Tough tech gifts to buy this holiday season

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Tough tech gifts to buy this holiday season

It’s that time of year when our inboxes are flooded with discounts for all the sales promotions that happen on Black Friday, Cyber ​​Week, and beyond.

But this year, we are in a unique position. We are living in an era of global chip shortages, widespread unemployment and shortages driven by the effects of government-imposed lockdowns that were meant to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. It has disrupted global supply chains, made manufacturing difficult and halted the shipping of goods around the world.

It’s now affecting the types of tech products we can get for our loved ones this holiday season. Finding gaming devices like PlayStation and Xbox consoles, which have been in constant shortage for the past year, will continue to be a challenge. And the list of hard-to-get items gets even longer, including Wi-Fi routers, cheap laptops, and audio gear.

Shoppers looking to buy consumer electronics will have to change their game plan. Biggest takeaway? Don’t wait until Black Friday.

“Buy early,” said Patrick Moorhead, chief executive of Moor Insights, a tech research firm. “Decide between saving a little money or not getting the product at all.”

Here’s a guide to consumer electronics that will be hard to find this year.

Let’s start with some of the most desirable and most difficult-to-buy tech products: Sony’s PlayStation 5, Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and Nintendo’s new Switch, which were nearly impossible to find on store shelves last year.

Gaming analysts said that historically, some console makers have limited production of the machines to help fuel enthusiasm for the products. But chip shortages – and rising demand for gaming devices as many people were stuck at home in the pandemic – have compounded the shortage.

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Many big box retailers sell new consoles exclusively online, and when new PlayStation, Xbox, and Switch consoles appear, they’re sold out within minutes. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have warned that chip shortages could disrupt supplies by 2022.

Chip shortages and excessive demand for gaming products have led to a continuing shortage of high-end graphics cards that people use to upgrade their computers to run more powerful games, Mr. Moorhead said.

game plan? Consider automation. Millions of people are following Twitter accounts that scan retail sites and tweet as soon as game consoles and graphics cards are back in stock. You can set up your Twitter app to send notifications to your phone as soon as those accounts are posted. I recommend the following @mattswider, editor-in-chief of the blog TechRadar, which relies on retailers’ sources to post inventory updates on game consoles and graphics cards.

On Black Friday, new Wi-Fi routers usually get huge discounts. But we should expect some of these deals this year.

William Crockett, vice president of Tanaka Precious Metals, a component manufacturer, said the lack of so-called legacy nodes is due to the domino effect, a miniature chip used to make wireless sensors in networking equipment. Since that component isn’t readily available, companies can make fewer routers. This means that retailers are less likely to slash router prices to avoid running out of them.

Case in point: Last year, one of Amazon’s most popular Black Friday deals was the eero, a big discount for its popular Wi-Fi router. This year, the Eero is conspicuously absent from Amazon’s list of top deals for Black Friday.

An Amazon spokesperson said the company had planned promotions for the Eero during the holiday season. As of now, only the high-end Eero Pro model has received substantial discounts.

So if you or friends and family want an internet router, buy it now. In the unlikely event that the product will go on sale this Black Friday, you can ask the retailer for a retrospective price adjustment or return the item and purchase it at a reduced price.

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Retailers typically stock a plethora of low-cost laptops under $400 on Black Friday, including Chromebooks and notebooks from manufacturers like Acer, Dell, and HP.

Expect those deals to be rare this holiday. Computer makers are grappling with a shortage of USB controllers, the chip that allows computers to talk to USB ports, Moorhead said. So manufacturers are prioritizing those parts to produce more expensive laptops that generate more profits, he said.

The result: You can expect deals on premium laptops like the MacBook, but fewer discounts on the cheaper stuff.

There are some rare deals online for low-cost notebooks – you just have to be proactive. Last week, Walmart sold an HP laptop for about $280, according to Pete King, a maker of SlimDeals, a website that tracks discounts online.

“If you haven’t started watching now, you’re already late in the game,” he said.

Finally, chip shortages have affected analog chips, the circuits that gadgets rely on to manage power. The tech products most affected by this are audio accessories such as speakers and earphones, which rely on analog chips to reduce their power consumption and connect wirelessly to notebooks and smartphones.

However, the reduction will not affect all audio accessories. Mr. Moorhead noted that Sony and Apple develop their own chips for audio gear, so people probably won’t have trouble buying fancy earphones from big tech companies this holiday.

This is good news for AirPods fans, but bad news for TikTokers and Gen Zers who are actively trying to make less popular earphones fashionable.

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