Beyond gadgets (More than $500)


A new laptop
Thin & light or desktop replacement, you name it
Price target: $400 and up

Portable computers are outselling desktops, and for a good reason. Today’s laptops can be as powerful as desktops but giving you extra flexibility. They are also more portable than ever and on the cheap. This is a shortlist of the top models for these holidays depending on what you are looking for:

Best desktop replacements ($1500+):
Apple Macbook Pro, Thinkpad T series, HP Pavilion dv9000t.

Best ultra-portables ($1500+):
Toshiba R500, Sony Vaio TZ, Thinkpad X series.

Best general purpose laptops ($900+):
Dell XPS M1330, Sony Vaio FZ, Apple Macbook.

Best gaming portables ($2000+):
Alienware Area-51 m9750, Dell XPS M1710.

Best basic laptop ($400+):
Asus Eee PC, Dell Inspiron 1420, Lenovo 3000 series.


Dell 2707WFP 27" LCD Monitor
The sweet spot in large monitors
Price target: $995

You can upgrade every single component in your PC but at the end of the day if you are still living with a crappy 19" monitor or generic input devices, you are simply wasting your money and effort. Now, you may be asking yourselves why a 27-inch monitor and not 30"?

Well, bigger is not always better, and leaving all technicalities aside, many of today's 27" monitors are using a 1920x1200 pixels native resolution which is comparable to that of a typical 24" monitor. The idea is that by upgrading to a 27" screen you will get bigger text and icons, in the other hand 30" monitors usually use a higher resolution of 2560x1600 which gives plenty of extra desktop space but makes stuff even tinier, so it’s up to you to decide what you prefer.

Got cash to spare? Get two 27” monitors and be happy forever.


HDTV
Absolutely nothing shows more love than this
Price target: $1200+

If you still haven't jumped on the HDTV bandwagon, well it's about time you do it because you ARE missing out a whole lot. Unless you never watch TV, you will find an upgrade from a traditional tube TV very worthwhile. If you happen to be a caring wife reading this and thinking you may be getting a new HDTV for your husband, well I can assure you nothing else will make him happier than watching a football game in all its HD glory. Plus, they are not as expensive as they used to be.

You can buy a pretty decent 42"+ 1080p TV in the $1500-2000 range nowadays. We have to admit we are no experts in this area, but let me repeat some important keywords we have gathered from past buying experience: • Buy 1080p if budget permits • Don’t buy anything smaller than 37" • At least 7000:1 contrast ratio


HP Blackbird 002
Sleek-looking commodity PC gaming
Price target: Starts at $2700

When you think about extreme gaming systems and the high costs associated with them, Alienware usually comes to mind. However there are other major players like Falcon Northwest and even Dell that have been offering gaming systems for a while now. But this holiday season it is HP that has impressed us the most with the very sexy Blackbird 002 system.

Don’t be alarmed by the HP badge, this system was co-developed with Voodoo PC and it shows from the inside out. Basic specs for this system are comprised of Core 2 Duo processors, a non-proprietary ASUS motherboard, GeForce graphics, and so on. But if you really want to delve into the realm of commodity gaming computing, the $5000+ systems boast loads of RAM, SLI 8800 Ultras, liquid cooling, multiple HDDs and basically anything else you can imagine on a fully configurable system.

Just like with Alienware desktops, the performance and uniqueness of owning such a system is there, we just love what HP did with the Blackbird and we give it our stamp of approval. If your wallet can handle it and your gaming habits justify it, why not, go for it.