During the 2016 holiday shopping season, people spent more money online than ever: $63.1 billion in the U.S. alone, according to Statista. That was an increase of $6.67 billion over 2015, and there's no reason to think 2017 won't see similar increases.
As always, a lot of that money is going toward new tech. We, of course, approve -- but not all gadgets are worthwhile purchases. There's a point of diminishing returns with almost any purchase, especially digital toys that depreciate the instant the box is open.
Below are some of the most overpriced computing and tech products, many of which we covet nonetheless. And why not? When you need to take out a special mortgage just to afford some technology, you're in a class by yourself. Not one of these products is a gag either. They really exist and someone, somewhere, buys them. In some cases, selling just a couple of these products could keep a manufacturer in the black for a while.
Looking for the perfect aged-brass construction keyboard to make your computing life as steam punk as possible? The Sojourner from Datamancer, with its classic type-writer style keys, works with any PC via a USB connection (it comes with a 6-foot braided cloth USB cable for connecting). This 7-pound input device is yours for $1,000.
C Seed 262 19 Foot TV
At 262 inches and 1,759 pounds, C Seed's 262 is the largest 4K set in the world. Thankfully, it's more than just a big screen with some HDMI and USB ports; it's also got 9.1 surround sound from 10 speakers, a built-in media server and a fabric cover that automatically rolls down to protect the precious screen when it's not in use. For $539,000 (without installation), that protection is key.
Want the most expensive things you can put in your ears? Well, that's probably still professionally prescribed hearing aids -- those things ain't cheap. But the Kaiser Encore from Noble Audio fit-in-ear monitors are not far behind at $1,850. The earphones can be used with a detachable cable (they only look wireless -- they're not) and are suitable for both smartphone use and in audio studios. Hold out for the different build types and the price can get as high as $3,150 -- they only make about 30 pair of these a day.
Freefly ALTA 8
Are you a filmmaker looking for a pro-level drone to get your pro-level flying shots? The Alta 8 is Freefly's relatively small (52.2 inches across) 8-rotor drone that, for storage, folds up to 50 percent of that size. It can handle a camera stacked on top of the frame as well as the bottom. Yours (sans camera equipment) for $17,495.
Devialet Silver Phantom
Considered by many the most powerful (loudest) Bluetooth speaker made to date, the Devialet Phantom line starts at 3,000 watts to pump up the volume to 105 decibels. But it's not just about shaking the walls. This speaker just sounds great by all reports. The $2,390 Silver Phantom is just the beginning. The Gold Phantom is $2,990 and shoots up to 4,500 wats. There's also a Silver Stereo System for $5,109 with two speakers, plus a hub called Dialog that connects them all wirelessly across rooms -- it supports up to 24 Phantom speakers. Save some money, and get the 750-watt Phantom White for $1,990.
Populele Smart Ukelele
You might think a ukelele is supposed to be an inexpensive little instrument, essentially four strings tied to a stick. You couldn't be more wrong. Serious players play it with precision and panache. You can get there if you get the first smart ukulele with accessories: a charging base, cable, canvas case, strings (from Italy!), picks and a capo (for tying down strings to one fret only to change the pitch). The $199 Populele -- a former Indiegogo project -- sports a 72-LED fret board to help you learn the ropes when you pair it with the app on your smartphone. It’s only radically expensive when you consider a regular ukulele goes for as little as $33.99.
Lexus GS 450h
Knowing you can own a hybrid vehicle for less than 30 grand makes the Lexus GS 450h look just a trifle overpriced at $63,000. Highway estimates of only 34 miles per gallon don't even put it on par with a Prius (but it does sport a 336 horse engine). You're not gonna save money on the mid-size 450h, but at least you'll be saving the planet… in Lexus luxury.
Chromebooks are supposed to be cheap, but Google -- creator of the ChromeOS -- doesn't seem to get its own message. Pixelbook is Google's latest overpriced device, an answer to the Microsoft Surface, a 2-in-1 hybrid of tablet and laptop, super thin and with nice specs like 8GB RAM and a responsive touch screen for visual searching, plus all the Google-y goodness like using Google Assistant. It even supports Android apps. But it's $999 to start, going as high as $1,749 if you upgrade to an Intel Core i7 chip, 16GB RAM and get the Pixelbook Pen to go with it.
Boxx Electric Scooter
Remember that weird landspeeder that Rey used in Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Of course you do, you dork. Well, the Boxx looks like that thing except small enough for a person to ride, but it has two wheels instead of anti-gravity. For a starter price of $3,797 you too can own this boxy-looking all-wheel-drive commuter scooter, in almost any color combo you want.
Vurtego V4 Pro Pogo Stick
The first toy you probably think of that could kill a kid easily is… lawn darts. Second on that list might be a pogo stick. Now imagine you buy a pogo stick that costs as much as the crappy car you bought in college. That's the Vurtego V4 Pro. It's certainly high-end, its sticker price is $439, with adjustable air pressure options so any size child or adult can get a bounce. Vurtego says it's the most advanced pogo stick ever; its video calls it a portable trampoline. Parents would probably prefer you skateboard without a helmet; the brave will take out a loan and get this stick.
Hasselblad H5D 60
Swedish camera maker Hasselblad creates some very, very high-end camera bodies like the X1D. Perhaps no camera body is higher end than the H5D-60, a medium format DSLR with a full 60-megapixel resolution, running with a 6,708-by-8,956 pixel CCD sensor. It'll only set you back around $40,500 -- and this device is over four years old already, but still commanding top dollar.
