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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 Apple TV is the most popular and the £99 RRP is appealing, but it is now 14 months old and very likely to be superseded in early 2012, especially with talk of an actual Apple television around the corner.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.

Gk.pm

December 20, 2011, 12:03 am

"If you must go down the tablet route the safest bet is the exceptional Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime." Well first it's not available yet and subject to delays - more Amazon and Best-Buy pre-orders were cancelled in the US today. No one knows for sure it if it'll be on sale in the UK in January. Second, just today Eric Schmidt (Google's chairman) talked about "an improved Google tablet coming within six months" ( http://www.theverge.com/2011/12/19/2646684/eric-schmidt-says ) With this plus the rumoured high resolution tablets from Samsung and Apple coming sometime around February/March, the excitement over this Asus will be very short lived.

Gordon394

December 20, 2011, 9:02 pm

Thanks Gk.pm they are some interesting points, but a little misplaced. First the Prime has a confirmed UK launch date: 12 January and major stores are taking pre-orders. Second I mention the Prime is not out for Christmas in the article. Third there has to be a reasonable timeframe when we're talking about Christmas. In that regard I'd say holding back on an iPad 2 with the iPad 3 due in a few months is reasonable, waiting six months is something else entirely. As for excitement over the Prime, with ICS coming to it soon it may have more shelf life than you think. Certainly Ardjuna was very excited when he reviewed it: http://www.trustedreviews.com/asus-eee-pad-transformer-prime_Laptop_review

Gk.pm

December 21, 2011, 12:06 am

@Gordon394 I haven't had any confirmation that the launch date is actually 12 January. It's just an expected launch date, not set in stone. You might want to check your sources. Meanwhile just yesterday it was announced that pre-orders for the 64GB Transformer Prime were being cancelled in the UK as that model was pushed back to Q2 2012 (i.e. April-June) It may have some shelf life, but you can same of all existing tablets. The iPad 2 will surely still get a good year more of updates and even the somewhat lacklustre Motorola Xoom is looking better with ICS. However the Transformer and these will look pretty pale compared to alternatives coming right from February next year. The wise recommendation would be to hold off on any tablet purchases until then.

lensmann

December 21, 2011, 4:34 pm

Interesting article, Gordon. I'd personally draw a distinction between products whose current iterations have serious shortcomings that future iterations will fix (e.g. 3D TVs)

lensmann

December 21, 2011, 4:35 pm

and products whose current iterations are actually quite good, but just have future iterations that will be better (e.g. tablets). Is the fact that we know the product will only get better really a reason to hold off on buying it? I'm not sure it is. Anyway, this is probably just a difference of opinion. A good article!

Gordon394

December 21, 2011, 8:10 pm

confirmed to me by Dixons. Either way, my point remains the same. It's post Christmas, but only a little post.

Gordon394

December 21, 2011, 8:12 pm

Thanks. That's a good point and I think you're right but there are no certainties all Android tablets will get ICS, for example. And if so how well optimised will they be, how will the inevitable manufacturer skins affect it, etc. They could be great, but definitely a risk for Christmas.

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