There is an episode of “The Simpsons” wherein Homer Simpson shoves a crayon up all the way up his nose until he involuntarily gasps, “Extended warranty? How can I lose?” We won’t bore you with the story details except to mention that Homer was undergoing a crude surgery to become as stupid as possible, and his exclamation about extended warranties don’t shine a flattering light on the contracts. As far as the real world is concerned, though, are there any benefits? Should you buy extended warranties to protect your electronics?
The most generalized answer is “It’s not worth it.” Think about it: electronic retailers are quite aggressive about getting you to buy an extended warranty. Why would they bother if they weren’t on the winning side of the deal?
There are certainly reasons to get more specific, though, and there are exceptions to every rule. For instance:
Most items come with a manufacturer’s warranty that lasts a year – Most manufacturers will cover the cost of fixing or replacing your item if it breaks for a reason that isn’t your fault. These warranties typically last around a year, and according to Consumer Reports (which has done extensive research on extended warranties, and how much use we get out of them), it’s not all that common for electronics to fall apart after the manufacturer’s warranty expires.
Modern electronics are engineered to be replaced in a three-to-five year period, anyway – Ours is a product-driven culture, and today’s top-notch smartphone or tablet will be ready for the trash heap within three years, easy (cue hands linked behind back, guilty scuffing of shoe on pavement). The money that you’d use on an extended warranty is often better saved for the next generation of technology.
LCD and plasma TVs rarely need repairs within the first three years following purchase – Of course, televisions usually last a little longer than three to five years, especially HD LCD and plasma sets. Polls done by Consumer Reports indicate that televisions are actually hardy pieces of tech, and very few need to be replaced or repaired within the first three years off the shelf.
The cost of repair is often the same as the cost of the warranty – Extended warranties aren’t cheap, and oftentimes, the cost of an item’s repair matches the price of the warranty.
There are exceptions, particularly for PCs – Ultimately, only you can determine if an extended warranty is worth your money. If you’re accident prone, clumsy, or just have a talent for losing things, you may find that an extended warranty is money well-spent. Moreover, Consumer Reports’ polls point out that unlike many electronics, new PCs are actually likely to require repairs within three years—and manufacturer’s warranties for computers are gradually becoming less generous.
If you need more help researching the benefits and drawbacks of extended warranties, visit:
Should You Buy an Extended Warranty? at Yahoo
Should I Buy a TV Extended Warranty? at About.com
Does your current computer wheeze like a spent racehorse whenever you try to open a simple web page? Does Facebook emit a creepy “Ha ha ha!” when you try to load up a game? Are archeologists knocking on your door and imploring you to let them preserve your rig in a museum? Maybe it’s time to consider buying a new computer.
Computers evolve at the speed of light, so shopping for a brand new machine is going to be very different from when you bought that Pentium in 2001. Below is a PC and computer buying guide that can help you when purchasing a new machine:
Do you want a laptop or a desktop? – Desktop computers are meant to sit on a desk; laptops, of course, were designed for your lap (though they can also be used on a desk. No one will report you, honest). Both models have advantages and disadvantages that you need to consider before making a purchase. Desktop computers are typically more powerful than laptops—though not always—and they offer more options as far as hard drive space and memory is concerned. Moreover, desktop computers usually cost less than laptops and are easier to repair, though you usually need to own or purchase a separate monitor.
Laptop computers are portable, powerful, and take up far less space than a desktop computer. They’re a great option if you move between workspaces a lot, and/or like to work outside the office.
Consider a netbook – Somewhere between 2007 and 2009, the netbook was a pretty hot piece of hardware. These book-sized laptop computers are ideal for surfing the Internet and performing light tasks (reading, writing) on the road. They’re also inexpensive, especially now that some retailers are trying to get them out the door in favor of the more popular tablet market. Since netbooks run traditional operating systems like Windows, however, you can still pick one up without worrying about a lack of support. If you’re looking for ultra-portability, affordability, and the joys of typing on a physical keyboard, a netbook might be right for you.
