Best Flat Panel TV Deal
Panasonic's 42-in. plasma is the best buy in high-definition flat panels right now. The most popular model is the TH-42PX60U, which Wal-Mart and Amazon.com sell for under $1,400 (if you can find it). There's another Panasonic plasma with an even better price tag, the $1,300 TH-42PX6U. It delivers the exact same picture quality as the pricier one, but just so you know, it doesn't have front A/V inputs, which gamers like, and it doesn't have an SD card slot for reviewing photos you took with your digital camera.
Most Packed Digital Camera
Speaking of digital cameras, the Nikon CoolPix S7c is really my favorite compact model of the season. It is as reliable as the Canons, and for $350, carries more bells than Santa's sleigh. Its selling feature is Wi-Fi for online photo management, but some even cooler features are deeply buried: the time-lapse shooting feature lets you take pictures say, every five seconds, or every hour. Each shot is added as a frame to a little movie, so you can duplicate, at home, those memorable videos depicting flowers opening, or a building job getting completed at high speed. The stop-motion animation feature lets you make crazy Claymation movies or animate He-Man and GI Joe figures, like they do on Seth Green's hilarious "Robot Chicken" show.
Top iPod Docks
There are more docks than anyone knows what to do with, but when I tested speaker docks over the summer, the Klipsch balanced great sound quality with nice features, like a remote control. If you have a video iPod, you may want to look into a video dock, which has a larger screen. In the buyer's guide we mentioned the 8-in. Memorex iFlip ($200). If you have trouble finding that one, check out the highly rated one from Sonic Impact, which is carried in the Apple Stores. (iPod Video Tip: A fast, convenient way for PC users to make non-copyprotected digital movies ready for an iPod or PSP is with InterVideo's iVideoToGo software; it's $30 at intervideo.com.)
Nicest Digital Picture Frame As I mentioned in the magazine this week, I looked at a bunch of digital picture frames, and the one with the best picture quality was Philips' 9-in. 9FF2M4. What I didn't mention in the story is that when you set up a slideshow of pictures, you can select from a variety of transitions, including puzzle pieces that break apart, a George Lucas-style screen slide, or a modern-art style grid pattern. Also, it has a battery so you can display your photos, at least for a few hours, without a power cord.