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2010 Holiday Tech Buyers Guide

By Mark Tiongco - December 19, 2010

Happy Holidays everyone! It’s that time of the year again, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Tech Tuesday, Digital Wednesday and USB Thursday (Kidding!) In this tech tip, we’ll be covering a broad range of next-generation toys and categories, so keep an eye out for what products might be interesting to that favorite geek in your life!


Notebook Computers

Let’s dive right into this category with Apple™’s notebook refresh, the updated Macbook lineup. First, you have two new flavors of the Macbook Air while also announcing its newest version of OS X called Lion (v 10.7). In addition to being able to choose between 11.6” and 13.3”, it now has 2 USB ports, updated graphics chipsets and has up to 30 days of standby time.

Cheap Netbooks also continue to advance more in features. Intel has released their next-generation of Atom processors which feature both Hyper-Threading and Dual-core technology so it’s like your netbook has 4 processors that Windows will recognize which will do wonders for multitasking. The new Acer™ Aspire One AOD-255-134 features the new Atom N550 CPU which is a dual-core processor and has HyperThreading. Some netbooks like the HP® Mini 5103 have faster DDR3 memory for lightning-fast program accessing which helps Windows perform tasks quicker. In addition, the 5103 has 2GB RAM pre-installed so your netbook won’t be bogged down by any resource deficiencies.

If you’re a PC gamer or just needs high performance on the go, Alienware™’s new M11x is a solution that can accommodate your CPU-intensive needs in a portable package. Starting at $599, it packs a Core i-series CPU, 1GB nVidia® 335m graphics, up to 8 GB DDR3 RAM, an 11.6” LCD and either a 256GB SSD hard drive or 640GB SATA II hard drive.


DESKTOP PCs

While notebook sales have continued to outsell their bulkier counterparts, desktop computers remain a vital staple in our technology-driven society. One trend that has sprung from notebook design is to consolidate parts all into a complete all-in-one package. An example of this is Apple™’s iMac computer. Refreshed with Intel’s new Core i-series processors, your selection between 21.5 to 27” screen displays, configurable RAM and hard drive storage starting at 4G and 500GB, respectively and can connect to Apple™’s new multi-touch trackpad.

PC peeps looking for a bargain can score a deal with HP®’s Pavilion P6604Y. It features an AMD Athlon II dual-core processor, 6GB RAM, 1 terabyte hard drive, 15-in-1 card reader and AMD’s vision technology. This computer is perfect for multitasking between programs and has ample space for your music, movies and work/school files.

Gaming fanatics on a budget will appreciate Velocity Micro’s Vector Holiday Edition for its bang-for-the-buck ratio. Powered by an Intel Core i5 760 (3.62 Ghz overclocked), this rig also has 4GB 1333 Mhz RAM, 768 MB nVidia® GTX 460 GPU, 1 terabyte hard drive and even a blu-ray optical drive. These configurable specifications start at $849 which makes this gaming desktop an absolute must-have!


CELL PHONES

When it comes to cell phones, we can’t deny the iPhone 4 a top mention. Regardless of all the speculation issues about reception and its antenna, it’s still a solid phone that provides great interaction and great communication. In the Sprint corner, they have the evolutionary HTC® Evo 4G. It’s the first phone to support Sprint’s next-generation 4G Wi-Max network and packs a 4.3” LCD screen, can be enabled as a Wi-Fi hotspot (up to 8 devices) and has Google’s latest flavor of Android OS 2.2.

AT&T™ has also stepped up their infrastructure game by rolling out their own Mi-Fi service. Called the AT&T™ Mobile Hotspot, it supports HSPA on AT&T™’s network, even supports up to 32GB Secure Digital High Capacity cards and is perfect if you need to communicate to your friends, family and co-workers but have no standard Wi-Fi hotspot. In addition, Verizon Wireless has also rolled out their $15 data plan for customers who are looking to make the leap into the data plan craze but are looking for a cheaper bargain.

For all you Palm lovers, HP® is releasing their unlocked GSM Palm Pre 2 which has a host of features such as a bright 3.1” LCD screen, intuitive email customization and search file system, supports web OS 2.0 for a better website viewing experience and has both a slide-out keyboard and multi-touch support.

And let’s not forget good ‘ol Microsoft® who just rolled out their much-hyped Windows 7 mobile phone. Coming in several flavors (HTC® Surround, HTC HD7™, Samsung™ Focus, LG Quantum) for AT&T™, the HTC HD7™ features a powerful 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU, 576MB RAM, a 4.3” LCD screen and intuitive interfaces for organizing music, videos, pictures and even has Office Mobile and Outlook Mobile so you can keep your busy life in order.


TABLET PC

It’s been a fierce year for the tablet market. Apple™ set a huge technological ripple in motion withtheir coveted iPAD, which is still selling strong. Because of this, competitors have been scrambling to catch up to Apple™’s success in time for the holiday season. First up, we have the Samsung™ Galaxy Tab. Not only does it have the latest Android OS 2.2 by Google, it has dual cameras so you can take pictures and share them with your family and can see each other on video chat. At 7”, it supports Sprint’s 3G mobile; is a little bit smaller than the iPAD but is just as capable.

Originally thought to be canceled during the iPAD’s debut, HP® has confirmed its finalized production of its long-rumored Slate tablet PC. Aimed at business professionals, it starts at $799 and features similar iPAD functions such as multi-touch support, dual cameras for picture-taking and video conferencing and weighs 1.5 pounds. It includes Windows 7 Professional (32-bit), an Intel Atom Z540 (supports HyperThreading for better multitasking) CPU, an 8.9” WSVGA (1024 x 600 resolution), 1 USB port, 1 secure digital card reader and 5+ hours of battery life.

