It’s that time of year when every newspaper and every magazine is screaming Diwali and festival discounts. Offers that make it seem like they are practically giving stuff away for free. It’s a time when we are all ready to spend big time and bring in all the new gadgets and devices that we’ve been lusting for in the past few months. Unfortunately, it’s also the time when we regret our purchases more than ever before. There’s nothing like a festival splurge to realise that you bought unwanted junk that you may never get any use of.
My Diwali gift to you this week is a quick and dirty separation of what you should look out for when you’re at a store and the discounts are all looking too good to be true. There are many myths (festive advertising tends to play upon these and exaggerate them) within the world of gadgets – each of which makes you end up buying products that you seriously regret later. While each of these deserves a full column (and I shall take them up separately in the future), my job today is to make sure that your Diwali disasters are as few as possible.
It’s not about the Megapixel
The old cliché of the megapixel myth is more relevant today than ever before. Most companies advertise their digital cameras with this as the sole selling feature. All other features are listed below this giant specification. The camera box will also have this in a humungous, red, triple font blaring headline. By all means, buy a digital camera this festive season (especially if you’re still relying on your phone camera) but don’t buy it based on just the megapixel capacity.
This is the amount of pixels that the camera can cram into the picture at full resolution and with the way camera
technology has made huge strides, whatever you buy from the current crop is more than adequate. Only if you plan to blow up the picture to billboard-size levels should you be concerned with the MPs on a camera. Look at other things like the optics (well-known names, glass), the sensor, the optical zoom (completely ignore the digital zoom), size and ergonomics, lens and shutter protection (a loose lens cap means a lost lens cap on day one) and things like the display, buttons etc. Megapixels on a point-and-shoot is not the sole buying decision criterion!
The screens we buy
There’s nothing more jaw-dropping than a slim, sexy, anorexic flat screen TV. Hanging there on the wall, a thin plate of glass, vivid picture, brilliant detail... it can make your heart skip a beat even when it’s off. In between all this salivating and lust, do try and remember that you won’t be buying another one for another five years or so – so choose wisely. The options and hype are bewildering. Plasma, LCD, LED, 3D, Full HD, HD-ready, ports and inputs, IPS, contrast ratios, refresh rates and about a hundred more! Let’s simplify this. Be very sure of the room you’re going to install it in (size, distance from eye, wall-hung or on a stand), be definite about what you’re going to view on it (normal TV channels, home theatre, HD gaming, HD movies) and mostly – know what you’re going to connect to it. Rule of thumb: if you’re going really big (55 inches and above), go for a plasma, else LCD or LED (LED TVs are just LCDs with light emitting diodes being used for back-lighting). Try 3D glasses for a fair period of time before you go 3D. Full HD means 1080p at 1980x1080 and even if you don’t understand all that gobbledygook, just make sure you buy nothing less. Be future-ready with at least two to three HDMI-In ports and enough other inputs to connect your current peripherals. Ignore contrast ratios and refresh rates as these are legacy specs and flat screen technology has moved way ahead of all this. By the way, plasmas don’t freeze in winter; you don’t need to fill gas in them each year for a brighter picture; and LCDs don’t sweat or leak liquids in summer! Those are just urban legends that seem to have taken on a life of their own.
Shoot, Talk, Type and Play
Next week, we’ll continue with the hype and horror of buying a disastrous gadget due to festive euphoria. And while Diwali will be over, the festival season and frenzied gadget-buying will continue. Camcorders, mobile phones, laptops and portable music players are what I’ll try and bust a few myths about.
Be careful this festival season and buy something you’ll get years of great results and satisfaction from. I just saw an advertisement for a Diwali special ‘high definition digital camcorder for Rs 3,190. The fine print said it shoots at an amazing resolution of 640x480. High definition my foot, that’s worse than the jerky, washed out, blurry video that a crappy Rs 1,000 Chinese knock-off camera phone can shoot! Do remember – if the offer seems to be too good to be true, it is!
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3. Follow Rajiv on Twitter at twitter.com/RajivMakhni