Top tech shopping myths debunked
Is Black Friday really the best time to shop for electronics? Is paying extra for an extended warranty worth it? Apple products are never discounted - right? Maybe not. Read on to see the truth behind these tech myths.
In this day and age, it's easy to fall victim to marketing hype. And while the Internet can be a priceless research tool for separating fact from fiction, when not used correctly, it can also help spread all types of myths that ultimately result in consumers spending more money than they should. From overused buzzwords to high-priced TV cables, we shine light on 11 of the most common tech myths that people still fall for. Brush up on the list now so you don't get taken for a ride later.
1. 4K TVs Are Better Than 1080p TVs
4K HDTVs offer resolutions that are 4x greater than that of current 1080p HDTVs. But as CNET notes, "if you have 20/20 vision, sit about 10 feet from your TV, and are buying a typical TV (50" or so), you're not going to see the additional resolution." It's when you sit extremely close to a 4K TV that you begin to notice the difference and even then, CNET says it's not that apparent. Furthermore, there are some 1080p TVs that offer better picture quality than some of the cheaper entry-level 4K TVs. So regardless of what your local big box store salesperson tells you, 4K resolution is not the holy grail of TVs.
2. Only Off-Brand Tablets See Discounts
We see plenty of deals on off-brand tablets from companies like Emerson and Hisense, but let's be honest — you probably don't want a Hisense tablet. Fortunately, you can buy a mainstream tablet from Apple, Amazon, or Google and not pay full price. With competition at an all-time high, we're seeing an abundance of tablet deals on models that in the past might not have seen any discounts. So if a brand-name tablet is what you want, a discount is always around the corner.
3. 3D Printers Are Notoriously Expensive
Like all new technology, 3D printers were prohibitively expensive when they first hit the tech scene. But increased competition, expired patents, and widespread acceptance of the technology had led to lower prices. In fact, small 3D printers sell for $500 to $800. That's still considerably more expensive than a laser printer, but deals do exist and prices are slowly dropping.
4. Plasma TVs Are Dead & Not Worth Your Money
Despite manufacturing some of the best plasma TVs in the market, last year Panasonic bowed out of the plasma business, leaving LG and Samsung as the last major supporters of the technology. While the tea leaves look grim for plasma, the door isn't completely closed as both Samsung and LG have announced their lineup of 2014 plasma TVs. So while Panasonic and its top-rated TVs may be harder to find this year, the plasma torch will be carried (for now) by LG and Samsung.
5. Expensive HDMI Cables Mean Better Image Quality
While you may think the quality of your media relies on the cable that transmits it, you don't actually need to spend upwards of $50 on an HDMI cord. Various media 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 $3.54.
6. Faster Processors Translate to Smoother Performance
As consumers, we've been trained to believe that a faster processor on a tablet or laptop equates to a smoother experience. That may have been true when the Pentium processor reigned supreme, but today you probably wouldn't notice the difference between a Core i5 clocked at 2.3GHz and one at 2.5GHz.
Instead, you're better off looking at the number of cores in the processor. A dual-core system is sufficient for everyday computing (streaming HD movies, Twitter, Facebook), but a quad-core CPU (accompanied by a graphics card) will offer more horsepower for HD video editing or playing the latest PC games at full resolution. Likewise, more RAM and a solid state drive can all help increase the speed of your device, independent of what processor lies inside.
7. Apple Products Never See Discounts
Shopping exclusively at the Apple Store is bad for your wallet. As we've noted before, deals on Apple products can come as quickly as two days after a product's debut — that is, if you shop at authorized resellers. And though you may think Apple's Black Friday Sale is the sale of the year for the Apple faithful, the truth is we see better Apple sales from resellers year-round. The iPhone 5S, for instance, is currently selling for $199 via Apple. Shop around at retailers like MacMall, Best Buy, and Amazon, and you'll see that the 16GB model has already hit a price low of $125; a price point you may never see if you shop exclusively at the Apple Store.
8. Refurbished Electronics Are Always Scratched and/or Dented
While refurbished electronics are often stigmatized as "rejects," many of them have actually undergone better and more rigorous testing standards than new products. In addition, they can offer savings of up to 50%. When buying refurbs, we recommend researching who you're buying from. For instance, Apple, Amazon, and Best Buy offer an assortment of refurbs that have undergone thorough testing standards. Read our complete list of the top brands for refurbished goods for more information.
9. Always Splurge on an Extended Warranty
Extended warranties are pure profit for retailers, as they pocket more than 50% of an extended warranty's cost. 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 oftentimes is more than sufficient) and research warranties provided by third parties like SquareTrade. Moreover, some credit cards will automatically double the original manufacturer's warranty for up to a year when you pay with their card.
10. Black Friday Is the Best Time to Shop for Consumer Electronics
While it's true that November sees the deepest discounts on many electronics — thanks in part to Black Friday season and Cyber Monday — the discounts are traditionally for cheaper, off-brand items. Brand-name HDTVs and high-end laptops, for instance, see better deals in the months after Black Friday. For the best time to buy specific gadgets, follow our monthly buying guides.
11. New Gadgets Offer the Full Storage Capacity They Advertise
It'd be great if laptops and tablets offered the exact storage space they advertise, but the reality is many of these hard drives come pre-loaded with software, which may diminish some of their advertised storage capacities. (You'll usually find a disclaimer on the packaging that states something about the product's actual formatted capacity.) While the lost storage space is usually unnoticeable, in the case of laptops with solid state drives (SSD) — like Apple's MacBook Air — the diminished capacity is very noticeable and could turn your 64GB laptop into a 48GB machine.
Understanding technology can be tricky to the uninitiated. But that doesn't mean you should be taken advantage of. With a little research and the right guidance, you can avoid the marketing bait and shop like a savvy consumer.
Louis Ramirez is a features writer at Deal News where this article first appeared: http://dealnews.com/features/12-Tech-Shopping-Myths-Busted/678814.html
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best personal finance bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.