4 Things Not to Buy at the Apple Store

Last Updated Dec 9, 2010 3:31 PM EST

This article is part of a package on shopping at the Apple Store. Read the other article, on 5 things to buy at the Apple Store.


Apple Store in New York City

Wandering through an Apple Store can be a hypnotic experience for window-shoppers and tech-fetishists alike. But the stores, like Apple products themselves, are not perfect, and store policies can be finicky. A 10 percent restocking fee, for example, applies to any returned item that's been opened, and the return period is only 14 days, as opposed to 30 days at big electronics chains such as Best Buy. Apart from these concerns, here are four Apple Store offerings we'd recommend passing on:

1. Third-Party Accessories

You won’t necessarily make a bad decision buying a third-party case or accessory at an Apple Store, but you’d be better off checking prices and selection elsewhere. There are usually plenty more accessories for Apple products available — and often for better prices — at sites such as Amazon and Newegg.

2. Software

Prices on third-party software at the Apple Store aren’t great, and you won’t even get any discounts for buying Apple’s own boxed software there. In addition, plenty of software developers offer their applications for direct download, sometimes at better prices than their boxed software. And by downloading it, you may be eligible for cheaper upgrades in the future. Games are also frequently discounted online. For example, on Walmart.com we found Starcraft II and Sims 3: Deluxe Edition for $10 less than at Apple, which was selling them at MSRP.

3. Computer Upgrades

If you have an Apple product still under warranty, you’ll get all the free help you need with replacing broken parts, but you won’t get any assistance upgrading your computer’s RAM to make it run faster, or its hard drive if you’re running out of space. To upgrade your RAM, the store will charge a hefty premium, and you can’t upgrade your hard drive there. For that, you’ll have to go elsewhere, such as to an authorized Apple repair center.

Of course, you can simply buy an inexpensive new hard drive at a site like Newegg and install it yourself, but for hard drives in particular, it’s best to let a professional do it. And a word of warning for DIY-ers: according to Apple, upgrading a hard drive on a laptop can void your warranty or service plan.

4. Apple TV

Apple’s $99 stocking-stuffer has a ton of potential, especially as a wireless device for streaming videos to your television from Macs, iPhones, iPads, and iPods via a new technology called AirPlay. But Apple TV can’t stream online video from many of the sites you’d most want it to, such as Hulu.com. And other set-top boxes, including the Roku XDS, are more versatile, as are many video game consoles and Blu-ray players. The Apple TV will still be welcomed by TV owners without any of these devices, or by Apple fanatics who already have everything else in the store, but it’s still a product in evolution.

Scott Stein is a Senior Associate Editor at CNET Reviews, where he reviews laptops and computer peripherals and analyzes the computer industry at large.

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    Scott Stein is a senior editor covering iOS and laptop reviews, mobile computing, video games, and tech culture. He has previously written for both mainstream and technology enthusiast publications including Wired, Esquire.com, Men's Journal, and Maxim, and regularly appears on TV and radio talking tech trends.

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