The good: Costing the same as a standard MKZ, the 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid gets significantly better fuel economy than its gasoline-only equivalent. The navigation system offers useful external data, such as traffic and gas prices, and the THX audio system will delight music lovers. Sync voice command offers excellent control over MP3 players and phones.
The bad: The MKZ Hybrid's driving quality differs little from the Ford Fusion Hybrid. Style-wise, it is a little stodgy.
The bottom line: With excellent fuel economy, a comfortable interior, and really excellent cabin tech, the 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid makes for a near perfect commuter car and general transportation.
The good: The Motorola Finiti has "stealth mode," a bone conduction technology that completely blocks out environmental noise. It also has features like multipoint, A2DP streaming, voice controls, and compatibility with an Android app that reads out incoming text messages. Call quality is excellent.
The bad: The Motorola Finiti has a tiny multipurpose call button. The MotoSpeak app is currently only for Android and could be improved. Voices in stealth mode sound a little overly processed.
The bottom line: The Motorola Finiti is a definite improvement over its predecessor, with lots of high-end features and amazing audio quality.
The good: A completely electric powertrain marks the 2011 Nissan Leaf as the first of a new breed of car, and per mile, electricity costs about 70 percent less than gasoline. Navigation, a Bluetooth phone system, telematics, and an iPod connection all come standard, and the car includes a database of charging stations.
The bad: A range of about 100 miles limits the car's tasks, and recharging takes hours at a standard AC outlet. Using the climate control takes a significant toll on range.
The bottom line: The 2011 Nissan Leaf is a perfect car for many commuters in urban or suburban areas with access to a garage, significantly reducing the everyday cost of transportation, but it's completely impractical for those with longer commutes.
The good: Affordable sub-$100 price tag; ultrasmall factor; streams more than a hundred Internet video and audio services, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon, Pandora, Major League Baseball and NHL games, and Mediafly podcasts; built-in dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi; works with all TVs, including non-HD models; upgradable firmware allows for periodic update of content and features; good HD video quality (on channels and programming that support it).
The bad: Most worthwhile services require monthly or per-use fees; some game consoles and ever-cheaper Blu-ray players offer many of the same Internet-viewing options plus disc playback; currently offers no official support for streaming from USB drives and home network sources; video quality varies from channel to channel, depending upon provider and source material; setup and content queues usually require at least some PC interaction; yet another box under the TV; currently offers no access to PC- and USB-based media; lacks official support for YouTube.
The bottom line: Thanks to its wide range of content offerings--including Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus, and Pandora--the Roku XDS is the best all-around streaming media box you can get for less than $100.
The good: Amazing bang for the buck in features and performance; expert build quality; capable gaming and general-performance box for under $1,000; room for a second graphics card.
The bad: Limited-time deal may not exist past January 1, 2011.
The bottom line: Velocity Micro's Vector Holiday Edition offers one of the best deals we've ever seen in a mainstream PC. For under $1,000, this system provides a Blu-ray drive, overachieving speed, and room to grow in an attractive, well-built package. We enthusiastically recommend this system to anyone looking for a fast, affordable computer.
The good: The Vizio XWR100 Dual Band HD Wireless Internet Router offers solid performance and includes a user-friendly Web interface. The router supports true dual-band, USB external hard drives, is easy to use, and comes in an aesthetically pleasing design.
The bad: The Vizio XWR100 doesn't support Gigabit Ethernet. Its network storage function can't write to external hard drives formatted in NTFS file system. The Web interface offers limited customization to the settings its features.
The bottom line: The Vizio XWR100 Dual Band HD Wireless Internet Router is arguably one of the best sub-$100 wireless routers on the market, and it's a must-have for those with network-ready home entertainment devices from Vizio.
Xbox 360 Wireless Controller with Transforming D-Pad
Xbox 360 Wireless Controller with Transforming D-Pad and Play and Charge Kit
Editors' rating: 4 out of 5
The good: Unique twisting directional-pad design; slick new color scheme; new concave analog sticks; convincingly outperforms existing Xbox 360 D-pad; works well with vintage XBLA games originally built for D-pad controllers; includes a black play-and-charge kit.
The bad: Expensive; forces consumer to pay for play-and-charge kit; new face-button colors may confuse novice users.
The bottom line: The Xbox 360 Wireless Controller with Transforming D-pad is a must-have for 360 gamers who demand a precise D-pad response.