Getting a Tech Bargain Might Mean Settling for Older Version
You will see a lot of bargains this holiday season. It is pretty easy to spot an inexpensive, no-brand version of a popular gadget as a cheap imitator. However, it can be more difficult to know if buying last year's version of a name brand item is worthwhile.
This year I've seen older versions of both phones and tablets selling at reduced prices. Some are even being given away with a two-year -cellular contract. I've seen advice from highly rated tech journalists saying that you should never purchase an old version because the newer versions are so much better.
I don't disagree with the premise that newer versions are usually better, but I have to object to the part that says you should never buy the older versions. When the basic features of the newer versions have been dramatically improved, or useful new features have been added, it might be better to purchase the newer device.
A good example of that is the Amazon Kindle Fire. Last year's version, simply called the Fire, is selling for $159. This year's version, called the Fire HD, is selling for $199. The price difference is only $40.
For the extra money, the newer Fire HD has an updated Android operating system, improved screen resolution, more memory, a better display and much improved audio. It also has several features that were missing in last year's version, including a microphone, a front-facing camera for Skype calling, and an HDMI port so you can display your Fire content on an HD TV. In this case, the new and improved features are extremely useful, and are more than worth the extra money.
Yet this is not always the case. The newer Motorola Razr Maxx HD smartphones are selling at Verizon for $299 with a two-year contract. The older Motorola Razr is now $99, with a two-year contract. For the extra $200 you get more memory, better battery life, and the addition of ISIS mobile wallet and NFR, both of which are technologies for mobile payments that haven't yet become readily available. If you don't need the better battery life or want to be ready to make payments with your cellphone when they become commonplace, saving $200 could be attractive.
You will find many cases where you will have to compare specifications and determine whether the features of newer model are worth the price. For instance, Apple is still selling the basic iPad 2 for $399, while the newer iPad with Retina Display (iPad 4) is $499. The iPad 4 is thinner and has a much better screen. It also has a faster processor, better cameras and lets you use Siri, Apple's voice assistant. These new features may be worth $100 extra, but some people will be able to happily live without them.
The bottom line is that you will have to do some homework to make an informed decision. The Internet will make that exploration easy. In many cases, you can get a comparison right at the manufacturer's website.
For instance, Apple compares its iPads at www.apple.com/ipad/ compare. You can also read reviews by journalists like me.
Just be sure that you read several different opinions because, as you know, opinions vary. Last week, Walt Mossberg wrote in The Wall Street Journal, "I don't advise buying a Windows 8 laptop without (a touch screen)." I totally disagree. I feel that Windows 8 works quite well on a standard computer without a touch screen.
Another example: Kim Komando in USA Today said recently that 17-inch laptops are totally outmoded. Yet I know many people who want a larger screen on their laptop because they use it as a desktop replacement and don't travel much.
Komando also said that you should avoid TVs with 60 hertz refresh rates, saying, "Budget LCDs have a refresh rate of 60 hertz, which can blur motion when you're watching the big football game."
She is correct that 120 HZ and 240Hz refresh rates are now standard on all high-end TVs. She is also correct that the slower refresh rate may produce a slight blurring in fast-moving action scenes. Yet, one of my Black Friday purchases was a 26-inch, 1080p Insignia TV for $99. Guess what? It has a refresh rate of 60 hertz, and I am very happy with it.
As you all know, to get a really good price, the item you purchase may not be the greatest and the latest, but if you do your research and know what you are giving up to get a good price, you can make an intelligent decision on whether you would rather have the best device currently on the market or a little extra money in your pocket.
Contact Sandy Berger at sandy@ compukiss.com.
More like this story