Tag Archives: Upgrades

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

A substantial PC upgrade, or even a better workspace, doesn’t have to be a huge project that drains your time and energy. If you can order the parts, there are several worthwhile improvements you can make that’ll pay off big when it’s time to work (or play). Here are some of them.

10. Switch to a New, Better Case

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

This one’s for the PC builders out there. Even if you keep all of the same components, there’s nothing like a brand new case to give your computer—and your desk—a new lease on life. Maybe you’d like some more easily accessible USB ports, or maybe you bought a huge case back in the day and now you’d rather have a space-saving model.

http://lifehacker.com/5994570/five-b…

As long as you buy smart and don’t let a new case spiral into building a new PC, you can have your cake and eat it too. If you need some suggestions, we have our favorite PC cases here, and our favorite small form-factor PC cases here to get you started. You can (and should) also check out what the folks at Logical Increments suggests based on your budget, and what’s popular over on PCPartPicker.

http://lifehacker.com/5951431/five-b…

9. Upgrade Your Display

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

A new display, bigger display, or additional display can make all the difference in your productivity (or not, but it’ll definitely make your desk cooler.) Whether you’re rocking an old 22" display you’ve had forever, don’t even have an external display, or could use the screen real estate that a 4K display could offer, now’s a good time to upgrade.

http://lifehacker.com/ultrawide-vs-d…

Even if you don’t want to go full 4K, there are plenty of affordable, large panels that could give you more room to work. You could always go with an ultrawide display instead of multiple panels, or you can pick up a large, solid budget LED display to give your desk a facelift and a utility boost.

http://lifehacker.com/five-best-budg…

8. Get a New Keyboard and Mouse

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

You use your keyboard and mouse every day, and there’s no easier way to give yourself that “new computer” feeling than to upgrade them both. Sure, your PC’s innards will be the same as they’ve always been, but new peripherals, especially ones you’ve had your eyes on, can make a huge difference.

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-choose-…

If you’ve been using the keyboard and mouse that came with your computer, now’s a good time to upgrade to a new one. Maybe give a mechanical keyboard a try (we love them around here), or pick up a sleek new gaming keyboard (and mouse). They’re fun for play, sure, but they can also help you get real work done. If you need some mouse suggestions, we’ve always been big fans of Logitech’s Performance MX, but the new MX Master is a fitting successor to it. It’s not your only option, though!

http://lifehacker.com/logitech-mouse…

7. Upgrade your Graphics Card

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

Again, this is for the desktop PC owners (and builders) here, but a graphics card upgrade can be a big improvement for a PC that’s starting to show its age (or slow down when you try to unwind and play some video games!) Of course, it’s not always a smart investment, so you should make sure you think hard before rushing out to buy whatever card everyone’s shouting about these days. Still, if yours is due for an upgrade and you’ll actually benefit from the upgrade, it’s easy to find even budget-friendly cards that will make the most of that new display we mentioned earlier, and speed up your system’s performance in your favorite games.

http://lifehacker.com/5883376/what-h…

6. Give Yourself the Gift of Better Audio

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

Whether you like to listen to music, or you record audio for podcasts, streams, or just do the occasional Skype call or Hangout with coworkers, a new pair of speakers or headphones (and we have some suggestions in the headphone department,) and a microphone can go a long long way toward making sure your audio is crystal clear. Best of all, they don’t cost a fortune, and installation is easy enough to do in a couple of minutes.

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-make-su…

We’re big fans of the Blue Yeti, but if that’s not your style, here are some of our other picks. If you’re still not sure, check out our guide to choosing the best microphone for you, or check out some of our favorite headsets with attached microphones if that’s more your speed.

When it comes to speakers, you have plenty of options, from simple bookshelf speakers you can connect to anything, great desktop speaker systems designed for PCs, to full 5.1 surround systems. Choose what works for you and your space, but anything will be an upgrade over the speakers that came with your PC, or whatever’s built into your laptop.

5. Add a New, HD Camera

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

If you’re thinking about doing video streams, or just want your visuals to match the crystal clear audio you got from that last upgrade, a new camera is in order. Odds are whatever camera is built into your laptop may not be the best, and certainly isn’t adjustable. A new, HD-capable camera will make sure everyone can see you clearly and you’re not a fuzzy blob on-screen when you fire up a Skype call, or try to do a Google Hangout with friends or coworkers when you work from home. Worst case, if you don’t have a camera at all, you probably have a good one on your phone. We have guides to turn your iOS device or Android phone into a PC-connected webcam.

http://lifehacker.com/5961369/five-b…

4. Add More Convenient Power (Strips)

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

When you set up your desk the first time, odds are you didn’t include all the power you’d need to connect everything you have now. Maybe you added some power strips later, or worse, you’re daisy-chaining power strips together for some reason. Stop that and get yourself a good surge protector, or better yet, a good UPS to protect your gear. Then tack on a long, server-style power strip to connect to it and give you all the power you need for all your gear. It’s a better solution than big, bulky power strips hanging off the walls, and your cables will be easier to manage.

