Whether you’re buying a tablet for your 8-year-old or a new smartphone for Mom, you don’t want to gift a gadget that’s going to end up gathering dust in a closet somewhere. It’s easy to get drawn in by a bargain or fall for advertising hype that makes a tech product look a lot more useful than it is in real life.
Unfortunately, when Dad discovers that the $300 computer you gave him doesn’t run his programs and Junior complains because he can’t play the same games as his friends on that console you bought, you’ll feel more like the Grinch than Santa Claus. Save yourself from standing in that return line and don’t give anyone these five gadget gifts to avoid.
At first glance, Chromebooks such as the HP Chromebook 11 and Acer C720 look like a great deal. For under $300, you get a lightweight laptop that’s virtually idiot-proof and stays safe from viruses and spyware. The catch is that Chromebooks run Google’s Chrome OS, which is little more than a Chrome Web browser floating on top of a desktop.
Chromebooks can’t run Windows apps, Mac apps or Android apps. All they can run are Web apps, most of which are nothing more than glorified Web pages. Some of the apps in Google’s Chrome Web store won’t even run on a Chromebook, because they require plugins such that you can’t install in Chrome OS. While you can perform many tasks offline on a Chromebook, you often have to jump through some hoops, such as enabling a hidden setting in Google Docs or downloading a special app for offline Gmail.
Grandpa may say that he only needs email and “the Internet,” but when he finds out that he can’t write letters in regular Microsoft Word, listen to his songs in iTunes or play his pals in a Java-based online scrabble game, his Chromebook will take up permanent residence in a drawer somewhere. Get him a low-cost Windows laptop instead.
More: Top Laptop Gifts