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The Bjorn3D Holiday Guide

As we are closing to the end of 2009 it is time to see what products the staff at Bjorn3d.com recommend.

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INTRODUCTION

2009 has been a great year for Bjorn3d. Up until today we have released over 250 reviews and articles and we still have a bunch ready to go out in the coming weeks. Amongst all those reviews we have seen great products as well as mediocre products. We’ve seen new video cards from both NVIDIA and AMD as well as several new CPU’s from both AMD and Intel. 2009 also has been the year when the SSD has gotten its breakthrough and just in 2009 we have reviewed 11 SSD from companies like Corsair, Kingston and OCZ.

It is now time for us, the staff at Bjorn3D.com, to tell you all what products from all these (as well as the products we did not review) that we recommend for the Holidays. We hope this might give you some ideas on what to buy for your loved ones or even for yourself for this holiday!

 

 

Mark Taliaferro – Product/Review Manager

Read reviews by Mark.

I spent a lot of time thinking about a nerd gift list, and then I realized that I was putting too much effort into it and would just list what I would like to tickle my nerd tastes this Christmas.

1. Pair of Kingston SSDNow V 40GB solid state drives to run in RAID0. They feature an Intel controller and only run about $85 after MIR at launch. So for $170 you get an ultra fast Solid State Drive 2xRaid0 array with one of the best controllers out there. They are the newest 34nm design and running in Raid0 with nothing more than onboard RAID controllers they are screaming fast. They probably won’t last long this holiday season so you might want to jump on a couple for the nerd on your list.

Link: Kingston SSDNov V 40 GB review

2. For the gift giver with a road warrior on their shopping list I suggest they take a look at the Razer Orochi gaming mouse. The Orochi is probably the best mobile wired and Bluetooth gaming mouse out there. During a field trip to California for the website I had people approach me at almost every stop along the route and want to talk about and try out the Orochi. With its sharp design, fully programmable buttons, laser sensor, and capable of Bluetooth wireless operation, as well as wired operation should the batteries get drained, it makes the ultimate gift for the road warrior on your shopping list. MSRP is $79.99 but you can find it a little cheaper at a few select discount E-Tailers and the smile it puts on the weary road warriors face is well worth the price.

Link: Razer Orochi gaming mouse review

3. Need a stocking stuffer, how about the World Wildlife Foundation Panda USB drive from Active Media Products comes in capacities from 2 to 16GB. Each and every Panda Drive includes the gift of a donation to the World Wildlife Foundation to help save the endangered species of the world. It’s also darn cute and won’t break the bank this holiday season. The 8 GB drive averages around $28 which isn’t really more expensive than any other high quality USB drive and this one is just too cute. We would suggest this one for Mom and before you gift it fill it with songs and pictures of the family, that way when Mom opens the gift she can plug it in and bask in the glow of the family album, knowing that this thoughtful gift is also helping save the endangered species of the Planet.

Link: World Wildlife Foundation Panda USB drive review

4. How about the Hardcore gamer on your shopping list. You can gift a game if you like but the games you gift only last so long then they end up on a shelf soon after Christmas vacation is over. I was thinking along the lines of a gift for a hardcore gamer that has been a very good boy or girl this year and deserves a Sapphire 5870. While it will set you back about $400 it features DirectX 11 support, is the most powerful single core GPU around, and should run any game your Jedi gamer can lay hands on for the next year or so. Gifting games might bring a smile for a while but the Sapphire 5870 will make them jump for joy and scramble for a screwdriver to install it with. Warning: You might want to gift the box and hide the GPU until after Xmas dinner lest your hardcore gamer disappear into the neon glow of their monitor forgetting the Tom Turkey and Pie waiting at the table.

Link: Sapphire HD5870 Vapor X review

5. That computer enthusiast in your life sitting on an aging machine. How about boosting his sagging performance with an Asus P7P55D Pro motherboard and Intel Core i5 750 processor bundle. Your sad enthusiast can toss on a couple of DDR3 dual channel memory sticks and happily spend the afternoon installing the P7P55D Pro/Intel Core i5 750 processor bundle and that powerful combination will sit you back $369.99. Compared to a complete system replacement that’s a pretty acceptable price for the great performance and reliability you’ll get. Not only that with tons if information on upgrading systems available on the net the nerd that you gift the P7P55D Pro and Intel i5 750 to won’t have to go it alone. The miles of smiles your personal nerd will get from upgrading and enjoying their newly rejuvenated rig is a priceless gift.

