Archives For Gadgets

Cyber Monday Deals

Mari Silbey —  November 30, 2008 — 3 Comments

Too lazy to roll out of bed at 4 AM on Black Friday? Luckily Cyber Monday is upon us, and lots of sites are offering free shipping for items on your holiday gadget wish list. Many of the discounts aren’t fabulous, but at least you don’t have to pay for door-to-door delivery. You can find free shipping deals at Best Buy, Amazon and HP.com, among many others.

If you’re looking for a little more than free shipping, choose your gadget categories wisely. Big-screen TVs are still your best bet for top deals. Newegg, for example, has a 52″ Sharp Aquos set listed at $1,100 off MSRP. You can also get decent discounts on digital cameras, though the Retrevo price index shows prices generally went up in November after declines in October. Two 8-megapixel cameras under $100: the Nikon Coolpix L18 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ8K.

Of course, if you’re after coveted products, like the Apple iPod Touch, don’t expect much help from the Cyber Monday fairies. Best Buy will give you $30 bucks off a first-gen iPod Touch, or $10-$15 off second-gen versions.

CE retailers are naturally feeling skittish with the downturn in the economy. On the one hand, they don’t want to mark products down too far. On the other hand, they don’t want to end up with excess inventory. I can’t help but wonder if this year the best deals won’t be found closer to December 25th. But it’s up to you if you want to play chicken with the gadget dealers.

In a highly unscientific investigation, I stopped by my local Sony Style store yesterday to ask the customer reps about Black Friday sales. The rep I talked to initially suspected I was a mall employee, but once we got that case of mistaken identity out of the way, he was very willing to share details on the day’s activities.

First, my new friend assured me that traffic had been brisk, and indeed it was during my visit. More interesting though was his record of the top-selling products. Here’s his account of what was flying off the shelves:

  • TVs – The most popular sizes were in the 32″ and 52″ ranges. Hmm. Think the 32-inchers were first-time HD buyers, or folks outfitting second and third rooms?
  • Blu-ray Disc players – At a $100 discount, it’s not surprising the Blu-ray players were top sellers. Ticket price: a sweet $199.99.
  • Playstation 3 – My friend claimed the PS3 consoles were going fast. No doubt because of the new Netflix Watch Now functionality, right?
  • Cyber-shot T700 – I have to admit this is a pretty one, with 4GB of memory, a 3.5″ touch screen, and lots of other goodies. It comes in a range of colors too. Not surprising it’s a popular gift.

Obvious disclaimer: this was one Sony employee’s take on Black Friday sales. Take that as you will.

Any of these products on your holiday shopping list?

If your entire Black Friday strategy involves stopping by the mall on the day after Thanksgiving, you might want to check out Retrevo’s guide to Black Friday buying. Not only do the Retrevo folks follow consumer electronics obsessively, they track pricing, availability and demand – you know, all the important information that’s a pain to hunt down. The guide includes top deals in different categories as well as some common sense tips for how to get what you want at the start of the holiday season while forking over the least amount of cash. One of my takeaways? Oddly, shopping at Staples looks like a really good bet for cheap CE stocking stuffers.

Not listed in the Black Friday guide, but equally important from my point of view, is Retrevo’s analysis of trends in CE pricing and demand. I discovered very recently that the site now has a feature called Retrevo Pulse, which aggregates CE buying data and shows real-time analytics. Way cool. For example, looking at recent trends for GPS units, it appears that prices have leveled off and demand is on the upswing after a four-month decline. I asked my contact at Retrevo for other recent findings, and here’s what he listed:

  • Demand for TVs, digital cameras and MP3 players is turning up as we head into the holiday shopping season, but demand for cell phones is static, if not headed downward.
  • Prices for digital cameras began falling in late October.
  • Prices for MP3 players have been stable.
  • Prices for cell phones are starting to creep up.

Talk about good intelligence for your seasonal CE shopping.

Evaluating Slacker Premium

Mari Silbey —  November 18, 2008 — 8 Comments

I’m a well-documented Slacker junkie, but it’s only recently that I’ve started testing Slacker’s premium service on my first gen player. The subscription cost is just high enough to make me squeamish, but a free trial can’t be ignored. And, in true Slacker form, I’m finding the latest update to my music experience addictive.

