The Gift of Giving Budget-Conscious Consumer

The Budget-Conscious Consumer

Sony BRAVIA KDL-40V5100 LCD HDTV ($1,200)
If you’re looking for a bright and energy-efficient new LCD HDTV, we have a winner here. This Sony may not have quite squeaked out the win in our recent five-set Face Off (September 2009 Home Theater), but it was the top-rated LCD and impressed us all with its surprisingly good contrast ratio, deep black levels, and all-around solid performance.—TJN


Netgear EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD ($350)
The EVA8000 wirelessly streams music, photos, Internet radio, and HD video directly from your home PC (or other storage devices) to your HDTV. Netgear’s unit automatically finds all the digital media files on your home network and organizes them into an easily accessible library. It supports HD content for Windows Media Video 9 and MPEG-4 file formats. The EVA8000 is Windows compatible only.—KW 1209gift.negear450.jpg

1209gift.karajan150.jpgKarajan: Symphony Edition ($100)
This 38-disc set from DG features Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic in some of the best orchestral recordings ever. It includes complete cycles of Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Tchaikovsky, plus the Paris and London symphonies of Haydn and the late symphonies of Mozart. Packaging is minimal—paper sleeves in a 3-inch-wide box. If you shop around, the price drops to under $2 per disc.—MF

1209gift.itunes150.jpgiTunes Gift Card ($50)
The Internet continues to provide manna for the frugal and cash-challenged. Depending on your viewing habits, you can drop cable or satellite and still watch almost anything worth watching for free or via paid downloads (individual TV show episodes from iTunes, for example) on an à la carte basis. Do the math. Give the card. Bask in the money-saving glory.—DW

Sling Media SlingPlayer Mobile ($30)
Forget your DVR. Now you’ll never miss a show because you can take TV with you. With a Slingbox SOLO, PRO, or PRO-HD at home and a compatible phone, you can watch your favorite shows, change channels, and control your DVR in waiting rooms, at the DMV, at the laundromat, or at the gym. Just don’t watch and drive, please.—CL


1209gift.twister150.jpgNextGen Twister HDMI Adapter ($20)
I know the logo has a tornado on it, but kid of the ’70s that I am, I choose to believe the Twister is an homage to the contortionist human board game by the same name (it was a mat on the ground, but still!). This handy adapter handles all the contortion for you, allowing your flat screen to connect to HDMI at any angle.—SCB

1209gift.blockbuster150.jpgBlockbuster by Mail ($9 to $20)
Netflix started a revolution with movies by mail, and Blockbuster soon joined the party. The benefit of Blockbuster is if there’s a movie you really want to watch immediately, you just print out a free rental coupon (you can get two each month) or trade in one of the movies you received by mail at your local store. Instant satisfaction.—JH

Sony PlayStation 3 ($299)
A long-standing favorite, Sony’s PlayStation 3 is now even more tempting, with a lower price and a sleek, slimmed-down appearance. The PS3 still offers fast Blu-ray loading times, Wi-Fi capabilities, a built-in hard drive, and solid performance. You can even access the free PlayStation Network to download HD movies and TV shows straight to your console. This gift just keeps on giving.—DS


1209gift.tripplite150.jpgTripp Lite Surge Suppressor Spikecube ($8.50)
No room on your ceiling for a multi-outlet surge suppressor? Now that’s a stupid question! Plug one of Tripp Lite’s Spikecubes into a ceiling-mounted AC jack, plug your pro- jector into it, and you have 750 joules of surge energy absorption between a lightning strike or other power spike and your expensive projector. (It’s good behind flat panels too.)—MFr

1209gift.ikea150.jpgRaket Table Easel ($1)
Bargain hunters will find no greater HT stocking stuffer than the $1 Raket table easel from Ikea. Although it’s intended for photographs, the easel just happens to be precisely the right size to display a DVD or Blu-ray case. It makes an excellent “Now Showing” marquee for any home theater.—JZ