Anti-Gift Guide: Gadgets you should avoid for the holidays and beyond

By: Ted Kritsonis

December 22, 2009

It’s great that there’s so much technology out there sitting on store shelves awaiting mass consumption, but some of the stuff really isn’t worth your hard-earned cash. Here are some products and categories you should probably stay away from.


dell-inspiron-mini-12-mini-netbook$600 netbooks
Netbooks have been all the rage for a while now. Who could argue with portability, functionality and compatibility at a recession-friendly price? I know that some might say the economy is already rebounding, but does that even begin to justify $600 price tags for netbooks? And now we see other terms like “ultra-portable” and “thin-and-light” to describe small notebooks that aren’t quite netbooks, but aren’t full-fledged notebooks, either. The thin-and-lights offer the best deal, in my opinion. They typically cost around $700-$800, have 13” screens and run on better specs than any netbook. Think about it before you plunk down the cash.


home-theater-in-a-box1Home Theatre in a Box

Who wouldn’t want a surround-sound system to come in a box at one low base cost? Avoid this entire category and save your money. After spending thousands on a new HDTV, spending a couple hundred on a HTiB just doesn’t do it justice. You’d be better off buying one of those 2.1-channel “bricks” that TV manufacturers keep suggesting as add-ons with Blu-ray players. If you’re looking for a true sound system, go to a Hi-Fi or audio shop and let them work within your budget.

windows-mobile-6-5Anything with Windows Mobile 6.5

After doing nothing with its mobile OS for over 18 months, Microsoft tweaks Windows Mobile 6.1 and offers 6.5, a slicker version that borrows from its competitors and still feels outdated. Maybe they’ll have something great whenever Windows Mobile 7 finally makes an appearance, but for now, avoid phones that are running this archaic operating system. With the level of choice in Android, iPhone, Palm Pre, BlackBerry and even Symbian, 6.5 just doesn’t cut it.


XM and Sirius logosSatellite Radio for the home
I know I’ll be getting some heat on this from satellite radio lovers out there, but my main point here is that you should only get satellite radio (and the monthly subscription that comes with it) if you plan on listening in the car. You need a car kit for that. If there isn’t one in the box, don’t buy it. Part of this is personal preference on my part because Internet radio at home has been great. I can either access over 11,000 stations worldwide for free using my Mac or PC or use a dedicated Internet radio player for that. Still, I can understand if you need a fix of Howard Stern or sports talk via satellite. Just make sure it’s not for the home only.

apple-tv-01Apple TV

I realize Apple might do something new with this in the next quarter, but what Steve Jobs described as just “a hobby” seemingly has no strategy behind it. Sure, iTunes is nice but does it have to dominate your entire media library? Wouldn’t it be better to spend less money getting something like the Asus O!Play and watching content directly from a USB or eSATA external drive? After all, Apple TV only likes certain file formats, while shunning others. Not to mention that you can’t get it to recognize network attached storage that isn’t called “Time Capsule”. Sorry, but a Mac Mini makes much more sense as a home theatre device, especially since I can watch anything I want from multiple sources (HDD, Web, EyeTV PVR, etc.) with no real restrictions.


  1.' shyla says:

    Thanks for the awesome tips, I appreciate the research and integrity! Congrats to you and your team on your new site as well, its a really cool project indeed!

  2.' Adrian Brien says:

    The article was helpful but I could have done with a tad more detail on some items. I don’t know how Apple TV works so the downside doesn’t mean too much. I know it would be expensive because I own Mac stuff. Great advice about anything audio – go to a good audio store. They do try to temp you though with seemingly amazing low prices for the surround add-ons. And I just don’t know why anyone would pay for Sirius, period! Sure, I might like to hear Dylan’s show, but not enough to pay a monthly fee. There are too many monthly fees. I mean, what do I get for the monthly fee I pay to my cable company? I need high speed but I don’t know most of the crap on most of the channels I pay so much for.
    Anyway, thanks for the advice and keep up the good work.

  3.' Hercules says:

    I definitely agree that everyone should avoid Windows Mobile, the OS is simply outdated and as powerful as it is, it just doesn’t work well enough as a phone. Even HTC (the biggest manufacturer of winmo devices that makes about 85-percent of all winmo phones), sees this and more recently started trying to hide the winmo interface with the home-screen plugins…Firms like Microsoft (and even Nokia with Symbian) really need to revamp their platforms as people continue to flock to BlackBerry and iPhone…it will be interesting to see what they come up with in the short-term, but I still personally don’t think Winmo will change enough to make it a viable option these days.

    Great tips and round up, Ted.

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