HP Pavilion dv6z Quad Edition series ($500)
Featuring an AMD A-series quad-core processor, the HP Pavilion dv6z Quad Edition series was launched in July and packs good performance in a stylish body, for a sweet price. Currently starting at $499.99 on the HP online store (the MRSP was $650 at launch), the base configuration offers an AMD Quad-Core A6-3400M Processor (2.3GHz/1.4GHz, 4MB L2 Cache) with AMD Radeon integrated graphics, Beats audio, 15.6″ display (1366×768), a 640 GB hard drive (5400 rpm), 6 GB DDR3 RAM, two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports, integrated Blu-Ray drive and HDMI 1.4 out. For $150 more, you can get the 1080p display to take advantage of the full HD video playback enabled by the AMD Fusion technology. More information and configuration options on the product page at the HP online store.
|Toshiba Satellite L750 ( $454.99+): Toshiba has made much efforts to offer good performance and great features at an affordable price. The L700 series provides a fun design with various colors (silver, graphite, white brown, red) although the build looks more “plastic” than the HP lineup in general.The Toshiba Satellite L750 feature a 15.6-inch display, AMD APU A-series, including new dual-core A4 and quad-core A6. Price starts at $454.99 MSRP. [product page]||Lenovo Thinkpad X120e: this laptop has been designed as a business class 11.6″ computer with a superb keyboard, but with a starting price of around $360, it’s affordable. It has very good graphics capabilities and we recommend 4GB of RAM. If you feel like opening your new laptop and don’t need much storage, we may suggest installing a 64GB or 80GB SSD yourself. [product page]|
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 ($500)
Powered by a Tegra 2 dual-core system-on-a-chip (SoC), the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is one of the best Android tablet on the market today. It features a sleek design, and is 8.6 mm thin, making it the thinnest tablet on the market. The device delivers great performance with fast web browsing, good responsiveness across the user interface and fluid full HD video playback with a great viewing experience, thanks to its wide high resolution display (1280×800) that offers good image quality. The battery life is good, (around 10 hours). Samsung also has a 8.9″ tablet, but we thought that for a $30 price difference between the 8.9″ and 10.1″ , the larger version is better. Check our Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 review for more information.
|Apple iPad 2: The iPad 2 remains a classic that is hard to forget. Featuring a 9.7-inch (1024×768) high quality display, it delivers great performance, and offers access to a vast choice of applications, good video experience and long battery life (10 hours). More info on the product page and in our ipad 2 review.|
Olympus PEN E-PM1 with interchangeable lens camera ($500)
The Olympus PEN E-PM1 is one of the most affordable interchangeable-lens camera on the market. It uses a micro four-third lens system and is capable of shooting good photos in difficult lighting conditions. Just like its more expensive Olympus E-PL3 sibling, it has a very fast auto-focus (AF) which can rival (or beat) cameras that cost a couple of hundreds of dollars more. The auto-focus also works well in low-light, thanks to the AF assist lamp. Finally, it is possible to use effects and even edit photos directly on the camera, no computer required. This camera is for those who want high-quality photos, without having to think about the photography aspect beyond pressing the shutter button. [product homepage]
|Samsung MV800 camera ($280): For those who favor fun, visual effects and compactness, the Samsung MV800 is worth checking out. It is very light, compact, and has a screen with a 180 degrees swivel for self-portraits and other tricky shots. The camera has a touch screen and a series of apps that make photo retouching a computer-less experience.|
Xbox 360 4GB & Kinect Bundle ($300)
Kinect is undoubtedly attracting many casual gamers, and we found the Xbox 4GB & Kinect bundle to be very interesting for that crowd. Many people use the hard drive to accelerate game loading time (when compared to the DVD discs), but for those who don’t mind waiting a bit more, it is possible to squeeze the price of the console a bit further by opting for the 4GB model. The Xbox 250GB + Kinect bundle is priced at $400, which is quite a bit more. As for the games, our favorites are: Dance Central 2, Kinect Star Wars and Your Shape Fitness Evolved.
