Doing more for less isn’t just the mantra of corporate bean counters. It’s the modus operandi of technology vendors, too, whose latest offerings pack more bang per buck than ever before. From e-book readers to digital cameras to gaming hardware, acquiring state-of-the-art gear—and redistributing some of your economic recovery this holiday season—has never been easier. Here are our picks for high-tech holiday cheer.
Apple TV We don’t know who designed the revamped Apple TV, but we’re pretty sure that at some point, he or she lived in a cramped Manhattan apartment. Barely larger than a hockey puck, this $99 device packs a hefty punch. It’s able to stream movies and TV shows from Apple Inc.’s iTunes Store, as well as titles from Netflix, online videos from YouTube, and any music and video from iTunes on your computer. Apple Store titles are rentals only—an important point. With no storage capability, the device only streams content from other sources; it saves nothing, so if you were hoping to buy movies sans computer, you’re out of luck. Instead, the selling point is that Apple makes so many sources of video content accessible via a ridiculously simple user interface. You’ll need high-definition TV for Apple TV—and an HDMI cable—but setup is a snap. We thought video quality was very good—not quite equal to a Blu-ray disc (which plays at 1080 lines of resolution compared to Apple TV’s 720), but still sharp and smooth, with barely any wait before titles begin and no lag or stuttering during playback. The Netflix implementation is particularly well done, providing quick access to your queue, and again, playing titles without the hiccups long associated with streaming video.
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