Link: Bundle at Tiger Direct

Well that’s it for my personal picks this year. Just what the nerd in your life craves but was afraid to ask for. Blazing fast Kingston SSDNow v Solid State 2xRaid0 array a feather in any nerds cap. The Razer Orochi Mobile gaming mouse for the road warrior in your house. The Active Media Products WWF Panda Drive to stuff the stocking with. That hardcore gamer in your clan gets the Sapphire 5870 even though you may not see them again until they get married. Then last but far from least an Asus P7P55D Pro/Intel Core i5 motherboard/CPU bundle to boost the family rigs sagging performance.

Merry Christmas and Happy Computing!

BJÖRN ENDRE – FOUNDER

Read reviews by Björn.

This has been yet another year with lots of interesting products. Here is a selection of products that I liked and either bought myself or would like to have under the Christmas tree.

1. The Amazon Kindle International Edition

I know – the Kindle has been out for a while now. However  it is just recently that Amazon finally released it outside the US making it possible for me to buy me one. The Kindle is the e-reader that started the “e-book” revolution as it was the one that finally found a broad audience compared to the Sony e-reader and other failed attempts. Since I bought me my Kindle I’ve read 6 books already and I already have 3-4 more lined up for reading. I even have bought a couple of webdevelopment books so I always have them with me wherever I am. With the latest firmware making it possible to read PFD-documents natively the Kindle just has become even better.

Link: Kindle at Amazon

2. The Corsair 800D Full Tower computer case

Corsair is a company that slowly is moving into new territories. They now have memory, SSD:s and PSU:s and with the Corsair 800D case they now also have a case in their product range. Their motto could be “do not bother do something if you cannot do it properly” because the 800D is one of the best cases I ever have tried. What I mainly like about it is all the neat solutions Corsair has put in it. How about making all the 3.5″ (which also can house 2.5″-units) slots hot swappable? You just plug the drive into one of the harddrive slots and you do not even need to hook up a power cable or SATA-cable as it is already built into the case. Corsair also has worked hard to improve the cable management and it is now possible to basically get all the cables routed at the back as the motherboard tray is full with small rubber-holes where the cables can go through. Last but not least Corsair has made several separate cooling zones just to make sure that all components gets the best possible cooling. It might be big but the Corsair 800D has a special place in my office.

Link: Corsair 800D

3. AMD HD5870

One of AMD:s strengths is that they are able to release new fast video cards at reasonable price points. At a time when NVIDIA seems more inclined to rebrand their existing products than to release something new it is interesting to see that AMD has managed to release a wide variety of DX11 video cards for almost every price point. At this point I feel that the HD5870 offers almost the perfect balance between price and performance and should last at least until the next generation is released late next year.

Link: AMD HD5870 at Bjorn3D

4. Cougar S550 550W PSU

The PSU is one of the most important components in your system as it is responsible for powering the rest of your components. I am currently doing a huge round-up with 18 PSU’s ranging from 400W up to 650W and one of the best so far is the Cougar S550 550W PSU. This is a PSU that seems to be able to handle almost anything I throw at it including a system consisting of a Phenom II 955 CPU, 4 GB of DDR3 memory, a HD5970 + HD5870 in CrossfireX as well as a bunch of harddrives. Even with this system (which draws around 550W from the wall) we do not see a drop in the 12V-line of more than 0.1V from 12.15V to 12.06V.

Link: Cougar S550 500W

5. OCZ Agility SSD

What would a list be in 2009 without a SSD? It truly has been the year of the SSD as we have seen a tremendous development in the SSD:s this year, both in terms of performance as well as in terms of price. I tested the OCZ Agility a while ago and to me it has a good balance between price and performance. While the SSD still is to expensive to use as a pure storage unit it excels as a O/S-disc where we can take full advantage of its fast access time as well as fast read and write performance.

