Sound advice: Get cheap portable-device accessories

  • Article by: DON LINDICH , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 25, 2011 - 2:50 PM

Looking for a stocking stuffer for an iPad, iPod or iPhone lover?

Online retailer Monoprice (www.monoprice.com) has made a lot of friends nationwide by selling top-quality high-speed HDMI cables for $5 or less, compared with the $50 and above often charged in stores. It's a lot nicer to get your three HDMI cables for $15 instead of $150 or more.

Monoprice now sells accessories for portable devices, and the same high-quality, high-value equation applies.

Want a USB dock for your iPad, iPhone of iPod? Only $9.52. How about a high-transparency screen protector for an iPad? They are $1.27 each. An iPad case with integrated stand? It's only $8.48. A silicon case? A mere $3.29. A sharp, modern folding adjustable aluminum stand? That will be $10.08, please. Radio alarm clock iPod/iPhone docks are $29.68 and $49.28.

If you've priced accessories in stores before, you know what a deal these prices are. On the site, there are many more products for Apple and other brands, so be sure to check them out.

If you're shopping for people who have all the accessories they need, consider a gift card to the iTunes store to help them buy more music and apps for their favorite Apple device. It's sure to be appreciated and used in short order.

If you like games, a few favorites are "RC Plane 2," a flight simulator with great graphics, pleasant music and lots of airplanes, any version of "Monopoly" and "Battleship," which has been updated for the 21st century with animations and superweapons that can sink a ship with a single hit.

Over-air TV looks great

Q: I'm considering getting rid of my cable TV service. I thought that you had to have cable to get TV anymore and that rabbit ears went out 30 years ago. Now, people are talking about using them to get HDTV.

Is it hard to get TV programs with an antenna, and will the picture look as good as it does with cable? I have a high-definition cable box with a 720p Panasonic plasma HDTV.

A: There's a good chance the picture quality will actually be better than what you are getting now. Most pay TV companies, cable and satellite, take the original feed from the network and compress it before rebroadcast so they can fit more channels on their system. If you get the signal with an antenna, you are getting it in the original, unaltered form for the best picture quality.

Digital TV is easy to receive. Just connect the antenna, set the TV to receive signals from "Air" or "Antenna" and run a channel scan. You might find a few extra channels as a bonus, because many local broadcasters have two or three channels on the digital band. For example, where I live, the NBC affiliate also broadcasts Retro TV and a weather channel on separate subchannels.

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