OPINION: Friends don't let friends shop alone for tech.
If you're the tech expert in your family and circle of friends, people are probably always hitting you up for tech advice. It can be a little frustrating, but I actually like the fact that I have useful skills to offer the group. I regularly hassle the engineers, mechanics and academics I know for advice on various projects, so I'm more than happy to give back when I can.
Another reason why I don't mind offering friends a little tech buying advice is that I hate it when they buy junk and I have to pretend to be impressed. Televisions are particularly troublesome, as spending more doesn't necessarily get you a better picture. There's that awkward smile when I know I could have found them something twice as good for half the price. I'd never buy a new car without a little advice from my friendly mechanic, yet some people seem to think buying televisions is simple a case of finding the biggest screen you can afford.
In the last few years I've found the role of the tech-savvy friend has shifted from simply acting as a consultant to also playing the role of systems integrator. There's a lot to think about if you're designing or overhauling a home entertainment system and home network. Some people tend to focus on gadgets and brands, but I think it's better to focus on tasks.
When I'm talking to a friend about buying home entertainment and networking gear, I find it's best to assess their needs first rather than simply suggest gadgets. These days most people want to watch and record live television, either free-to-air or Pay TV, as well as watch DVD/Blu-ray movies and maybe play games. Beyond this they may not be aware of their options, such as hiring movies online, watching Catch Up TV and playing downloaded video files. There's also the option of enjoying all these features anywhere around the home rather than simply in the lounge room.
Considering all this, you can't buy entertainment and home networking gear on the spur of the moment without doing your research. It's important to think about how a potential new gadget fits in with what you already own, what you're trying to achieve and who will be using the system. There's no one-size-fits-all home entertainment solution. A "best of breed" approach is usually the way to go, opting for a handful of devices with overlapping features and maybe a decent universal remote to drive everything from the couch. This way it's easy to upgrade individual components over time to access new features, rather than throwing away everything and starting again.
Despite your best efforts, sometimes friends still go out and spent $88 on a HDMI cable without asking you first. While it's tempting to rant, at this point it can be best to just look the other way in the best interest of the friendship.
Are you the local gadget guru? What kinds of services do you offer?
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