Which operating system (OS) will you use? – A PC will almost certainly come installed with the latest version of Windows, while a Mac will come with the latest version of Mac OS X. Entire books have been written on the eternal Mac vs PC war, but there’s really no “wrong” choice: it all depends on what you’re most comfortable with. Generally, though, Macs possess extremely well-built hardware and software that’s easy to use, while PCs running Windows are familiar, affordable, and compatible with just about every conceivable kind of software. This compatibility is a double-edged sword, though, as Windows is also more susceptible to viruses, spyware, and other malware than Mac OS X.
If you’re really in the mood to jump outside your comfort zone, try learning more about Linux.
Do you want to play a lot of high-tech games? Think power – If you’re looking to turn your computer into a game machine that rivals (or replaces) your dedicated game console, you need to give special consideration to your new computer’s processing power, RAM, graphical display capabilities, and monitor. If, however, your computer is going to be used mostly for documents and/or low-powered games (social games on Facebook and the web, for instance), you don’t need to think as hard about your rig’s muscle.
What about a tablet PC? – Finally, if you can stand the virtual on-screen keyboard, you might be all right with a tablet. They’re portable, extremely versatile, and are incredibly simple to use. They also appear to be the immediate future of on-the-go computing, so you can count on a steady flow of apps and technical support for a long time coming.
Need more information about purchasing a computer? Visit:
What Do I Need to Know About Buying a PC? at Intel.com
Five Things to Consider Before Buying a Computer at Switched.com
Mac vs PC at PopularMechanics.com
Ah, appliances. Where would we be without them? Well, we’d probably be hunched over our dirty laundry and greasy spills for that much longer, if you want to come right down to it. From cooking to cleaning, these devices have made our domestic chores much easier to handle. Before you go running down the aisles of every department store in town, though, you need to ask yourself: “Which are best for my needs?” Otherwise, you’re just going to wind up with a lot of junk stuffed under your sinks (or acting as expensive towel holders). Here are five of the best home products and appliances (each easy-to-find and relatively inexpensive) that should be a big help in making life easier for yourself and your loved ones.
Crock-Pot – Folks usually resolve only to eat restaurant food as a special once-in-a-while treat, but be honest with yourself: how often do you order out for dinner, or pick up some take-out on the way home from work? Probably far more often than the once a month you promised yourself when you were young and idealistic. Truth is, it’s rough to slog home after a hard day at work, start preparations for dinner, and wait for it to cook while your stomach grumbles away. A crock-pot, or any kind of slow cooker, is a great way to make a stew or a pot roast that simmers to perfection while you’re at work, and then greets you with a fragrant waft of air when you walk in the door at six o’clock. You save money in the end, and you eat healthier, making it one of the best home products or appliances available. Win-win.
Dustbuster – Uh oh. A kid-sized dry spill. Looking forward to lugging out the vacuum cleaner? Didn’t think so. How about a broom and dustpan? That should leave behind some choice particles for you to step on later. Grab a Dustbuster. The little hand-sized vacuum is still a popular and handy appliance. It’s great for little messes, and it’s a champion at handling dusty corners.
Powermat – When an entire family needs to charge its phones all at once (and/or its gaming devices, and/or its mp3 players, etc, etc), the mad scramble for the household’s limited sockets and USB ports resembles a mall parking lot on December 23. With a Powermat, you can charge many of your electronic devices on a single plug, and your electronics won’t wind up scattered to the four corners of your house.
Air Purifiers – Some people, particularly kids, are sensitive to pollutants and allergens in the household. Air purifiers can be a great way to help the entire family breathe easier, but it’s a pretty serious purchase. What should you look for? Good Housekeeping has a handy air purifier shopping guide.
Water Purifiers – Clean air is nice, but you know what’s totally awesome? Clean water. Water filters are a cheap and easy way to take some of the undesirable contents out of your tap water. What’s left behind is the cool, fresh stuff that tastes great. Purifiers are also better for the environment, as you know exactly where your water is coming from and there’s no plastic bottle to discard.
Need more tips on the best appliances money can buy? Visit:
Best Appliances at Good Housekeeping
The 50 Best Kitchen Appliances at Gadgets and Tech @ The Independent