This post was originally published in the June 29, 2017 edition of the Southwest Journal, a Southwest Minneapolis community newspaper.
When purchasing technology devices and systems like printers, computers, home theater systems and more, there are a number of things to look for. The following list is a starting point for questions to ask and information to gather while researching a technology purchase:
What is the warranty and return policy? Will I have the opportunity to test out the product?
Be wary of any products that do not guarantee satisfaction. Technology can be tricky and you may not know if it is a good fit for you without trying it out first.
What is their return policy? Does the warranty cover a year or only 30 days? I would be hesitant to purchase something with a very minimal warranty.
If the product is defective, try returning it to the retailer first; I have found returning to the retailer to be less time consuming than having to go through the manufacturer.
I am not a fan of extended warranties, but they can save you a headache later, especially for a high priced item. Keep it in mind and weigh the cost of the warranty versus replacing the product.
What additional hardware (computer, smartphone, tablet) or software (Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS) is needed?
Many devices run with a computer or smartphone being used to read results or track activity like a Fitbit or other wearable device. If it is software, make sure it is for the correct operating system. If additional hardware or software is needed, make sure you have that factored into the total cost of owning the device or system.
What is the initial cost? Is there an ongoing subscription fee? Is there any long-term commitment?
Understanding the price is always important, and sometimes there is a monthly fee associated with monitoring and/or servicing the device. Make sure you understand your total cost of ownership.
Don’t purchase a product with a subscription fee if you are not using the features. Look for a comparable product without monthly fees. The Ring Video Doorbell is a good example: It offers a small fee for recording and saving videos.
Once the product is purchased, is there a contract holding you to a period of time where you must continue to pay a subscription fee? TiVo is a great service, but in order for it to work, you either need to pay monthly or purchase a lifetime subscription. Just as suggested above, ensure you need the subscription and therefore the contract. If not, consider a comparable product without the long-term commitment.
When should you buy the most recent model versus an older model?
Technology changes quickly and it is often best to buy the newest model to ensure it will be relevant as long as possible. I would suggest this for computers. However, for smartphones you will get a better deal buying the slightly older model.
The same goes for TVs: If you don’t need the 4K TV today, buy the HD TV and save some money. Ask if they have an upgrade program to allow you to get a discounted newer model when available.
What are the features and functions?
Does this product fulfill my needs? Does it have the features and functions that I require? For many products, there are product options that are more or less full-featured and the cost will vary based on the features. Make sure the product you choose fills your needs fully; if not, find one that does.
What do the reviews say?
If possible, read reviews on the technology product.
Do a Google search for reviews and see what others have to say. Go to the product website and see if there are reviews there. If the product is on Amazon.com, that is a great place to read user reviews; Newegg.com and Bestbuy.com are also good sites for reviews.
Is accessibility an issue?
Do you have any limitations or health concerns that may affect your use of technology? Are the buttons on the remote too small? Is it too hard to read the screen? Think about your current devices and any troubles you may have with them.
Purchasing technology can seem overwhelming if you are new to the device or system being purchased. Following the above list will help to ensure you are asking the right questions to enable you to find the appropriate technology for your needs.
Paul Burnstein is a Tech Handyman. As the founder of Gadget Guy MN, Paul helps personal and business clients optimize their use of technology. He can be found through www.gadgetguymn.com or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.