http://lifehacker.com/long-server-ro…

3. Upgrade Your Power Supply

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

Now we’re getting serious. Upgrading your power supply may take a little time (no more than transplanting all of your gear to a new case, however!) but if you’re rocking the one that came with your case when you built your PC, one that’s way too underpowered for the gear you’ve crammed into your build, or you’re experiencing strange and quirky problems with your system, it might be time for an upgrade. Don’t expect to save money on energy though, that’s not what this is about—it’s about stability and giving you enough juice to run everything you want to run. Get thee to a power supply calculator and make sure the one you buy can support your system.

http://lifehacker.com/5970985/why-hi…

2. Add more RAM

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

We’ve said before that most modern systems probably won’t benefit from more than around 4GB of RAM, but that doesn’t mean that yours won’t be an outlier. If you don’t have that much, or you do memory intensive tasks, high-end gaming, or use virtualization software to test software or experiment, you’ll need more—a lot more. For everyday use though, 16GB is the new ceiling. Plus, while RAM isn’t as cheap as it used to be, it’s still cheap enough that in some cases it makes more sense to just max out your motherboard and call it a day.

http://lifehacker.com/performance-te…

However, just make sure you’re not spending more on RAM than you would on other, better and more valuable upgrades to your system. More RAM isn’t a silver bullet to better performance, but if your system is hurting for memory, you probably know it already, so full speed ahead.

1. Install an (or Upgrade Your) SSD

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

If you have a computer built at all in the past few years, your boot drive is probably already an SSD. That’s great! You may want another one—bigger SSDs are cheaper now than they’ve ever been, and even if you already have one, if it’s super old and slow, there’s nothing wrong with upgrading to a newer, faster one. Even if you have a laptop, your drive is probably easy to swap out and replace, and the benefits will show themselves the first time you reboot your machine.

http://co-op.kinja.com/five-best-soli…

If you need some help picking a good one, here are some suggestions, and of course, you can always find some good picks at Logical Increments and make sure they’re compatible with your gear at PCPartPicker. When it comes time to actually do the installation, make sure you take your files and settings with you, and optimize it for performance.

http://lifehacker.com/5837543/how-to…


Lifehacker’s Weekend Roundup gathers our best guides, explainers, and other posts on a certain subject so you can tackle big projects with ease. For more, check out our Weekend Roundup and Top 10 tags.

Illustration by Fruzsina Kuhári. Photos by TJStamp, Brett Morrison, Kevin Pham, Matthew Keefe, yoppy, Murat Tanyel, danrock, Yutaka Tsutano, and Intel Free Press.

A $500 Router and the Price of Convenience

A $500 Router and the Price of Convenience

How much are you willing to spend to never worry about a Wi-Fi problem again? Eero’s betting you’ll spend between $200 and $500 on a router that never breaks, covers your entire house, and never needs rebooting. But how much is that convenience really worth?

Routers are notoriously problematic for non-technical people. They’re so complex that we have a five part guide on how to use yours. Eero wants to simplify the whole thing. Setting up an Eero router requires a single smartphone app and no technical know-how whatsoever. Once you have one router set up, you can link it together with more routers to create a mesh network. This way you easily cover your entire home in glorious Wi-Fi without messing around with extenders or repeaters. It’s also why the Eero is available in a few different packs, a single router for $200, a two-pack for $350, and a three-pack for $500.

The Eero is actually a pretty great system, just an expensive one. Gizmodo has a fantastic review that echoes my thoughts on it, so I won’t regurgitate that. Instead, I want to talk a little more broadly about the trend that Eero taps into: high priced convenience.

Paying for Convenience Is Good When It Removes Worry from the Equation

If there’s any company that embodies high price convenience, it’s Apple. Apple’s elevator pitch has long been that “it just works.” That philosophy builds on convenience and design. You’ll pay extra, but your devices will always work without any tinkering on your part. That often comes with a loss of control, but you gain peace of mind.

Eero, alongside plenty of other companies, pitch the same thing. To see just how simple setting up the Eero is, I handed the sealed box over to someone who has never set up a modem or router before and asked them to do it. After unboxing everything, they were able to get Eero up and running in about ten minutes, with no help from me at all. For the past month, the router’s been working just fine. That’s pretty incredible when you think about it: Routers have always been quirky for the technically inclined (so much so we build tools to reboot them automatically) and baffling for the layperson. But the Eero system, which relies entirely on an app, makes things so easy that I can even imagine my grandparents setting it up without hassle.

Eero does a lot of other things for the sake of convenience. You can start a guest network and text the login information to a visitor or friend directly from the app. You can check to see what how many devices are on the network at any time. You can even run speed tests from your phone. For better or for worse, the app handles all router management functions. You cannot login from a desktop computer at all. This convenience is great for a lot of people, especially considering how much more comfortable a lot people are with mobile apps versus a complicated router dashboard in their browser.

