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Posted at 6:21 AM ET, 12/13/2010

PostPoints tip: Things to avoid buying in stores: cables and flash-memory storage

By Rob Pegoraro

This should be a familiar topic to longtime readers, but it doesn't hurt to offer a reminder this time of year: Physical stores often charge a premium on common electronics accessories. The three I'd like to point out this year are cables--especially the HDMI audio/video cables that link HDTVs and most video sources--USB flash drives and flash-memory storage cards.

Cables continue to be one of the worst purchases to make on the way out of the store; shop online, whether at Amazon or specialty stores like Monoprice.com. But with flash storage, whether in the form of cards or USB drives--which shouldn't be called drives, technically speaking, because they don't contain a real hard drive's moving parts--the math gets a little more complicated. At low capacities, from 1 gigabyte up to maybe 4 GB, the retail markup is negligible; flash storage costs so little in those capacities that you should feel pretty safe buying wherever you are. (If you're a tech journalist, the price for 1 or 2 GB drives is already at zero, considering how often publicists hand out press kits on flash drives stamped with company logos.) But once you look at 8, 16 or 32 GB flash drives, SD Cards or microSD Cards, online merchants once again offer substantial savings.

(About the "PostPoints tip" title: Since July, I've been archiving each tip-of-the-week e-mail we send to PostPoints members under this blog's "Tips" category. Today's item went out on Dec. 7.)

Meanwhile, in case you missed it:

* Sunday's column was a longer, more philosophical version of Thursday's Web-only piece about shopping for digital cameras, MP3 players and GPS receivers.

* Help File relayed a reader's account of having Web searches redirected to sketchy sites after somebody took advantage of weak security on his wireless router, then noted a welcome if overdue upgrade to Google Calendar's time-zone support.

By Rob Pegoraro  | December 13, 2010; 6:21 AM ET
Categories:  Tips  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Wrapping up our gadget guidance -- and reopening the 'Should I get an iPad now?' question
Next: YouTube releases 2010 top-10 list

Comments

Thanks for the good reminder. Of note, it seems that the national big box chain has dropped the price on basic HDMI cables significantly. We normally purchase ours online, but walked out with one for $12 which is around the cost of what can be had online. Earlier this year, the same cable was over $20.

Posted by: altruisticone | December 13, 2010 8:11 AM | Report abuse

but -- if you want to avoid funding our enemies with your purchase [notably communist china], that's hard to do online, where you can't see the product before you buy it. Better to spend a little extra time and money to check out the box at the store and support fellow Amers, or at least our friends, instead!

Posted by: robeste | December 13, 2010 8:40 AM | Report abuse

HDMI cables for $12?

I just bought 4 of them for $16 shipped from Monoprice.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | December 13, 2010 9:41 PM | Report abuse

I suppose it depends a bit on knowing what you're buying, but I just bought a generic 32GB flash drive at Micro Center's brick and mortar store for $44. Amazon and Newegg are both a bit higher than that.

That being said, I'm careful about what I buy at what brick and mortar. I wouldn't buy the same size flash drive at Target.

Posted by: dactyl | December 14, 2010 8:06 PM | Report abuse

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