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The anti-gift gallery: what not to buy and why

While everyone's busy telling you what to buy this holiday season, here's a list of some of the hottest gifts this year -- and why you might want to consider NOT buying them!
By Stephen Chapman, Contributor on
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Apple iPad mini

In November, Apple announced -- amongst other things -- the iPad mini. True to form, I just had to get my hands on one to see what the buzz was about. Unfortunately, my experience with it was less than favorable -- primarily due to the iPad mini feeling like a gimmick, thanks to its low-res screen (don't let the hi-res marketing images fool you -- the screen doesn't look anywhere NEAR that good) and yesteryear processor.

While Apple is the reigning champion of cashing-in, upgrade-after-upgrade (even the inconsequential ones, like the iPad mini), you would do well to skip the iPad mini and opt for something else. After all, it probably won't be long before Apple announces a Retina-display-equipped iPad mini as though it's a marvelous feat that we all must worship with our wallets. (I know that sounds harsh, but I have an iPad 4th-gen model and I absolutely love it, so I'm not just randomly hating on Apple when I say that.)

Source: iPad mini

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Windows 8

I gave Windows 8 a shot, but it fell severely short of my expectations. Like many others who are experiencing the woes of Windows 8, the new UI is a significant non-starter (no pun intended) for me. As I mentioned in an earlier article, it's not that the new UI was impossible to learn -- I mean, I had it down in an hour or so -- but I just didn't enjoy using it whatsoever.

If you're a desktop or laptop user, or you're planning to buy for one, skip Windows 8. For the time being, Windows 7 is where it's at. And if you want to see how others feel about Windows 8, I'm sure Google has quite a number of choice reviews waiting for you to discover.

Source: Windows 8

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Nintendo Wii U

When I first came up with the idea for this gallery, the primary reason I was going to say not to get a Wii U is because you literally couldn't, even if you wanted to! They were sold out everywhere. Since that time, however, stores have stocked back up and I managed to nab one. While I've enjoyed it so far, there's a growing number of unfortunate individuals who are having their Wii Us die on them -- everything from not working on day-one, to one day turning on the console, only to see a slowly-blinking power light forever more.

Nintendo seems to be doing a good job of sending replacement units to those affected by the problem, but just beware that the Wii U you seek to buy for someone to open on Christmas day may just be a faulty unit. If anything could be worse than the age-old not getting batteries with a battery-operated gift, this would be it!

Source: Nintendo Wii U

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HTC Droid DNA

The HTC Droid DNA is making waves due to its lush, ultra-high-definition screen; however, it's also making waves due to its questionable battery life, lack of external storage options, and non-removable battery. I upgraded my phone from an HTC Thunderbolt to an HTC Droid DNA recently, and I have to say that I've thoroughly enjoyed it up to this point; however, I'm only enjoying it as much as I am because I know exactly what my phone needs are and how to deal with the shortcomings this phone has.

Don't count the Droid DNA out, but don't hurry out to buy one, either. I recommend reading my extensive review of the DNA, checking out the pictures I took of it, then coming to an informed decision. If you think you can wait, I'm thinking there will be a DNA 2 sometime within the next 6 months or so, and I imagine HTC will fix the primary woes currently keeping a lot of people from pulling the trigger on this phone. Then again, that will ultimately be up to Verizon...

Source: HTC Droid DNA

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Microsoft Surface

Coupled with sentiments of Windows 8 is Microsoft's newest Windows-powered tablet, the Surface. There are two versions for you to choose from: Windows RT and Windows 8 Pro. They're essentially the same, except Windows RT is a version of Windows that runs on ARM-based processors. A Windows RT Surface is half the cost of a Windows 8 Pro Surface, but it's also at least half as functional, insofar as the types of apps you can expect it to run if you're a current Windows users.

If you insist on using Windows 8, then this is the way it was meant to be used; however, just be aware of which version you choose, and what the limitations are. ZDNet writer, Jason O'Grady, summed up his thoughts before ultimately returning his Surface, so give it a once-over and see what you think before buying a Surface and potentially disappointing someone who loves you very, very much.

Source: Microsoft Surface

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Sony PS Vita

You know, I really, really tried to give the PS Vita a fair shot. I bought it the day it hit the market and patiently waited for developers to catch on and start making games for the thing; but, alas, I ended up trading it in. To this day, the Vita's game line-up is terrible and most developers are showing exactly zero interest in changing that.

It's a fantastic handheld with tons of potential, but unless something significant happens (like Borderlands 2 coming to PS Vita, as Gearbox CEO, Randy Pitchford, wants to make happen) and game developers really get on-board, it's simply not worth buying right now.

Source: Sony PS Vita

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Beats Audio Headphones

Unless you're looking to peacock it out a bit and show people that you've got ~$200 to blow on a set of headphones, then you're better off looking at headphones that are more capable than these, yet cost easily half the price. "Beats Audio" anything simply means you're getting an enhanced low end with your music. Depending on the genres of music you listen to, Beats Audio has the potential to leave the listener pining away for highs and mids -- well, those of us who are audiophiles, at least.

Seriously, skip these and pick up something like the Klipsch Image S4 in-ear ear buds. They're more than half the price of Beats headphones and they sound ridiculously amazing for sub-$100 headphones!

Source: Beats Audio Headphones

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Apple iPad 4

As I expressed in a previous article, the iPad 4 is Apple's biggest and best iPad to date; however, what it has to offer over the iPad 3 is insignificant at the moment: a processor that's up to twice as fast. That's it. "How is that insignificant," you ask? Well, primarily, there are very few apps right now that make use of this extra power, and that's going to be the case for quite a while.

As such, I recommend either picking up an iPad 3 for as cheap as you can get one, or simply wait it out until the iPad 5 is released (I'm thinking ~June of next year, if that long). That's when you'll get what the iPad 4 has to offer, plus much more (feature-wise and app-wise) to justify paying for a refresh.

Source: Apple iPad 4

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9 of 10 Stephen Chapman/ZDNET

Canon T4i

If you know someone who is looking to get into amateur photography, Canon makes wonderful cameras with a reasonable cost of entry; however, I recommend skipping the Canon T4i, and instead, opting for the T3i. I know that seems like backwards logic, but you can save quite a bit of money by going with the T3i, which is essentially a T4i, but without a touch-screen display and the shoddy video auto-focus issues that are actually supposed to be enhancements.

If you want to read more about why you should go with a T3i over the T4i, have a look at this review and this review. They sum it up quite well -- and extensively, at that.

Source: Canon T4i

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Epson Moverio BT-100 virtual 80-inch wearable display

And now, for something completely different. While recently searching around for unique gadgets, I ran across this wearable display by Epson that projects a virtual 80-inch screen into the lenses. It has all kinds of cool features, like being Android-powered, being 3D-capable, and other nifty stuff; however, they're quite steeply-priced at $700.

Taking to reviews, let's just say people have been severely underwhelmed -- even disappointed -- by some rather glaring issues, like FAT32-only support (good luck getting large, quality HD rips to play), shoddy controls, and being wonky/uncomfortable to wear for extended periods of time.

So, while I know this is probably the last doohickey you expected to see on this list after everything that precedes it, I thought some of you might be interested in it -- though, more specifically, other wearable displays like it, given the rough reviews it's received.

Source: Epson Moverio BT-100 virtual 80-inch wearable display

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