Today is Cyber Monday, which doesn’t mean as much this year because the related sales have been going on for much of November as retailers try to milk every available dollar they can. However, like you, I’m doing a lot of shopping, both for others (yes, I’m going to cheat and mostly give Amazon gift cards but some gifts) and myself.
Since this entire column is about products, I’ll skip the product of the week and focus on what I think are some of the best deals or products that stand out as game changers in their segment — and aren’t too expensive.
I was tempted to have a car section focused on electrics. Still, after watching this Audi E-Tron review, I’m reminded that all but the Tesla are Generation 1 cars, and the Tesla’s fit and finish are so bad I suggest waiting until the Gen-2 cars come out, and then we’ll revisit this.
Let’s get to it.
OLED TVs are the near-term future, since 8K TVs aren’t where they need to be yet in price and content. The best combination of technology and price in an OLED right now is the Vizio 65″ OLED TV at just under $1.5K at Best Buy while I’m writing this. It’s usually priced at $2K.
The reason for OLED over LCD is that each pixel has its light source, which gives you the darkest blacks in the market and colors that truly pop. After 65″ the price goes up a lot. So, this year, the sweet spot for price appears to be 65″ — and Vizio, which is known for using top-level components while having a very aggressive price, appears to have the best deal.
I’ll likely buy one of these myself this week, depending on the sales. Oh, and they’ve dropped their 55″ OLED to under $900 at Best Buy if you want something smaller.
Many of you likely have laptops you hate at the moment. This is largely because the pandemic brought on the sudden remote work-and- learn from home crisis that caused folks to purchase new equipment without putting a lot of thought into the product — or they were forced to grab what was available when inventories were scarce.
Given that I’m going to point you to what I think is the best product for the money that each vendor has, these won’t be the cheapest. But if you plan to keep the laptop for a few years, these are the ones I think you’ll be proud of on their last year of use, as well as their first.
HP Elite Dragonfly Convertible LaptopFor some time, I’ve advocated for PC vendors to build laptops that they, themselves, would use. While Steve Jobs was alive, Apple built products for Steve and he then sold them to us. The only vendor that has stepped up to that concept is HP with their Elite Dragonfly, built to Andy Rhodes specifications.
It has a unique blue finish, it will either support 5G WAN or carry a Tile so you can track the thing if it gets lost, and it is almost the perfect balance between portability and performance. Andy has been in the PC business forever, and his influence is all over this product. At around $1,500 it isn’t cheap, but it is worth it.
Dell XPS 17I think this is the best laptop for home use while we are locked in during a pandemic. We need to move around the house to watch the pets and kids (not necessarily in that order), yet we aren’t flying or traveling, so a large screen and less battery life are acceptable trade-offs.
This laptop has discrete Nvidia graphics and a decent Core i7 Intel processor. It’s a portable desktop with a 17″ monitor. At a recent analyst meeting, some of my peers and I were arguing for a 19″ laptop specifically for the COVID world we are living in. Until it shows up, the Dell XPS 17 is likely the best balance of size and performance for working from home you’ll find. At just under $1,900, it also is not cheap, but is a terrific value.
Lenovo Legion Y540 Gaming LaptopComing to market as I write, this thing is cutting edge on graphics. The Nvidia RTX 2060 graphics solution sets you up not just today, but for the future of ray tracing games on the way.
Granted, it isn’t really for work or school — though it should be sufficient for both. This laptop is for those of you who like to game and still have to watch those kids and pets. With a 15″ screen and a decent sale price (currently $1,079.99), it is well-discounted and should provide performance levels that will keep you happy for at least two years, given the RTX card anticipates the future of gaming.
Microsoft Surface Laptop 3Along with most of the Surface line, this laptop was designed to compete with Apple in design. This one of the best-looking laptops in the market and, starting at $799, is also one of the least-expensive premium laptops.
I suggest the 15″ for the same reason I chose the 17″ Dell — screen size is more important than portability right now — and the 15″ comes with the more powerful AMD solution, which was co-designed with Microsoft and likely showed the most Windows-tuned laptop in the market. It is sure pretty.
Desktop PC – DIY Build
I like building my desktop PC, and I’ve found it incredibly therapeutic during this pandemic. So much so that I kind of went on a “build PCs for everyone” tear for a bit. You can build an awesome box for $1,800 — and if you want a fun project that leaves your child with an excellent PC you built together, here is what I recommend.
For $1,800, I showcase how you can build something that will toast, with all but one benchmark, my $5K workstation.
For the money, I don’t think you can beat the Motorola One Fusion +. It has a 4-lens camera for excellent pictures, a motorized selfy camera that powers up when you need it (I couldn’t stop playing with mine), and a nice balance of sexy looks, performance, and price.
Currently, on sale for $299, this smartphone won’t break the bank, and its Twilight Blue version is arguably one of the prettiest phones I’ve seen. It is one of the best examples of what you can do with a sub-$400 phone, and this one is sub $300.
For those of you looking for great stocking stuffers…
I just got in the 4th Generation Echo with premium sound in Charcoal and, for the money (on sale for $69), it is a steal.
The low-end sound coming out of this speaker is impressive, and it provides, to my ear, far better sound than it’s over twice as its expensive predecessor.
The $159 Echo Studio arguably sounds better, but unless you listen to them back to back, you may not be able to tell the difference.
The most exciting of the Echo line is the 3rd Generation Echo Show 10, but it isn’t available yet (it better show up soon because I’m giving one to…well that will have to be my little secret). What makes it cool is that it’s large 10″ screen adjusts automatically so you can always see it. Not only is it pretty cool, and not expected to break the bank, it’s pretty damn handy for the kitchen.
Have fun shopping and remember this pandemic is no joke. Shop online or do the curbside and stay safe.
I’d like to see a national gift registry become popular that people would use to tell loved ones what they want and help assure everyone didn’t buy the same thing. There is one, but no one I know uses it. I’m surprised Facebook hasn’t done one of these, but that company has lost its way of late.
I hope you all had a wonderful, socially distanced, Thanksgiving — and that we all make it through the end of the year this year. My goals for 2020 have become pretty fundamental while I still wait for a rogue asteroid or an alien invasion. Stay safe!