It occurred to me last night that shopping for gadgets is fundamentally different than shopping for other sorts of gifts. Why you ask? One word: specifications.
One thing I used to love about video game systems is that you did not need to worry about how much RAM, storage space or processing power to get. The choice would be made for you by the console developer. But even consoles are now living up to their gadget pedigree. With both XBox 360 and Playstation 3 you have two options up front. Then you get to decide how many controllers you want (do you shell out the cash for 4 controllers, hoping that you can coral 3 of your friends together at the same time), which accessories you want, etc.
But for now, video game systems aren’t that bad. What’s really bad are consumer electronics like digital cameras and big screen HDTVs. The consumer just has too many options, to many decisions to make. In fact, I probably wouldn’t be writing this article if it was just that there were too many options. There are too many poor options. Too many bad quality products. Too many digital cameras that come out of the box with their color balance off. Too many HDTVs that don’t look good with gaming, or movies, or old-school analog signals.
And there are just too many cases where you can’t just go buy one product. When you buy the digital camera, you need to buy extra memory. How much? Well, you can’t really know until you get a feel for how you use your camera. When you buy a printer, many of them don’t come with the freakin’ USB cable. When you buy an HDTV, chances are you also need to buy a $100 HDMI cable too.
But that’s not all. You’ve got to choose between 1080i and 1080p (what the f#$?) or you could opt for the lesser 720p. 5 megapixels and 6 megapixels. HD-DVD or Blu-ray.
Even when shopping for my brother’s power-tool fix, I’m torn between saws with this or that length, and this or that diameter, and this or that amount of power. Am I supposed to know this stuff?
I for one have a headache from shopping for gadgets this christmas season. Too many options, too many uninformed choices to make. What’s a gadget lover to do? (Answer: more research.)