Stop using those gross-looking digital clocks on your nightstand. Get a sexy digital clock hand-crafted out of cherry wood, with Nixie Tubes that offer up numbers to show the time, either on a 12- or 24-hour clock display. That's all the Nixie Tube Clock does, and looks pretty doing it, for just $199.
Have a particular sound or saying you like, but rather than hear it, you'd prefer to see it? Yes, that's a thing. Soundwave Art makes jewelry and art showing the sine curve of a sound -- be it a song, your voice, your child's heart beat, a loved one's flatulence, whatever you can capture on the apps for iOS and Android. Transfer the sound to Soundwave and they'll make art. The most expensive thing in the store is a framed piece of birch wood measuring 19-by-31 inches with the sound's continuous wave carved on it for $449.99. Get the sound etched on old barn wood, maple or metal; get it printed on canvas; or decorating pendants and rings. Later, you can use the app to take a scan/pic of your art and it will find the image in the database -- and let you play the sound out loud.
Bang & Olufsen Beolab 50
Bang & Olufsen
It wouldn't be a crazy-priced list of products without something from Bang & Olufsen. This year, the Beolab 50 represents the floor-sitting, 41-inch tall loudspeaker with 2,100 watts of audio power you can't afford and wish you could. And it works with its BeoVision TVs, both wired and wirelessly. The speaker price: $40,000 give or take.
Datorbox 4K VR Gaming PC
Love Hultén is only making 50 compact 6.6-pound Datorbox gaming PCs in these bulb-decorated wooden cases, either orange or green. Each one will be made by Hultén himself, and has Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics, 8GB RAM and at least a 1TB drive with a solid state drive to go with it, plus all the ports and wireless networking/connections you need. The deluxe version has an Intel i7-6700 chip and 256GB solid-state drive and costs €2,349 (without VAT tax or shipping), which is about $2,731.90 as of this writing. Order yours before they are all taken.
Wrensilva Sonos Edition Console
There was a time when true audiophiles had an audio console for playing LPs and maybe some AM radio. Consoles haven't gone away, not with Wrensilva still out there making multi-thousand dollar hi-fi chests. Its latest is a Sonos Edition, a big ol' box made partially of North American walnut, able to store and play records on the built-in turntable, but also complete with Sonos Wi-Fi streaming sound, all played on the integrated Sonos Play:5 speakers (which will also mesh with other Sonos speakers you have around the home). The whole console is just $5,000.
PowerRay Underwater Drone
Drones aren't just for the skies. PowerRay from PowerVision tethers to a boat and explores the waters around it, skimming the surface or diving down to about 100 feet. You can control it from a tablet, smartphone or VR headset (depending on the package you buy). It has a detachable fish finder you can use on a fishing pole and is a good way to go under the ice when ice fishing. Naturally, it has a 4K UHD wide-angle video camera on board; it takes 12-megapixel still images and supports live streaming. You can get the whole setup for your boat for $1,488 to start, but can go up to $1,888 with all the extras.
Depict Digital Frame
When is a digital picture frame really a TV, or vice versa? That's the question you may well ask if you pre-order a Depict Frame for $899 (they're back-ordered until January 2018, so shop accordingly). It's a 49-inch 4K Ultra HD screen with a black or white wood frame that you mount on the wall. But rather than watch TV, you use it to view your own images (via an iOS app) or art from premium collections (so the 50-pound screen can be mounted in portrait mode, which doesn't work for most TV shows, naturally). That price might seem high when you can get a 49-inch 4K TV for less at Amazon, but the Depict is calibrated for museum-quality images. Try it for 30 days, and you can return it if you don't get swept up in the art.
i10 Sleep Number 360 Smart Bed
The high end of Sleep Number's 360 line of self-adjusting, smartphone-controlled mattresses is the i10, which starts at $4,399 for the queen size and goes up from there. Each person in the bed (assuming there are two) gets to pick a Sleep Number to establish firmness, which is created via air. As you move at night -- from your side or stomach, for example -- the bed adjusts the firmness. Essentially, the bed has sensors checking you out all night, a "SleepIQ" score is generated, and that's used for the adjustments. Try to get that out of your regular ol' dumb mattress. You get a 100-night trial and can also upgrade to the FlexFit versions for more cash, which provide a tilt up on the head and/or knees.
U by Moen Smart Shower
Most people take a shower by turning on a faucet, getting the temp right, and then switching it to a shower head and praying it's warm when they get under. Plunk down $1,225 for the U by Moen, and you've got digital controls to make it all work. Control its thermostatic digital shower via your smartphone, so you can get the shower warmed up from afar; it'll even pause the water until you get in. Set up profiles for each family member so everyone gets their preferred temperature, or change it up for different times of day or activities, like relaxation or post-workout.
Everyone needs a space of their own. How about a Hobbit-esque little dome-shed with portholes and a sunroof to make it all cozy and cool? Archipod's 9.6-foot (internally) diameter creations are even cooler with the top-hinged gull-wing door; it also now offers "the bigger pod," which is 12.5 feet in diameter inside. All of them have red cedar cladding for siding, giving it that authentic "Shire" look. There's also air-conditioning, heat and lighting, though the homeowner has to arrange for a power hookup. A bespoke interior with curved desks costs extra. Every pod can either be built on site (it's not a DIY), or delivered, in most cases with a crane. Wondering what it costs? Then you probably can't afford it. Call them to find out.
Xdesk, formerly NextDesk, changed its name and introduced a slew of new standing desks to go with the rebranding. In particular, the Porter model is a lovely enclosed option, with the platform rising out on 4 legs at each corner, so it could almost be a pet bunk-bed -- just don’t lower the desk on your cat. The starting price is $4,485.