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Further Concerns & What Is Safe

Further Concerns

While tablets, LCD eBook readers and 3D TVs present notable purchasing concerns this Christmas they aren't the only areas where we would signal caution.

Premium Android smartphones in general are a worry with Android 4.0 handsets due to be shown off en masse in February at Mobile World Congress and upgrade timescales for existing handsets (even those confirmed to be on the list for ICS) still unclear.
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Multimedia boxes also present a concern. Apple TV is the most popular and the £99 RRP is appealing, but it is now 14 months old and very likely to be superseded in early 2012, especially with talk of an actual Apple television around the corner. Meanwhile other favourites like the WD TV Live Hub and D-Link Boxee Box all had their first birthdays recently and their successors cannot be far away.

What about laptops? Manufacturers are lining up to tell us the netbook is dead, but new super slim first generation ultrabooks (like the Acer Aspire S3) haven't set the world alight. Ultrabook pricing isn't as affordable as Intel would like either and shortcuts have been spotted in both features and build quality. With Ivy Bridge powered ultrabooks promising greater performance, increased battery life and lower costs early next year we'd again be inclined to sit tight.

So What Is Safe?

With CES in January, Mobile World Congress in February and a major Apple keynote due between them both the truth is very little. Manufacturers specifically time Christmas to rid themselves of old stock as they know consumers have to buy something. They then reinvigorate the market and capitalise on any Christmas money received by releasing new products soon after. It is cynical, but it works. As such when looking for a 'safe' gadget present for Christmas the key lies not in avoiding potential successors, but in finding what products will remain attractive even after the rush of new devices.
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As such there are some notable stand outs. In tablets the aforementioned Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is as close as you'll get to a future proof device right now while new e-ink ebook readers are unlikely to trouble Amazon's stranglehold on the sector since it only released the excellent and highly affordable Kindle touch in October.

With smartphones the Samsung Galaxy Nexus will prove resilient. It is the first Android handset to ship with Ice Cream Sandwich and its cutting-edge hardware will see it stand up to the flood of new models at MWC while Apple (contrary to constant rumour-mongering) never breaks its 12 month product refresh cycle early meaning the iPhone 4S will remain top of its tree for at least another 10 months.
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Finally less prone to the Christmas danger zone is the audio sector and you can find our finalists for the best headphones, home audio products and surround-sound systems all linked here. Cameras and camcorders are similarly restrained.

So while Christmas tech fear can match that of last minute turkey shopping, lunches with relatives and nationwide travel plans there are safer paths. Tread carefully, avoid fads and you will come out unscathed.

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