The Bogus Tech ‘Deals’ to Avoid This Holiday Season

Here’s what you should buy — and give — instead.

Holiday Sales

Have you started to put presents under the tree? Good for you. Are you ready for your family to return almost 10 percent of them? For the 2018 gift-giving season, the National Retail Federation predicts holiday sales between $717.45 billion and $720.89 billion, up almost 5 percent from last year. But if 2018 is anything like 2017, some $90 billion in retail goods will be returned.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Every year, I pore over the printed holiday circulars that still arrive to millions of American homes, identifying not the best deals, but the worst ones. I’m looking for the tech offers that sound good but will generate nothing but disappointment, which leads to those time-consuming returns.

Over the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve seen a marked improvement in the quality of products and deals offered in these flyers. It’s gotten so easy for so many companies to build high-quality technology that offering decent gadgets at great prices during the holiday season is no big stretch.

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But there are still big shopping mistakes to be made across virtually all product categories, but none more so than in tech, where the promise of a good deal often ends in frustration.

Here’s what not to buy — and a little guidance about what to get instead.

1080p Televisions

There are quite a few excellent-sounding deals for TVs, including this one: $199 for a 40-inch TCL 1080p HDTV.

As recently as 2015, I would’ve been shouting, “Buy!” But no more. It’s now 4K or nothing, especially since you can get a larger 4K display for well under $500. Yes, that’s a lot more than $200, but 4K TVs are not just twice as good as 1080p — they offer four times the resolution, often with extra smart features like streaming apps thrown in.

Portable DVD and CD Players

Buying portable CD and DVD players as gifts is like sending someone a bunch of horses in anticipation of their future buggy purchases. According to Statista, DVD and Blu-ray sales dropped 14 percent last year, and the DVD rental business went into a 18 percent nosedive. Even as the most popular movies continue to rake in millions on physical media, the writing is on the wall for the format: It’s dying.

A $39.97 portable DVD/CD player with an abysmal seven-inch LCD monitor may look like a fantastic lifeboat for neglected libraries of CDs and DVDs, but don’t buy it. These players are not the future.