Dell has also jumped in the tablet PCmarket with their just-released Streak. Powered by the Android OS, it’s a 5” toy that’s part cell phone, part tablet PC but has loads of usefulness. More portable than the 9.7” iPAD and has just as much utility, this Dell has dual cameras, e-reader support, Bluetooth 2.0 and Google Maps.

If you’re looking for a simple media player and web browser in a tablet-ish package but don’t need the extra glitz, Archos’ 7 home tablet might just be your cup of tea. At $199, it supports 802.11n Wi-Fi access, is powered by the Android OS and can play high-definition videos and can even read (up to) 32GB micro secure digital cards.


CONSOLE GAMING

Already surpassing entertainment release records, Call of Duty Black Ops™ is sure to be on your holiday shopping list regardless of the format of choice. Set during Vietnam and Cold War in the 1960s, Black Ops’s gameplay has rivaled (and some say surpassed) the likes of Modern Warfare 2, Medal of Honor and Ghost Recon.

Following the footsteps of the Nintendo Wii, Microsoft® Xbox 360 has also released their much-anticipated Kinect system which has similar functions to the Wii but doesn’t require a physical controller. The Kinect sensor will automatically recognize your body, voice and physical movements so you can even play online against friends without having to wear a headset.

For all you Playstation 3 fans out there, Sony™ has released their coveted Gran Turismo 5 racing game which is sure to add hours of racing ride customization to your gaming events! Featuring over 1,000 vehicles (Skyline GT-R Yeah!) and improved graphics, Gran Turismo 5 even has authentic (and fictional) road courses including rally and NASCAR raceways.


E-READERS

Let’s start this section off with the most influential e-reader, Apple™’s much-talked about iPAD. Part media player, part e-reader, all tablet PC, this $499 media machine can keep you busy reading e-books, listening to music, watching videos, playing video games and even web browsing. However, let’s not forget the solid players like the Amazon Kindle. The most updated generation features Wi-Fi so you can find and download e-books at a nearby hotspot, has 50% better contrast for easier viewing and is 17% lighter.

Sony™ also has their Reader Pocket Edition at $149.99 which features E-Ink technology for enhanced e-book viewing. It also supports multiple formats such as Adobe PDF, Microsoft® Word and you can download from bestsellers and check out books from public libraries on ePub.

Barnes and Noble also has their Nook e-reader which has over 2 million titles to choose from. Having 2GB storage space, the Nook can store up to 1500 e-books, has a 10-day battery life and even has standard Wi-Fi connectivity.


HDTV – BLU-RAY – 3D TECHNOLOGY

As the battle rages on about media content delivery, many people are still divided between how they want to get their video entertainment. Some still enjoy shelling out $12 for a movie ticket ($14-15 for 3-D) while others prefer Netflix and some even fancy on-demand videos from their local television service provider. Panasonic™ has stepped up to the plate by releasing their new 103-inch plasma HDTV called the TH-P103MT2. In addition, their 58-inch 3D television, the TC-P58VT25 increases contrast ratio by stabilizing and lowering the electrical predischarge of cells that causes gray image saturation. Samsung™ also has their PNC-7000 series that offers 3D performance at a reasonable price.


GPS

As the smartphone craze continues to flourish and many people find it more and more convenient to use Google Maps on their smartphone when looking for a specific point of interest while driving. However, the particular downside to this function is that it tends to eat up the cell phone’s battery during usage. That being said, dedicated GPS units continue its own evolution of being thinner, lighter and have features such as Bluetooth installed. For example, the Garmin Nuvi 3790T™ has voice command, Bluetooth calling, free traffic data updates and even has a micro-USB sync cable for PC connection.

For you GPS newbies, TomTom has their budget-friendly Ease GPS unit which has a 3.5” screen, 3 hour battery and text-to-speech guidance for better navigation assistance. In addition, you get micro-USB sync capability for future map update downloads.


Webcams

While webcams have been around for a while, the trend now is to jump on the high-definition bandwagon. Thus, Microsoft®’s Lifecam HD-5000 offers 720p HD performance at 30 frames per second. You also get 16:9 widescreen support, autofocus and has TrueColor technology which automatically controls exposure for optima brightness and video color. If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative for keeping in touch with friends and family, you can opt for the Logitech C510 HD webcam. It offers 720p video, 2 megapixel snapshots and 360-degree panning and a built-in microphone.


Flip Camcorders

If you’re not looking for a fancy-pants full-features camcorder, you Flip offers their flip-style ready-to-go camcorders. Their Flip Ultra HD shoots at 720p at 30 frames per second, runs on rechargeable AA batteries, has a 2-inch LCD screen and records up to 8 hours of video. Kodak® also has their Zi8 pocket camcorder that is one of the first to support 1080p video, 5 megapixel still shots, has a 2.5” LCD, support up to 32GB secure digital memory cards and even has electronic image stabilization.




Digital Cameras

Samsung™’s NX100 is one unique camera because it combines elements of a portable point-and-shoot camera and its larger SLR cousins. Its features include 14.6 megapixel quality, 720p video quality and even interchangeable lens all in a compact package. Meanwhile, Panasonic™’s Lumix DMC-GF1 offers similar interchangeable lens, 12 megapixels, a 3-inch LCD screen, and image optical stabilization all in a neat classic chassis. Sony® also has their Cybershot DSC-W80 which optimized for extreme portability. It packs a 7 megapixel sensor, a “home menu system” that is similar to the Sony PSP™’s and image stabilization which helps reduce blur during picture-taking.

Whether you’re shopping for that tech geek in your life or looking for an upgrade this holiday season, there’s no shortage of good deals on the newest tech toys. Just remember to weigh the pros, cons and cost of these technology products before you pull the trigger in order to avoid getting stuck at the (pick your favorite retailer) long line at the customer service center.

 

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