When it comes to tech gadgets the question is often what you want more than what you need.
Gadgets — or the promises they make — are comforting and exciting. I'm guilty of falling into the trap. I have at least four wireless headsets for use with my video game console collection. Never have I had three buddies on the couch wanting their own personal audio set-up, but I'm ready for it if it happens. I also seem to collect iPhone and iPad docking station like a squirrel stowing away nuts.
(Photo: Marcin Wichary/Flickr)
But at least these things have a use I can explain to my wife when she sees them and asks, quite simple, "Why?"
On the other hand, there are many gadgets and tech accessories that no one — save for the most dedicated collector — actually needs. Here are some of them.
1. Expensive HDMI cables
Last week our dish guy came over to wire my new Arcave. (My kids mashed up the words Arcade and Mancave to come up with Arcave. Feel free to use it if you'd like.)
The tech saw I was short one HDMI cable to make everything come together. "I've got them in the truck. I can give you one," he said. If you need any more proof that HDMI cables are simple and cheap, there it is. Buying an expensive HDMI cable will not give you better video or audio quality. It's just a fact.
2. Car GPS devices
People are still buying GPS devices and car manufacturers are finding new and exciting ways to incorporate them into new cars. While most of them are still superior to the navigation apps you can get on your smartphone, they're not superior enough to justify the cost and the clutter they bring with them. Most people in the business say the days of the stand alone GPS is near an end (except, perhaps, in rental cars). I agree. Save your money.
Really? I know they look cool — to some people — but does the nostalgia factor of having something that was exciting fantasy tech in the 50s truly warrant their existence now that we've surpassed those dreams? Your smartphone is probably as small as it needs to be. It fits in your pockets and the weight is negligible. Plus, in what is certainly a backwards truth these days many cell phone manufacturers are boasting bigger instead of smaller — bigger screens, louder speakers, more functions. A watch that doubles as s cell phone seems like a novelty. You're probably not going to get rid of your cell phone even if you get one of these. So, why bother?
4. Home desktop computers
Is there anything you think you can do with a desktop computer that you can't do with a reasonably priced laptop? Gaming. Maybe. But gaming laptops have come a long way. Most people have desktop computers in the home for a family hub of e-mail, web browsing, video and photo sharing. All these things can be done on a laptop and you can take it with you. And since many of the HDTVs and Blu-ray players on the market now come equipped with impressive Internet capabilities, the boilerplate web functions of a desktop computer can now be enjoyed in your living room. Buy yourself a decent laptop and free up that desk in your den for something that never goes out of style: Write your mom a letter. She'll appreciate it.
These devices — such as the Roku or Apple TV — are still good bets for folks who just want to watch TV. But comparably priced Blu-ray players typically carry the same features that most people are looking for, such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. Even the lowly Nintendo Wii offers such features and lets you beat the kids at Wii Bowling to boot.
Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PS3 also offer a ton of streaming features, with HD output as well. Again, some people will be attracted to the low price and extensive features of something like the Roku, but I think a gaming console or decent Blu-ray player is the better bet.
6. USB thumb drive
These are quickly becoming obsolete key chains for most people who want to share files. I can't think of an example where you need to use such a device to move files around now that it has become such a ubiquitous — and simple — task via the Internet. You can sign up for services that facilitate sharing, or you can simply e-mail the files to yourself and handle them that way. Like the disk drive before it, thumb drives are no longer necessary.
7. Music player, camera, video camera
Your smartphone is all of these things and more. Plus, it's always on you. I have documented tons of cute and important moments in my family's life because I had my phone at the ready. If I had to go find my video camera or point and shoot rig I would have easily missed half of them. As for music, unless you want a tiny device to slip in your pocket during a bike ride or jog, your phone is probably all you need.
Note: This was written by Victor Paul Alvarez, a Digital Crave contributor.
Check out more tech trends and news at Digital Crave.