All that said, I didn’t notice any speed boosts or improvement in connection strength over my old router, even when I added in a second or third Eero to the mix. It worked fine with one, the same way my Wi-Fi network worked fine with my old router. Which is to say, the cost of the Eero is ultimately about convenience, not a better Wi-Fi network, or even better experience. If your Wi-Fi sucks and you hate dealing with it, or if you have a big house that requires repeaters, the cost to convenience ratio of the Eero is pretty obvious.

Avoid The Allure of Convenience When What You Already Own Works

Convenience is a sexy sales pitch. Eero wants to fix your router (by replacing it.) But so do Google and Apple. Nest wants to fix your thermostat. Samsung wants to fix your fridge. Every tech company is trying to simplify every possible tech problem, ostensibly by locking you into its ecosystem. At its core, this is a good thing, but I think it’s a good idea to take a minute to think about how much you actually care.

Let’s return to the Eero’s pitch: it’s an expensive router that makes covering your whole house in Wi-Fi easy. It simplifies the setup process by utilizing a well-designed smartphone app. It then allows you to extend the reach of your network by buying more routers, then setting them up using that same app. It automatically reboots when there are problems and the firmware is updated over the internet so you don’t have to think about it.

On the surface, this sounds awesome, but it’s also fixing a problem I don’t have, and arguably few people they’re marketing to really have. I have no problem setting up a router, and doing so isn’t difficult with the instructions included. I also have almost no problems with my network. There are some areas in my house with spotty service, but I can move two feet and the problem goes away. Is it worth over $200 to me so that I can use my phone’s Wi-Fi when I’m standing in a specific spot in the kitchen? No.

Even the other things that Eero does well don’t appeal to me once I think about them for more than a few seconds. Is it that hard to give a guest the password to my Wi-Fi network? Nope. Does a router that resets itself when there are issues sound pretty cool? Absolutely, but I only need to reset mine every few months if that, and most people only upgrade to a new router when they actually need one. There’s an allure in the convenience here that suddenly gets destroyed when I take the time to think about it. Recommending the Eero to someone who needs a new router is easy, but I would never use one myself. And that’s the whole problem.

How Much Is Convenience Worth To You?

The value of convenience is not universal. We all need different things, have different budgets, and we all have different tipping points for when added convenience is worth a higher price.

The Eero, just like Google’s OnHub router, solves problems I don’t actually have. It’s tantalizing to think about never troubleshooting a router again or truly blanketing my house in Wi-Fi, and everyone likes new and shiny things, but that convenience isn’t worth much because what I own already works. Sure, setting up Wi-Fi can be a bit of a pain, but once it’s working, that’s usually the end of the conversation.

Of course, you’re different, so how much you’re willing to spend on convenience is different than it is for me. Ask yourself a couple questions the next time you’re looking at a new product that promises incredible convenience: How much is your time worth? Does this product solve a problem you specifically have? You might be surprised at just how little you need that fancy new piece of tech once you stop and think about it.

Have You Ever Been Upgraded to First Class Without Paying for It?

Have You Ever Been Upgraded to First Class Without Paying for It?

Sure, you can fly first class if you’re willing to fork over the cash or your travel rewards. And it may be worth every penny. Even better than paying for first class, though, is getting it for free. If this has happened to you, we want to know your secret.

It’s not common, but every now and then, it happens: someone gets lucky and scores a first class or business class upgrade for cheap, or better yet, free. Maybe the flight was full and you haggled your way to a sweet discount. Maybe you were extra nice to a flight attendant who decided to throw you a bone. However you made your way to first class, we want to know about it.

So tell us—if you’ve ever been upgraded for cheap or free, what happened, and how did you do it?

Photo by Richard Moross.

Boeing’s Touts New 16 Air-To-Air Missile Carrying F-15 Eagle Configurations

The annual Air Force Association conference will kick off outside of Washington next week, where Boeing is putting its latest and greatest combat aircraft developments on show for industry and Washington power brokers. This includes new F-15 configurations that allow the 43-year-old design to lug 16 air-to-air missiles into combat instead of the standard eight it carries today.

Read more…

Boeing Touts New 16 Air-To-Air Missile Carrying F-15 Eagle Configurations

The annual Air Force Association conference will kick off outside of Washington next week, where Boeing is putting its latest and greatest combat aircraft developments on show for industry and Washington power brokers. This includes new F-15 configurations that allow the 43-year-old design to lug 16 air-to-air missiles into combat instead of the standard eight it carries today.

Read more…

Performance Tests Show That 16GB of RAM Is Overkill

Performance Tests Show That 16GB of RAM Is Overkill

Adding more memory isn’t the performance upgrade it used to be, but how much RAM is enough? TechSpot compared application performance on a system with 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB and concludes 16GB offers little advantage over 8GB of memory—even when programs use more than 8GB of memory.

