Beyond gadgets -- Gifts more than $400
If you just need to create a few documents and check your email, you can get by on much less than a $500 desktop. Buying a netbook or even a tablet are worthy options for the road warrior, but desktops still reign supreme in terms of cost-to-performance and expandability. If you follow our guide's Budget build to the T, you can gift a system acceptable for any role apart from running graphically intense applications -- which could also be attainable by investing a few extra dollars in a video card.
Although it's part of Panasonic's bottom-line 3D HDTVs, the ST30 delivers image quality that's nearly indistinguishable from some models above it that are much more expensive. It's not short on features, either. It has all the ports you'd expect from a modern TV, including three HDMI, a couple of USBs and an SD card reader, and can connect to the Internet through Ethernet or Wi-Fi. The TV comes with apps such as YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Video On-Demand, and Pandora, and you can download even more through the Viera Market.
If youre buying for someone else the choice will largely down to their taste in operating systems. Apples 13-inch MacBook Air is a real beauty in terms of design and it packs a pretty solid hardware combination for around $1,300. Otherwise the 13.3-inch Zenbook UX31 is quite similar in specs and design, although the Asus comes in $200 cheaper at $1,099. It offers a higher resolution display and its SSD also supports the 6Gbps SATA III interface, but lacks keyboard backlighting.
Record-breaking performance with Intel's quad-core CPUs and AMD's Radeon HD 6970M GPU, slick design, wireless HD streaming, and five hours of battery life. Alienware's gaming notebook remains one of the best options out there. It can get pretty expensive as you start adding extras, though. If that's not an issue, the M18x can accomodate dual-GPUs. Otherwise, if you're looking for a full HD laptop that offers great gaming performance for a reasonable price, the Asus G74SX is a solid runner up.
If you are serious about setting up a home theater system, consider passing on a large HDTV and instead get a huge fixed frame projection screen paired with a 1080p projector. We promise watching movies and sporting events will never be the same. For the fixed projection screen, the 100-inch, 10:9 aspect ratio EzFrame from Elite Screens is a great deal for around $440. Complement this with Epson's $1,600 Home Cinema 3010, a great bang for buck 3LCD, 1080p, active-shutter 3D projector that's causing a lot of excitement in projector circles.