The good: Better application performance than PCs that cost twice as much; strong gaming performance should play almost any game on the market smoothly and with high image quality; room to expand memory and hard-drive storage; USB 3.0 jacks prepare you for future external devices.
The bad: Garish (but fortunately optional) side panel art.
The bottom line: Ignore the side panel. Maingear has an outstanding deal in this high-end F131 gaming desktop, which is one of the fastest PCs we've seen all year. We recommend this system without hesitation to serious PC gamers and those interested in a high-performance, high-value computer.
The good: Excellent black-level performance; accurate color overall; properly handles 1080p/24 sources; excellent bright-room image for a plasma; numerous picture controls and tweaks; sleek styling with inch-deep panel; superb streaming and widget content via well-integrated Apps platform; very good 3D picture quality.
The bad: Less energy-efficient than LCD models; duplication of Apps and widgets can be confusing; optional dejudder processing introduces artifacts; does not include 3D glasses; terrible remote.
The bottom line: Samsung's PNC8000 series plasma TV produces one of the highest-quality pictures we've tested this year in both 2D and 3D modes, yet costs less than its direct competition.
The good: Speedy shooting performance; slim, stylish design; plenty of fun, useful features; very good low-light photo quality for its class.
The bad: Soft photos, videos; poor battery life; 3D photos are of limited use.
The bottom line: As long as image softness doesn't bother you, the fast-shooting Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX9 is a quite capable camera for taking photos under a variety of conditions without much effort from the user.
The good: The T-Mobile G2 boasts a premium design and easy-to-use QWERTY keyboard. It's the first smartphone to support T-Mobile's HSPA+ network, and offers speedy performance and good call quality. It ships running Android 2.2 with the stock Android interface.
The bad: The G2 doesn't offer tethering or mobile hot spot capabilities. We have some concerns about the slider hinge.
The bottom line: Some minor issues aside, the T-Mobile G2 is one of the carrier's top Android smartphones, offering an excellent QWERTY keyboard, speed, and plenty of features.
The good: The Alpine INA-W900 features a super crisp screen for video playback and source selection. Full speed iPod integration for audio and video are rolled in without the need for additional accessories. The navigation system features responsive destination entry and an accurate external GPS antenna.
The bad: Interface resolution is inconsistent between the navigation and source selection modes. The unit doesn't feature Bluetooth hands-free calling or audio streaming.
The bottom line: The Alpine INA-W900 is a solid choice for most users' in-car entertainment and navigation needs, but it will require a few upgrades to match our current favorite in functionality.
The good: Costs $99; rent movies and TV shows from the iTunes Store; 99-cent HD TV show rentals on some Fox and ABC shows; supports Netflix streaming; incredibly small design; outstanding user interface; can be controlled by iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch; streams music and videos from PCs and Macs running iTunes; promising future AirPlay functionality should be available in November.
The bad: Very limited selection of TV shows, especially compared with Amazon Video On Demand; confusion between what's available on Apple TV iTunes Store and PC-based iTunes store; doesn't support the full suite of media apps (Pandora, etc.) available on the iPhone and iPad; can't connect to older, pre-HDMI TVs.
The bottom line: The Apple TV's new low $99 price makes it an easy impulse buy for Apple fans looking to bring Netflix into the living room, but you may want to wait until more content--or Apple's forthcoming AirPlay update--becomes available.