Link: OCZ Agility SSD Reviews

RAYMOND BUCKLAND - REVIEWER

Read reviews by Raymond.

Seasonic 850 Watter PSU S12D
As always when a new system gets put together the first thing that needs to looked at is the PSU. This is the life blood of the whole computer, if we use a low line PSU (saving money) then we wont get the proper performance out of the computer. But we don’t always have to have the biggest and the baddest either. The Seasonic S12D (Review can be found HERE) is a perfect PSU that fits the bill for both power efficiency, and pricing.

Intel Core i5 750
The Core i5 750 CPU (Review can be found HERE) is a perfect candidate for anyone needing a very powerful computer that sips on power. Having a 95 watt helps this out vs having a 130 watt like the 1366 Core i7 CPU’s have. These CPU’s Core i5, can overclock extremely well, while providing users a solid CPU platform.

ASUS Maximus III GENE
What good is the CPU if your motherboard is not capable of fully utilizing all that horsepower. The ASUS Maximus III GENE (review can be found HERE) fits just about anyones bill for a solid foundation for their computers. The MATX board design guarantees that wether you have a Micro ATX tower to a full sized tower (and any chassis in between) this motherboard will most likely fit (this will vary from MATX to MATX chassis so double check your purchase), while at the same time give users multi GPU capabilities, all the while make the flexibility of Multi GPU easy, so one minute you are running an ATI crossfire set up, then later want to switch to Nvidia SLI this motherboard will accommodate you.

ATI 5770/5750
These maybe one of the smallest video cards on the block currently but don’t under estimate their small size. The 5770 (review can be found HERE) is both cheap enough for just about anyone, can be ran in a multi GPU set up (ATI Crossfire), and these video cards are extremely powerful that rivals the power of ATI’s very own HD4870 video card. Not to forget giving users the ability to use Direct X 11.

Gskill ECO 1600 Memory
Lets not forget about the memory, memory is the back bone of our system. The memory can make or break the way the OS handles our applications. To little of memory and it takes for ever to load our applications, to failed application launches because there is not enough memory to handle the job. But why not get some memory that actually operates below JDEC standard of 1.55 Volts, that only needs 1.35 Volts to operate this type of memory at 1600 MHz. Adding that extra little bit of power saving in our home computers.

JOHN ARMSTRONG – REVIEWER

Read reviews made by John.

Intel i5 750 Processor
The first item most people look for when building a new computer is the processor; the most important power driver in a rig. Intel’s new Socket 1156 platform brings forth an affordable Nehalem architecture which nips at the heels of i7 1366 powered rigs. The i5 750 is a quad core 2.66GHz processor that packs a hell of a punch being backed by Intel’s Turbo Boost Technology. At $199, this is THE bargain processor to get.

Link: Review of Intel i5 750

ASUS P7P55D Deluxe LGA 1156 Motherboard
Having a processor that is more than capable of overclocking is one of the most important things to computer enthusiast’s build. Unfortunately, not all motherboards are capable of bringing out the animal in overclockable processors. This is where the ASUS P7P55D Deluxe comes into the picture. The P7P55D Deluxe delivers strong overclocking performance utilizing the 16+3 phase power design, Turbo EVO, and the T.Probe feature for active cooling. Keeping “Green” minded users in mind, ASUS also gave the P7P55D Deluxe a special EPU Engine that is capable of automatically reducing power consumption simply by picking a power saving mode. Aside from its overclocking potential, the P7P55D Deluxe looks fantastic and supports both ATI CrossFire and Nvidia SLI technologies. This board does it all.

Link: Review of ASUS P7P55D Deluxe

Sapphire ATI Radeon 5770 1GB Video Card
At $164, Sapphires ATI 5770 fills the budget minded GPU buyers “sweet spot”. This card goes toe to toe with the ATI 4890 video card but manages to come in at a lower price all while supporting Microsofts DirectX 11. Combining two of these cards in CrossFire will surely put out impressive numbers at a comparably low cost.

