Need some last-minute computer gift ideas? How about these:
DESKTOP SYSTEMS - Hewlett Packard seems to have obliterated the
Compaq name from desktop PCs, at least from their Web site. The $550
Compaq multimedia desktop I liked over the summer is nowhere to be
found. Instead, try the HP Pavilion a1650e series
(www.shopping.hp.com), which starts at $589 and, well customized,
will set you back about $1100. Add to a decent LCD display in your
home office, or a large LCD TV in a living room, and you get both a
multimedia powerhouse and a useful working-at-home tool.
If the Apple Mac is your preference, the new-and-very-much-improved
Mac mini (stet) is a great living room addition. They start at $599
(www.apple.com/macmini), but a well-equipped model, with enough RAM,
hard drive capacity and other features to make computing useful, will
push the price to just under $1,000. Even then, it's still a
remarkable product with a great size and wonderful features.
NOTEBOOK SYSTEMS - Here, the Compaq name remains, and the Compaq
Presario V3000z remains an excellent value. Starting at under $400,
it offers a nice widescreen display, plenty of options, and, when
outfitted with enough RAM and processor power, enough muscle to
handle Windows Vista. A well-equipped model will cost you $930 after
discounts and a mail-in rebate, and that's a good buy in anyone's
book. Be warned, though: high demand may delay shipping of your
computer until after New Year's Day. It's worth the wait, however.
Apple Computer's enhanced MacBook, which starts at $1099, is a
delightful portable that gives so much for so little: built-in video
camera, a widescreen display, and multimedia features (including a
remote). If I were shopping, I'd go for at least the $1299 model
which includes more RAM, a larger hard drive and slightly faster
GLOBAL POSITIONING - A needed accessory for the car, but the price
can be shocking. A much better option, for your wallet and your
sanity, might be the Mio C310X, available at some online sellers for
under $200, and at stores such as Circuit City and Best Buy for
around $250; the latter two being a good option if you don't trust
the caprice of online delivery. The C310X boasts maps, directions, a
choice of voices and languages, and even MP3 playback, though I've
not tested the latter yet.
You'll stay for the performance, though: this little wonder is
exceptionally user friendly, has a brilliant display, is easy to
operate and features a "night lighting scheme" for easy viewing after
sunset. There's no easy way to go wrong with this amazing product.
COOL SOFTWARE - I like both Adobe's Photoshop Elements 5, for
Windows, which lists for $99 and is available for much less in many
retail stores (www.adobe.com), and Corel's PaintShop Pro XI, which
goes for $79 at www.corel.com. These are excellent Windows-based
programs that deliver a lot of value for money when it comes to
working with photos. On the Mac side, iPhoto 6, part of the $79 iLife
package is still the best thing going for the dedicated amateur.
HUGE STORAGE - SanDisk's $109, 2 Gigabyte Cruzer Titanium USB drive
(www.sandisk.com) is a marvel for the amount of data it can store,
let alone the free programs usable on any Windows PC. The capacity is
200 times that of my first 10 Mbyte hard disc drive; what that means
is you can pack a lot - a whole lot - of information into this
device. Because it stores that data on flash memory chips, there are
no moving parts to break or wear out. The benefits should be obvious.
Happy shopping, then, and happy holidays!