TechSpot tested a Windows 10 desktop machine with two browsers and over a dozen tabs open, as well as Postbox, Photoshop, Microsoft Word and Excel, Dropbox, and other programs running in the background to find the differences between using 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB of RAM. Even with demanding programs that take up 12GB of system memory, 16GB didn’t improve performance by that much.

Performance Tests Show That 16GB of RAM Is Overkill

Even playing memory-hogging games with Chrome running in the background (with 65 active tabs open!) shows little impact on performance with the higher memory, thanks to the way Windows handles system memory.

Performance Tests Show That 16GB of RAM Is Overkill

The only circumstance where 16GB was a substantial advantage over 8GB was in compressing a huge file with 7-Zip, but the authors note that compressing that much data is an extreme and unlikely scenario.

Although many of the tests show that 4GB of RAM was enough, the sweet spot these days, TechSpot says, is 8GB. 16GB of memory might not cost that much more than 8GB, you probably won’t see substantial benefits from that minor upgrade.

How Much RAM? 4GB vs. 8GB vs. 16GB Performance | TechSpot

Photo by CJ Isherwood.

Checkbox Syndrome: Why We Spend Money on Things We Don’t Need

Checkbox Syndrome: Why We Spend Money on Things We Don't Need

Ever been tempted to buy the latest shiny thing just because it has more features than its competitor? We call this “checkbox syndrome,” or jumping at a new gadget or product just because it’s an upgrade, not because it’s better. Before you fall for a list of tech specs designed to impress an audience at a big flashy announcement, stop and think about whether it’s really an upgrade for you.

Blast from the past is a weekly feature at Lifehacker in which we revive old, but still relevant, posts for your reading and hacking pleasure. Today, we’re getting ourselves lost in the big city.

What Is “Checkbox Syndrome?”

Checkbox Syndrome: Why We Spend Money on Things We Don't Need

When I worked with the folks at PC Mag, we saw hundreds of gadgets, all of which sold themselves based on some specific way it would transform your life. PC Mag’s Lead Analyst for Mobile, Sascha Segan, took specific issue with some of this—especially when it came to phones. He explained that smartphone makers had succumbed to “checkbox syndrome,” or the habit of putting a feature in a product because everyone else had it and it was easy to market, not because it was actually useful to anyone.

The worst part of checkbox syndrome is that it extends to us, the buyers. We make buying decisions based on these fantasy uses. We buy Android phones with powerful front-side cameras even though we never use them for video chat, or we buy a new Macbook Pro with Thunderbolt even though we don’t have—and have no plans to buy—Thunderbolt peripherals. We buy new cameras because they’re marginal upgrades over the previous model, but hey—it’s new, so it must be better, right? Here’s how to think twice about that marketing hype, push through the fog of checkbox syndrome, and save some money when you consider your next upgrade.

Ask Yourself: Is My Current Gear Good Enough?

Apple’s latest iPad is a significant upgrade over the previous two models—the new Retina display is beautiful, and the updated graphics processor really does make 3D gaming on it a joy. Most gadget blogs wholeheartedly suggest you upgrade, especially if you have an original iPad, or no iPad at all. Many of us at Lifehacker HQ pre-ordered the new iPad, and editor-in-chief Adam Pash planned to, but he waited a day or two. He explained to me that at the end of the day, he realized he had an original iPad that he rarely used, and while the graphics boost and gorgeous display were huge upgrades, the only thing he did use his iPad for was light Instapaper and Kindle reading. Was the new iPad a huge upgrade? Definitely. Were those feature worth the money to Adam—or even useful for him? Not at all.

Asking yourself whether your current gear serves your purpose, and whether an upgrade will actually improve the way you currently use your gear, is the first step towards seeing through the marketing fog. It may do awesome new things, but if those features don’t apply to you now, they probably won’t apply to you when you’ve parted with your money.

Make Your Own Checklist of Essential Features

Checkbox Syndrome: Why We Spend Money on Things We Don't Need

Hands-on reviews and lists of specs are definitely useful, but they shouldn’t influence your buying decisions at all. We’re not saying gadget reviews aren’t helpful, but when you’re given a massive list of impressive new components and features, put them all down on a checklist of your own. Then note or circle those features that actually apply to you and the way you would use the item.

For example, if you’re shopping for a smartphone, every review you read will make note of essential features like the processor, screen size, on-board memory and storage, camera quality, size, weight, and so on. Take those features and highlight the ones that matter to you. If you’re looking for a phone to make and take calls, grab your email, and maybe do a little social networking, the processor probably isn’t important to you. If you’re a shutterbug, the camera probably is important, and you should highlight it. Take some time to distill those massive feature lists into the ones that matter to you—you may catch yourself about to spend a premium on a device that’s heavily promoted, but just as good as a cheaper model where it matters to you.

