Christmas advice


My original aim for this article was to provide some consumer advice for anyone looking to buy new electronic items for themselves or as presents in the run-up to Christmas. At least, that was the plan. When I started writing the article in mid-October, however, I noticed that a common computer part, the hard drive, had increased in price by 50% in a matter of days. Intrigued, I did a few on-line searches and discovered that due to flooding in Thailand many hard drive factories had been shutdown. I hadnít heard about the flooding at this time and it was nearly two weeks later before the Thailand flooding reached the front page headlines. By this stage, some disks were three times their normal price. Now either this was blatant profiteering or a genuine global shortage, but I had to scrap my original advice. You see, in the previous few months many computer manufacturers had over-produced laptops, tablets and phones in the hope of high sales which didnít materialise. So I was expecting price cuts in the run-up to Christmas to shift the unsold stock. Tablets and phones arenít directly affected, but laptops and PCs, which use hard drives, will probably increase in price and those companies with large stocks wonít now be tempted to discount them. So whatís the moral of this story? Well, most people assume that computers get cheaper each year. In reality, factors such as exchange rates and raw material price increases mean that some computer components are now more expensive than they were 3 years ago. In the current market, itís Buyer Beware Ė some prices might go up in the New Year.


Hopefully, the following snippets of advice will still be relevant in the next few weeks.


Many people will have seen the launch of the new Amazon Kindles. Unfortunately, only the cheapest one is available in the UK at the minute. Weíll have to wait until 2012 for the more advanced colour screen Kindle Fire. If you want something for this Christmas, take a look at the WHSmith Kobo Touch or the new Cybook Odyssey e-book readers.


The total cost of ownership of a laptop is considerably higher than a desktop PC. Retailers like selling laptops and hide desktops at the back of a showroom because they make more money as a result of extra repeat sales. How long did your last desktop last? Now how many laptops have you bought in the same period?


Many new computers now come with the free Office Starter Edition (which includes Word and Excel), but the retailer may forget to mention this little fact. They would rather you spent another £90 on Office Home and Student. Any security software added as part of a deal wonít be worth buying and the cost for that could add up to £100s in a few years.


Thinking of buying a new TV? Then watch out for an on-going retailer scam - over-priced HDMI cables and so-called power managers. 21st Century Snake Oil if you like, these are sometimes sold in a bundle (for £159!) and are a complete waste of money Ė just search Google for ĎHDMI cable scamí and youíll see that thatís not just my opinion.


Merry Christmas.


© Peter Johnston, ByteSupport Ltd† 2011.