If the keys are falling off, the hard drive is full, and the operating system is molasses slow, it's time to hit the computer store. "But if the idea of waiting another half year doesn't grate on your soul, then wait," says tech writer Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind. "In the computer world, products improve so quickly that you'll get more features and power for the same price in six months."
2. Should I buy CDs or download music?
"Downloading is easy and cheaper—the savings on not manufacturing a product are passed on to you," says Popular Mechanics senior technology editor Glenn Derene. Your best bet is AmazonMP3, which offers songs for as little as 89 cents, free of digital rights management software, so you can copy them onto any device—including CDs, if you miss them.
3. BlackBerry or iPhone?
Depends on your technology needs. If you're an e-mail fanatic, the BlackBerry historically has had the edge, though the new iPhone may be closing that gap. If you're a video, music, or gaming junkie, buy an iPhone for its unparalleled entertainment options, suggests Paul Reynolds, electronics editor at Consumer Reports.
4. LCD or plasma TV?
LCD is your best option for screens under 42 inches, but for screens over 50, go for plasma. Between 42 and 50, it's a toss-up; you may want to let your living room make the decision for you. "Plasma has a wider viewing angle, meaning it's good for rooms with seating in corners," says Reynolds. "LCDs do a little better in rooms with lots of lights and windows."
Arianne Cohen is a Manhattan-based writer. Her exploration of the world of tall people, The Tall Book (Bloomsbury), will be published in January 2009.
Additional reporting by Brooke Kosofsky Glassberg and Kate Sandoval.