Holiday Anti Sopping Guide: Products to AVOID!


What to avoid in 2008

Every winter we have to think about what to get our loved (and not-so-loved) ones.  There are tons of vendors that try to cash in on our buying frenzy by offering a bunch of stuff that we simply don’t want or need.  Since we don’t need it, I guess we assume that other people do.

Most consumers know to avoid seasonal items like electric shavers and sausage gift baskets, but there is still a bunch of crap out there that no one really wants.  Some of this stuff actually seems like a good idea at the time, especially if they seem like a great bargain.  Since we test lots of games, hardware, and gadgets, we have our own thoughts about what gifts are worth giving (and getting).

Sometimes stuff just isn’t as good as you think it is.  Either the product is great but breaks, or you quickly grow tired of it, or worse yet: realize you need an upgraded version and have to spend your money all over again.

This anti-guide is targeted to a wide range of people.  Some are parents who are out of touch with their teenagers (and twenty-somethings).  Others are grandparents who think the latest trend-knockoff on QVC would make a perfect gift.  Some are girlfriends who just don’t know what their technology-enabled boyfriend would want.

Since the economy isn’t doing so hot, then why spend money on crap that will find its way to a landfill?  Here are some of the things that should be avoided at all costs this holiday season.

In-Ear Stereo Earphone
Shop at Price Stock Seller Rating

15. Earbuds that cost less than $100
Nearly every person under 40 has an iPod or other MP3 player.  These players usually come with a cheap pair of small headphones (dubbed “earbuds”) and are usually uncomfortable and only provide margional sound.  A better set of earbuds will produce crisper highs and deeper bass than a cheap pair.

To be honest, most of the headsets you buy for around $50 or less are almost exactly the same quailty as the ones that came with your player: which is fine if you just want a replacement. To experience the next level of portable audio fidelity you need to look at the next tier… and the next tier starts at $100.

There are several brands that offer small earbuds with huge sound.  Bose, Seinheisser, and Sure are the most popular names, and their prices can cause sticker-shock for gift-giving consumers.  Believe me, your gift-receiver will thank you for them.  They will last much longer than cheap earbuds or headphones, and sound much much better.

The Bose earbuds start at $99 and is probably the bare minimum in terms of audiophile-quality earbuds.  There is much room for debate, and there are lots of flamewars about Bose… but what cannot be argued is that Bose is in a different league than $10 earbuds. If you were thinking of earbuds for your ‘bud, then consider upgrading to the next level… they will totally thank you.

14. Playstation 2
Sony’s Playstation 2 is one of the cheapest consoles around at a retail price of $120.  The PS2 still has some great games, and some game companies are still making new games for this console.  It’s just not suitable as a gift in 2008.

If you’re considering this for a gamer under 12, and they have no game console at all, then a better bet would be a Nintendo DS, which costs exactly the same as a PS2.  If your gamer is a girl, then consider the metallic rose version.

A game console is always a winner during the holidays… assuming it’s from the current generation.  Console companies have slashed their prices recently, so you can get a Nintendo Wii or even an Xbox 360 for only two Benjamins.  If you buy your console from a used game store (like GameStop or Game Crazy) then you can pick up some great used games for really cheap.  The PS3 is a good alternative if you were going to buy a console AND Bluray player… you get both in one!

13. Any all-in-one gaming thing
There are several little toys that look like a gaming joystick or controller, and even have games embedded right in the stick!  This sounds like a no-brainer for a gift, but is actually a Christmas Trap.  Jakk’s Pacific loves to come out with these little devices (we’ve actually reviewed one here).  They have manu popular franchises like Spongebob, Scooby Doo, Power Rangers, and even classic arcade games from Atari and Namco, but believe me, they are all crap.  You’ll get five minutes of entertainment out of them tops.

12. Flash Drives under 4GB
USB flash drives are incredibly handy to have, and have penetrated modern society almost as much as iPods… even my mom has a few.  It’s great to carry around data that you may need, like programs you may need on a guest computer, presentations, and of course having every Super Nintendo and Atari 2600 cartridge ever made in your pocket.

Several years ago, flash drives were very expensive and could only hold 256MB or so (we’ve even reviewed a few).  Today’s programs and file formats have bloated to require more space, and a measly 1GB will no longer do the trick.  For the amount of stuff that the average geek carries around, a 4GB model should be the bare minimum when considering a flash drive as a stocking-stuffer.  Models up to 64 GB are available, but for some reason retail stores only seem to carry smaller ones.  Take a look at the usb drive options online here.

More is always better: and the best price-per-gigabyte right now is a 64-gigabyte flash drive (reviewed here).