Not all of us can give the gift of a crappy car covered in a giant, over-sized, red bow. What most of us can do, though, is give the gift of tech.
From big-screen TVs to tiny media streamers, there’s a cool gadget for every wallet. If you’re searching for some last-minute gift ideas, this is just for you.
It’s tiny. It’s simple, and it’s awesome. Stream movies via Netflix, or buy Movies and TV shows via the iTunes Store. I use mine mostly to stream music from my computer to my home theater system. I can’t think of any reason not to buy one.
Ok, so maybe you’re not an Apple person. Maybe you like Amazon’s Instant Video service better. Maybe you just like the idea of an open system with lots of apps. Or maybe you just want to save a few bucks. No problem, the excellent Roku HD is only $50. Yes, it’s “only” 720p, but so is the vast majority of streaming content.
Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray Player
Last year we reviewed the BDP-93, an excellent high-end Blu-ray player, with incredible audio and video performance. The latest Oppo, the BDP-103 keeps the price the same but adds WiFi, MHL, and a bunch of other improvements. Pretty much the ultimate disc player, and probably the last one you’ll ever need to buy.
If you don’t need the BDP-103’s excellent DACs and scalers, check out Panasonic’s $99 DMP-BDT220.
Every TV needs careful, though fairly straightforward, setup to look its best. You can get it close just using your eye, but to really get the settings correct, you need a setup disc. Disney’s World of Wonder Blu-ray has great tutorials to introduce you to concepts like contrast and brightness, but it also has excellent test patterns I use myself when reviewing TVs. That’s quite a range. A must-have for anyone with a TV.
Disney’s WoW disc is $18 on Amazon.
Tivo Premiere XL4 Personal Video Recorder
Cable boxes are built by the lowest bidder, and “feature” some of the worst build quality, energy efficiency, and user-unfriendliness you can find in consumer electronics. Mostly this is because you are not the target for the cable box manufacturer, the cable companies are. It just needs to be cheap, and work just enough so you don’t call and complain. Dump it, and get a TiVo. They’re Apple-like in their ease of use, and have way more features than any cable box.
Need to relax after a long day? Who doesn’t? Gary’s a big fan of the Panasonic Real Pro massage chairs. They’ll massage your back, legs, and feet. Amusingly, Amazon currently lists the price per ounce. So… it’s quite a bargain for $1.16/oz!
Panasonic TC-P55ST50 55-Inch Plasma HDTV
In a year where many manufacturers stagnated, or even slipped backwards, with picture quality, Panasonic had some of the best looking and best reviewed flat panels available. The 55ST50 is a Smart TV, has 3D, and looks brilliant. For $1,200 it’s also a ridiculously good deal. The step-up 55GT50 is $1,349, and adds THX Certification and a little better picture quality.
The TC-P55ST50 is $1200 on Amazon and includes free shipping when ordered from Amazon direct
Bose QC15 Noise Cancelling headphones
There are dozens of noise cancelling headphones on the market. To be honest, there are better sounding ones than the Bose (the PSB M4U 2 come to mind). But in terms of sheer noise reducing power, the Bose are hard to beat. If you travel a lot, or just like some peace and quiet, the QC15s are worth every penny. Gary loves the slightly cheaper, $189 Sony MDR-NC500D.
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