by Lance Ulanoff
Powerful financial waves are buffeting the USS Economy in extraordinary and dangerous ways, making it clear that this will be a holiday buying season unlike any other. But if you think recession (some say depression) concerns are going to keep me from producing my fourth annual guidance report on what to buy, consider, and just plain avoid, you're sorely mistaken, my friends. Sure, the financial climate has me feeling crankier, but that only makes it easier to dismiss the bad and pointless products of the past 11 months. So let's get started with my latest attempt to help save you from yourself this holiday season.
Don't Buy: Expensive Blu-ray Player
Sorry folks, but I still think $250 is way too much to pay for a DVD player. I'll reconsider my position only if manufacturers come to their senses over the next two months and start selling Blu-ray players for $149 or less.
Maybe Buy: Toshiba XDE DVD Player
I know standard DVDs are yesterday's technology. But if you have a vast library of DVDs and your current player is seizing up, this upscaling, image-crisping DVD player can be had for a lot less than competing Blu-ray devices. And it'll make your current and vast libraries of DVDs look pretty darn good on your new HDTV.
Do Buy: Roku Netflix Player
This $99 set-top box will open up your living room to a whole library of video content and is way cheaper than a new Blu-ray player. The current Netflix on-demand selections are, admittedly, limited, but there are many great movies, with a decent number of newish ones in the mix. Plus, I expect that Netflix will eventually open up first-run films to this service.
Caveat: If you already own an Xbox 360, you'll be able to access the very same library of Netflix movies on demand. (One can only hope Sony will get around to adding Netflix functionality to the PS3.) In that case, maybe you just give yourself the gift of a Netflix account.
Video CamerasDon't Buy: HD Camcorders
I've come to the difficult realization that most people are not videographers, and HD camcorders, with all their bells and whistles (and $500-plus price tags), are overkill for average consumers.
Maybe Buy: Digital Camera with HD Video-Capture Abilities
My wife never shot video until she got a digital camera with built-in video-capture abilities. Obviously, the transition to shooting in HD, when it's simply part of the camera you already own, is perfectly natural. The Samsung NV24HD, for example, is a decent 10-megapixel camera with built-in HD capabilities. Sure, it's only 720p, but for most people, that's probably high-def enough.
Do Buy: A YouTube Camcorder (aka Pocket Camcorder)
Digital cameras that shoot video are great, but to get that video off the camera, you'll likely have to remove the card and put it in your PC. Then you have to know what to do next. Or you can buy a Creative Vado, Flip Mino, or Kodak Zi6. For anywhere from $99 to $179, you can get an all-in-one device that lets you capture standard and high-def video and pretty much everything in between, depending on the model. Plus, you can effortlessly transfer the video from the device to a PC and then online to share with friends. I, for one, carry Creative's Vado. It's thinner and smaller than an iPod classic and, like most of these pocket video cams, comes equipped with a built-in USB dongle and software that can automatically upload your video to YouTube. No muss, no fuss, and you're capturing moments and sharing them with friends, family, and, if you choose, the world.
Don't Buy: Palm Centro
Look, I loved my Palm Treo 700p when I got it in 2007, and I know Palm has sold a million Centros (basically, a stripped-down, value-priced Treo), but we have no idea where the Palm platform is going. Will there be an open-source version next year? Maybe, but I wouldn't hold my breath. Do you really want to be married to what could very well be a dying platform? (full story Link)