Upgrade Your Life: When to splurge and when to save on gadgets

Jared Spurbeck

Bigger isn't always better. This week on Upgrade Your Life, Yahoo! News' Becky Worley shows you where to hold back when buying new electronics ... and where it's worth spending a few extra dollars.

1. Cameras: SPLURGE

With phone cameras creeping up in the megapixel ratings, offering LED flash and improved picture quality -- plus the ability to instantly share your pictures online -- there's no reason to carry around a separate camera, unless the pictures are going to be a lot better.

A point-and-shoot like the Canon PowerShot A3100 ($149) might fit in your pocket. But a larger camera with a deluxe zoom lens, like the Canon PowerShot SX30 ($379), might be just what you need to capture those street-level pics from the top of the Space Needle. Add in features like image stabilization, and the "bokeh" blurred background effect that more expensive cameras can achieve by changing their apertures, and you see why professional wedding photographers don't use their iPhones.

2. Bluetooth headsets: SPLURGE

Buying a Bluetooth headset is like buying an MP3 player: You're going to hear the same sounds either way, but the experience can be night-and-day different between brands. A low-end Bluetooth headset, like the Motorola HK202 ($22), might be cheap. But a high-end headset, like the Bose 3292051110 ($150), is more comfortable to wear and harder to dislodge from your ear. Plus, it cancels out background noise better.

A top-notch Bluetooth headset is also easier to operate. You might think you're fairly tech-savvy and agile with your fingers, but in situations when you need to wear a Bluetooth headset (like driving), you don't want to waste extra seconds fiddling with the controls.


With HDTVs, quality is all about the refresh rate, which is how many times per second the screen is updated. If you've ever used an old laptop, for instance, you might've noticed the mouse cursor leaving a trail, because the low-quality LCD screen couldn't update fast enough.

A lot of consumers notice a difference in quality going from a 60 hertz (pronounced "hurts") refresh rate to a 120 hertz rate, but from 120 to 240? Not so much. If you've got an older TV, upgrade to a 120 hertz model like the LG 42LD520 ($699). But don't spend the extra couple hundred dollars or more that it'd take to get a 240 hertz HDTV, like the Vizio SV422XVT ($899).

4. HDMI cables: SAVE

What's the difference between a $5-10 HDMI cable and a $100 one? About $90.

Other than price, there really is no difference. So just get a basic, inexpensive cable like a Cables Unlimited PCM-2295-06 (starting at $2). And if you see an expensive one like the Monster Cable 127654 (upwards of $99) included in a "value" bundle, check to make sure that it costs less than if you had bought each thing separately, and substituted a cheap cable.