Think About How You’ll Use The Upgrade

One way we often rationalize upgrading or buying new when we could get away with buying a refurb or a previous model is by looking at the marketing for the new version and convincing ourselves we’ll need that new feature someday. We already mentioned you should look at your current gear and determine whether you already own something that can pull double-duty, but Over at The Simple Dollar, Trent puts it this way:

When a new product appears, we’re often shown an ideal case of how someone might use the product. It seems pretty impressive, but when you start digging into the details of it, things start to break down. Is it really doing anything you’d need to do? Is it really doing anything new?

…Once you start evaluating products like this, a lot of things start falling apart. Their new features really aren’t all that amazing or useful to you. Sure, you might be able to invent a rare situation where you would use it, but is it worth paying a lot more just for that special case?

In his example, he describes an iPod Touch he received as a gift. He was all set to start buying and downloading apps to use with his phone, but he came to the realization that all he ever really did with the iPod Touch—even if the commercials showed happy people shooting video and playing games on theirs—was listen to music. He already had a smartphone for that, and he had enough space on his phone for music, so he put down his iPod Touch and reacquainted himself with his phone. In short, an upgrade isn’t an upgrade if you don’t need the feature in the first place, and it’s not worth your money, especially when there’s a cheaper—or free—alternative available.

Stop Obsessing Over Stats, Specs, and Upgrades

Checkbox Syndrome: Why We Spend Money on Things We Don't Need

Hopefully these tips will help you break free of checkbox syndrome, and stop obsessing over spec lists that are irrelevant to the way you use your tech. Don’t get us wrong, it’s fun to watch technology evolve—new gadgets hitting the market every month that are more powerful than the last—but when it comes to your hard earned money, you owe it to yourself and your wallet to take a more skeptical eye to those reviews and so-called upgrades and determine if they’re worth it for you before you reach for the plastic.

How do you resist the siren song of a new gadget, whether it’s a new iDevice, Android phone, or powerful new DSLR? Do you buy refurbs to save money, or hone in on the specs that matter to you before you buy? Share your money-saving techniques in the comments below.

Title image remixed from PSDGraphics and Gwoeii (Shutterstock). Additional photos by Christian Van Der Henst S, Zhao, and John Karakatsanis.

Checkbox Syndrome: Why We Spend Money on Things We Don’t Need

Checkbox Syndrome: Why We Spend Money on Things We Don't Need

Ever been tempted to buy the latest shiny thing just because it has more features than its competitor? We call this “checkbox syndrome,” or jumping at a new gadget or product just because it’s an upgrade, not because it’s better. Before you fall for a list of tech specs designed to impress an audience at a big flashy announcement, stop and think about whether it’s really an upgrade for you.

Blast from the past is a weekly feature at Lifehacker in which we revive old, but still relevant, posts for your reading and hacking pleasure. Today, we’re getting ourselves lost in the big city.

What Is “Checkbox Syndrome?”

Checkbox Syndrome: Why We Spend Money on Things We Don't Need

When I worked with the folks at PC Mag, we saw hundreds of gadgets, all of which sold themselves based on some specific way it would transform your life. PC Mag’s Lead Analyst for Mobile, Sascha Segan, took specific issue with some of this—especially when it came to phones. He explained that smartphone makers had succumbed to “checkbox syndrome,” or the habit of putting a feature in a product because everyone else had it and it was easy to market, not because it was actually useful to anyone.

The worst part of checkbox syndrome is that it extends to us, the buyers. We make buying decisions based on these fantasy uses. We buy Android phones with powerful front-side cameras even though we never use them for video chat, or we buy a new Macbook Pro with Thunderbolt even though we don’t have—and have no plans to buy—Thunderbolt peripherals. We buy new cameras because they’re marginal upgrades over the previous model, but hey—it’s new, so it must be better, right? Here’s how to think twice about that marketing hype, push through the fog of checkbox syndrome, and save some money when you consider your next upgrade.

Ask Yourself: Is My Current Gear Good Enough?

Apple’s latest iPad is a significant upgrade over the previous two models—the new Retina display is beautiful, and the updated graphics processor really does make 3D gaming on it a joy. Most gadget blogs wholeheartedly suggest you upgrade, especially if you have an original iPad, or no iPad at all. Many of us at Lifehacker HQ pre-ordered the new iPad, and editor-in-chief Adam Pash planned to, but he waited a day or two. He explained to me that at the end of the day, he realized he had an original iPad that he rarely used, and while the graphics boost and gorgeous display were huge upgrades, the only thing he did use his iPad for was light Instapaper and Kindle reading. Was the new iPad a huge upgrade? Definitely. Were those feature worth the money to Adam—or even useful for him? Not at all.

Asking yourself whether your current gear serves your purpose, and whether an upgrade will actually improve the way you currently use your gear, is the first step towards seeing through the marketing fog. It may do awesome new things, but if those features don’t apply to you now, they probably won’t apply to you when you’ve parted with your money.

