Samsung Galaxy S3 (AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, U.S. Cellular, Verizon)
Samsung's Galaxy S3 has a huge, vibrant HD screen, a large battery, an awesome camera, and a boatload of software extras -- the best lets you tap two like phones together to share photos and video. A fast dual-core Qualcomm processor and 4G LTE make it a compelling Android 4.0 package. You'll have your choice of 16GB or 32GB versions, which also store up to 64GB of your movies and e-books on a microSD card.
Those who need a camera to satisfy a couple different users will like the HX200V. Its 30x, f2.8-5.6, 27-810mm lens is good for a variety of subjects -- from close-ups to field shots from the bleachers. It has a wide selection of shooting modes, too, so whether you like to fiddle with settings or leave it in auto, the HX200V has you covered.
The Samsung SyncMaster S27B970 impresses with both its sleek aesthetics and stellar performance. It's a bit on the pricey side with a hard to disconnect DisplayPort, but both design and performance of the monitor outweigh its cons.
HP succeeds again in building a classy, fast, reliable all-in-one imaging device for the business market, but I wouldn't limit my recommendation to office denizens. With its spread of convenient connectivity features and cloud printing that includes ePrint and AirPrint compatibility, the affordable Officejet Pro 8600 will earn its place as a solid performer in any environment that demands high-quality document and image prints.
iPhone 5 (AT&T, Sprint, Verizon)
The iPhone 5 brings Apple's popular OS to a taller, larger device that's also faster in every way. LTE compatibility means the iPhone can speed along on any network, the camera is top of class, and the build quality -- in typical Apple fashion -- is among the best money can buy. Luckily, you have your choice of three storage capacities for as low as $200.
The ZS20 is our top camera gift pick because it offers excellent photos and videos for its class, a broad feature set, and fast shooting performance, all at a reasonable price. It's a great fit for anyone who's looking for a long zoom lens in a pocketable package that can be used for snapshots and movie clips.
As we said in the review, the ST50 "sets a lofty standard for HDTV picture quality this year," and if picture quality is your deciding factor yet money is still an object, we haven't reviewed anything better. Its black levels are deeper than those of any 2011 plasma, its color is extremely accurate, and its bright-room image superb. And its price is more than reasonable. In short, it's our Editors' Choice.
The only Windows all-in-one to match the high-end iMac in both screen size and resolution, the Dell XPS One 27 has just received a Windows 8 makeover. A touch screen and a new sliding base make this one of the best Windows PCs available.
The market for $200 tablets is more competitive than ever, but Google's Nexus 7 edges out the competition from Amazon and Barnes & Noble with more features and a more robust app store. (Starts at $199)
The new S5 combines a sleek exterior design, high-tech driving dynamics, and the most amazing cabin electronics available today. It is a near-perfect tech car, with exciting performance well suited for everyday driving. The Google Earth navigation system shows satellite imagery of your current surroundings, and a Street View of your destination.
The latest PS3 slims down to its smallest size ever while retaining everything we like -- and a few things we don't -- about the PlayStation 3 gaming console. First available bundled with Uncharted 3 or Assassin's Creed III, look for Sony to sell the slimmed-down console alone down the road. ($270, available now)
The Roku LT would be a great product at double the price, and at $50 it's a steal. Roku has managed to shave the price all the way down to $50, jettisoning unnecessary features, while keeping all of the streaming content we love -- Netflix, Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, MLB.TV, and Pandora, to name a few. And if the LT is sold out, as it often is, go for the $60 Roku HD, which is nearly identical.
If you're buying a tablet this holiday season, you'll want to stop here first. The iPad has more apps and faster performance of any other tablet. Its ecosystem of content runs the gamut through movies, TV shows, music, games, and books. Its 9.7-inch screen is the sharpest around, and its simplified OS makes it palpable to both the young and old.
Amazon's e-reader with an integrated light may not be perfect, but if you read a lot at night or in bed, it's the Kindle you want.
Bluetooth speakers are the go-to choice for "cheap but good" wireless audio options. But if you want better audio quality -- and something that can serve as the beginning of a multiroom audio system -- go for the Sonos Play:3. Access nearly any online audio service, using your iOS or Android phone or tablet as the remote. It's a perfect gift for any music lover.
There are a shocking number of great headphones you can get for under $50. One of the best full-size models we've found is the Audio-Technica ATH-M30. How good is it? So good that we prefer the M30 to the $159 step-up model, the ATH-M50.
For a small (7.9-inch) tablet, the iPad Mini is significantly more expensive than nearly all of its direct competitors. And it lacks the high-res Retina screen found on the iPhone 5 and full-size iPad. But if your gift recipient already owns a boatload of Apple apps -- or you're willing to splurge on the best-in-class tablet experience -- the iPad Mini is best choice.