Tag Archives: Shopping

Buying A TV

TV Advice

Buying a TV can be quite intimidating. When clients ask me what to get, here’s what I usually recommend.

Go to a big box store (Costco, Sams) since they have an excellent return policy, good prices, and they don’t try to give you terrible upsells and warranties. If you want the best value, look at Vizios. If you want the best TV and picture look at Samsungs. They cost more, but are the best displays for most people’s needs.

Projectors

If you want a big TV and you have good light control in the room, meaning that you can make it dark, consider getting a front projector. You can get an excellent projector that will give you a 100+ inch screen for $1400. This takes a little more work since you need to position the projector, get a screen, and focus the projector. But it’s the only cost effective way to get a screen over 75 inches.

Plasmas

The Vizios and Samsungs mentioned above are LCDs. If you are big into sports and you appreciate the more active (slightly less ghosty) look, consider getting a plasma TV over LCD. Modern LCDs are great and have largely done away with the ghosting problems. Most people never notice any image issues. But many video professionals still prefer the look of plasmas. Plasma images are dimmer so they aren’t as good in well lit areas as LCDs.  They are thicker and heavier than LCDs.

Panasonic makes the best plasmas. A couple of years ago Pioneer’s Kurio was the best, but Pioneer stopped making it and sold the technology to Panasonic.

Don’t Fall for the Upsell

Remember that TVs are warrantied by the manufacturer so you don’t need to buy an extended warranty. And you can get great HDMI and other cables at reasonable prices from monoprice.com.

Seagate Momentus Hybrid Hard Drive

I recently upgraded the client’s old laptop hard drive laptop to a hybrid drive from Seagate:
Seagate Momentus XT 750 GB

Hybrid

What’s special about it? It’s got 8GB of solid state drive. That makes its speed somewhere between a standard hard drive an SSD. The drive intelligently moves commonly used files to the solid state portion. The hard drive handles all that on its own, appearing to the computer as just one drive.

With the original hard drive in this 5 year old Mac, it booted up in 55 seconds. With the new drive it booted up in 43 seconds. But after three boots, it had moved the boot files to the SSD and was booting up in 24 seconds. It felt much faster for common tasks and commonly used programs.

If you need a large fast drive, this Seagate is a great compromise. SSDs at 750GB are prohibitively expensive. And standard hard drives are much slower.

2011 Mac Mini Hard Drive Upgrade Video

We just upgraded a 2011 Apple Mac Mini to have an SSD, a second hard drive, and new RAM.

Video


Also available on YouTube in High Definition or Standard Definition.

Parts List

  • OCZ 120 GB Vertex 3 SATA III 6.0 Gb-s 2.5-Inch Solid State Drive VTX3-25SAT3-120G
  • Western Digital 1TB Blue WD10JPVT 5400RPM, 8 MB cache, 2.5 inch, 9.5MM height hard drive
  • Corsair 8 GB DDR3 Laptop Memory Kit CMSO8GX3M2A1333C9
  • Apple Mac Mini Model MC816LL/A 2.5 GHz Intel Core i5 dual-core processor, AMD Radeon HD 6630M graphics, 4GB RAM, 500GB hard drive
  • Cable: Apple Part 922-9560, also called “Apple Mac Mini Server (Mid 2010) Bottom Hard Drive Server Flex Cable” or “Hard Drive Flex Cable Bottom”. We used part number 1009005 at welovemacs.com. This is sold as a kit from ifixit.com.

Alternate Parts List

The OCZ Vertex 3 is the fastest consumer SSD at the moment. Other SSD’s that you might consider include:

The Western Digital Blue drive mentioned above is high capacity and quiet. For a faster spinning hard drive consider:

The dedicated graphics in the mid-tier Mac Mini make it worth it for me. But for the cheapest Mini, consider:

  • Apple Mac Mini MC815LL/A 2.3 GHz Intel Core i5 dual-core processor, integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000, 2GB RAM, 500GB hard drive

UPDATE: My video shows adding two 9.5MM height drives. I just upgraded another Mac Mini with a 9.5MM SSD and a 12.5MM standard hard drive. As with my first upgrade, the hard drive goes in the bottom slot (the side closest to the top of the case when upright). This does fit. But first you need to slide the logic board out slightly. Be sure to remove the IR port adapter before sliding out the logic board. The OWC video shows how to do this. I used a cut up coat hanger to insert into the logic board holes and slide it out.

First Boot

Starting with a blank hard drive is easy on the 2011 Mac Mini. Hold down Command-R to boot into Lion Recovery which allows you to format the drives and download Lion over the Internet.

TRIM Support in Lion

For optimal SSD performance, enable TRIM support within OS X Lion. Grant Pannell describes the terminal commands to enable TRIM.

Photos of Upgrade

Opened
Opened
Fan Removal
Fan Removal
WiFi Connection
WiFi Connection
Empty Hard Drive Bay
Empty Drive Bay
Original Hard Drive
Original Hard Drive
Drive Bay Side View 1
Drive Bay Side View 1
Drive Bay Side View 2
Drive Bay Side View 2
New Hard Drive & Cable
New Hard Drive & Cable
New Hard Drive Insertion
New Hard Drive Insertion
New SSD
New SSD
New SSD & Drive Cables Attached
New SSD & Drive Cables Attached
New RAM
New RAM
Attach Fan
Attach Fan

Online Price Trends from Gazaro

The free site Gazaro allows you to look up products and see pricing trends. You can see if the product’s price has dropped regularly or if you are at a high blip. Gazaro also identifies products that have recently dropped significantly in price.  Sign up is required, but there is no fee.

This is an example trend chart showing that Microsoft Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000 recently dropped in price at Amazon.

Holiday Shopping Deals Online

Deal Sites

It’s easier than ever to find good shopping deals online. The biggest sites that aggregate online deals are:

These sites have forums where people discuss Hot Deals, Black Friday Deals, Freebies, and Coupons. This is where people go to find amazing deals.

Shopaholics also enjoy the innovative woot.com site, which sells one item a day until it is sold out. Occasionally there are “woot-offs” where they sell multiple items sequentially over a 24 hour period, each until they sell out. During a woot-off, they might sell what they call a “Bag of Crap” (BOC) which is 3 random things for $15. It could include a new Xbox 360 or it could be pens. Oddly, people on the slickdeals and fatwallet forums get very excited about the BOCs. I guess it appeals to people who like to gamble.

Some lesser-known deal sites include:

Electronics

As noted in an earlier post, you don’t want to get ripped off at a big box store when buying electronics. Look at Newegg, Amazon, and Buy.com for their deals. And whatever you do, don’t buy any cables from Best Buy. Best Buy and most retail stores sells HDMI cables for $100 that can be bought for $5-10 from MonoPrice.com.

There is also no need for a warranty from Best Buy, as the items are normally insured by the manufacturer. The most common failures are discovered immediately, when you can still bring the item back to the store for a return.

If you want to shop locally in the D.C. area for electronics, the best store is MicroCenter in Fairfax, Virginia. They have knowledgable staff and a wide selection of computers, electronics, software, game systems, and TVs for reasonable prices.