- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 2, 2009

This isn’t the winter of our discontent, otherwise known as 2008, so perhaps more buoyancy is in order as we prowl the malls and make our gift selections.

Some highly subjective thoughts, then, for Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa 2009:

m Go all-out for high definition. That means, by the way, buying flat-screen TVs with 1080p resolution, not 720p. I say this with some envy because both of my flat-panels are 720p, and, no, I’m not likely to upgrade this year. (There’s always 2010.) For new high-definition TV buyers, however, the cost of most 1080p sets is incrementally above that of 720p ones. For example, last weekend, Best Buy was selling a 32-inch Samsung 720p set for $377.99, while a 32-inch LG set with 1080p resolution was $439.99, a difference of $60. Both sets had refresh rates of 60Hz, however, which trail behind the more popular 120Hz models being advertised on TV. But 60Hz isn’t terrible, at least in my viewing experience.

It’s likely that many people are like me and have their flat-panels already. But there still are some holdouts who are thinking about an upgrade or whose 720p sets are aging and perhaps on the verge of replacement. If you’re thinking of switching, move up a notch and pass on the old set to someone who can use it still.

Get the best in computing power. This is another area where skimping isn’t wise, in my opinion. You can find plenty of good bargains with machines that have enough oomph to make an impact, I believe.

On the Windows side of the computing aisle, try for models pre-loaded with Microsoft Windows 7, for two reasons. First, you’re assured the computer is compatible with the new operating system, and second, you’re spared the hassle of upgrading. Get a program such as PCMover from www.laplink.com, which ranges from $19.95 to $59.95 depending upon the number of features you want. All along the way, the program will help you move your data and applications from the old PC to the new one. I’ve not tested it yet, but having known LapLink for many years, I have full confidence in its products.

In two steps, then, buying the computer with Windows 7, and moving over your applications and data, you’re good to go. Assembling a child’s bicycle should be this easy.

For Mac users (and PC-to-Mac switchers), the choices are, in my view, easier. Buy any Mac, follow the instructions Apple provides for switching (or bring your PC to an Apple store for help) and you’ll be ready to roll. Pricing can vary, and the cheapest model, a $599 Mac mini, is pricier than many PCs, but avoiding the hassles Windows gives is a powerful lure for many users.

If you’re gaming, relax. I can’t think of a time when so many choices have been so easy to make. Each of the major gaming systems - Microsoft’s XBox 360, Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Nintendo’s Wii - are in the under-$300 range, so price isn’t really an issue. Each has its corps of devotees, and you’ll hear different reasons why you should select this or that model. I’m a PlayStation fan because it includes a Blu-Ray disc player, giving you super-high-definition movies along with your games and the like.

However, the Wii and its fitness games are a big attraction, and it’s highly likely that someone I know very well might find one as a gift this year. (Just don’t tell her, OK?)

Audio is equally easy, at least in my opinion. There’s nothing, nothing at all, to compare with Apple’s iPod line, unless it’s the iPhone, whose praises I’ve sung frequently this year. I’ll hear all sorts of guff from folks about how Microsoft’s Zune or some other device is just as good or better, but I’ll dissent. For me, the big thing is Apple’s genius at putting content and player together in a seamless fashion. It’s just too good, too easy, and too perfect. Nothing I’ve seen comes close.

That’s not to say someone else couldn’t one-up Apple, but many have tried, without much success so far. To the victor go the spoils, and in portable music, the victor can be found in Cupertino, Calif.

E-mail mkellner@ washingtontimes.com.

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