Link: Review of Sapphire Radeon HD5770

Kingston HyperX DDR3 1600MHz 4GB Kit
With the motherboard, processor and video card covered, you will definitely need memory that can match the performance. Kingston’s HyperX memory kits happen to play very well with ASUS boards from what we’ve reviewed and this DDR3 1600MHz 4GB kit is no exception. We had no issues overclocking our i5 750 processor using this very kit and the performance was nothing short of fantastic. We would be silly not to recommend this kit to any buyer looking for quality memory that packs one hell of a overclocking punch.

Link: Review of Kingston HyperX DDR3 1600MHz 4 GB Kit

Corsair HX 750W Power Supply
Delivering reliable power to your expensive components is the most vital portion of any computer build. Poor power delivery to components ultimately results in a broken computer. The best way to avoid breaking your precious hardware is to feed it some quality power. Corsair has been making quality products for years and their power supplies are no exception. Corsair’s HX 750 Watt power supply features uniquely thing cables to help with cable management and also contains Japanese capacitors to help with power delivery. Combine that with its nice aesthetics and its quiet 140MM thermally controlled fan, and you have reliable, high quality power supply that you can trust to power your hardware.

Link: Corsair HX750W

STEVEN PETERS – REVIEWER

Read reviews made by Steven.

Corsair Extreme Series 128GB Internal Solid state disk (SSD)

Being that SSD’s are the latest and greatest thing to come to market in the hard drive arena, there’s a lot that is not fully understood by end-users. SSD’s don’t need to serve all your data needs, just your boot/system drive. That being said, 128GB is a nice size to start with, it’s got plenty of room so you can divide it into two and dual-boot it if need be. Or just use it for your main system drive in addition to applications (games) you use a lot and then store all of your extra stuff (movies, music, pictures, etc) on another drive. Why the Corsair drive you ask? Simple — it’s crazy fast. It’s not the fastest drive, but it’s close. With 240 MB/s read and 170 MB/s write speeds it’s slightly faster than the RAID 0 array that I’m using which consists of three 640GB WD Caviar Black drives. The 2.0W consumption during HDD activity is a nice touch too, it drops to 0.5W during idle.

WACOM Intuos 4 Tablet

This is for all the Photoshop users out there. Certainly, tablets can take a little getting used to, but once you’ve got it figured out they can be great. My wife has been using one for over a year now and refuses to use anything but the tablet when she’s touching up photos or creating from a blank canvas. The Intuos is Wacom’s professional line and the PTK640 boasts an 8.8″ x 5.5″ active area. For those of you that haven’t used one before, give it a try! As you move the pen across the tablet the cursor follows your movements. Simply touch the pen to the tablet to actually start writing. The tablet is even pressure sensitive which is reflected in line shape and thickness.

Intel i7 920

We all know that the i7 920 has been around for a while now. This should not be seen as a bad thing! The 920 is shaping up to be the i7 version of the Q6600. It’s cheap, it runs great at stock speeds, and is extremely easy to overclock if you’re not happy running anything at stock speeds (guilty!). Not to mention, I’m partial to the LGA 1366 platform for a few reasons. One happens to be the triple channel memory capability (see below), the other is, of course, the rumours flying around that when i9 processors are released, they will also be LGA 1366. Now, there’s no guarantee, but one would suspect that a BIOS revision would be all that is necessary to run an i9 on a current X58 board (this is a big assumption, don’t quote me!)


CORSAIR DOMINATOR-GT 6GB DDR3 1866

Okay first off, if you missed it, I’m a big fan of the LGA1366 platform. Triple channel memory offers a great speed advantage over dual channel. Take the Corsair Dominator GT series, 1866 MHz with ultra-low 7-8-7-20 timings. This is some of the fastest memory on the market. Pure clock speed won’t win it any awards but combine them with the lowest CAS latency on the market and you’ve got something going for you. Last, but of course not least, is Corsair’s lifetime warranty, hard to beat that!

