Friday, December 1, 2006

Nice gifts for givers on a $50-500 budget


By David Gewirtz

Bummed that the WestBay yacht is going to someone else this holiday season? Dejected that no one would share Alienware love with you? Perhaps you're still moderately worthy.

Let's do a quick recap. In "Super-expensive gifts for the rich and excessive", we covered extravagant gifts over $5,000 and into the millions. In "Expensive (but worth it) gifts for the truly worthy" we explored gifts between $500 and $5,000. In this installment of our Holiday Gift Guide, we're looking at some very cool gifts that are priced between $50 and $500. Even you're worth $500? Aren't you?

Rather than just the dull recitation of popular products, we've turned to the ZATZ editors, to a bunch of experts in the Internet Press Guild, and to a bunch of tech gaming enthusiasts, my own gaming buddies in the Iron Phoenix gaming community.

Gaming consoles

Let's knock out the gaming consoles first. You know this is the major geek draw this holiday season, so we might as well send them some love. Universally, our panel nominated the Nintendo Wii, shown in Figure A, as the must-have console this season.


If you can find a Wii, take a Wii. (click for larger image)

Despite the incredible temptation to make bad puns, the Wii will become the new classic business case study for excellent product strategy. While the PlayStation 3 introduced at a mind-blowing $599, the Nintendo Wii has been introduced for $249 and includes the game Wii Sports. If you've been living under a rock, you might not know that the Wii's popularity is all about creating a new kind of fun video game, one where you move your controller in 3D space. You swing it like a bat to hit a baseball, you punch with it in a fight, you flip it out like Spiderman to cast Spidey's web, and so forth.

The second choice for most gamers on our panel was the Xbox 360. Most said that if you couldn't find a Wii, they'd settle for the more expensive, HD-ready Xbox 360, shown in Figure B.


We like the Xbox 360. It's a solid, fun machine. (click for larger image)

Oh, whatever you do, don't go buying the cheaper Xbox 360 Core system for anyone. It's cheap and it's missing key elements any gamer will need, including, ah, duh, a hard drive.

In terms of handheld gaming, our current favorite is the PlayStation Portable (known as the PSP). This $199 handheld, shown in Figure C, has great screen resolution, can play movies nicely, and supports some fun and some truly terrible games. Plus, we you can run Linux on it (but you might void the warranty).