Category Archives: Shopping

Where to buy electronics

While Best Buy may be popular for electronics, they are rarely the best buy. Their staff is known to make up answers. Their online prices are not as good as other Internet stores. And their in-store prices are often higher than their online prices, despite what their in-store website shows. Their Geek Squad is poorly trained and could try to take a video of you taking a shower. So instead of driving to Best Buy, first look around online.

Amazon has decent prices, but is also just a good place to shop around for what you want. Between Amazon and Amazon’s third party sellers, their selection is huge and their reviews can help you figure out what is best for you.

Newegg has long been a favorite electronics seller because of their great prices. They are usually one of the first places I visit. They sell lots of electronics, computers, computer parts, accessories, and software.

Cables, such as HDMI cables for HD TVs, are a huge rip-off in most retail stores. Best Buy and Circuit City will charge $40-$100 for a cable that is no better than a $5 cable from MonoPrice. MonoPrice’s cables are so cheap that you might suspect that they’re selling stolen goods. But MonoPrice has been around since 2002 selling quality cables and parts for their real price.

Although their site is not as attractive as MonoPrice’s, Blue Jeans Cable also offers a good deal on cables, especially if you need something special that is custom made.

While their prices aren’t the most competitive, Crutchfield offers a comprehensive site for home theater equipment. Their phone sales people are also knowledgeable.

There are times when you need a real physical store. For example, laptops have different “feels” and are good to play with before purchasing. Luckily, in the D.C. area, we have a great store for electronics.

Micro Center, with 21 stores nationwide, has a store here in Fairfax, Virginia. They have good prices and a wide selection of computer equipment and software. They have a television section for large LCDs and Plasmas. Unique today, they have a section just for selling Apple products. Micro Center is great for geeks too because they sell everything you need to build a computer from the ground up. MicroCenter also has a bookstore and a game section for PC and console gaming.

Micro Center‘s employees are generally quite knowledgeable, especially compared to those at Best Buy. They make money on sales commissions by putting a sticker on items that they help you to find. On checkout, those stickers are scanned for comissions.

If you’re shopping specifically for an Apple product or accessory, Apple’s retail stores are great and have an intelligent staff. Since Apple keeps prices the same everywhere, you won’t feel ripped off shopping there. There are only a few ways to get prices slightly better than the standard list price from Apple. You can get an Educational or Government discount from Apple. Or you can go to a third-party seller that might offer a small discount or combo package that Apple does not have. Amazon is the best of the third-party sellers now. They offer $100-$150 off of most current iMacs.

Although Best Buy is ubiquotus, there are many better alternatives. Give some of these other electronics stores a try.

Tiny Laptops

Small (2-3 lbs) and cheap ($300-400) laptops, also known as netbooks, have been the largest growing computer segment over the last year due to Asus’ Eee PC. These haven’t needed to be powerful computers because they can run Linux, with the Eee PC running the Xandros distribution of Linux.

Recently Asus has been joined by many other manufacturers in this market. Asus has lost some of limelight by making their newer machines slightly larger and more expensive.

The current model that most people are excited about is the MSI Wind. This and the many of the current crop of Eee PC’s run the Intel Atom chipset which is inexpensive and uses less power than similar class chips. Via will also be coming out with the Nano chipset which will outperform Intel.

Dell will likely also become a big player in next couple of months with their expected line of laptops. Lenovo (formerly IBM) is also rumored to have a cheap small laptop in that time.

With more power in this current group of laptops, they can run Windows XP or be hacked to run OS X as people have already done with the MSI Wind. Although Apple wouldn’t be happy about it, a cheap OS X laptop might be easier to achieve in the next few months as these devices become more ubiquitous. Of course, Apple is always rumored to be coming out with their own small laptop or tablet too.

Another reason to be excited about these laptops is the forthcoming Ubuntu Notebook Remix, using the most popular Linux distribution of Ubuntu but tuned and designed for small laptops and able to take special advantage of the Atom chipset.

Microsoft has had difficutly in this market because Windows Vista is not meant for low power laptops with small screens. So despite wanting to kill off XP, Microsoft has had to make an exception for this segment of laptops and continue to sell XP for it.

For more on these tiny laptops see the sites:
Liliputing
Asus Eee News Mods and Hacks
Eee User

iPhone 3G corporate discounts?

We’ve been researching the possibility of corporate and AAA discounts with the new iPhone 3G. Because the iPhone 3G does not have a profit sharing arrangement between AT&T and Apple like the original iPhone did, it should be treated as other phones offered by AT&T. And there are online reports backing up claims that AT&T is offering discounts. One source showed me his ordered Family plan that he got a 23% discount through his corporation. This applies only to the service, not the phone itself. But when calling AT&T directly, we were told that no discounts are possible.

So what’s the real deal? We’ll continue to investigate.

UPDATE: It is possible to get corporate discounts from AT&T for iPhone plans. The discount applies to the main line, and you still pay $9.99 for each additional line.