Buying tech products can be tricky enough at the best of times, but at sales time things can get even more complicated. We asked CHOICE's tech experts to share their tips on making sure you pick up a product that suits your needs.
What do I need this for?
- "In a computer, am I looking for more speed, storage capacity, a bigger screen, better resolution, lighter weight? What are my needs for this particular product?," says Elias, who's responsible for testing all the tech products that come through CHOICE's labs.
- "Have a clear idea of what you want to do with a product before you decide what you want to get," says Steve, CHOICE's technology editor.
Is now the right time to buy?
- "Do I absolutely need to buy this before the end of financial year? Am I better off waiting until the new model comes out and claiming it for the next financial year?" says Elias.
Is the price reasonable?
- "If something seems too good to be true, it probably is," says Narelle, one of the buyers responsible for purchasing the tech products we test at CHOICE. "There are some very dodgy websites out there selling tech stuff."
Do I need the newest model?
- "If you're trying to hunt down a bargain, try to buy ex-floor stock, especially for last year's models," says Narelle. "There's no harm in asking if they have re-packaged ones."
What else do I need to make this work?
- "For instance, for smart lights, do I need a hub to power it, switches, a new router? Will it work with everything I've already got?," says Elias.
- "You want them to be interoperable," says Steve. "Once you get into home automation, you need to plan ahead of time. You're not just buying one bit of technology – they all need to work together. The aim is to keep all those things compatible."
Where is it on sale?
- "Don't just look at the big retailers: check comparison shopping sites like ShopBot and Static Ice because sometimes a really good product will only be released through particular stores, and might not be available through the big stores," says Steve. "You can save yourself hundreds just by spending five minutes doing a comparison shop before you buy."
- Narelle agrees. "Different stores may have different models. It's worth checking multiple retailers rather than just the ones you're familiar with."
Is this product any good? Will it do what I need it to?
- "Check product reviews before you buy," says Alex, who writes tech content for CHOICE. "There might be excess stock that needs to go on sale for a reason."
- "Forums like Whirlpool and CHOICE Community are also useful," says Steve.
Is this product about to be superseded by a newer model?
- "I make sure to find out if a new version of whatever I'm planning to buy is about to come out, which might drop its value anyway with or without the sale," says Alex.
Is it legit?
- "If you've found a really good deal, make sure you're not buying a 'grey' or parallel import– products that the manufacturer may not have released in Australia," says Narelle. "The follow-up support may be lacking and you may not get the warranty."
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What kind of support is available?
- "Ask the retailer: if something doesn't work, can I bring it back here for replacement? If I have trouble setting it up, who can I call?" says Elias.
Is this the best price you can do?
- "Going in-store is always good because you can ask for more of a discount. The worst they can say is no," says Narelle.
- "Online prices can be different to in-store prices for some of the major retailers," says Steve. "You may be able to go in-store and ask them to match an online price. It can't hurt to ask."
Can I touch it?
- "I tend to tell people when they're buying computers: the keyboard is really important, and so is the screen," says Elias. "Go to the shop and test it out there – see how it feels to use. Does the screen have good viewing angles? Is the keyboard flimsy? See it with your own eyes if you can."
- "Get your hands on things in-store, even if you don't want to buy from that particular retailer," says Steve. "Especially for laptops. Check the keyboard, mouse, screen, ports, etc."
Is this the newest model?
- "Check the lifecycle of the product: whether it's a new product, or old stuff they're trying to sell," says Elias. "Ask them when the product was released and when there's likely to be a new model released. Tax time is often a time that retailers offload old stock, rather than giving you a good deal on a new product."
- "Salespeople may not be any more knowledgeable than you. And they have sales targets to meet, so don't expect them to give you a balanced opinion," says Steve.
- "Remember: salespeoples' job is to sell you stuff. So make sure you know what you want," says Narelle.
- "Just because salespeople are surrounded by tech doesn't mean they get to have hands-on experience of the products. You might as well talk to your mates: everyone has an opinion and largely what you're going to hear is their opinion, not necessarily backed by research or experience," says Steve.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.