The wrapping is torn off, the presents are open, let the regrets take hold.
With more choices than ever for techy gadgets, there are more wrong choices than ever. Some gifts are just super duds, worthless junk like the $100 Bluetooth-enabled fork.
Related: The worst Christmas gifts of 2013
But there’s a lot more mediocre stuff – gadgets you can regift or return and replace with something better – and cheaper. Calling out the junk is pretty easy. Finding cheaper, better replacements is a little harder, so I asked Brian Lam, proprietor of the excellent gadget review site The Wirecutter, and his crew for some suggestions.
Audio gadgetry is rife with overpriced gear sold by famous name brands. Take the Beats line of headphones – please. Somebody give you a pair of Beats Studio headphones, which cost $300? “Don’t even take them out of the box,” warns Lauren Dragan, The Wirecutter’s headphones editor. “They sound sloppy, muffled and terrible.”
After you trade in the Beats, consider Sony’s poorly named but snappier sounding MDR7506 model at two-thirds the price.
Portable, wireless speakers are a great complement to a smartphone, whether you’re carrying around thousands of carefully selected tracks or just playing the holiday mix station on Pandora. But some great speakers cost half as much as other, more famous models.
If you’ve got a Jambox Mini in your stocking, worth some $180, the trade is for a UE Miniboom. It’s maybe not quite as cool looking but has much better sound quality than the Jambox, says senior researcher Jamie Wiebe. And it costs less than $100.
The tech industry hoped 2013 would be the year of the smartwatch. But most of what they’ve put on sale is ugly, battery hungry and underpowered for the cost. Samsung’s Galaxy Gear watch costs $300 and Qualcomm’s Toq costs $350. Neither one does much to justify the price, says The Wirecutter editor Tim Barribeau. He says just sell them and wear your old Timex. I like my Pebble smartwatch, which costs only $120, runs forever on a single charge and mostly just sends reminders and text messages from my phone to my wrist.
For some gifts that actually have a measure of cool, it still may be worth trading down. For example, a $500 iPad Air may be overkill for someone who just wants to check Facebook, write email and watch Netflix or Hulu. Cheaper tablets from Google or Amazon can do those jobs just as well, though they don’t have the same massive and vibrant app ecosystem as the iPad.
The same is true with digital cameras, where more expensive models may be rich with features that amateur shutterbugs will never use. Canon’s model 330 HS takes excellent pictures and is a top pick at The Wirecutter. It costs only $130. And the latest iPhone and Android phones take pretty good pictures, too. Maybe you don’t need a separate camera after all.
No matter what gadget gift you want to get rid of, act fast. The big retailers all have a limited period for gift returns.
Unopened gifts purchased in November and December can be returned at Best Buy stores through Jan. 15. Target generally has a 90-day return policy but items like cameras and laptops have to be returned within 30 days. But the 30-day clock doesn’t start ticking until Dec. 26 for items purchased in November and December. Both chains require an original receipt, gift receipt or packing slip.
Amazon accepts gift returns within 30 days of shipment with the order number, which should be on the packing slip, and issues a refund as a gift card. If the item is unwanted but not a mistake, the customer is charged for return shipping.
And at almost all retailers, items like phones purchased with two-year contracts and open or used gifts can’t be returned. Selling on eBay or other auction sites is your best bet.
Just pray Uncle Morty doesn't catch you dumping those fancy Beats headphones he gave you.
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