Electronic Equipment for Less: Too Good to Be True?

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh

Electronics are a blessing and a curse to us. They can help us to waste our time, but they can save time too. We're capable of sharing photos, recording television programs, and earning college credits in our living rooms, but the price for it is expressed in dollar signs. Electronics are expensive, and maintaining them isn't any cheaper. Yet, there are bargains out there if you can find them.

Do You Really Get What You Pay For?

When it comes to electronics, yes and no. There are bare bones basic brands of electronic equipment that don't produce the quality of the higher brands, and there are brands that charge for their names alone. When it comes to the original component, it's good to do your homework buying. Yet, when you're buying accessories or maintenance parts you can get away with cheaper alternatives. A mouse is a mouse regardless of its brand, and one computer battery is just as good as another.

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A nice rule of thumb when buying accessories is this: if it doesn't have a lot of moving parts you can get away with cheaper options. I once purchased a laptop fan at a bargain store for $10. The flat panel sat beneath my laptop and spun two fans to help cool my machine. The fans were initially loud, though they cooled the machine. In three weeks' time one fan had broken a blade and stopped. The $30 model that I purchased is much heavier in construction, much quieter, and still running. Another example is printer ink. Ink is ink, and one brand is the same as another. As long as the cartridges fit in my printer, I'll use any brand that offers cheap ink and free shipping for multiple cartridges.

A Great Deal for Those Who Are Brave

Anyone who's less than 5% tech savvy can skip to the next section. If you're not afraid to upgrade your equipment and you can install software without an installation wizard, then you can find some great deals. When the new Windows 7 rolled out last year, electronic departments rushed their Windows Vista programs to the clearance bins. Yet, what the educated consumer knows is that manufacturers offer upgrades on their websites to keep their products running. I picked up a great webcam for 60% off because the accompanying software was marketed for Windows XP and Vista. A simple visit to the company's website gave me the updates needed to make my camera work for Windows 7. The consumer who didn't yet have Windows 7 would have snapped up an even greater deal. Maybe it doesn't hurt to fall behind the times a bit.

Know Where to Buy

Rarely if ever do I buy electronic parts and accessories at retail stores or manufacturers' websites. I'll visit to peruse the products and decide what I want or what I need, but I visit web stores like Tiger Direct or Amazon for better prices. For example, when upgrading memory on my Toshiba laptop, the Toshiba website pointed me to the exact memory card I needed to install. I matched the details to an exact generic replica online and got my memory for $29 instead of $78. The same goes for replacement laptop batteries that can be as low as $30 for look-alike replacements. They last just as long and do the same job without paying for the name.

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