10 gadgets you should actually get rid of (or not)

10 gadgets you should actually get rid of (or not)

Summary: The New York Times outlines several consumer electronics that you may or may not need, from digital cameras to e-books. Is the list realistic? Here's The Toybox take.


If you haven't been to the New York Times' website recently, a visit today will show that the most popular story is Sam Grobart's "Gadgets You Should Get Rid Of (Or Not)."

In the piece, Grobart outlines several consumer electronics that you may or may not need, from digital cameras to books. But in reading it, I found myself disagreeing with several of his suggestions, which are meant for a broad (but fairly educated) audience -- after all, the Times is among the most popular news outlets in the world.

So I feel compelled to respond with my own take, as an editor immersed in the gadget world for the last three years. I agree with the basic premise that we need fewer gadgets than ever; which gadgets we give up, that's a different matter entirely.

His takes, with my responses:

1. The desktop computer.

Grobart's take: "Lose it...laptops have all the necessary computing power the average user needs."

Nusca's take: Agree. I gave up my desktop in 2005, and haven't looked back. (I currently pipe my MacBook Pro's visuals into a Dell IPS monitor, complete with external keyboard and mouse.) Gamers and other users with computing-intensive applications are exceptions, of course, but the vast majority of users no longer need the bulk.

2.) Broadband Internet.

Grobart's take: "Keep it," because a 3G mobile broadband connection may offer connectivity, but it fails at video streaming, data caps and coverage."

Nusca's take: Agree, but for different reasons. I do think a large portion of computer users -- those who use them occasionally -- could get by on 3G, video streaming be damned, but the data caps and spotty coverage give me pause. Broadband is more Internet than most homes need, but 3G isn't enough.

3. Cable TV.

Grobart's take: "Depends. While you may and should hold on to a good broadband connection at home, it is debatable whether you need to pay for cable TV."

Nusca's take: Keep it, unequivocally. While I advocate cutting the cord in principle, my colleagues at CNET Reviews have demonstrated that the reality is not nearly as easy as it sounds. This isn't about sports or movies -- this is about simplicity. And setting up TV service without calling the cable company is about as easy as setting up a home network with Windows 95.

4. Point-and-shoot cameras.

Grobart's take: "Lose it. Yes, a dedicated camera will probably take a better picture than the small lens and image sensor of a smartphone, but it will not be that much better."

Nusca's take: Depends. For candid photos around town and of the kids, a current-generation smartphone handles this task, despite some quibbles about resolution. But if you're still getting photos printed and framed, you might consider a proper point-and-shoot. (I still use them to cover events.) World travelers will likely go the dSLR route, anyway.

5. Camcorder.

Grobart's take: "Lose it...that camcorder you have now is probably the last one you will own."

Nusca's take: Keep it, assuming it's a Flip-type model. Grobart says digital SLR cameras now handle HD video with aplomb, rendering conventional shotgun-style camcorders useless, but most folks aren't willing to shell out for such expensive (and bulky) cameras. If you've got a conventional camcorder, ditch it -- most cheaper models don't offer much better quality than the Flip and its counterparts, and handheld comfort isn't enough to justify a second gadget.

6. USB thumb drive.

Grobart's take: "Lose it. File sharing does not require hardware anymore. In almost any case you can think of, you can move files around digitally via the Internet."

Nusca's take: Keep it. While Internet sharing is indeed a large part of the daily grind -- I send myself documents through the cloud all day -- connectivity problems and speed (large photos, home videos, applications) aren't worth taking the time to upload to the cloud, just to bring back down again. Always-on connectivity might work for the office, but it's not always efficient at home.

7. Digital music player.

Grobart's take: "Lose it (probably). Do you have a smartphone? Then you have a music player."

Nusca's take: Agree for most of the population. Only gym rats would consider a small player like the Apple iPod nano, and even then, a smartphone just as easily sits in the cupholder of your treadmill. The only exception are outdoors runners, who need to shed weight.

8. Alarm clock.

Grobart's take: "Keep it...setting and resetting smartphone alarms may require a dive into one submenu too many."

Nusca's take: Lose it. Modern smartphones can offer shortcuts into said menus, and unless you're attached to the babbling brook setting, your phone will wake you just as effectively. Plus, overseas travelers rely on them, since a U.S. alarm clock won't stay accurate plugged into a wall in Europe.

9. GPS device.

Grobart's take: "Lose it...your smartphone can do the same thing, if not more, for half that price, or even free."

Nusca's take: Keep it, for the same reason that Grobart said to keep your alarm clock: simplicity. Sure, top-of-the-line smartphones have navigation capability, but it's a mess of menus -- not something you want to deal with when you're driving around lost. In due time this will be corrected, but the GPS thing is still far too early to ditch your cheap, windshield-mounted unit.

10. Books

Grobart's take: "Keep them (with one exception)...consider this about a book: It has a terrific, high-resolution display. It is pretty durable; you could get it a little wet and all would not be lost. It has tremendous battery life. It is often inexpensive enough that, if you misplaced it, you would not be too upset. You can even borrow them free at sites called libraries."

Nusca's take: Depends on your use case. If you're a public transit rider, an e-reader is a godsend, doing away with the weight and bulk of a traditional bound book. For beachgoers, paperback books can handle sand and sun and humidity without giving you heart palpitations. For armchair readers, an e-reader works just as well -- provided you can find the stuff you want to read.

