The Gadget Q&A
3 hot technology tips
Deciphering the new TV lingo, slimming down your data intake to keep your phone bills low, and do you really need a new computer?
Do you need to go on a data diet to keep your phone bills down? Try using mobile-friendly web pages and only downloading when connected to Wi-Fi. (Photo Illustration by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Time for a new TV?
If you're shopping for an HDTV, you're probably lost in a marketing morass. What's Micro Dimming/Plus? Is Razor LED lighting something I care about? Should I just go with the Motion Flow? Does anybody have any aspirin?
You can ease your headache with a visit to Retrevo.com's HDTV model decoder (retrevo.com/samples/HDTV-Decoder.html ). The shopping site defines marketing terms — you'll learn what Samsung's Micro Dimming/Plus is, as well as Vizio's Razor LED lighting and Sony's Motion Flow — but the most helpful feature tells you the differences among a brand's product lines. So you'll know what separates LG's LK, LV and LW models. Retrevo does that for five other HDTV brands: Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and Vizio.
Manish Rathi, Retrevo co-founder, says the site "uses machine learning AI technology to crawl the Web and then create structure from the chaos. For the model decoder, Retrevo's AI engine creates clusters of similar/equal specifications, etc., from all selling TVs. The resulting patterns are used by our editors to explain the brand and model specific patterns in plain English."
Go to the link above, then scroll midway down the page and click on one of the brand names to learn their secrets. Once you get a handle on what brands are offering, it'll be a lot easier to compare HDTVs. Happy hunting.
Time for a new computer?
If your machine is slowing down, don't shell out for a new computer till you've considered using Crucial.com's System Scanner (crucial.com/systemscanner ), a small program that checks out your computer to suggest memory upgrades for better performance. Sam Harmer, a PR guy for Crucial, tells me the computer data gathered by the System Scanner is not stored or transmitted back to Crucial or anyone else. However, the Terms and Conditions Agreement you're asked to read before downloading the System Scanner makes no mention of what happens to your data. Crucial is a trusted, longtime name in memory, but I point this out in the interest of full disclosure.
Time for a data diet?
Wireless operators' data plans usually limit you to 2 gigabytes of data a month before charging you for overages. So if at the end of the month you check your phone to find you're closing in on your limit, Opera, maker of the very popular Opera Mini mobile browser, offers this tips:
•Open the full email only if necessary. Open email attachments sparingly, if at all.
•Manage your apps' hunger for mobile data. Disable push notifications.
•Consider using a smart mini browser, like Opera Mini. These keep you from downloading too much data to your phone.
•If your streaming-music service offers the option, use your locally-stored playlist when on the go. Rhapsody fits this category.
•Update and download apps over WiFi.
•Consider using mobile-friendly webpages. Our research shows they shave off a significant amount of data that otherwise would count against your cap.
•Turn off images when nearing your cap. Most browsers make it easy.
•Avoid HD video on YouTube when browsing on a mobile connection. Just 10inutes of HD video per day fills a standard 2GB plan.
(Note: Eric will be on vacation next week. He'll return refreshed and with more helpful tips, so stay tuned!)
Have a question about your computer, cellphone, camera or any gadget? Let us know! E-mail Eric Gwinn at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you could be featured in an upcoming Gadget Q&A column.