Taking it up a notch --- Gifts $300 to $600
Making the recommendations based on our research for the November 2008 PC buying guides, we have two great monitors for you to check out that won't break the bank: the Samsung 2253BW 22" monitor ($260) and the Acer P243WAid 24" ($350).
Xbox 360: $199 and up - Offering the most diverse variety of games and online content, it's now also the cheapest of the three base console packages. The Xbox 360 is arguably the safest console to purchase if you have no idea what to buy the hardcore gamer in your life. While the $199 setup is a nice start, you might want to consider bumping it up to the $259 package for an additional controller and games or the $299 package for a 60GB HDD.
Nintendo Wii: $249 - A console that's better rounded for an entire family who likes to play games, for those who enjoy party games with friends and retro/casual gamers. While it lacks the visuals and overall processing power that its competitors have, the Wii's focus doesn't really seem to be about that, yet it's evidently succeeded with its approach. From little Johnny to the 60 year old cat lady next door, this console will probably offer you the most peace of mind if you have young kids because a bulk of the releases are rated 'E'.
PlayStation 3: $349 and up - The Sony PlayStation 3 has quite the package to offer when you take into consideration a single fact: alongside the PS3's obvious abilities to play games, it offers Blu-ray playback for your home entertainment center for a little more than the cost of a Blu-ray player itself. There are less console-specific titles and less titles on offer altogether for this console, however unless you are interested in a particular game only available on the Xbox or Wii platforms the PS3 ought to scratch any genre itch you may have.
While the Radeon HD 4870 X2 is arguably the fastest single graphics card you can buy at around $520, the GeForce GTX 280 competes hand in hand in many games and takes the cake in some others. We favor the single GPU implementation on the GeForce, which translates in less driver dependability and improved power consumption scores.
In about 90% of current titles a single one of these cards will do just great with visual settings maxed out, but if you want to go berserk with your wallet, a pair of either card slapped in a SLI/Crossfire configuration will give you the most insane gaming performance, when drivers are up to snuff, of course.
While it's going to be at least a few more weeks until we are done evaluating the netbooks we have in our labs for a comparison review, for now we can tell you're better off spending less than $500 in any of these little machines, all the newer models tend to come with the Intel Atom CPU (instead of the slower C7 or older Celerons), and preferably don't go for anything smaller than a 9-inch screen.