That's my take. What's yours?

Topics: Browser, Software Development

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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  • RE: 10 gadgets you should actually get rid of (or not)

    looks like you forgot to mention this list applies to smartphone owners who have to pay a monthly fee just to own a smartphone
    • RE: 10 gadgets you should actually get rid of (or not)

      totally agreed
      Ram U
      • RE: 10 gadgets you should actually get rid of (or not)

        Somebody should get rid of Grobart
    • RE: 10 gadgets you should actually get rid of (or not)

      I think Grobart is living in some fantasy land. I agree with everything Nusca says, including losing the alarm clock if you own an iPhone or an Android smart phone.

      And yes, a good inexpensive portable GPS is still a keeper. Gobart thinks we should all get rid of the thumb drive and use the "cloud" for file transport. What if its a 2Gb file(s)??? What an id.iot!
    • RE: 10 gadgets you should actually get rid of (or not)

      @bc3tech Is that like car owners who have to pay various fees and pay for gas "just to own" them?
    • RE: 10 gadgets you should actually get rid of (or not)

      Y do u have to pay monthly fee to own a smartphone?U can buy a smart phone outright on ebay or from Tmobile. Use it with wifi no data and no contract. Trust me in the long run u end up saving a lot. thats what i am doing since 2 years.
    • RE: 10 gadgets you should actually get rid of (or not)

      Yes... I own a laptop, camera, iPhone, iPod, two desktops, alarm clocks, numerous thumb drives and external hard drives and lot of books... but that doesn't mean I will get rid of them all because Grobart thinks so. I find this article a waste of time. Most people who come to this forum are smart enough to see what makes sense... This article doesn't.
  • RE: 10 gadgets you should actually get rid of (or not)

    Agree with most of your points Andrew with the exception of the alarm clock. I find its easier to look at the alarm clock across the room than to pick up my phone and get blinded by the bright screen just to see the time. For me, the alarm clock is a keeper.
    Loverock Davidson
    • RE: 10 gadgets you should actually get rid of (or not)

      @Loverock Davidson
      Yes, absolutely right. As soon as a get up, you don't have to turn on device and see what time it is.
      Ram U
    • RE: 10 gadgets you should actually get rid of (or not)

      @Loverock Davidson <br>Not only that, but what about the problems that the iphone had with the alarm clock not going off because of a GLITCH. I'd rather have one with a back up battery, thank you very much.
      The &quot;V&quot;
      • RE: 10 gadgets you should actually get rid of (or not)

        @The "V"

        You have the same issue with alarm clocks if you don't manually adjust them for daylight saving.
      • RE: 10 gadgets you should actually get rid of (or not)

        @alsobanned I've had my alarm clock since no later than 1998 and it sets itself via the U.S. atomic clock radio signal - no need to worry about adjusting for daylight savings. Ditto with my other antique item, the watch. It's always accurate due to picking up the atomic clock radio signal, plus it's solar powered so I don't have to worry about changing batteries and it's a G-Shock so it's tough as nails and waterproof to a greater depth than I am.

        What do you folks who use a cell phone do about battery life? Are you plugging them in at night next to your bed to be sure you'll be woken up in the morning?
    • This'll cost at least ten Hail Marys

      Forgive me, Father, for I agree with Loverock Davidson. In fact I just bought an alarm clock even though I have a smartphone, an iPad, and even -- gasp -- a Casio databank.

      One button to turn it on, one button to turn it off, a snooze alarm, and digits I can see without opening a cover, turning on a light, or doing anything at all except looking at it.
      Robert Hahn
      • RE: 10 gadgets you should actually get rid of (or not)

        @Robert Hahn Hilarious!
        Non-techie Talk
    • RE: 10 gadgets you should actually get rid of (or not)

      @Loverock Davidson
      And don't forget that all alarm clocks do NOT need to be plugged in - there is still something in this universe called battery powered travel alarm clocks. One knob to set the alarm time, another to change the time if you're travelling to another time zone, and luminous hands.

      It may not work for tomorrow's generation, however, if they don't know how to tell time on an analog clock face!!!
      • RE: 10 gadgets you should actually get rid of (or not)

        @jaykayess Some do not even need batteries. Just turn the key on the back and wind them up. Works great in power failures and doesn't matter whether power is 110, 220 or DC
      • RE: 10 gadgets you should actually get rid of (or not)

        @jaykayess Not all alarm clocks are analog though. My alarm clock projects its time onto the ceiling so no need to worry about luminous hands either.
      • battery powered alarm clocks?

        @jaykayess ... has it really come to this? Firstly the writer fails to grasp that a travel alarm clock should be one you don't plug in at all. Secondly, the first guy to point that out, fails to grasp that a travel alarm clock doesn't need to be electrically powered at all! HEEELLLLLLOOOOOOOO! Wind up clocks anybody?
        Gravyboat McGee
    • RE: 10 gadgets you should actually get rid of (or not)

      @Loverock Davidson
      I always use the alarm on my phone because it has extra features, but keep my projector (alarm-)clock because of the ease of reading the time (like you say). Does that mean I've replaced my alarm clock or not?!?
  • RE: 10 gadgets you should actually get rid of (or not)

    your casio databank, ( if you still have it )