Do They Really Work?

Category: Gadgets

The world is full of stuff that sounds too good to be true, and the tech world has its own share of these dubious products. They run the gamut, from software products that make enticing claims, to gadgets that promise a bounty of free services. Some of them are outright scams, shams or ripoffs. And surprisingly, some of them actually work. Read on to get the low-down on six tech tools, and my verdict on each one...

Scams, Ripoffs, and a Few Surprising Tech Gems

Android Anti-Malware Apps - As more and more people buy smartphones, the concern over mobile malware grows. If you have an iPhone, the prevailing wisdom still says you don't need any anti-malware protection. But if you have an Android-based smartphone, you may want to add an extra layer of protection. The problem is, many of these apps (even some from well-known security vendors) simply don't work very well.

AV-Test.org, the respected anti-malware testing organization, put 41 Android anti-malware programs through their paces. It found that only seven apps correctly detected more than 90 percent of 618 Android-specific malware; those reasonably-good apps come from Avast, F-Secure, Lookout, Kaspersky, Ikarus, Dr. Web and Zoner.

On the other hand, products from BullGuard, Comodo, McAfee, NQ, Total Defense and G Data detected only 40 to 65 percent of the malware tested. Read AV-Test’s full report to see how well (or poorly) each of the Android anti-malware apps did.

Do They Really Work?
VERDICT: MAYBE (if you do your homework)


Gold-Plated Audio/Video Cables - When you're looking for cables to connect audio or video gear, you'll see two options. Regular HDMI cables and expensive gold plated cables. The salesperson may tell you to go with gold-plated cables to get superior performance. But do they really work any better? Actually no.

Premium-priced HDMI cables with gold-plated connectors, Kevlar shielding, etc., do not deliver better sound or video quality than inexpensive generic cables. In fact, one audiophile found that his friends couldn’t tell the difference between Monster Cables and coat hanger wire in a test that involved playing the same music files over the otherwise same equipment. But some retailers have scammed shoppers by setting up two TVs side-by-side to illustrate “the Monster difference.” Problem is, the Monster cable was plugged into one TV set’s HDMI port while the “inferior” cable was plugged into the second TV’s composite port. The latter, of course, provides about the poorest signal you can get.

One review I found said that if your cables are exposed to harsh elements such as sea water, the gold-plating will not corrode. But if you're not setting up a home theater system on your yacht, then you'll be just fine with the standard copper-coated HDMI cables.

VERDICT: NO (don't waste your money)


"Speed Up Your PC!" - Ads on TV and the Internet promise one-click software that will "Double the speed of your PC" or "Restore your computer to like new condition." Typically, you'll download a free program that scans your computer for problems, then tries to scare you into plunking down $49 for a solution that will clean up the mess and speed up your computer. Are these programs worth the electrons they're floating around on?

As I said in my article Do Those 'Speed Up Your PC' Programs Really Work?, the ones you see endlessly hyped might actually do some of what they promise, but there's no need to pay for them. Some of those cleanup and speedup functions are built into Windows, and free software is available to do the rest of the job.

VERDICT: MAYBE (but you can get the same results for free)


Magic Jack - Magic Jack is another gadget that's advertised in classic informercial style, plugs into your computer, and promises to give you something for free. In the case of Magic Jack, it's free or really cheap phone service. And this one is for real. If you're looking for an internet calling solution that can replace your landline and eliminate the expensive monthly bills that come along with it, Magic Jack is worth a look. See Magic Jack Phone Service to learn more about how it works.

VERDICT: YES (significant savings are possible)


PretonSaver Inkjet Saver - This software promises to "save you up to 70%" in inkjet printing costs. PretonSaver claims that their advanced ink saving technologies will yield high quality printing results that are "virtually the same as regular printing." They further claim that their algorithm will beat the pants off your printer's draft or economy mode. But does it really work?

I tested PretonSaver with my trusty HP OfficeJet Pro, and found that it works surprisingly well. After installing PretonSaver, a dialog pops up each time you print from a Windows application, prompting you to choose your level of ink savings, from zero to 70 percent. At the default of 35% optimization, the printout looked only slightly lighter than my test sheet with no optimization. I might not have noticed the difference if I wasn't comparing the two sheets with a careful eye. At 70% optimization, the print was noticeably lighter, but still quite readable. One feature I especially liked was the little window that pops up after you print, telling you how much each printed page costs.

If you often print out draft documents or emails because you prefer to read them on paper, or you just don't need high-quality for a particular print job, this software is very simple to use, and will definitely help you save money. The Home version of PretonSaver offers a free 30-day trial, after which you can pay $29 for a lifetime license.

VERDICT: YES (if you don't always need high-quality print)


Have you tried any of these tech gadgets or software products? Feel free to comment on these and other related products. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Do They Really Work?"