Make Your Own Checklist of Essential Features

Checkbox Syndrome: Why We Spend Money on Things We Don't Need

Hands-on reviews and lists of specs are definitely useful, but they shouldn’t influence your buying decisions at all. We’re not saying gadget reviews aren’t helpful, but when you’re given a massive list of impressive new components and features, put them all down on a checklist of your own. Then note or circle those features that actually apply to you and the way you would use the item.

For example, if you’re shopping for a smartphone, every review you read will make note of essential features like the processor, screen size, on-board memory and storage, camera quality, size, weight, and so on. Take those features and highlight the ones that matter to you. If you’re looking for a phone to make and take calls, grab your email, and maybe do a little social networking, the processor probably isn’t important to you. If you’re a shutterbug, the camera probably is important, and you should highlight it. Take some time to distill those massive feature lists into the ones that matter to you—you may catch yourself about to spend a premium on a device that’s heavily promoted, but just as good as a cheaper model where it matters to you.

Think About How You’ll Use The Upgrade

One way we often rationalize upgrading or buying new when we could get away with buying a refurb or a previous model is by looking at the marketing for the new version and convincing ourselves we’ll need that new feature someday. We already mentioned you should look at your current gear and determine whether you already own something that can pull double-duty, but Over at The Simple Dollar, Trent puts it this way:

When a new product appears, we’re often shown an ideal case of how someone might use the product. It seems pretty impressive, but when you start digging into the details of it, things start to break down. Is it really doing anything you’d need to do? Is it really doing anything new?

…Once you start evaluating products like this, a lot of things start falling apart. Their new features really aren’t all that amazing or useful to you. Sure, you might be able to invent a rare situation where you would use it, but is it worth paying a lot more just for that special case?

In his example, he describes an iPod Touch he received as a gift. He was all set to start buying and downloading apps to use with his phone, but he came to the realization that all he ever really did with the iPod Touch—even if the commercials showed happy people shooting video and playing games on theirs—was listen to music. He already had a smartphone for that, and he had enough space on his phone for music, so he put down his iPod Touch and reacquainted himself with his phone. In short, an upgrade isn’t an upgrade if you don’t need the feature in the first place, and it’s not worth your money, especially when there’s a cheaper—or free—alternative available.

Stop Obsessing Over Stats, Specs, and Upgrades

Checkbox Syndrome: Why We Spend Money on Things We Don't Need

Hopefully these tips will help you break free of checkbox syndrome, and stop obsessing over spec lists that are irrelevant to the way you use your tech. Don’t get us wrong, it’s fun to watch technology evolve—new gadgets hitting the market every month that are more powerful than the last—but when it comes to your hard earned money, you owe it to yourself and your wallet to take a more skeptical eye to those reviews and so-called upgrades and determine if they’re worth it for you before you reach for the plastic.

How do you resist the siren song of a new gadget, whether it’s a new iDevice, Android phone, or powerful new DSLR? Do you buy refurbs to save money, or hone in on the specs that matter to you before you buy? Share your money-saving techniques in the comments below.

Title image remixed from PSDGraphics and Gwoeii (Shutterstock). Additional photos by Christian Van Der Henst S, Zhao, and John Karakatsanis.

Checkbox Syndrome: Why We Spend Money on Things We Don’t Need

Checkbox Syndrome: Why We Spend Money on Things We Don't Need

Ever been tempted to buy the latest shiny thing just because it has more features than its competitor? We call this “checkbox syndrome,” or jumping at a new gadget or product just because it’s an upgrade, not because it’s better. Before you fall for a list of tech specs designed to impress an audience at a big flashy announcement, stop and think about whether it’s really an upgrade for you.

Blast from the past is a weekly feature at Lifehacker in which we revive old, but still relevant, posts for your reading and hacking pleasure. Today, we’re getting ourselves lost in the big city.

What Is “Checkbox Syndrome?”

Checkbox Syndrome: Why We Spend Money on Things We Don't Need

When I worked with the folks at PC Mag, we saw hundreds of gadgets, all of which sold themselves based on some specific way it would transform your life. PC Mag’s Lead Analyst for Mobile, Sascha Segan, took specific issue with some of this—especially when it came to phones. He explained that smartphone makers had succumbed to “checkbox syndrome,” or the habit of putting a feature in a product because everyone else had it and it was easy to market, not because it was actually useful to anyone.

The worst part of checkbox syndrome is that it extends to us, the buyers. We make buying decisions based on these fantasy uses. We buy Android phones with powerful front-side cameras even though we never use them for video chat, or we buy a new Macbook Pro with Thunderbolt even though we don’t have—and have no plans to buy—Thunderbolt peripherals. We buy new cameras because they’re marginal upgrades over the previous model, but hey—it’s new, so it must be better, right? Here’s how to think twice about that marketing hype, push through the fog of checkbox syndrome, and save some money when you consider your next upgrade.

Ask Yourself: Is My Current Gear Good Enough?

