Tech Savvy Parents

Tech gear you shouldn’t buy this Christmas

Source: www.komando.com – by Kim Komando

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–>”You’ll shoot your eye out kid!”

One of my favorite movies is A Christmas Story. There are so many truly funny scenes.

What would Ralphie want to see under the Christmas tree in 2012 – a new smartphone loaded with a copy of Angry Birds Star Wars? Hard to say. There are so many great games and gadgets out there.

With all that gear, it’s also easy to buy a tech dud. No one wants to waste money or give someone something they don’t really want.

You may recall the bulletin I put out last Christmas about tech gear you shouldn’t buy. It included feature phones, GPS units, netbooks, portable media players and point-and-shoot cameras.

Those are still on the no-buy list, but this year I have a whole new list of things you’ll want to avoid.

Budget Android gadgets While I still prefer my iPhone and iPad, Android gadgets are now a good option for any tech buyer. Of course, not all Android gadgets are created equal.

Older and budget Android gadgets are best to be avoided. And when I say budget, I’m not talking about low-cost, 7-inch tablets like the Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire. I mean $100, off-brand tablets and low-powered, free smartphones.

For both phones and tablets, make sure they’re running Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or higher. A budget phone that runs Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), or a budget tablet that runs Android 3.2 (Honeycomb), will stagger when running the latest games and productivity apps.

A $0 to $50 Android phone that was a $200 to $300 dazzler on contract a year ago can be a good value. But a $0 to $50 Android with an outdated processor and last-generation Android version is no bargain.

Plus, manufacturers tend to abandon support for Android duds. Less expensive or older smartphones often don’t get an operating system upgrade more than once, or even at all.

To find out what smartphones and tablets will thrill your family this year, visit my buying guides.

17-inch laptops Apple laid its 17-inch MacBook Pro to rest this year. Users just don’t want to lug those behemoths around airports and corporate campuses anymore. For that matter, a 15-inch laptop makes sense only for gamers or a graphics and video pro.

Most road warriors can work or kill time splendidly on a 10- to 13-inch Ultrabook or MacBook Air. Their solid-state drives and Intel Ivy Bridge chips make them lightning-fast tools, and their thin, lightweight form makes them a joy to use – and carry around.

Learn what goes into a killer laptop with my laptop buying guide. Then get step-by-step directions to set up your new PC or Mac in a flash.

Bridge cameras Designed to fill a niche between high-end DSLRs and budget point-and-shoots, bridge cameras don’t make as much sense as they used to.

Compared to point-and-shoots, bridge cameras give photographers more control over shutter speed and aperture. But they don’t offer much of an improvement in sensor size or quality. You’re also stuck with a permanent zoom lens that usually isn’t a world-beater.

Mirrorless hybrid cameras, on the other hand, are the fastest-growing digital category for good reason. They rival compact cameras in size and DSLRs in sensor and lens quality. They’re systems you can grow with and keep for many years.

Prices range from practical – Nikon 1 V1 ($500, with 10-30mm lens) – to painful – Fujifilm X Pro 1 ($1,700, body only).

Click here for more on buying a hybrid camera. If you’re interested in taking a larger step to a DSLR, I can help with that as well.

Once you have your camera, you need to learn how to use it. I can have you shooting like a pro in no time with my Essential Guides to Digital Photography.

Entry-level e-readers E-readers have really hit their stride this year. Display technology has improved, and so has the library of new and exciting e-books.

Not all e-readers are cutting edge, however. Amazon’s entry-level e-reader, the Kindle ($69), uses buttons for navigation and features a standard E-Ink Pearl display. It’s not a bad unit, but for a bit more you could have something much, much better.

The just-introduced Kindle Paperwhite ($119) offers a touch screen with amazing resolution and contrast. Plus, it has an innovative built-in light that makes nighttime reading very comfortable. See it in action in this video on my site.

The display on the Nook Simple Touch ($99) is touch-capable but otherwise a standard E-Ink Pearl display. Barnes & Noble’s solution to reading in the dark is the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight ($139). The Nook Color ($149) features a nice multi-touch color LCD and runs a customized version of the Android operating system.

I go into more detail on what you need to look for when buying e-readers here.

Budget LCD TVs TV prices continue to drop, and there are bargains everywhere you look! Unfortunately, many of these deals are bargain basement.

Sure, you can buy an off-brand 50-inch LCD TV for less than $500. But you’ll be getting outdated technology and a poor viewing experience.

Budget LCDs have a refresh rate of 60 hertz, which can blur motion when you’re watching the big football game. Refresh rates of 120Hz and 240Hz are standard now. Many bargain-basement TVs also have a resolution of 720p, compared to the 1080p you want.

Bargain LCD TVs are still backlit by fluorescent lights. That looked great four years ago, but it pales in comparison to LCD TVs with an LED backlight.

LED TVs have gotten so good that they’re catching up to plasma screens for blackness level, color and contrast. That could also be a reason why sales of plasma TVs have dwindled to about 13 percent of the market.

For larger TVs, however, plasmas have the edge over LEDs on price. You’ll pay about $1,000 for Samsung’s 60-inch plasma; about $1,500 for its 60-inch LED TV.

If you’re going for a second TV, a bargain unit might be OK. But for your main home theater TV, you want something better.

I’ve got everything you need to know about buying a new HDTV in my HDTV buying guide. Click here to read it. Then learn how to set up your home theater for the best movie-watching experience.

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Categories: Kim Komando, Must Read, Tech Savvy Parents, Techno Geeks | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

4 Tips for Finding Great Websites for Kids

Source: www.parents.com Tech Savvy Parents  by

When arranging a playdate, you always know where your child is going and who they’re playing with.  You’d never let them go off unattended if there wasn’t a level of comfort and trust.  Just like you’d never let your child go to a stranger’s house for a playdate, letting them visit sites that you haven’t personally previewed isn’t a good idea either.

The internet is a treasure trove of information that is great for adults but not always for children.  Here are 4 things to look for when websites and online games for your child:

Easy to navigate with a user friendly layout.  The first page should always fit on the computer screen and not require any scrolling. The page should be designed so that links to other pages are easy to find.  The site doesn’t need to be complicated with moving images, lots of graphics or tons of text.  Simple is better.

Age appropriate content.  For a preschooler who is just beginning to read, there shouldn’t be an overwhelming amount of text that they will need to read in order to navigate the site.  Activities and games should be just right for the child and not too difficult.

Few or no ads. With an abundance of ads, children are often enticed by the images such as fast food restaurants logos, favorite television characters, and toys.  Children click on familiar images out of curiosity but can be easily led away from their game and on to another site.  When this occurs, it’s like going down a rabbit hole that is hard to get out of.  Not only is it is nearly impossible for a young child to navigate back to the original website, but the content can be questionable for young children.  In a frenzy of clicking to try to return to the original website, it only takes a couple more clicks for a child to accidentally get to content that’s not appropriate for their young eyes or to a place where one more click will fill your home computer with viruses.

Trusted partner in education. These days companies are partnering to license their content both on and offline.  Licensed merchandise available in retail stores helps young children act out their world with the characters they love and these same characters can often be found online.  Online games with friends from television shows and books can help kids practice their skills in an interactive way.  Look for trusted names in education such as Scholastic and PBS Kids that provide quality educational experiences through their websites.

Even if the sites meet the criteria above, by no means should your child be left unattended while playing online.  Always keep an ear out and an eye on what they’re doing to keep them safe and ensure that the content is fun rather than frustrating.

Categories: Computer, Must Read, Tech Savvy Parents, Website | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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