Buffalo 4TB TeraStation

Hopefully my wife reads this article, this particular piece of hardware is the one I want for Christmas. I love the idea of a NAS for storing everything. Backups alone can eat up 1TB of space at my house. This particular model caught my eye for a few reasons. First of all, I need 10/100/1000 ethernet. If I’m streaming a lot of stuff back and forth I definitely don’t want to be doing it at 100 Mbps. The other really big reason I want this NAS is the RAID capability. It’ll do RAID 0, 1, 5, or 10 ( 1 + 0). RAID 10 (for those that don’t already know) will take the capacity down to 2TB, but it will be very fast and redundant (a definite must if you’re storing your PC backups on the NAS). A less important feature, but still quite nice, is the ability to pull your drives out and replace them if need be, or store important backups offsite. It’s also worth mentioning that the drives are all 7200RPM, not the 5900RPM drives that you see a lot in the 1TB size.

PETER KAPAS – REVIEWER

Read reviews by Peter.

Seasonic X-750 750 Watt Ultra Quiet Power Supply
Seasonic has been making top quality power supplies since I got to know them last year. With their new Seasonic X-750 750W Power Supply, not only is this power supply 80Plus Gold rated, but also comes with a silent fans. The PSU’s fans don’t kick in till the user reaches 20%±5% load, and it maintains a 16dB(A) acoustic noise till it reaches 50% load. From that point on the fan speed starts speeding up from 16dB(A) still maintaining a low acoustic noise. The Seasonic X-750 750W Power Supply is also 100% modular which makes it very easy to install and only use the leads you are really required to use for your system.

Available at AcousticPC.com

Silverstone Temjin TJ-10 Full-Tower Chassis
The Silverstone Temjin TJ-10 Full-Tower Chassis might be several years old already, but it still keeps up with the latest hardware and innovations available in latest PC cases. It’s slick, simple and quality look makes this chassis stand out from the rest. Plus, it allows full installation of an internal water cooling loop on the top of the chassis enabling the user to push the hot air out straight from the system instead of blowing it straight back in again. It’s separate compartment for the hard drives gives excellent division between the main hardware and the hard drives and provides excellent air circulation for the hard drives. And finally, with the combination of the Acoustic foam, the system can become completely silent making it not only an enjoyable HTPC, but also an enjoyable gaming system.

AcoustiPack Ultimate PC Sound Proofing Kit and Acoustic Foam Blocks
Are you tired of that annoying fan spinning in your system? Are you tired of hearing your hard drives, DVD players, and other moving parts in your system? With the AcoustiPack Ultimate PC Sound Proofing Kit, you are able to lower the overall acoustic noise escaping your system making your system quiet and enjoyable to work with. The Acoustic Foam Blocks help dampen the sound of drives and other devices making buzzing or other sounds. With the combination of the two, you will have one silent PC that you will enjoy through years to come.

Available at AcousticPC.com

Intel Core i7 920 Quad-Core Processor
The introduction of the Core i7 processors brought lots of excitement last year, however the Core i7 is still the top of the top leader in processors. The Core i7 920 is a very stable and inexpensive processor for what it can accomplish. Combine it with an efficient air cooler and a good motherboard and you will be up in the 3.6GHz+ ranges in no time. While the Core i7 is a Quad-Core processor, with the help of Hyper Threading, you can use the i7 as if it was an 8-core processor. This tremendously helps in video editing, 3D Rendering, Animation, Photo Editing, and applications related to media.

ASUS P6T LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard
The Asus P6T motherboard is an exceptional motherboard for gamers and overclocking enthusiasts. This board supports SLI and CrossFireX for ultimate gaming experience with the support of PCI-Express v2.0. This motherboard supports up to 6x DDR3 1333MHz Memories, but you can easily accomplish up to 2000MHz with a bit of overclocking. It’s very stable and cool design makes this motherboard stand out from its crowd.
 

RYAN KERSCHNER - REVIEWER

Read reviews by Ryan.

Theme: Great Gifts under $100

1. AMD Athlon II X4 620 – $99

Quadcore. $100. These two things pretty much sum up what the AMD Athlon II X4 620 is all about. Four cores of processing power for $100. Although the 620 is missing the L3 cache that its big brother the Phenom II comes with, the performance that you get right out of the box is amazing. Bump up the FSB and maybe even give a little more voltage to the CPU and the results are even better. AMD has stated that this processor was designed for the mainstream segment, but we have no doubts that this chip can begin to hang with the big boys with the right combination of parts. Add to the fact that the X4 620 doesn’t pump out ridiculous amounts of heat, even when overclocked, and you are well on your way to a budget build that won’t leave you sweating.

