Top Tips – Don’t Overpay for Technology

There’s no denying that indulging a love of electronics can get pricey.  Here are a few tips to ensure that you don’t overpay for technology.

Don’t pay more for “high end” cables/connectors: It may come as a surprise that part of your TV, home theater or computer purchase that is typically most profitable for the electronics store is the additional cables you were sold on your way out the door.  When it comes to cables that transfer digital information (such as HDMI or DVI cables), in almost all cases you aren’t going to experience a noticeable improvement in image or sound quality if you pay more for the cable.

You may find a variance in the thickness of the cable casing and/or plastic surrounding the connector on higher priced cables, which may make the cable somewhat more durable.  This may make a difference if you need your cable to go a large distance or through a wall.  However, most people use their HDMI cables over a distance of less than six feet, behind their TV, where a light weight cable will be perfectly suited.

It’s not uncommon to find high-speed HDMI cables priced at $50-$80 at a big box retailer, yet online retailers such as Monoprice offer cables that will give you the same video or sound quality for under $5.

USB cables are similarly overpriced.  The same cable that you pay $25 for at a big box retailer is available for less than $2 through a site like Monoprice.

Don’t assume refurbished means broken: Refurbished products are typically sold at a sizeable discount over the brand new, in original packaging version of the gadget you’ve had your eye on.  Many consumers are hesitant to consider a refurbished item, assuming that it was damaged or found to be defective and then returned to and repaired by the manufacturer.

While this is sometimes the case, there are other reasons that perfectly good gadgets end up on the shelf tagged as refurbished.  In some cases, the item (or even just the packaging itself) was scratched or damaged in transit.  Units that retailers have made available as demo or display models are often sold as refurbished.  If a product has been purchased, opened and subsequently returned it will be sold as refurbished even if it was never used by the original owner.

The best way to save money by choosing a refurbished product while protecting yourself from buying a defective dud is to look for one labeled “factory recertified” and be sure that it carries a decent warranty (at least 90 days).  While you can find even better deals on refurbished items sold through third party retailers, exercise caution.  If the item was damaged and repaired, it’s important that you have a reputable company that will stand behind it while you determine that it’s working properly now.

Don’t invest in the “wrong” things when buying a new desktop PC: Historically, the processor made a noticeable difference in system performance, even to basic users, so it made sense to pay more to upgrade from a 1.3 GHz processor to a 1.8 GHz processor.  These days, processors process data so quickly that most of us wouldn’t notice a difference between an Intel Core i5 to an Intel Core i7 for the $200-$300 more you may spend on the upgrade.  Instead, spend your money on RAM (aim for 8GB with a new PC) or upgrade from a standard hard drive to a solid state drive (SSD).  Both will lead to a more noticeable speed increase and aren’t as costly as upgrading the processor.

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