Memorial Day kicks off the summer sales season, and you can bet that electronics will be on the front page of all the big-brand fliers. It’s not just summer. Black Friday is known for deep discounts on electronics, as is President’s Day, back-to-school weekend and the entire Christmas season.
If you’re in the market for a gadget, it’s wise to wait for the sales — but make sure you’re looking for the right device and not just the best deals.
Many electronics fail to justify the expense, whether you get them on sale or not. Some are simply obsolete, where your old one just doesn’t need replacing even though you’ve gotten used to living with it. In other cases, the hot new releases are often little more than novelty gimmicks that are strange and exciting, but completely unnecessary.
GOBankingRates sought out industry experts for help separating the duds from the devices that will truly add value to your life. So before you buy yet another thing that needs to be charged, installed and connected to your network — only to find its way to your existing mountain of dead electronics clutter — read about the devices that are usually a waste of money.
Standalone GPS Devices
GPS navigational devices were game-changers for millions of road trippers, travelers and even commuters. But like the mp3 players of old, your phone now does everything they can do — plus everything else.
“These days, it’s another pricey piece of tech you don’t really need, as it’s a uni-tasker,” said Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst at DealNews. “With your smartphone, you can do far more than just navigate, and a nice bonus is that if you look up a place on your phone you can usually hit a single button to pull up maps to navigate to it without having to worry about sending it to another device or manually inputting the info elsewhere. Even if you’re planning to be off-grid, you’re better off investing in something like a phone with satellite connectivity rather than buying a GPS that can be used offline.”
Sometimes it seems that electronics manufacturers insert Wi-Fi-connected smart technology into every product they can, even if it doesn’t make any sense. Smart microwaves are the prime example.
“It’s all well and good if you can ask a smart assistant to pop popcorn for you in the microwave, but you still have to be there in person to physically put the popcorn in the microwave,” said Ramhold. “You’re already there. You might as well just go ahead and turn it on. There are probably a few times when this convenience may actually help but overall, you may not be using these features enough to warrant the more expensive cost compared to just getting a plain appliance.”
In public bathrooms, you can turn on the water just by waving your hands under the faucet so you don’t have to touch a germ-ridden handle that a thousand other people touched right when their hands were the grossest. But you don’t have a public bathroom in your house.
“Electronic faucets may offer convenience and hygiene benefits in public spaces, but they’re often unnecessary in homes,” said Logan Cox, assistant general manager of John The Plumber Nepean. “Traditional faucets work just fine and are more affordable to purchase and maintain.”
Sometimes it pays to buy generic, but non-brand-name chargers aren’t inexpensive. They’re cheap.
“While it might be tempting to buy affordable chargers to save some extra money, you can end up paying more in the long run,” said Monserrat Cancino, a tech expert and writer for Tech Detective. “You see, knock-off chargers often fail to meet the necessary safety standards and can cause some serious damage to your device’s battery. That’s why I recommend investing in chargers from reputable brands that have obtained certifications, such as CE or RoHs.”
High-End HDMI Cables
The arrival of 4K, 8K and other ultra-HD picture formats have spawned an entire industry based on getting people to overspend on pricey HDMI cables. While makers of so-called premium cables insist that they deliver superior quality, publications like Expert Reviews have spent years testing, reviewing and reporting proof to the contrary.
“Expensive HDMI cables may not offer any additional benefits compared to more affordable options,” said Cancino. “Look for an HDMI cable from a reputable brand, but don’t be fooled by marketing claims of a cable being premium.”
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