Posted by:

HMH
03 Dec 2012

According to their website, PretonSaver costs $34.95.

EDITOR'S NOTE: When I look at http://www.preton.com/Buy_pretonSaverhome.asp I see the regular price for Lifetime License is $32.99, but it's discounted to $29.99.


Posted by:

Gar
03 Dec 2012

I have two Magic Jacks. I have an 'original' Magic Jack, which I have had for several years, and a Magic Jack Plus, to which I have ported my land-line phone number. I principally use the original while traveling, although it does fine for a second number in the house when at home. I would categorize the service received as very good, over-all. There will occasionally be connections which aren't the best, but I experienced that with my old land-line also. I did purchase the multi-year service, which lowers the cost significantly. I was paying the land-line company over $29/mo for only local service, with no caller ID. I do not use there voice mail service, although I found it satisfactory during the short period of time I did use it. I just prefer having the answering machine here at the house. I have the Magic Jack plugged into the house phone wiring, which I disconnected from the phone company's wiring at the service entrance. There are limits to the number of standard ringer phones you can connect. However, I have two wireless sets connected, with a total of seven handsets, and this works fine. I recommend this service, and appreciate the money I save each month from not paying the phone company anymore for a much lower level of service.


Posted by:

Jon Skrine
03 Dec 2012

I don't think we can use magic jack in the UK.

We were astonished to find that the 'much hyped' Vonage service actually delivered what it claimed here. We use it through our broadband connection and it has saved us a LOT of money.

Telephone calls in the UK work on a really different system than the States and cost a lot more when, like us, you have a large American family that is lazy at phoning Mom (the wife).

For about the same amount we would be charged for line rental without any calls here we get 3 phone numbers (2 local to family in the USA) free calls 24/7/365 in the UK to landlines. Free calls 24/7/365 to landlines and cellphones in the USA.

The fun factor is answering the phone to USA cold callers and pretending to be some sort of UK government agency 'Which country were you calling?' followed by 'How did you get this secure number?', muttered to the background 'Trace the call quickly!', have, hopefully, made a few phone canvassers consider a change to more reputable employment. ;)

Jon

P.S. If pestered by telephone sellers please join the 'waste their money' brigade. An elderly voice saying 'Please hold the line I've got something on the stove' and then leave the line open until they hang up, costs them time and money!


Posted by:

Abinadi
03 Dec 2012

Magic Jack is WAY past its shelf pull date. They apparently grew too big, too fast.They do not have a clue about customer service and what's more, don't seem to care. The internet is rife with people who cannot get their problems with the service solved. Just try to renew the service with a credit card. Good luck because you will need it. A much better and service friendly option is NetTalk. Use it with or without a computer. Real live people answer the phone when you call for help. I have no association with them other than as a very satisfied customer for well over a year. Read about them here: http://www.nettalk.com/


Posted by:

Anton
03 Dec 2012

I downloaded the PretonSaver Inkjet Saver, and it looks like a good money saver to me.
Good printing on the recommended 35% setting.
I use it on my Brother HL-2240 laser printer at home, and 35% is good for me 50% is a bit weak.


Posted by:

Dan
03 Dec 2012

Regarding the infamous comparison between hanger wire and Monster Cable, of course there was no difference. He compered hanger wire with Monster Cable wire. He should have used quality audio cabling. ;-)


Posted by:

Brian Fahey
03 Dec 2012

We install church organs, and have found that the gold plated 1/4 phono jacks are worth the added expense. Most of our equipment stays in place for literally decades and the gold plating prevents oxidation, which does happen. For us, oxidation often happens in those buildings that have cellulose insulation (something in the chemicals) and/or those that use large amounts of incense.


Posted by:

Jeffrey
03 Dec 2012

RE:MAGICJACK

WHAT A DISAPPOINTMENT!!!!!!! I bought MJ+ and was excited about shreading my AT&T phone bill and as they say: "BUT WAIT! There's more!"
1. MJ+ Will NOT work with ANY cable... Dish, etc
2. Ditto with a home security system...
I tried to penetrate their iron wall (You will NEVER get to speak directly to a human being!). The 'chat' agent would only say... "We don't recommend using with Satellite/Cable TV and with a home security system... Don't ask my why... Bottom line... MJ+ will NOT replace your current landline... MagicJack's customer service is the worse I've ever encountered!

EDITOR'S NOTE: You got bad info about MJ and cable internet. They'll work fine together.


Posted by:

MmeMoxie
03 Dec 2012

Thanks, for including the findings, by the AV-Testing Report. I am so pleased to find out that my NetQin Mobile Security is in the top 10. When, I researched them, over a year ago, I was pleased with the information, I found. I am pleased again, today. }:O)


Posted by:

Michael Portner
03 Dec 2012

You talk about Magic Jack. What about NetTalk which I'm told is similar and has fairly good tech support?