Apple’s latest iPad is a significant upgrade over the previous two models—the new Retina display is beautiful, and the updated graphics processor really does make 3D gaming on it a joy. Most gadget blogs wholeheartedly suggest you upgrade, especially if you have an original iPad, or no iPad at all. Many of us at Lifehacker HQ pre-ordered the new iPad, and editor-in-chief Adam Pash planned to, but he waited a day or two. He explained to me that at the end of the day, he realized he had an original iPad that he rarely used, and while the graphics boost and gorgeous display were huge upgrades, the only thing he did use his iPad for was light Instapaper and Kindle reading. Was the new iPad a huge upgrade? Definitely. Were those feature worth the money to Adam—or even useful for him? Not at all.

Asking yourself whether your current gear serves your purpose, and whether an upgrade will actually improve the way you currently use your gear, is the first step towards seeing through the marketing fog. It may do awesome new things, but if those features don’t apply to you now, they probably won’t apply to you when you’ve parted with your money.

Make Your Own Checklist of Essential Features

Checkbox Syndrome: Why We Spend Money on Things We Don't Need

Hands-on reviews and lists of specs are definitely useful, but they shouldn’t influence your buying decisions at all. We’re not saying gadget reviews aren’t helpful, but when you’re given a massive list of impressive new components and features, put them all down on a checklist of your own. Then note or circle those features that actually apply to you and the way you would use the item.

For example, if you’re shopping for a smartphone, every review you read will make note of essential features like the processor, screen size, on-board memory and storage, camera quality, size, weight, and so on. Take those features and highlight the ones that matter to you. If you’re looking for a phone to make and take calls, grab your email, and maybe do a little social networking, the processor probably isn’t important to you. If you’re a shutterbug, the camera probably is important, and you should highlight it. Take some time to distill those massive feature lists into the ones that matter to you—you may catch yourself about to spend a premium on a device that’s heavily promoted, but just as good as a cheaper model where it matters to you.

Think About How You’ll Use The Upgrade

One way we often rationalize upgrading or buying new when we could get away with buying a refurb or a previous model is by looking at the marketing for the new version and convincing ourselves we’ll need that new feature someday. We already mentioned you should look at your current gear and determine whether you already own something that can pull double-duty, but Over at The Simple Dollar, Trent puts it this way:

When a new product appears, we’re often shown an ideal case of how someone might use the product. It seems pretty impressive, but when you start digging into the details of it, things start to break down. Is it really doing anything you’d need to do? Is it really doing anything new?

…Once you start evaluating products like this, a lot of things start falling apart. Their new features really aren’t all that amazing or useful to you. Sure, you might be able to invent a rare situation where you would use it, but is it worth paying a lot more just for that special case?

In his example, he describes an iPod Touch he received as a gift. He was all set to start buying and downloading apps to use with his phone, but he came to the realization that all he ever really did with the iPod Touch—even if the commercials showed happy people shooting video and playing games on theirs—was listen to music. He already had a smartphone for that, and he had enough space on his phone for music, so he put down his iPod Touch and reacquainted himself with his phone. In short, an upgrade isn’t an upgrade if you don’t need the feature in the first place, and it’s not worth your money, especially when there’s a cheaper—or free—alternative available.

Stop Obsessing Over Stats, Specs, and Upgrades

Checkbox Syndrome: Why We Spend Money on Things We Don't Need

Hopefully these tips will help you break free of checkbox syndrome, and stop obsessing over spec lists that are irrelevant to the way you use your tech. Don’t get us wrong, it’s fun to watch technology evolve—new gadgets hitting the market every month that are more powerful than the last—but when it comes to your hard earned money, you owe it to yourself and your wallet to take a more skeptical eye to those reviews and so-called upgrades and determine if they’re worth it for you before you reach for the plastic.

How do you resist the siren song of a new gadget, whether it’s a new iDevice, Android phone, or powerful new DSLR? Do you buy refurbs to save money, or hone in on the specs that matter to you before you buy? Share your money-saving techniques in the comments below.

Title image remixed from PSDGraphics and Gwoeii (Shutterstock). Additional photos by Christian Van Der Henst S, Zhao, and John Karakatsanis.

Checkbox Syndrome: Why We Spend Money on Things We Don’t Need

Checkbox Syndrome: Why We Spend Money on Things We Don't Need

Ever been tempted to buy the latest shiny thing just because it has more features than its competitor? We call this “checkbox syndrome,” or jumping at a new gadget or product just because it’s an upgrade, not because it’s better. Before you fall for a list of tech specs designed to impress an audience at a big flashy announcement, stop and think about whether it’s really an upgrade for you.

Blast from the past is a weekly feature at Lifehacker in which we revive old, but still relevant, posts for your reading and hacking pleasure. Today, we’re getting ourselves lost in the big city.

What Is “Checkbox Syndrome?”

Checkbox Syndrome: Why We Spend Money on Things We Don't Need

When I worked with the folks at PC Mag, we saw hundreds of gadgets, all of which sold themselves based on some specific way it would transform your life. PC Mag’s Lead Analyst for Mobile, Sascha Segan, took specific issue with some of this—especially when it came to phones. He explained that smartphone makers had succumbed to “checkbox syndrome,” or the habit of putting a feature in a product because everyone else had it and it was easy to market, not because it was actually useful to anyone.

