Holiday Tech Buying Tips

The headline sounds like something I used to write back in TNP Tech eh? Old habits die hard!

But anyway, just wanted to highlight some stupid things not to do when buying tech gear this holidays or during trade shows like Sitex.

1. Don’t buy overpriced digital cables, especially HDMI (see above pix)

HDMI is a great invention – high definition audio and video all through one simple cable. One of the reasons why I upgraded my 32” Samsung TV to a 40” Samsung Series 6 was because the latter now has 4 HDMI ports. Just right for two game consoles, one HD set top box and one DVD player. I can now throw out those component cables which require you to attach up to 5 cables for each audio and video setup.

But man, the HDMI cables are terribly overpriced. I usually just get the cheapest one I can get off the shelves, or about S$40 for a basic Daiyo brand and 1.5m in length. Don’t bother to get those branded ones which cost up to $300 (Monster Cables come to mind). It’s insane – how much better can digital signals be transmitted, especially over short distances? Same for optical TOSLink cables, used for surround sound connections.

2. Don’t listen to what others are saying. Get a HD camcorder. Without a hard disk/DVD/tape media.

If you are wondering why you need a camcorder, it’s because you don’t have kids. All parents will buy one sooner or later to record their children’s shenigans. I find most of the models out there not worth buying. Why?

DVD camcorders – worst camcorder choice ever. Sure, you can share the discs easily with friends, but how many will you actually share?  And those pesky discs hold very limited periods of recording, and get lost easily. What I really loathe is the bulky shape of these camcorders.

HDD camcorders – so what if you can record 15 hours of video? Most people find it difficult to fill an hour of recordings at one session or even on vacation. And drop the camcorder – say goodbye HDD!

MiniDV camcorders – aiyo, so passe and troublesome. You have to transfer video from camcorder to PC in real time. And the tapes are so troublesome to store if you have a lot.

SD (standard definition) camcorders – They are very cheap, under $1000, but c’mon, the whole world is moving to high definition. The leap from SD to HD is very large, and you will regret an SD purchase 5 years from now. Yes, HD video requires a good PC to process quickly, but a dual-core PC should do.

So buy which one?

A flash-media, high definition camcorder! Like the Sony HDR-CX12 model below!

 

It’s highly compact as there’s no DVD drive, HDD or tape drive to take up space on the right side. Flash media (Memory Sticks or SD media) are shock-proof and come in huge capacities (8GB is standard now, under S$100, can record 2 hrs of good HD quality video), and transfer of content is quick and painless. Yes, it costs over S$2000, but trust me dude, I’ve been using one for the past year (CX7) and the image quality is fantastic. Most people stop using their camcorders after a while because they are some cumbersome, but my Sony is a real pleasure to use. Canon and Panasonic also have competitive models in the same price range.

3. Buying desktop PC? Go DIY and you don’t even have to DIY.

Laptops should be your first PC purchase these days, but if you are playing games or doing a lot of Adobe PS or Illustrator work, you’ll still need a good desktop. Just go get a pricelist from www.hardwarezone.com or a Sim Lim shop (I usually frequent Cybermind and Fuwell), tick off the parts you want, and get them to put it together for you at a nominal fee (or free). Why do the nerdy work of DIY when others can help you?

A high-end Intel quad core gaming PC rig can be put together for under $2500 today, and when I visited a branded PC website to compare prices, their PC was $6000! And their video card was of lesser grade!

Ouch.

My old mate Edwin did that recently, and even added his own high-definition TV tuner card, and he’s happy as a lark. “It’s my first hardcore PC in my whole life!” he sez. And it’s affordable lor.

And Vista SP1 is pretty stable these days – my PC can go on for days without any problems. Get 4GB of RAM – that really helps.

Of course, nothing against branded desktops – but nothing beats the satisfaction of selecting your own parts.

Ok, finally got these thoughts off my head 😀 Back to the usual rants.