Archive for February 6, 2009

Price guarantees can save you big


Cash-in-hand
As we keep reminding readers in our buying advice (and as Tightwad Tod, our resident expert on bargains, recently reinforced), many electronics merchants promise a refund if they reduce the price on a product or if a competitor sells the exact same model for less, typically within 30 days but sometimes within 60 days or more. These guarantees really can pay off, as my sister found out this past weekend.

She and her husband purchased one of the TVs we recommend (LCD TV Ratings and recommendations available to subscribers), a 52-inch Samsung LCD set, at Best Buy in mid-January for ,400. Two weeks later they checked the Best Buy web site and saw the set on sale for ,000. The next day my brother-in-law raced to the local store, receipt in hand, to find that the price had dropped again, to ,900. The salesman refunded them 0 plus tax on the spot, no questions or quibbles.

"It's the easiest 0 I ever made," my brother-in-law told me, with great satisfaction. So a TV that was a good buy at the original sale price is now an even sweeter deal.

Best Buy isn't the only store that matches prices. Many retailers do, including Sears, P.C. Richard & Son, J&R.com, and others listed in our Ratings of electronics retailers (available to subscribers). Every guarantee has specific terms and conditions, so read the fine print carefully. With electronics items, the guarantee applies only to the exact same model, not a similar item or one bearing a model number exclusive to a specific retailer. Some brick and mortar stores won't match online-only pricing, and they may define "local competitor" very narrowly, excluding a store in another ZIP code. In fact, a storefront may have different requirements than its Web counterpart. In all cases, it's up to you to track pricing throughout the guarantee period—prices might fluctuate several times, as they did with my sister's set—and ask for your money back.

A price guarantee isn't the only, or even the main, reason to shop at a specific store, of course. Crutchfield.com, one of the top-rated Web sites in our store Ratings, will refund the difference only if they lower the price within the guarantee period—not if another merchants sells the same product for less. Other highly rated merchants, including Amazon and Costco, don't have a price match policy at all, but both were standouts for prices and return policies in our Ratings.

Still, if your retailer offers a price guarantee, it's worth taking advantage of it. Just ask my brother-in-law.

—Eileen McCooey

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Garmin’s GPS-heavy phone comes closer to reality

Garmin-nuvifone-G60-Front
For more than a year, Garmin—a leading maker of GPS navigation devices—has been teasing us with a touch-screen smart phone, the N?vifone. That's all we knew about it, other than it looked a lot like Garmin's other N?vi products. Garmin would often traipse it around at trade shows and smaller gatherings, but it was always look, don't touch. (You can see it in more detail by clicking on the embedded pictures.)

Yesterday, Garmin, and its new partner, netbook (as in mini-laptop) maker Asus, have brought the N?vifone one baby step closer to reality. Available sometime in 2009, the N?vifone G60 will count heavily on its GPS heritage. It promises one-step navigation from contacts, e-mail and GPS-based Web searches; geo-tagged text messaging, e-mail and photo sharing; Of course, you'll also get audible step-by-step driving or pedestrian directions to your selections, along with options for real-time-traffic information, gas prices, flight times, weather and more.

Garmin-nuvifone-g60-back
It will also offer a so-called a “location-based social networking," platform called Ciao! that will put multiple social networks, possibly Facebook and MySpace, under one interface. This sounds eerily like Latitude, a Big Brother application Google announced earlier this week that will allow people to track "friends" via GPS-linked Google Maps on a variety on a variety of cell phones, including BlackBerrys, iPhones, Windows Mobile, and other phones.

Other features include a virtual QWERTY keyboard, support for stereo Bluetooth headsets, 3G and Wi-Fi network connectivity for faster file and Web-page downloads.

No word yet on its price, the cell phone service carrier, or operating system, but it will be a quad-band (world) GSM phone. The only major U.S. carriers that use GSM technology are AT&T, which already has the iPhone, and T-Mobile, which has the G-1, a.k.a. "Google phone."

Garmin-nuvifone-G60-mounted
Besides having the misfortune of facing off against such formidable cell opponents as Apple, RIM, and Palm during worldwide economic downturn, the N?vifone G60 may find itself outgunned by other electronics giants entering the cell-phone arena. Dell and Toshiba, for example, have been flashing smart-phone prototypes of their own to the blogerati.

—Mike Gikas

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Feb 5, Antenna Information

Antenna Information and the Analog to Digital Transition

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Feb 5, Consumer Electronics Association Responds to House Action to Change the Digital TV Transition Deadline

Consumer Electronics Association – President and CEO, Gary Shapiro today issued the following statement regarding the action in the U.S. House of Representatives regarding the date U.S. broadcasters transition from analog to digital television (DTV):

“Our nation is leading the world in the digital migration, and CEA again pledges full support for a successful transition to digital television. We will quickly update our consumer education material as necessary and we will devote a significant portion of our Washington Forum event in April to DTV education.”

“As CEA has repeatedly cautioned, this date change will inject uncertainty into the market and may result in a shortage of converter boxes, because manufacturers and retailers planned box inventory based on a February 17 transition date. CEA urges Congress and the Administration to take the necessary steps to ensure converter box availability and to urge consumers to act immediately to enjoy the benefits of DTV.”

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Wait and See; UPDATE!!

The DTV Delay Bill has passed and will be signed into law by the President this week. What this means is a little unclear at the moment for the local stations. They did include a provision for stations to go ahead with the Feb 17th switch or wait until June 12th. Stations also have an option of filing notice with the FCC and can shut analog off any time in-between those dates.

We will have a better idea how things will play out in this area Friday, but I urge everyone to assume Feb 17th JUNE 12th to be the big day until the stations announce otherwise. It is a fluid thing right now, and could go either way. As always, I’ll keep you updated here with the latest information about our station as it is available. I expect a final decision will be made Friday.

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