Thursday, November 27, 2008

Just in time for Black Friday...

Some excellent advice on what NOT to buy tomorrow.
TVs that are too big, or too fancy: It's a good time to buy a new TV. In 2007, manufacturers of flat-panel screens ramped up their plants in order to meet what they thought would be huge demand for big TVs during the 2008 Summer Olympics. Thanks to the flagging economy, that demand didn't materialize. Now, says Sweta Dash, an analyst at the market research firm iSuppli, flat-panel manufacturers are swamped with huge inventories. As a result you can find incredible bargains on HDTVs—32-inch sets are going for as low as $399, 42-inch units are $599, and you can get a 50-inch plasma for as little as $798.
But beware. When TVs are so cheap, it's easy to get pushed into one that's too big for your room or offers a higher resolution than you need. Succumbing to either temptation can be harmful to your wallet.
How big of a television should you buy? TV experts offer this handy rule of thumb: Measure the distance in inches between your couch and your TV, then divide by 1.5. The number you come up with is the biggest widescreen TV you should get. For instance, if you sit 6 feet away from the TV—72 inches—you shouldn't buy a screen larger than 48 inches. Anything bigger and you may begin to notice too much detail in the picture—pixilation, scan lines, and other artifacts that you wouldn't see on a smaller set.
You should also pay attention to the resolution of your new TV. There are two main kinds of HD sets: 720p and 1080p. These designations indicate the number of pixels squeezed into the picture. A 1080p screen has almost three times as many pixels as the 720p screen, which salespeople will gladly tell you translates into a substantially better picture, thus justifying the 1080p set's greater price tag.
In fact, 1080p TVs are packed with a lot of extra pixels that most of us don't really need. For one thing, because 1080p signals require a lot of bandwidth, every cable company broadcasts high-definition TV shows in 720p, so you're not getting anything more by watching Lost on a 1080p set. (Dish Network and DirecTV said recently that they'll put out some channels in 1080p, but skeptics say that their signals will be too compressed to look as good as true 1080p images.) And even if you're watching a 1080p video—like a Blu-ray disc—the differences between 720p and 1080p are nearly indistinguishable on TVs smaller than 55 inches or so. Even videophiles have a hard time telling any difference. So if you can get a lower-resolution set for less money, go for it. You won't miss a thing. [More]

I would add my own "don't-go-there's"
  • Pets
  • Cordless power tools, unless the recipient already has some with the same batteries/chargers
  • Slippers
  • Ties - unless the recipient actually wears one at work.  (Note: more people are and will be) If possible pair with the appropriate dress shirt.
  • Anything with a subscription, or which will add the recipient to a solicitation for a subscription
  • Toys that make noise.  (Actually, most kids have waaay too many to begin with, IMHO)
In counterpoint, I would say the Nintendo Wii is an outstanding gift for a whole family, albeit pricey. If you open it in time to entertain the crowd at your house, your holiday can find a different dynamic from the past patterns. Even geezers can play, and a whole crowd can watch and ridicule.

The real question is how black Black Friday will be? 

Is it me or does shopping seem a little lame this year?

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