The worst part of checkbox syndrome is that it extends to us, the buyers. We make buying decisions based on these fantasy uses. We buy Android phones with powerful front-side cameras even though we never use them for video chat, or we buy a new Macbook Pro with Thunderbolt even though we don’t have—and have no plans to buy—Thunderbolt peripherals. We buy new cameras because they’re marginal upgrades over the previous model, but hey—it’s new, so it must be better, right? Here’s how to think twice about that marketing hype, push through the fog of checkbox syndrome, and save some money when you consider your next upgrade.

Ask Yourself: Is My Current Gear Good Enough?

Apple’s latest iPad is a significant upgrade over the previous two models—the new Retina display is beautiful, and the updated graphics processor really does make 3D gaming on it a joy. Most gadget blogs wholeheartedly suggest you upgrade, especially if you have an original iPad, or no iPad at all. Many of us at Lifehacker HQ pre-ordered the new iPad, and editor-in-chief Adam Pash planned to, but he waited a day or two. He explained to me that at the end of the day, he realized he had an original iPad that he rarely used, and while the graphics boost and gorgeous display were huge upgrades, the only thing he did use his iPad for was light Instapaper and Kindle reading. Was the new iPad a huge upgrade? Definitely. Were those feature worth the money to Adam—or even useful for him? Not at all.

Asking yourself whether your current gear serves your purpose, and whether an upgrade will actually improve the way you currently use your gear, is the first step towards seeing through the marketing fog. It may do awesome new things, but if those features don’t apply to you now, they probably won’t apply to you when you’ve parted with your money.

Make Your Own Checklist of Essential Features

Checkbox Syndrome: Why We Spend Money on Things We Don't Need

Hands-on reviews and lists of specs are definitely useful, but they shouldn’t influence your buying decisions at all. We’re not saying gadget reviews aren’t helpful, but when you’re given a massive list of impressive new components and features, put them all down on a checklist of your own. Then note or circle those features that actually apply to you and the way you would use the item.

For example, if you’re shopping for a smartphone, every review you read will make note of essential features like the processor, screen size, on-board memory and storage, camera quality, size, weight, and so on. Take those features and highlight the ones that matter to you. If you’re looking for a phone to make and take calls, grab your email, and maybe do a little social networking, the processor probably isn’t important to you. If you’re a shutterbug, the camera probably is important, and you should highlight it. Take some time to distill those massive feature lists into the ones that matter to you—you may catch yourself about to spend a premium on a device that’s heavily promoted, but just as good as a cheaper model where it matters to you.

Think About How You’ll Use The Upgrade

One way we often rationalize upgrading or buying new when we could get away with buying a refurb or a previous model is by looking at the marketing for the new version and convincing ourselves we’ll need that new feature someday. We already mentioned you should look at your current gear and determine whether you already own something that can pull double-duty, but Over at The Simple Dollar, Trent puts it this way:

When a new product appears, we’re often shown an ideal case of how someone might use the product. It seems pretty impressive, but when you start digging into the details of it, things start to break down. Is it really doing anything you’d need to do? Is it really doing anything new?

…Once you start evaluating products like this, a lot of things start falling apart. Their new features really aren’t all that amazing or useful to you. Sure, you might be able to invent a rare situation where you would use it, but is it worth paying a lot more just for that special case?

In his example, he describes an iPod Touch he received as a gift. He was all set to start buying and downloading apps to use with his phone, but he came to the realization that all he ever really did with the iPod Touch—even if the commercials showed happy people shooting video and playing games on theirs—was listen to music. He already had a smartphone for that, and he had enough space on his phone for music, so he put down his iPod Touch and reacquainted himself with his phone. In short, an upgrade isn’t an upgrade if you don’t need the feature in the first place, and it’s not worth your money, especially when there’s a cheaper—or free—alternative available.

Stop Obsessing Over Stats, Specs, and Upgrades

Checkbox Syndrome: Why We Spend Money on Things We Don't Need

Hopefully these tips will help you break free of checkbox syndrome, and stop obsessing over spec lists that are irrelevant to the way you use your tech. Don’t get us wrong, it’s fun to watch technology evolve—new gadgets hitting the market every month that are more powerful than the last—but when it comes to your hard earned money, you owe it to yourself and your wallet to take a more skeptical eye to those reviews and so-called upgrades and determine if they’re worth it for you before you reach for the plastic.

How do you resist the siren song of a new gadget, whether it’s a new iDevice, Android phone, or powerful new DSLR? Do you buy refurbs to save money, or hone in on the specs that matter to you before you buy? Share your money-saving techniques in the comments below.

Title image remixed from PSDGraphics and Gwoeii (Shutterstock). Additional photos by Christian Van Der Henst S, Zhao, and John Karakatsanis.