Link: http://www.bjorn3d.com/read.php?cID=1716

2. STM Small Alley 13″ Laptop Shoulder Bag – $40

While waiting for my Dell Mini 12 to arrive, I realized that I needed a suitable bag to carry it and the needed accessories around in. After a little digging, I came across STM, and their quite large line of bags. Not only does STM make great laptop bags, they also craft backpacks, some special-use cases and even screen covers. The great thing about the Small Alley bag is that it is the perfect size for my 12″ netbook. It features water resistant materials on the inside and outside to keep your goodies safe on rainy days. Multiple zippered and Velcro pockets provide room for the essentials you might want to carry around. The laptop compartment is also fully padded to keep your laptop/netbook safe from the bumps and thumps it might encounter on your journeys. If the Alley design doesn’t work for you, check our their other designs, as I’m sure one will fit your needs.

Link: http://www.stmbags.com.au/products.php?id=22&name=small_alley_13&category=shoulderbags

3. Steam Purchase Gift – $Price Varies

If you are in the position to give the gift of a PC game this year, why not try out a Steam purchased gift? Steam is Valve Corporation’s on-line distribution platform used by thousands of PC gamers world wide. Steam keeps games up to date with automatic game updates and allows you to play your Steam purchased games on any PC. The games are associated with the user, not the computer. Simply install the Steam client, download and install your purchased games and off you go. Another great thing about giving a Steam gift is that there is no packaging to throw away or take up space, making it a somewhat greener option than purchasing a physical copy of the game.

Link: https://support.steampowered.com/kb_article.php?p_faqid=549#gifts

4. Microsoft Windows 7 – College Students Only – $30

Are you a current college student with a valid college-provided e-mail address? How does the ability to purchase Microsoft’s latest OS, Windows 7, for $30 sound? No, that isn’t a typo. Microsoft has really knocked this one out of the park. For only thirty dollars you can purchase a copy of Windows 7 Home Premium in either 32-bit or 64-bit flavor. Need to connect that PC to the university domain? Windows 7 Professional can also be had for the same low price of $29.99. At a time when money usually isn’t arriving by the truck load, a deal like this is a no-brainer for college students wanting to get the most from their PC.

Link: http://www.win741.com

5. Eye-Fi Share Video – $80

This is the only item on my list that I have yet to work with in person, but man I want one. The Eye-Fi line of products merge SD cards and Wi-Fi technology to create a device that easily moves the photos or videos taken with your camera to other storage areas. You can configure the Eye-Fi card to send the media to your home PC or even online services like flickr, Picasa, Facebook, even FTP sites. The Share Video is configured with 4GB of storage and can work with photos and videos. If you need to work with RAW files, you can upgrade to the Pro model, but you will be breaking the $100 barrier theme for this list.

Link: http://www.eye.fi/products/sharevideo

VICTOR WU – Reviewer AND NEWSEDITOR

Read reviews by Victor.

1- Zune HD

iPod was the leader in the MP3 player for the last few years. Apple has always launched a new models of iPod right before the holiday season in the past. However, this year, Apple has not release any new iPods except some minor improvements of the older model. This gives other manufacturers an opportunity to grab some market shares.

Microsoft entered the MP3 player with their Zune back in the 2006. However, Zune was not able to compete with the dominance of the iPods due to its less than stellar user interface and the lack of touchscreen compare to the iPod Touch. Well, things has changed with the launch of the Zune HD. The new Zune HD features touchscreen, HD FM radio, a 3.3 glass OLED screen with 480×272 at 16:9 aspect ratio. It uses NVIDIA Tegra chip which supports a very nice graphics and can play 720p video through the optional HDMI dock. The recent firmware updates also allows the unit to play games.

This is probably one of the most feature-rich MP3 players currently available. If you love to listen to the HD FM radio, want a better screen, and a longer battery life for a multimedia player, Zune HD sure would be a good holiday present. Be warned though, the unit still only works with Windows based system (sorry Mac fans) and it’s web browser interface is still lags behind the iPod Touch.

