Wifi extenders. Secondhand CPUs. A “piece of crap” Kindle Fire. Lifehacker readers are generally smart and astute, thanks in part to the buffet of productivity tips they feast upon every week. Even the best of us makes mistakes, though.
My tech regret for 2018 is simple: I bought an SNES Classic. Don’t get me wrong. I think The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is one of the finest video games ever created, and that will never change. However, I had this weird premonition when purchasing it—after a beeline run to the local Target when I saw they had a few in stock—that I would probably play the console for a week, think happy thoughts about my childhood, and let it collect dust.
I was right.
Lifehacker readers had a few blunders this year, too. We asked you to share your stories of tech regret last week, and here are some of some of our favorites. May 2019 be ever in your technological favor.
Wifi extenders aren’t always that helpful
Lifehacker reader Yes I drive a 240… Sort of made the mistake of going for a wifi extender that, sadly, didn’t do very much to help his wireless issues. Without getting into the weeds, basic extenders are generally garbage for a few reasons: You don’t get that much extra range, since you need to position it well within your wifi router’s “bubble” for the best possible speeds. After that, your wifi performance with an extender might get cut in half anyway, since the extender has to do double-duty—relaying the same data back and forth to your router and your connected device. A dual-band extender can help with this, but you’re still better off getting a higher-performing router. Better yet, pick up a mesh system that uses a high-speed (5GHz) dedicated wifi backhaul. Or wire your house with Ethernet and set up a bunch of access points. The possibilities are many.
With smartwatches, try before you buy
Lifehacker reader Heyhowareyouall bemoans his new Apple Watch. I get it, I do. I had an Apple Watch a long time ago (first-generation, I believe), and then I sold it, and then it was years before I convinced myself I ever needed another smartwatch—for the exact same reasons you’re describing. I find most smartwatch apps terrible, at best, and I mostly use my smartwatch’s features for fitness. If i’m not working out, it’s an expensive timepiece that I can also use to control my podcasts on my iPhone if I’m feeling lazy.
I don’t really have any good suggestions for this one, other than to be mindful of Apple’s 14-day return policy for hardware. Two weeks should be enough time for you to tell if you like or hate a new, expensive purchase (or gift).
The same advice goes for you, Lifehacker reader tulleytwo, who let us know that their biggest regret was “Homepod. I bought one because I thought it would be useful. It isn’t and my wife reminds me of that every time I want to buy another tech toy.”
Maybe virtual reality isn’t the greatest thing ever after all
For the sake of an article I’m working on right now, I’m not going to say that virtual reality is terrible. However, having spent a good amount of time with a number of the major headsets, it’s fair to say that virtual reality is still in its infancy. And this comment from Lifehacker reader Osmodious really nails the problem.
Headsets are bulky and annoying to wear after a decent period of time, and the image can’t compete with what you’d get from a decent monitor or awesome gaming display. Most of the reason for buying a virtual reality headset right now is gaming. You can still have some super-fun experiences, don’t get me wrong, but I think I’d rather save up for a sweet display or GPU upgrade than a headset that feels fun at first, but doesn’t seem like the kind of thing you’d use on a regular basis.
Hop back in your time machine
Technically, Lifehacker reader Ron Mexico Will Pay for the Wall didn’t buy a CueCat in 2018—I hope—since this weird barcode-scanning device came out in 2000. The idea was that you would use this weirdly shaped device to scan codes that would then take you to websites. Because, you know, we all need some hardware gadget instead of a simple text hyperlink. Maybe it would have had some traction if looked more serious than this:
Hacking your purchases to get what you want
I have never heard of the System 76 Oryx Pro, let alone System 76. (I presume that’s not related to the Overwatch character.) And while I also don’t know much about installing Linux distros—never my thing, unfortunately—I commend Lifehacker reader Douglas for taking the time to figure out a solution and hacking your way through a standard piece of hardware to get the exact results you want. For space, I cut out the part of your response about what you did with your laptop-that-didn’t-work, but it’s intriguing that you’re planning to use it as a daily desktop driver now. Report back if you manage to get five monitors hooked up. I’d love to see what that looks like… and if your laptop bursts into flames after one hour of gaming on that awesome-sounding setup.
How long should you wait to buy something you really want?
Ah, I know this game well. I’m always looking for that next big upgrade, but I hesitate to pull the trigger because even a decent-sounding deal now could be eclipsed by an awesome deal later—which is why I invariably make all my big tech purchases around Black Friday. That tends to save me the most money, even though it means I’m only “allowing myself” to buy new gear in a very tiny window of time.
That said, you shouldn’t feel bad, Lifehacker reader JoshTheBat! You saved some money, which is better than not saving any money at all. And as far as upgrades go, replacing a mechanical hard drive with an SSD—I’m assuming that’s what you did—is the kind of upgrade that you’ll immediately notice. Sure, you could have saved a little extra cash if you waited, but you would have had to suffer a slower experience for more weeks/months.
Maybe you should wait before buying some tech gear
Second verse, same as the first. (This time, starring Lifehacker reader gabesaves).
When it comes to smartphones, specifically, I’m always of the opinion that it’s better to wait a little bit—if you can—because you never know what kind of deal you’ll get once the launch excitement dissipates. Heck, even Apple thew down some pretty decent deals this year for the new iPhone XS and XR, assuming you traded in an older iPhone to get one. You would have had to wait 1-2 months past launch to get them, sure, but if you can suffer an older iPhone for slightly longer, you could have saved a few hundred bucks in total.
With both the Pixels and iPhones typically arriving in the fall, I’d say it’s at least worth it to wait until the insane Black Friday shopping time to make a big new smartphone purchase. That’s usually only a month or so, and that’s one of your best opportunities to score a new phone for a lower price. Or, as Lifehacker reader Camelot puts it:
Real dog > Robot
Well, yeah. I couldn’t agree with your kids more, Lifehacker reader Retrobanana. A real dog is a lot more fun than some funky little robot that’s limited to a few interactions—or even a few hundred interactions. At some point, the novelty factor wears off. And given how kids probably have their obsessions already stamped into their tiny brains (Fortnite, anyone?), even a shiny new robot toy isn’t probably going to hold their attention for long versus the tech toys (or family pets) they already love.
Maybe you could introduce the Anki Cosmo or Vector to your pet?
A smartphone owner’s worst nightmare
Yes, Lifehacker reader FryCookOnVenus. That definitely counts. 😱