By Angela Colley
NEW YORK (MainStreet) —We’ve all heard that more bars mean better service, that a camera needs a lot of megapixels to take good pictures, and that Macs don’t get viruses.
There seem to be as many technology myths as there are people who repeat them. How can you separate fiction from fact?
In the video below, Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson dispels five of the biggest tech myths that could be wasting your time and costing you money. Check it out, then read on for eight more myths you should know the truth about.
Let’s explore how much truth there is to these widely shared technology beliefs.
1. You need expensive HDMI cables
Many people believe the more expensive the HDMI cable, the better the TV quality. But as we figured out in "Are Expensive HDMI Cables a Rip-off?" cables generally work the same, no matter what you pay. In fact, CNET reviewed cables from brands like Belkin, Monster and Accell and found you shouldn’t spend more than $10 for a 6-foot HDMI cable.
So whether you buy a $50 HDMI Monster cable, which has an average three-star Amazon.com rating from 140 reviews, or you purchase this $7.99 cable from Mediabridge, which has a five-star rating with 5,451 reviews, your TV will look the same.
2. More bars mean better service
If your cell phone has four bars, you should have excellent reception, right? Not always. PCWorld tested the correlation between bars and actual service in major cities and found it doesn’t really make a difference. For example, in San Francisco only 13 percent of tests showed a connection between bars and service.
When your phone has full bars, it actually means you have a good connection to a nearby tower. But if thousands of people are accessing the same tower, or your provider’s backend network isn’t great, you’ll still get dropped calls, fuzzy reception and slow data times.
3. You should defrag your hard drive
The common belief: If you defrag your hard drive frequently, your computer will be faster over time. The truth: Modern computers have large enough hard drives and enough RAM to handle most tasks, even if your hard drive is full of files. And, if you’re a Windows user, defragging is set up to run automatically by default, so doing it manually is overkill.
Where this myth gets harmful: Solid-state hard drives don’t need to be defragmented. If you do defrag, you might damage the data cells and shorten the drive’s lifespan.
4. More megapixels mean a better camera
I, like many people, believed cameras with more megapixels will produce better pictures. Wrong.
As Gizmodo explains in this article, megapixels aren’t everything. A good camera needs a high-quality lens and a large light sensor to take great photos. So an expensive camera with a ton of megapixels might produce photos of lesser quality than a cheaper camera with fewer megapixels and a better lens.
5. Apple operating systems don’t get viruses
Apple used to say that its operating system was immune to viruses. You might not hear it as much from Apple’s headquarters these days, but the misconception that Apple’s OS is immune to viruses persists. Tell that to the more than 500,000 Mac users who were hit by a Trojan in April 2012, as first reported by the anti-virus vendor Dr. Web.
Now, we’re not saying that’s a good reason to skip Macs altogether — and indeed, they do get fewer viruses than PCs — but if you were planning on buying one because they’re virus-free, think again.
6. You should pay for a virus scanner
As we said in "Antivirus Software is a Waste of Money," paying for antivirus software is a good way to throw cash away. Chances are, your operating system already has a built-in virus protection system or has one available to download for free. If you’re running Windows 7, Vista or XP, use Microsoft Security Essentials. It’s free and has a four-star editor and user rating at CNET. Windows 8 comes installed with Windows Defender.
If you own a Mac, use Avast Free Antivirus for Mac, which has a 4.5 rating at CNET.
7. 1080p is always better than 720p
Unless you have a TV screen wider than 50 inches or you sit close to the screen, you won’t notice the difference between 720p and 1080p, according to Digital Trends. Generally speaking, the closer you sit, the more pixels you’ll spot. Likewise, the bigger your television, the easier it is to spot pixels. If you’re buying a new TV under 50 inches, save some money by opting for 720p and sitting farther away.
8. Newer is better
You know who really proves if new tech is good or bad? The customers — after they pay for it, of course. Buying electronics as soon as they come out, also known as early adopter syndrome, means you’re signing up to be on the front lines of bug reporting. For example, the iPhone 4S was released with short battery life issues that aggravated many customers.
9. Refurbished electronics are damaged
Refurbished just means the product in question went back to the manufacturer for one reason or another, such as being used as a display item or having a damaged package. Before the item is sold again, it’s inspected for functionality. I’ve always had success with refurbished items, but you might want to be wary of buying a display laptop. They see a lot of use.
10. You always need an extended warranty
Did you know that every state has an implied warranty on just about everything you buy? “Implied warranty” means a product should perform at least basic functions for a period of up to four years, depending on the state, the Federal Trade Commission says. Many products, like internal hard drives, come with a more specific manufacturer’s warranty good for several years. Also, the credit card you use to purchase the item might provide an additional warranty.
Extended warranties are sometimes pricey and may offer little or no extra protection.
11. Apple products don’t go on sale
Apple products are expensive, sure, but you can still get a deal. You can find deep discounts on sale holidays like Black Friday and occasionally throughout the year at third-party retailers. You can also get everyday discounts by buying refurbished through the Apple Store or buying new from other sellers. For example, this 15.4-inch MacBook Pro goes for $2,199 from Apple.com, but is $120 cheaper at BestBuy.com.
12. Third-party cartridges are bad for your printer
Aside from the free ink cartridges that came with my printer, I haven’t used a brand-name ink cartridge. As long as the ink isn’t leaking inside your printer or smearing your documents, there’s no reason you should pay a premium for ink. Generic ink cartridges will have a compatibility list of printers too.
13. Leaving your laptop plugged in will ruin the battery
Laptop batteries are lithium-ion, and will only keep a certain amount of charge, so they won’t take on more than they can handle, even if you leave your laptop plugged in all day.
Batteries can overcharge, but only if they are charged at a higher-than-specified voltage. You shouldn’t hook any appliance up to a voltage higher than needed, and batteries are no different.
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