A Slacker premium subscription gives you two critical features: no limit on skipping songs, and the ability to save songs you add to your favorite list. Both features have significantly improved my treadmill workouts. For example, I (embarrassingly) love the Today’s Hits station when I’m running, but sometimes I get a string of slow songs. Not ideal, but it’s no problem when I can skip as many songs as I like.

The song-saving feature is even more appealing. Would I ever have thought to download Jay-Z’s mash-up with Linkin Park’s song “Numb”? Nope. And yet now it’s on my go-to playlist for when my run starts to falter.

At $9.99 a month ($8.33/mo for six months; $7.50/mo for twelve months), the Slacker premium service edges into the category of a monthly expense I’d like to live without. But on the other hand, if I were to spend money on any subscription music service, this would be it. I’ve never even been tempted by subscription music offerings before. Slacker keeps moving digital music in the right direction.

Personalizing the Flip

Mari Silbey —  October 14, 2008 — 1 Comment

Pure Digital has a new trick up its sleeve for the popular Flip video cameras. CrunchGear reports that they’ve teamed up with Cafe Press to offer personalized designs on all Flip Minos. According to the press release, you can choose an existing custom design, create and upload your own, or use the Flip Video Pattern Generator to assist your creative expression.

This is utterly brilliant. People love their color iPods, personalized ring tones, and anything that makes gadgets uniquely their own. Sure, decals and engravings on laptops haven’t really taken off, but the Flip option is completely free, and is a simple add-on when you purchase your camera. (Above image is one of my own creations, and it took five minutes to generate) Not only is this great for consumer purchases, but imagine the commercial and promotional opportunities. Companies could give these away with their own images imprinted. Schools could create custom versions for fundraisers. And, through the partnership with Cafe Press, any designs can be added to the public marketplace and made available for purchase. Check out Andy Ihnatko’s fabulous creations.

The new personalized designs are only available for the Flip Mino, and I’m hoping this doesn’t mean Pure Digital is planning to move away entirely from the Flip Ultra, my preferred Flip version. In any case, this is a great addition to Pure Digital’s offerings. I suspect we’ll see a big holiday push with this and the upcoming HD Flip as we head in to the biggest gadget buying season of the year.

The Slacker G2 Review

Mari Silbey —  September 30, 2008 — 13 Comments

When Slacker’s G2 Internet “radio” launched I found myself impressed with the hardware redesign, but figured I wasn’t in need of an upgrade. My Slacker unit functions basically identically to the G2, and I’ve never minded the size. Why spend the money for a shiny new toy I don’t need?

Then my G2 review unit arrived.

Setting aside size for a moment, Slacker has improved several aspects of their portable device that aren’t easily conveyed in a bulleted list of features. The interface is much faster. Lag time was only a minor annoyance before, but with it corrected, I’m not sure I can go back to the old way. The audio quality is much better. Again, it’s not that the sound was bad before, but it’s certainly clearer now – and there seems to be much more volume flexibility, which I find very useful on a noisy treadmill. The buttons are easier to manage. It may just be the smaller size, but all the buttons seems better positioned for use. The “Favorite” and “Ban” buttons are definitely more convenient on top of the device.  The new earphones rock. I actually ditched the earphones from my original Slacker device because they wouldn’t stay in my ears. The new ones do. The new case is even decent. Rubber instead of the old cloth, and form-fitting instead of blocky.

And finally there’s the size. The Slacker G2 is perfectly snug in my hand. I thought the angled sides on the original Slacker device were cool, but the rounded edges on the G2 make it perfect for the palm.

Of course, there’s also all of the killer Slacker software functionality on the new G2. Customized radio stations available offline. If you have an online Slacker account, the company will even pre-program and load your device so it arrives populated with your stations. This is a great way to get past the first annoying device update. Once a station is loaded initially, the refresh times aren’t bad. You can also drop your own MP3 files on to the Slacker G2 to complement your radio stations. Always good to have a few go-to songs when the mood hits you.

All in all, I have a feeling I’ll soon be plunking down the cash for a new G2. They’re due out in Best Buy in October.

AT&T HomeManager Launches

Mari Silbey —  September 23, 2008 — 3 Comments

AT&T, the company that brings you everything IP, has just launched HomeManager, a home communication system (er, phone) with a touchscreen display that combines news and weather feeds with telephony features.

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