Archives For Deals

The MagicJack Giveaway

Dave Zatz —  February 13, 2009


I take on review gear with the best of intentions, but frequently find myself short on time or just plain distracted. And for that I apologize to the magicJack folks who provided me a device at the CTIA show nearly a year ago. So, before any more time passes, I figured the best thing to do is get this unit out to someone who will appreciate it.

MagicJack is a small USB doohickey, which works with both Windows and OS X, that allows you to make unlimited calls to the US and Canada. You’ll also be issued a phone number, with an area code of your choosing, to receive calls. A typical/traditional phone can be plugged directly into the magicJack (get it? magic jack) or the software can be used Skype-like with a headset. $40 gets you magicJack and a year of service; additional years of connectivity run $20/each. (Of course, this particular unit will cost one lucky ZNF reader nothing.) The company seems to be on a tear – the PC Mag Editors’ Choice has moved over 2 million units. Although, not without experiencing some growing pains.

Entering the giveaway is as easy as it gets, simply leave a comment. (US residents in the lower 48 only, please.) We’ll choose the winner at random in a few days.

It’s not the latest. Nor is it the greatest. But if you’re on the market for a budget NAS, $40 is hard to beat. (Shipping looks to run about $8 – $15.) This refurb Buffalo LinkStation Live incorporates a single 320GB drive and is supported by a 90 day warranty. Assuming the unit is similar to an earlier version I owned back in 2005, the Linkstation is powered by Linux, great for tweakability, and supports a variety of media serving and networking options out of the box. (Though, hopefully with a quieter fan.) At the very least, you’ll be able to use this networked drive as part of a backup strategy and/or to centralize an iTunes collection. Once you’ve picked up the LinkStation Live, head on over to Buffalo Tech’s support site for the latest device firmware and desktop utilities. Thanks for the tip, Jon!

After weeks of playing with the Flip MinoHD, it’s time to give someone else a turn. The kind PR folks have agreed to let us give away our review unit to one lucky ZNF reader.

My initial take on the MinoHD was that the difficulties of dealing with huge file sizes made the upgrade from an SD camcorder not quite worthwhile. But HD is addictive. The more videos you take in HD, the harder it is to go back to looking at SD clips. I’m still not willing to give up the AA battery advantage of the Flip Ultra, but if the Ultra gets an upgrade, I may have to as well.

In the meantime, you know the drill. Leave a comment saying you’d like a shot at the MinoHD (US residents only- sorry!), and one winner will be selected at random this weekend.

Mari’s had her say (thumbs up), so the time has come to give away our Slacker G2 review unit ($200 MSRP).

We’re both big fans of the Slacker web radio service, and Mari is also a satisfied owner of the first generation Slacker player. What separates Slacker Radio from say Pandora on the iPhone is their music licensing terms… While Pandora requires a persistent Internet connection for streaming, Slacker hardware periodically downloads (over WiFi) buckets of tracks from your queue of pre-selected “stations” – meaning, you can take Slacker on a plane with pre-loaded music. Slacker offer two service tiers, free and premium. Most would probably be content with the free service, although a paid subscription enables unlimited skipping and saving song favorites. Additionally, Slacker Radio provides all sorts of artist information which has been kinda fun. However, being a minimalist in search of further convergence, I’m personally holding out for a Slacker mobile client.

If the Slacker G2 sounds like something you’d enjoy, simply leave a comment saying you want in on this giveaway. One lucky US resident will be randomly selected as the winner in the next day or so.

Cyber Monday Deals

Mari Silbey —  November 30, 2008

Too lazy to roll out of bed at 4 AM on Black Friday? Luckily Cyber Monday is upon us, and lots of sites are offering free shipping for items on your holiday gadget wish list. Many of the discounts aren’t fabulous, but at least you don’t have to pay for door-to-door delivery. You can find free shipping deals at Best Buy, Amazon and, among many others.

If you’re looking for a little more than free shipping, choose your gadget categories wisely. Big-screen TVs are still your best bet for top deals. Newegg, for example, has a 52″ Sharp Aquos set listed at $1,100 off MSRP. You can also get decent discounts on digital cameras, though the Retrevo price index shows prices generally went up in November after declines in October. Two 8-megapixel cameras under $100: the Nikon Coolpix L18 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ8K.

Of course, if you’re after coveted products, like the Apple iPod Touch, don’t expect much help from the Cyber Monday fairies. Best Buy will give you $30 bucks off a first-gen iPod Touch, or $10-$15 off second-gen versions.

CE retailers are naturally feeling skittish with the downturn in the economy. On the one hand, they don’t want to mark products down too far. On the other hand, they don’t want to end up with excess inventory. I can’t help but wonder if this year the best deals won’t be found closer to December 25th. But it’s up to you if you want to play chicken with the gadget dealers.

In a highly unscientific investigation, I stopped by my local Sony Style store yesterday to ask the customer reps about Black Friday sales. The rep I talked to initially suspected I was a mall employee, but once we got that case of mistaken identity out of the way, he was very willing to share details on the day’s activities.

First, my new friend assured me that traffic had been brisk, and indeed it was during my visit. More interesting though was his record of the top-selling products. Here’s his account of what was flying off the shelves:

  • TVs – The most popular sizes were in the 32″ and 52″ ranges. Hmm. Think the 32-inchers were first-time HD buyers, or folks outfitting second and third rooms?
  • Blu-ray Disc players – At a $100 discount, it’s not surprising the Blu-ray players were top sellers. Ticket price: a sweet $199.99.
  • Playstation 3 – My friend claimed the PS3 consoles were going fast. No doubt because of the new Netflix Watch Now functionality, right?
  • Cyber-shot T700 – I have to admit this is a pretty one, with 4GB of memory, a 3.5″ touch screen, and lots of other goodies. It comes in a range of colors too. Not surprising it’s a popular gift.

Obvious disclaimer: this was one Sony employee’s take on Black Friday sales. Take that as you will.

Any of these products on your holiday shopping list?

If your entire Black Friday strategy involves stopping by the mall on the day after Thanksgiving, you might want to check out Retrevo’s guide to Black Friday buying. Not only do the Retrevo folks follow consumer electronics obsessively, they track pricing, availability and demand – you know, all the important information that’s a pain to hunt down. The guide includes top deals in different categories as well as some common sense tips for how to get what you want at the start of the holiday season while forking over the least amount of cash. One of my takeaways? Oddly, shopping at Staples looks like a really good bet for cheap CE stocking stuffers.

Not listed in the Black Friday guide, but equally important from my point of view, is Retrevo’s analysis of trends in CE pricing and demand. I discovered very recently that the site now has a feature called Retrevo Pulse, which aggregates CE buying data and shows real-time analytics. Way cool. For example, looking at recent trends for GPS units, it appears that prices have leveled off and demand is on the upswing after a four-month decline. I asked my contact at Retrevo for other recent findings, and here’s what he listed:

  • Demand for TVs, digital cameras and MP3 players is turning up as we head into the holiday shopping season, but demand for cell phones is static, if not headed downward.
  • Prices for digital cameras began falling in late October.
  • Prices for MP3 players have been stable.
  • Prices for cell phones are starting to creep up.

Talk about good intelligence for your seasonal CE shopping.