In times of economic hardship and recession, there are always calls from pundits to buy American-made products as much as possible. We’re not here to dispute whether or not this practice is good or bad for our economy. Instead, we want to imagine what would happen if we did try to buy American. How many people actually know where their technology comes from? The companies that churn out our favorite electronic toys are based all over the world–although nearly all consumer tech is actually made in China. We wanted to see if technophiles would suffer by only shopping for gadgets and consumer tech from companies based in the United States. Here are our case studies.
First up? LCD TVs. Vizio is one of the few U.S.-based television makers (headquarters in Irvine, Calif.). The company’s 47" LCD HDTV (VO47LF) comes with 1920x1080 resolution, two component-video inputs, and four HDMI inputs. A wider-than-usual angle for an LCD makes it a good choice for rooms where viewers might be off-center, like classrooms. At 62 lbs., it’s about what you’d expect for a TV of that size. Some reviewers say that not having a dedicated HD film mode means you get some jagged edges when watching HD film content. Still, at around $1,150, it’s a good choice if you’re trying to stay in the domestic market with competitive pricing.
Samsung’s (headquarters: Seoul, South Korea) 46" LN-46A850 LCD HDTV has 920x1080 resolution and comes loaded with extras, including Internet connectivity. All of these features, plus fact that it is only 1.8" thin, make the TV one of the most advanced on the market. The $2,000 price tag is hefty, but it is well worth it for the sleek design, picture quality, and HD film mode (so no jagged edges). Plus, it comes preloaded with content like games, exercise routines, and recipes–and at only 55 lbs., it will mount a little bit easier on your walls. The remote is back-lit so you can browse your shows in the dark.
On the foreign side of the TV market, the options are plentiful: Sony (Japanese), Samsung and LG (Korean), and Philips (Dutch) all offer options at different levels of price and design. For this market, buying American doesn’t limit consumers in panel quality or price–but in the long run, American companies will be slower to get the features and slimness of their foreign counterparts. While Vizio has taken a good chunk of the market share in the U.S., Samsung remains the leader worldwide, which allows it more flexibility to try new things. In sum, if you were only to buy from American-based companies, your TV might be lagging behind when it comes to cool new designs.
In the world of printers, more is better. Now that printers that can double as scanners and copy machines, printers like Lexmark’s (headquarters: Lexington, KY) X4975 are part of a large and productive family. At around $180, this printer has lots of features, like the ability to preview photos on a 1.7" LCD viewer and built-in WiFi. It has memory-card support and a PictBridge connection for printing photos directly from a camera. An automatic document feeder is included and the printer can automatically print on both sides of a page. The main downside of the printer is that text printing costs are higher than with comparable models and you may have to squint to see the viewer. Also, there’s no built-in fax capability.
Canon’s (headquarters: Tokyo, Japan) Pixma MP620 will set you back about $140 and also doesn’t have a built-in fax. It does have a cheaper text printing price, which is nice. The LCD viewer is 2.2" and tiltable, making an easier task of seeing your photos before printing. Like the Lexmark, the Canon has built-in WiFi, memory-card support, and a PictBridge connection for printing photos directly from a camera. For easier printing of different paper or sizes, the printer has a separate second tray. The Canon printers have excellent printing quality in both text and photos, and if you’re not running a big home business, this could be all you’d ever need for day-to-day printing.
In the case of printers, shopping American won’t make you sacrifice much. There are so many cheap, reliable printers on the market that you can look anywhere to find what you need. Most people aren’t doing reams of printing, so the cost of text doesn’t make a huge difference. For people who are looking for the speed of a laser printer, the market remains open between U.S. brands like Lexmark and HP, and Asian brands like Epson, Canon, and Samsung.
The FlipMino HD (Flip’s headquarters: San Jose, Calif.) was created for uploading snippets to video sites. Smaller than a pack of cards, the HD camcorder has an solid-state drive and USB output to go directly into your computer. Like the previous Flip products, there is no optical zoom and only a 2x digital zoom–the camera won’t work on your African lion-gazing trips. If you want to catch your buddies doing some sweet ski jumps, though, you might be in luck. Plus, the camera only costs about $220–so you don’t have to feel too guilty if something bad happens to it. The quality won’t make you the next Martin Scorsese, but that’s not the idea when it comes to pocket-worthy handhelds to capture your YouTube moments. The big drawback is that YouTube doesn’t support HD video, but that may change.