Strike these tech toys
off your shopping list
Alan Zisman (c) 2005 First published in Business
December 6- 12, 2005 High Tech Office
deep in the season of buying and gift-giving, deluged by a combination
of full-colour ads and guilt. And a lot of friends and family members
of all ages have tech toys on the wish list. This week, let's look at
some things to avoid.
As digital cameras have become a commodity item, they've become
increasingly capable and easy to use at the middle price ranges.
new low end has emerged, with attractive prices ranging from about $79
to $149. These offer low pixel counts and often lack an optical zoom
and even a flash.
a pass. If you want to save money, many retailers mark down older
stock. Last year's (or even this year's) mid-range model at a lower
price offers far better value than a newer bottom-of-the-line model.
(Check reviews at Vancouver's megapixel.net site prior to
Only a young child is going to happy for long with a cute but
low-capacity (under 512 MB) music player. Even the 512 MB to 1 GB
models will prove frustrating for anyone with more than a few CDs in
High-end players now feature colour
screens and may boast the ability to display video.
Note, however, that getting movies
onto the little players can be at best time-consuming and at worst, a
Wireless networking gear:
While last year's mid-range digital camera at a good price may be a
good buy, you probably should take a pass on last year's wireless
networking adapters and base stations - at least the ones labelled
OK for run-of-the-mill Web surfing, but they won't be able to handle
the demands of increasingly popular online video. The faster and more
secure 802.11g systems are today's standard.
manufacturers are advertising even faster wireless connection speeds,
but in many cases compatibility is limited, at least for the advertised
Desktop computers: Again,
some incredibly attractive prices, and again, you probably don't want
the fine print: only 256 MB RAM? You'll regret having less than 512 MB.
CD-ROM drive only? You'll regret not being able to (at least) read DVDs
and burn CDs.
graphics and sound will detract from game, multimedia and online
performance. Much better systems are available for only a little bit
Low-end laptops often have the same specifications as low-end desktops
(though costing a few hundred dollars more) and suffer from the same
may decide that the benefits of portability make it worthwhile,
however, especially if it's a second system. If it's your only
computer, however, budget a bit more and get a mid-range system; these
have become increasingly affordable in the past year.
Packs of floppy diskettes used to make a useful stocking stuffer. No
more. Better would be a pack of CD-R discs, which are almost
DVD discs, while a huge bargain, can be problematic. Some systems can
only write to +R discs; others only use -R discs (newer units can use
either) while many users can't burn DVD discs at all.
Avoid RW (rewritable) CD or DVD discs
unless someone has specifically requested them. They cost more and are
drives, flash memory drives that fit onto a keychain and plug into a
USB port, are available in a variety of prices and capacities and can
make a nice stocking-stuffer; models with USB2 offer better performance
(at least when connected to a newer, USB2-capable computer), which is
especially worthwhile for the larger-capacity drives.
Next week's column will have my
annual gift guide: some of the things I would recommend (budget