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Coping with too many high-tech choices

Electronics Gadgets Shopping Guide and TipsRemember when shopping for a camera was easy? Fiddle with a few models, pick one and go home happy. Today you practically need a degree in computer science and three months just to research the right one.

The same clutter exists in virtually every category of consumer electronics and technology. Faced with too many choices, people cannot compare all the options competently, says Barry Schwartz, an American professor of social theory and author of The Paradox of Choice. For example, one university study found that a supermakret customer offered 24 varieties of jam was less likely to by any jam, than a customer offered just six varieties.

So how can time-pressed electronics shoppers make a decision without feeling regret? Experts urge self-restraint:

Stick to a budget: It's easy to get snowed into adding features that inch up the price, says Brian Clark, founder of The Tech Enthusiast's Network, a consumer technology consulting service. Begin with an absolute price ceiling, he says, and you will automatically limit yourself to the best product you can afford.

Know your needs: Ask a friend or relative who is up on electronics to explain the options and then figure out which ones matter most to you.

Talk the talk: Before coming face to face with sales people who favour jargon, bone up on the lingo. Clark says knowing what key terms mean in advance can inoculate you against buying more that you need.

Ease the pressure: If you feel overwhelmed, leave the store, Clark says. Impulse purchases rarely wind up satisfying in the long run.

Train you brain: No product is perfect. And with electronics, there's always a new, more technically sophisticated version just around the corner. "We tend to focus on what's satisfying about your purchase," Barry Schwartz says.
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