Gifts $400 and Up
Housework sucks, but until we're walking alongside subservient automatons, we're stuck with it -- most of it, anyway. Roombas may not be able to make you lunch or wash your clothes, but they can help keep your floor tidy with little input. IRobot's freshly updated six-model lineup spans from $350 to $700, with the $500 Roomba 770 being the most reviewed iteration online. Its revamped cleaning head is equipped for anything from pet hair to dust, while its new power management software results in up to 50% longer battery life than previous generations.
Paradigm is not a brand that many consumers are familiar with -- that's because they mainly focus on selling through audio specialists and system integrators. But the crisp, accurate, and detailed sound their speakers produce is well known in the right circles. Their Millenia CT speakers are no different. They are essentially a soundbar in a 2.1 package, which delivers better space and separation to the sound, and are the perfect complement for simple home theater setups or a desktop. Anyone who is serious about sound fidelity will appreciate this gift. Plus, there's no receiver required, the Millenia CT speakers come with everything you need for quick setup including the audio cables.
Ultrabooks are great for pretty much anything but gaming and other GPU heavy tasks. If you’re buying for someone else the choice will largely down to their taste in operating systems. Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Air is still the gold standard by which other ultra thin machines are measured against, and with reason. It’s a real beauty in terms of design and it packs a solid hardware combination for $1,200. Two great alternatives for Windows users are the Asus Zenbook UX31, which offers similar specs plus a superior display for $100 less, and the rugged business class Lenovo X1 Carbon starting at $1,250.
The universally praised Nikon D7000 is almost a couple of years old now but you’ll be hard pressed to find a better dSLR in its price range. Among its key features are a 16.2 megapixel CMOS sensor, big viewfinder (0.62x with 100% coverage), dual SD card slots, burst shooting at 6 frames per second, full HD 1080p (at 24fps) movie mode with auto-focus, and a solidly built body. A more affordable D5200 model sharing many of the D7000’s traits is due out soon but exact pricing is still a mystery. If you want something without the bulk of a dSLR but still better than a standard point-and-shoot, the mirrorless, interchangeable-lens Olympus PEN E-PM2 is a solid choice for around $600 (with a 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens).
If it's been a while since your last upgrade and you don't mind being slightly behind the generational curve, Black Friday and Cyber Monday make for a compelling excuse to buy a new desktop. Haswell will succeed Ivy Bridge in the first half of 2013 and you can bet AMD and Nvidia are readying their next-gen GPUs, but our Enthusiast's PC will handle intensive gaming and multitasking for years to come. If a new high-end machine exceeds your budget, perhaps you can upgrade your current system with a few components from our list or you can mix and match parts from our more affordable Budget Box and Entry-Level Rig.