2- MacBook Pro

I think that mobile computing is at its pinnacle. With so many choices to choose: Netbooks for those who need a light and portable, Ultra Portable for those who want more umps, and full-blown system with the latest quad core processor for the ultimate user. In fact, today’s cell phone are getting closer to be a mobile computing device where it will let you not only talks but also check email and edit documents.

Still, if you wish to have a good balance of portability and performance, I think the 13.3’’ Apple Macbook Pro is a nice system. The laptop features Intel Core 2 Duo 2.26GHz, 2GB DDR3 RAM, 160GB Hard Drive, NVIDIA GeForce 9400M, and SuperDrive. The system can be a nice stocking for at $1199.00 price tag. Yes, it is slightly more expensive than a comparable PC laptop but the Windows PC often includes Intel graphic chip instead of the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M, where the latter has a better performance. The NVIDIA GeForce 9400M chipset also features H.264 hardware assisted encoding, CUDA for general purpose computing. So you can use the system for both work, watch movie, and maybe even some light gaming.

The included SD slot is a much welcoming feature and the return of the FireWire 800 will satisfy the hardcore Mac users. Also, the unibody design makes the system much more durable and the redesigned battery will let you get 7 hours of computing use before it needs to be recharged. Not to mention the multi-touch track pad, backlit LED keyboard and display, and the 802.11n and Bluetooth are all included.

Pair it with the latest Snow Leopard operating system to take the full advantage 64-bit. Of course for those who still need to use their Windows apps, you can take the advantage of the BootCamp which will be supporting latest Windows 7 soon. It just makes the MacBook Pro a very light, powerful, and versatile notebook.

3- Storage: WD HD or Synology NAS

I am a strong believer that you can never have enough storage. It seems to me that the number of digital files has just exploded exponentially and the file size gets larger per day. Centralize these digital contents are a big task. This is where I feel that having a NAS server would be an indispensable hardware in today’s household. Spending $100~$200 can get you a very nice 1-bay or 2-bay NAS server where it can centralize all of the digital contents so they can be shared among all of the computers in the house.

I like the Synology DS209 that we have reviewed. Selling at $299.99, the 2-bay NAS uses Marvell SoC chip running at 1.2GHz with 256MB of memory to deliver a good performance yet consumes minimal wattage (10W~25W). It supports JBOD and RAID 0 and 1 for a maximum 4TB of storage space (hard drive is not included). It comes with plenty of features such as Windows ADS support, FTP/Telnet/SSH/FTP/CIFS/NFS/AFP support, and PHP/MySQL. The NAS can function as a File Station, Photo Station, and Multimedia Server with support for DLNA. It even supports iTune so you can share your digital music.

For those who wish to setup a no-hassle server, I feel that it is an excellent present for the tech geeks out there. It would be something that everyone in the house will come to love.

4- NEC EA231WMi

I think a good computer monitor is crucial. The NEC EA231WMi built with IPS, a good quality panel for those who wish to have good color quality. Many of the cheaper 24’’ LCD are built with TN panel where it is just not on the same level as the more expensive the IPS or the S-PVA panel when it comes with color quality. If you have seen a monitor with IPS panel next to the TN panel, you will definitely come to appreciate the accuracy of the color reproduction.

The NEC EA231WMi stands out among the other 24’’ LCD monitors with IPS or S-PVA panel for its excellent pricing of MSRP $379. It is hard to find a monitor of this size with IPS or S-PVA panel at this price as many of them are still selling at $500~600. The monitor supports resolution up to 1920×1080, has built in USB hub, built-in carry handle, down-firing speakers, a headphone socket, 270 nits of brightness, and 1,000:1 contrast ratio. It also comes with DisplayPort, VGA, and DVI port and 3 year of warranty.

5-Some cheap gift recommendations:

In this economical downtime, I think that having a good present does not mean that you must spend a fortune. In fact, I think that flash drives are always good choices for the techies and non-techies out there. You can never have enough of these neat little portable storage devices.

