When you’re trying to buy the perfect gift for a friend or family member this Christmas, you’re probably going to think about something digital. With smartphones, tablets, TVs, headphones, home theater sound bars, gaming consoles, robots, cameras, cases, video games and more in stores, the options are endless.
But before you spend your hard-earned money, take a few minutes to read the following list. These tech no-nos are either on the way out, not quite ready for prime time or something you just shouldn’t buy for someone else.
So, without further ado, here are the tech gifts to avoid this holiday season.
1. Cutting-edge technology
This first category is a bit broad and includes smartwatches, Amazon Echo, Vessyl and other cutting-edge tech products. Not only are they expensive — $100 to $3,000 — they’re so new that no one really knows how useful they’ll be in day-to-day use.
Vessyl, for example, is a $100 cup that knows exactly what’s in your drink and keeps track of calories, hydration and other information. It’s beautifully designed and executed, but the question is will the novelty will last longer than a week or two for most users?
Amazon Echo looks interesting as a personal assistant for your home, but it’s not clear how useful it will be for the average person, or basically how well it works. Even as a family gift, you’ll probably want to wait a year until the next version comes out. It might also come down from its $200 price by then.
2. High-end TVs
You’ll see fantastic deals on TVs this holiday season, but if you look closely, you’ll notice the deals are on low-end TVs — screens smaller than 48 inches, off-brand manufacturers and lower specs like 60Hz refresh rate or no Internet connection.
The TVs from major manufacturers like Sony, LG and Samsung with 48-plus inch screens, 120Hz or 240Hz refresh rates, 4K resolution, Internet apps and other advances are just as expensive as ever. Expect to pay north of $1,500.
Most stores wait until just before the Super Bowl to drop the prices on the high-end models.
If you’re after a cheap second TV, this is a good time to buy. But to replace your main living room TV, it’s better to wait until late January.
3. Streaming media gadgets
Another thing to avoid is streaming-media gadgets like the Roku, Google Nexus Player, Apple TV, Amazon’s Fire TV and similar streaming boxes.Even if the person could use a streaming box, not every streaming box supports every online service. Apple TV, for example, is the only one that supports streaming and downloading from iTunes. If you buy a Roku for an iTunes user, it does him no good.
Like a smartwatch, a streaming box is a tech item that you can only really buy for yourself. If you want to help your friend or relative with the purchase, get him a gift card to an electronics store or online shop. Streaming gadgets cost $50 to $100.
4. Standalone gadgets
This is another broad category, and it covers any low-cost gadget that does just one thing, such as a point-and-shoot camera or a media player, like an iPod.
Odds are that the person you’re buying for already has a smartphone or tablet that takes decent pictures and holds plenty of music and movies. A smartphone or tablet also has a calendar, address book, video chat, video recording, games and tons more that used to require separate products.
Unless someone specifically asks for a standalone gadget, steer clear. If he does ask for one, then he probably means a gadget that’s better than what’s in his smartphone like a mirrorless hybrid camera — these start at around $500 — or a GoPro video camera, which starts at $130.
A laptop is a good gift for a college student or someone on the go, but the holidays aren’t the best time to buy. Laptops generally see the best deals after the Consumer Electronics Show in January or during back-to-school sales in July and August.
Plus, if your gift recipient is looking for a bargain laptop — say less than $400 — to surf the Web, watch movies, listen to music, read books, play casual games and perform other light computing tasks, she might just want a tablet instead. A tablet is more portable, has a better battery life and you don’t have to worry as much about viruses.