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How to stop worrying and buy the perfect tech gift

POSTED November 22, 2011 10:35 p.m.

With unfamiliar terms like megapixels, gigabytes, and “4G” clogging arcane and nonsensical product designations which feature more acronyms than the U.S. military, shopping for the geek in your life is no easy task.

But, with a few easy tips, you too can save money while buying the perfect gift.

 

Know what you’re looking for
Was that a PS3 or a PSP... or a PSP Vita? Believe it or not, all three of those are entirely different gaming systems, each with their own library of games.
It’s an oftentimes confusing arrangement, especially to technophobes, but those requesting the gifts generally know the ins-and-outs of each – and have a definite attachment to whichever gift they are requesting. A Kindle is not a Kindle Touch, nor is it a Kindle Fire, and your giftee most likely wants what they want for some specific reason.
If you’re unsure, even in the least, ask for clarification. It’s better to get the right thing than waste time and money on returns.

 

A new monthly bill is not a gift
Cell phones seem like great gifts, and sometimes they are. But, usually, those new smartphones come with large monthly data charges, an unexpected contract extension, or cost gift-givers far more than they expected.
The hot new iPhone 4S, for example, costs as little as $199. But that price requires a two-year contract extension, with a minimum contract cost of $55 per month which nears $70 or $80 per month with a reasonable amount of data usage. Without that contract, an iPhone 4S starts at $649 – more than a $499 iPad.
Rather than saddling your giftee with a contract, or yourself with a large credit card bill, consider giving gift cards or cash with a note saying, “This is for a new cell phone.” That way, receivers can purchase the new phones they want with full knowledge of how much it will end up costing them.

 

Used is not a four-letter word
Sure, a brand-new Christmas gift is always nice. But any gamer, asked to choose between one new game and three used games, will usually side with used games.
If a gamer wants “Modern Warfare 3,” he or she wants that specific game of course, but shops like GameStop will oftentimes sell those new games for tens or twenties less just because someone else played it already. With the savings, savvy shoppers can pick up an older game or two – oftentimes still on gamers’ wishlists – and stuff that stocking.
One word of warning: A few games now require a one-time use code to play online, included with new games but removed from used ones. Buying a new code can cost $5 to $10, making costs more equivalent. Ask a store clerk if the game you’re buying needs an online code.
This tip isn’t just for gamers – camera enthusiasts are more than content with used lenses and camera bodies, and used cell phones can offer shoppers a way to upgrade without locking in a new contract or paying exorbitant phone prices.

 

Patience is a virtue
For the geek that has everything, why not consider a gift he or she can’t possibly have yet?
If the nerd in your life can’t stop talking about something which won’t be out till after the holidays – say, Sony’s new PSP Vita handheld gaming system or epic role-playing games “Final Fantasy XIII-2” or “Diablo III” – a preorder can be a great gift. Stores like GameStop and websites like Amazon.com will allow you to pay off an item in advance, with release-date delivery available.

 

The Journal’s Hot Tech Gifts for 2011

1)     -  The Kindle Fire, $199, amazon.com

Want Apple’s iPad, but can’t swing the $499 asking price? Amazon’s new Kindle Fire, a 7 inch tablet (compared to the iPad’s 9.7 inch screen) is the first true competitor to Apple’s dominance.
The Kindle Fire has access to Amazon’s massive store of books, movies, music, and apps, offering content which rivals Apple’s iTunes.

2)     -  “Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure,” $69.99, available for Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo 3DS
Kids of all ages will love this innovative title, which mashes up real-world action figures and video game worlds.
The game comes with a magical portal which gamers plug into their system of choice and three different action figures. Place a figure on the portal and – poof! – the character appears in game for you to control. The figures even save their progress, allowing gamers to take their character to a friend’s house.
Be warned, though: Additional figures can run as much as $8 each, with combo packs of new levels and characters available for $20. To experience the whole game with every character could cost several hundred dollars.

3)    -   Kindle Touch, $99, amazon.com
Though the Kindle Fire may impress, the Kindle Touch still tops readers’ lists. Its black and white e-ink screen looks just like a printed book, easily readable in direct sunlight – unlike the Kindle Fire or the iPad’s color laptop-style screens.
Keep in mind that you still need to buy books for the Kindle, roughly $10 each for bestsellers. It’s an added cost many aren’t aware of at first.
If your giftee does a lot of reading on the run, consider spending the extra $50 for the $149 Kindle Touch 3G, which allows book buying anywhere the device can receive a cellphone signal.

4)      -Sony PlayStation 3DTV, $499
3D televisions are still new – and pricy – but Sony’s new PlayStation 3DTV offers a reasonably affordable way to get your foot into the 3D door.

For $499, the package includes a 24 inch TV, a pair of 3D glasses, a copy of 3D PlayStation 3 racing game “MotorStorm Apocalypse,” and a HDMI cable. Sadly, 3D content is still a bit hard to find, but several big-name PlayStation 3 games – including racing game “Gran Turismo 5” and sci-fi first person shooter “Killzone 3” – offer 3D play.
The best part about the TV, though, is a SimulView feature, which allows two players to each see their own 2D full-screen view on the same TV. The feature does require a second pair of glasses, though, at $69.99, and only supports certain games.

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