When you buy tech, there always seems to be a big spread. You can pick up a $150 Chromebook or a $2,500 MacBook Pro. You can choose between $60 Cowin noise-canceling headphones or $400 ones from Bose.
Sometimes, you can get by with the cheap stuff. A $10 Amazon Basics HDMI cable does the same job as a $1,700 one from AudioQuest ... well, almost. On Amazon, a reviewer of the AudioQuest cable wrote, “I was planning to move out of Mom's basement with all the money I saved but I decided to buy this cable instead.”
Speaking of Amazon, if you’re not shopping the site’s secret store, you’re missing out. Tap or click here for the Amazon store where you can save up to 70% off electronics.
With so many tech products to choose from, it takes a keen eye to separate the rip-offs from genuine bargains.
1. Cheap security cameras
If you’re trying to protect your home from intruders, don’t be stingy with security cameras. Cheap cameras open you up to dangers like hackers and cybercriminals.
High-quality cameras come loaded with features like motion detection, smartphone integration and encrypted data storage. A cheap camera might not include any of these and might be missing basic security measures like 2FA or encryption. This means a hacker can remotely tap into your camera, shut it down or even steal your saved footage.
Two-factor authentication takes a minute to set up on your most important accounts, but it’s well worth it. Tap or click here to see all the security benefits.
A perfect example? A discount product called iBaby monitor. With its bargain bin price, the camera relies on an unsecured server for data storage, connection and control. That’s not worth saving a few bucks.
Once you’ve found cameras you’re satisfied with, make sure you’re adjusting the settings so they’re secure enough to keep prying eyes and hackers out. Tap or click here for the steps to take to keep hackers out of your home security cameras.
Does a $17 Android smartphone sound like a good deal to you? Then the MYA2 from MyPhone would be the perfect addition to your gear — if it weren’t riddled with security issues. Tap or click to see why this cheap smartphone is bad news.
The phone includes an outdated version of Android that can’t be updated or patched. It also comes with several pre-installed apps that can’t be deleted. Two of the apps, Facebook Lite and Pinoy, request reams of user data without a way to opt-out or delete the software.
Everyone is familiar with Facebook’s history of privacy issues, but you still have a choice whether to use it. The MYA2 doesn’t even let you have that.
3.This laptop sinks to the bottom
You probably weren’t expecting to see a Mac on this list, but the 12-inch Macbook is in a league of its own. It’s not that the computer was a poor performer or full of security risks. It’s on this list due to a faulty build and shoddy engineering that was so bad, Apple had to discontinue it in mid-2019.
Although it wasn’t cheap when it first hit the market, you can find refurbished models for as low as $759 and new ones for under $1,000. That’s saving a few bucks on a Mac, but they’re absolutely not worth the money.
The biggest complaint users had involved the “butterfly keyboard,” which used a unique type of scissor-switch that would jam all the time. With enough exposure to dust and skin oil, any key on the keyboard could stop working for good.
When shopping for pre-owned laptops, always make sure you’re buying from a reputable source and watch out for models that were discounted for good reason. The lowest-priced listing you’ll find on eBay could be from a sketchy seller or could wind up being a lemon.
Look for certified pre-owned listings or offers directly from the manufacturer. Even Apple offers discounts on pre-owned products, and those come with the same warranties as new Macs. Tap or click here to learn more about certified refurbished Apple products.
Remember the legendary failure of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7? The highly anticipated phone was a hit with consumers and critics alike — until the batteries started spontaneously catching fire. Tap or click here to read more about Samsung’s disaster Galaxy Note 7 launch.
To rectify the problem, Samsung issued a mandatory recall that led to millions of users shipping their phones back to the manufacturer in fireproof boxes. To curb the use of these phones in the wild, Samsung also pushed software updates that would prevent the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7 from fully charging its batteries.
Samsung now estimates most of the devices they sold have been returned; however, you can still find shady online resellers offering Galaxy Note 7 units for dirt-cheap prices. Don’t be fooled. Using this phone is dangerous. And even if it doesn’t explode, the unit probably won’t even fully charge itself anymore.
If you go for the cheapest bargain, the “explosive deal” you got could take on a whole new meaning.
Amazon is chock-full of cheap gadgets for kids, but this one comes with an added bonus: they’re vulnerable to hackers. These watches are sold under several brand names like the GreaSmart Children’s SmartWatch, Jsbaby Game Smart Watch and SmarTurtle Smart Watch for Kids.
But all of them likely come from the same factory in China. These products come with the default password “12345” for “security.” In the immortal words of Rick Moranis, “That’s the kind of thing an idiot would have on his luggage.”
SMARTWATCH COMPARISON: Can’t decide on an Apple Watch, Samsung, Fitbit or Fossil? Tap or click for a handy comparison.
All it takes to crack a code like this is a few minutes of brute-force attacking, or perhaps even a wild guess. If you’re thinking of getting a smartwatch for your kids, don’t skimp on the price or it could put them in danger.
When you’re on the road, the last thing you want is a dead phone. If you don’t have a charging cable on you, it can be pretty nerve-wracking.
That’s why people all over the country rely on gas station tech, or cheap items you can buy at convenience stores. Whether you buy cables, headphones or audio adapters, it’s cheap and easy to trick out your phone from the Flying J’s or Circle K.
But these items aren’t always good news. In a pinch, a third-party Lightning cable from a gas station can power your phone up. But many of these cables are known to fail or break after a short time. Some unofficial Lightning cables have even caught fire or broken off inside charging ports.
For this reason, most manufacturers recommend using officially branded accessories to keep your devices in good shape. Unfortunately, these official items can be a tad expensive.
If you want a cheaper alternative for your gadgets, you’re better off hunting on Amazon. At least there you can read user reviews to see if the product is worth buying. Tap or click for a few of my recommendations.
Look through your attic, and you may be grateful you never unloaded certain game consoles and games. That old computer may have stored only 100 kilobytes of data, but it may fetch an astonishing price. Tap or click here for tech vintage goods worth money.
What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.
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Learn about all the latest technology on The Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.