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Beware of electronic gadgets' sales traps

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Friday, Jan. 24, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
 

Let's face it, it's a marketing-driven world out there, and companies will use what they can to sell something — and they'll keep using it if it turns out to work!

The list below is not of scams exactly; the companies aren't lying or anything. But they are making a mountain out of a molehill in some cases.

Let me put some of these claims into context for you, so you can buy your gadgets with a little more clarity.

The Retina display

A fine example of Apple's marketing genius, a Retina display is a nice display, certainly, but the old ones weren't exactly sliced liver. The company crams more pixels into each square inch, to the point where it claims our retinas can't see them any more — hence the name. In reality, it's just a welcome but modest upgrade to a single component in a complex instrument, whether it's an iPhone, an iPad or a Mac computer. (Some Android offerings have even higher densities.)

Camera megapixels

We see the branding for 16- and 20-plus megapixel cameras all the time now. The fact is camera image quality is the result of a balance of a number of factors. Don't get conned into choosing a camera solely on the megapixel number. The really high numbers — like that top-of-the-line Nokia smartphone with 41 megapixels — are for pros who produce large-scale prints.

For everyday shooting, anything with eight or more megapixels is fine.

3-D HDTVs

I'm glad I don't have to manufacture and sell HDTVs. The low and medium ends are tough, price-driven markets, with razor-thin margins for the manufacturers. So how do they make money? With newfangled features they use to justify a slightly higher price.

While we're waiting for the ballyhooed 4K HDTVs to come down in price so mere mortals can afford them, we're stuck with paying extra for the current add-on, 3-D. Here's the problem: Who wants to sit around with friends watching a game or a movie with those dorky glasses on? Most TVs only come with two pairs, and additional ones are extra — a lot extra.

Those PC processors

Here's the straight scoop. Today's midline desktop or laptop processor was a super-processor 18 months ago. Do you need to spend hundreds of dollars extra for the latest and greatest dual quad core whatever?

If you're a dedicated gamer, by all means shell out for the top processors and graphics cards — but you knew that already. If you're editing HD video all day, ditto.

The rest of us are surfing the Web, streaming videos and writing emails. We should spend our money on increasing our broadband or Wi-Fi connection, not a processor.

Pricey HDMI cables

A friend came home the other day with a $75 smart Blu-ray player — and a $43 HDMI cable to hook it up to her TV! If you're talking digital, you're talking ones and zeroes going through that cable. There aren't better ones and zeroes! Now I wouldn't get a $2 HDMI cable in line at the drugstore; a shoddily made one might go bad. A decent cable from a legit company should cost you less than $10. And take a pass on those gold cables, too.

Email Kim Komando at techcomments@usatoday.com.

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