converting 24 frame movies to TV. The fact is, 24 divides evenly into 120 or 240 but not 60 making it less susceptible to “judder.” My advice is go for 120Hz or higher and if you don’t like it you can always turn it off.

Amanda O

December 3rd, 2010
4:05 pm

The amount of mega pixels a camera has is becoming a moot point when shopping for cameras. You will not notice a difference in photo print quality from 7 up to 12 or even 14. It is only advisable to purchase the higher mega pixel count if you plan on doing A LOT of photo editing and enlarging the photos to well over 11×14 size. And the more mega pixels you have, the more space each picture eats up on your memory card (video eats up even more space.) What you SHOULD be shopping for digital vs optical zoom. That’s where you are going to notice a difference in quality. The more optical zoom the better, digital zoom is ok, but the more you zoom in, the lower the quality of your pictures, regardless of how many mega pixels the camera has.