Four rules of thumb to help you decide which features are worth paying for when buying your next gadget or gizmo, courtesy of the New York Times:
PAY FOR PC MEMORY, NOT SPEED. When buying and configuring a new computer, companies often give the option of upgrading the processor and adding more memory, or RAM. If it is an either/or proposition, go for the RAM. Processors are usually fast enough for most people; it is the RAM that can be the bottleneck…
PAY FOR COMPONENTS, NOT CABLES. Buy the finest displays, speakers and components you can afford for your media center. Be dazzled by a crisp, bright display. Feel as if you are in the middle of the action with the most powerful surround-sound systems. But when a salesperson starts pushing the A/V cables for $1,000 (this price is not an exaggeration; such cables exist), walk away.
PAY FOR SENSOR SIZE, NOT MEGAPIXELS. …Almost all cameras have enough megapixels now; it is the size of the image sensor that largely determines the quality of an image. Sensor size is confusing, because manufacturers use different formats.
And for the best resource for testing the specs on all those whirring electronic doodads, check out Consumer Reports reviews and ratings.
I guess if I had a rule for buying tech it would be “Pay for manufacturer-refurbished gadgets, not new ones.”