Sony PS3 & PS Move bundle ($349): Sony has priced its 2011 offering competitively. For just a bit more money than the Kinect bundle, one can get 320GB of storage for movies etc, and one PlayStation Move controller. Not bad at all! [product page]
|Nintendo 3DS: Smartphones may have a lot of games, but the Nintendo 3DS has Nintendo titles that others platform won’t get anytime soon like Mario Kart, Zelda or Starfox 3D. They can all be played in glasses-less “stereo 3D”, or 2D, that’s up to the player. [product page]|
Samsung Galaxy SII smartphone ($0.01, with a new contract)
The Samsung Galaxy S2 is Samsung’s blockbuster of 2011. The handset has received rave reviews (including from us) for its display, light weigh and raw performance. With the success of the initial Galaxy S2, more variants have come out, like the 4.5” (T-Mobile) in black or white. It is also featured on many wireless networks: AT&T (HSPA+), T-Mobile (HSPA+) and Sprint (WiMax). The Android handset space is crowded, but it is clear that the Galaxy S2 remains one of the best smartphone out there and it is available now. If you want to risk missed a Christmas delivery, keep your eyes on the Samsung Nexus Galaxy as well.
|Motorola Droid RAZR: The Droid RAZR is a “true” 4G smartphone, with a great design and excellent email capabilities. We love its Smart Action scripts that help optimize the battery life.||Nokia lumia 800: The Nokia Lumia 800 is a beautiful Windows Phone smartphone that brings design freshness and a zippy user experience. It feels great in the hand and is very (very!) sturdy.|
Nest Learning Thermostat – sold out ($249)
Nest is the most beautiful thermostat ever crafted by humans: it is the uber-gadget to save energy in style! Developed by the team who created the iPod, it’s no wonder why the user interface revolves around a ring that lets users easily change the room temperature. Nest will quickly learn your temperature settings habits to automatically create a schedule for the home after a week of manual changes. This would be a great gift for people who are environmentally conscious. Additionally, its elegant design turns it into a perfect decorative element for the house. More information are provided on the product page. Please note that the device is currently sold out, but you can register your name on the waiting list on the website.
Boxee Box + TV Tuner ($180 + $50)
Boxee Box brings a world of Internet video content to your big screen including Netflix and Hulu, and now that Boxee has announced Boxee Live, their HD TV tuner, it can also receive some of the most popular HD content on television over-the-air, for free. You can use it as a convenient way to search and watch Internet video (and listen to radio) on the big TV, but keep in mind that this is probably the closest thing to “cutting the [cable TV] cord” for this price. Frankly, we would buy just because the design is so darn cool.
|Roku ($50+): Rokuis a set top box that brings the most popular Internet videos and premium content to your TV. Is is small, compact and affordable. Despite its small size, Roku can tune in on popular Internet video destinations like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. If HD is important to you, the Roku 2 XD ($80) is probably the a good starting point.|
SOL Republic Tracks headphones ($99)
SOL Republic is a new headphones brand created by the team who launched the Beats by dr. Dre headphones at Monster Cable. The goal of the new company lead by CEO Kevin Lee is to offer high quality audio at an affordable price packaged in stylish and customizable headphones. I tested the SOL Republic Tracks against the Beats by dr. Dre Solo that cost twice as much ($199.95) and the sound was comparable (I listened to songs from an online music streaming service). The adjustable and highly flexible headband is really practical, it allows the cushions to perfectly fit my earlobes, and the flexibility is great for amateur DJs, the Tracks can be extremely bent without breaking. Custom colors are available on this website, the additional colored headband costs $50, the complete customized headphones are sold for $225, you have to order it before Nov 30th to get it on Christmas day.
Samsung 830 Series SSD ($130/64GB to $400/256GB)
Anyone who complains about having a slow computer would love the Samsung 830 Series. Solid State Drives (SSDs) are the most critical component in having a faster computer. The reason is simple: they are a drop-in replacement for slow mechanical hard disks (HDD) which are -by far- the slowest component of most computers. Because they have no mechanical parts like spinning disks or read/write heads, SSDs can access data much faster (50X or more faster access time), and they also tend to be shocks-resistant. In short, SSDs accelerate every single disk access, and increases performance in a perceptible way. [product page]
Jawbone Icon HD + The Nerd ($140)
With the Icon HD and its little USB plug called “The Nerd”, Jawbone has eliminated the need to configure Bluetooth to connect the Icon HD to a computer. By simply connecting The Nerd to a PC, it is recognized as a regular USB audio device. There’s no need for further setup because The Nerd and the Jawbone Icon HD are pre-connected out of the box. If the user plugs it into another computer, it’ll work instantly too. In addition of being dead simple to setup, the Jawcone Icon HD comes with killer noise-cancelling, which is “military grade” they say. [product homepage]
|Plantronics Voyager PRO HD: this is a Bluetooth headset that has been designed for consumers. Strangely, Plantronics still calls it “pro” because it comes with noise-cancellation. There’s a cloud-based voice assistant that can perform voice-activated tasks on Facebook, Twitter, SMS, Email and more! [our take on it]|