EDITOR'S NOTE: They're both good. See http://askbobrankin.com/cheap_phone_calls_magicjack_alternatives.html


Posted by:

J Fischer
03 Dec 2012

MagicJack Does Work with Cable Internet Connections

Perhaps there was some misunderstanding between Jeffery and Tech Support? I have MagicJack+ working with my cable modem now and in the past I used regular MagicJack with cable Internet service.

I can understand that the long latency times of Dish Satellite Internet connections could cause problems with telephone calls.

Jeffery is correct that there are some situations where a traditional land line is required. This might include some home security systems and some FAX machines.

Also, since MagicJack runs over the Internet, it won't work if your electric power goes out, unless you have your equipment plugged into a battery backup system or a generator. If you have a cell phone available to make emergency calls when the power goes out, this is not so much of an issue.

I recently upgraded from MagicJack to MagicJack+. I was able to keep the same phone number. I think it is great.


Posted by:

DevilDog
03 Dec 2012

I am very pleased with magic Jack once I learner to run MJ as a service and not use their software. I run through the computer. I am going to install another thru the phone line.


Posted by:

Dale Bailey
03 Dec 2012

I would just like to say that I'm really happy with Ooma Telo ! Works GREAT wish I would have signed up sooner. Ported my existing ph# with out a hitch. Two lines for the price of one with some programs.


Posted by:

Bimmster
04 Dec 2012

With digital audio and video signals it might not make a difference if you use cheap cabling, but the differences can be quite profound with analog audio signals.

I've been involved with side by side comparisons in the past where an anolog audio signal sent over a dollar store cable was the sonic equivelant to putting a pillow in front of a speaker.


Posted by:

Pat Holtorf
04 Dec 2012

I bought MJ 2 years ago and the only annoyance is that it costs $10.00/year to have a Canadian phone number over and above the yearly fee. Since I had broadband anyway it was a natural progression. I also am not impressed with customer service but that was the same reason I told Bell Canada where they could stick their Phone line and long distance. Talking to Mumbai for customer service was not all that much fun either. I have three home phone( two x regular and 1 x + lines and am very happy with Magic Jack.


Posted by:

Steve Zimmett
04 Dec 2012

Just downloaded PretonSaver Home and its a 14 day trial period not 30 days


Posted by:

jkcook
04 Dec 2012

Dear Abinadi, Sorry you haven't had good success with MJ. We've used it for years and are quite satisfied. Mainly, we use it as an answering machine for folks calling us and as a nice way to have a US number for filling in forms. It's also nice because the choice of phone numbers gives our kids a local number to call us. What doesn't work so well is actual conversations, because that requires a faster Internet connection than we normally have, but as an answering machine, it works just fine. We have a flat rate to the US on our landline, so we don't worry about calling back.


Posted by:

Keith
04 Dec 2012

I don't know what "dollar store cable" actually means, but analog audio absolutely does not require the silly expensive Monster Cable or similarly overpriced cables. It is very easy to fool yourself when making such comparisons. If the "dollar store cable" you mentioned actually was substandard quality, that might have made a difference in audible sound quality, but if you do a proper comparison with any properly-made audio cable vs. a Monster Cable or similar ultra-premium cable, there will be no difference.

Setting up such tests properly is surprisingly difficult. Even small differences in level between the A and B sides of the comparison can trick the listener into thinking one is better than the other. If you heard a difference that truly was like a pillow being put in front of a speaker, either the setup was poorly done or you had an outright defective cable.

I haven't bought audio cables in many years (after all, they don't wear out), so it might be that you cannot buy anything these days but cheap junk or silly expensive Monster Cable or equivalent. If that is the case, that might change the advice I would give, but if decent, sensibly-priced cables still are available, nobody should waste their money on Monster Cable or their silly expensive equivalents.


Posted by:

Keith
04 Dec 2012

There seems to be some confusion about using Magic Jack and similar phone replacements with some home security and some cable or satellite systems.

I don't know the technical reason, but such systems that use your telephone line to make calls on their own sometimes do not work with phone replacements such as Magic Jack.

The Magic Jack or similar service does work to provide phone service over the cable internet service, but that is not the issue. The issue is that some cable services (actually, I think it is the part that provides the program schedule and/or the communication to order pay-per-view programs) requires that the cable box make phone calls to the cable provider's computer systems, and it is placing those phone calls via Magic Jack or similar devices that, for some unexplained reason, does not work.

Similarly, some home security systems that place calls to the security company for status or alarms do not work with Magic Jack or similar devices.

I have no idea what the technical reason is that prevents using Magic Jack and similar devices for those phone calls from the cable/satellite box or home security box. If anyone knows (really knows, not guessing), I'd like to learn the reason.


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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Do They Really Work? (Posted: 3 Dec 2012)
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