Choose either among the choices such as SuperTalent Pico if you want 16GB of tiniest flash drive, Kingston DataTraveler DT200/64GB if you want huge 64GB for all of your digital media. Alternatively, if you want a performance drive, we think the OCZ Throttle is a nice little device for its combination of eSATA and USB port. Our test shows that the eSATA port can offer close to three times of the transfer rate than the USB port in real-world tests. So it’s definitely a good one for those who always need to transfer large chunk of data around different computers if the system supports eSATA. For those who wish to give it a bit more personal touch, check out the PromoLocker’s custom USB drives. It is both useful and contains a personal touch that maybe better than a Christmas card.

For those who shoot a lot of digital photos, SD flash memory are always nice. These little flash memories cost somewhere around 20~40 for 16GB to 32GB but would be a very useful gifts.
 

Anthony Chartrand – Reviewer

Read reviews by Anthony.

It may seem like an oxymoron to say the best high end bargains, but they really do exist. These bargains even disprove the long told rumor that you have to spend 10 grand on a gaming computer. This is simply not a fact. You can build a totally capable machine which will make games look BETTER than a console for around $500-600. The mentioned products will of course cost a bit more than that since its more high end oriented, but it will certainly not cost near the mythical 10 grand mark.

1) Intel i7 920
When the 920 was first tested by us we were amazed at what this chip could do. The new Nehalem architecture was, and still is by far the best ever produced. Combine that with incredible overclocking, and you have an unbeatable chip. The 920 is easily capable of overclocking past the 965 and 975 Extreme chips for a fraction of the cost. Intel’s addition of an on chip memory controller also helped propel this CPU to the top of the pile. If you search hard enough you can even find this chip for the bargain price of just $200, which gives this chip a budget oriented price with high end performance.

2) Foxconn FlamingBlade GTI X58
What good is a CPU without a motherboard? Not much that’s for sure. With a price of only $170 ($144.99 currently on Newegg) you can have a full sized ATX motherboard. The advantages of a full ATX are obvious if you happen to use multiple expansion cards. The only real downfall about this board is it only features 3 RAM slots, but 6 GB is plenty for a gaming rig nowadays. Of course the CPU would not be any good if the motherboard would not overclock, but fear not with a little tweaking this motherboard can easily do 200 FSB. That means your CPU can be running into the 4 GHz range!

3) Patriot Gamer Series 6 GB DDR3 1600
Patriot has many devoted followers. They make good quality RAM, so it’s no surprise they have a following. The Gamer Series is a newer line of RAM that is more of a budget oriented RAM. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because the performance gains beyond 1600 MHz are negligible. The CAS 9 timings are pretty normal for this speed, but you may be able to lower them a bit with some tweaking.

4) Sapphire 5870 Vapor-X
Sapphire has long been a favorite of Bjorn3D’s for ATI graphics cards. They always provide top quality products, and the 5870 Vapor-X is no different. This card comes with its own aftermarket cooler, so you can be sure that the GPU will be running nice and cool during a long gaming session. Combine this with the sheer power of the 5870 GPU, and you have a killer card that is cheaper, and performs almost as well as Nvidia’s GTX295.

5) Corsair 850 TX/HX
Corsair has been one of the top PSU manufacturers since they entered the PSU market over three years ago. Corsair has always made some of the most efficient PSU’s, and kept the quality level up to the max. You never want to cheap out on the PSU, because a blown PSU can destroy your whole system. Corsair backs up their PSU’s with a 5-7 year warranty (850TX has a 7 year), so you know this product is guaranteed to have a long life. A modular PSU is very important to many people, but it costs more. If you have the extra money you might as well go with the 850 HX, because the ability to disconnect cables is great especially if you have a smaller case.
 

CONCLUSION

Hopefully you have enjoyed our suggestions. There is of course even more products that we could have recommended but hopefully our lists has helped you find some new products that you might not have planned to buy.

Now however it is YOUR time! Head over to this thread and tell us your recommendations (or what you would like to have)  for this Holiday as well as products you would not want to use even if someone bought them for you!

Happy Holiday’s from all of us at Bjorn3D.com.

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