I'm not sure how it happened, but the holiday season is practically upon us. Most people are starting to think about cooler weather, Thanksgiving turkey, and trying to remember to buy batteries for all of their gifts. As a tech enthusiast, though, my mind wanders toward faster overclocks, Black Friday sales, and a wealth of fantastic new video games to choose from. It's also a good time for me to come up with a short holiday wish list, just in case any of the guys here at The Tech Report still need any ideas for our Secret Santa exchange (hint, hint).
Western Digital's WD TV HD Media Player
Let's face it: enjoying digital content from your PC in the comfort of your living room is pretty awesome. My original plan was to have a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 hooked up to the TV and to stream content from my PC to either one. Unfortunately, both the Xbox 360 and PS3 have ended up in my pretend home office, hooked up to the same display as my desktop PC. It also took a couple of years for the two devices to get their media format kinks sorted out, and to be honest, compatibility remains less than perfect. Thus their utility to me as media streaming devices has gone out the window.
Instead, I've had my eye on a Popcorn Hour device for some time now, but it also never quite fit the bill for me. My biggest gripe with the product is the fact that the latest model costs $215, and though it's packed with tons of features, I'd be happy to sacrifice some of them to get that price down. Network connectivity in particular isn't a must-have for me. Wi-Fi hasn't been so great for streaming HD content in my house, and running more network cables through the attic isn't something I want to tackle any time soon. Inevitably, I'd just pair the device with one of the many extra external hard drives I have kicking around the house. However, I could just as well spend that amount of money on another Xbox 360 for the living room.
Enter the Western Digital WD TV HD Media Player. Yes, it's a horrible name, but I suppose it's an honest reflection of what the device actually does. The WD TV is a brand-new media player from Western Digital, and judging by the form factor, the company really wants people to pair it with one of its MyBook external hard drives. While the WD TV is much lighter on the connectivity and functionality fronts compared to a Popcorn Hour, it has digital video, digital audio, and a USB port for a hard drive, which are just about all I'm looking for. It's also got great file compatibility, if WD's specs are to be believed. The inclusion of composite video as the only analog connection has me scratching my head a bit, however. I haven't had a chance to test one of these things personally, so my only real reservations remain with the user interface, although the fact that it's on sale for $99 at Best Buy this week makes it almost too good not to try out.
Intel's Core i7 processors
No, I don't need one—how many of us really do? I'm already running a quad-core CPU, and most of the applications I run (games) barely take advantage of that as it is. In TR's review, Scott came to the conclusion that many users would likely be better off with a less expensive but still incredibly powerful Core 2 Duo E8600. But the Core i7 is new, it's shiny, and being the self-respecting nerd that I am, I want one. Back in the real world, though, I'll probably end up with a 45nm part from AMD, that being a more fiscally responsible upgrade path from my current situation (with a Phenom X4 engineering sample). But hey, it's nice to dream.
HP's LP2475w monitor
At last, HP has finally come up with a replacement for the fantastic yet overlooked L2335 monitor. The L2335 came onto the market a few years back, and it featured a 23" IPS panel when enthusiasts were (and still are) all swooning over 24" PVA displays from Dell. HP packed in competitive response times, a multitude of connectivity options, a gorgeous panel, and a subdued aesthetic style that I simply couldn't pass up. Because it belonged to HP's business line of products (go figure), it also came with a three-year on-site warranty. Unfortunately, the L2335 had a short life span. HP didn't seem interested in making a suitable replacement—perhaps because it wasn't targeting enthusiasts—and it instead went back to inferior PVA panels in displays with fewer input options. To this day, I still use the L2335 as my primary display for a number of devices, and I have wondered when I might finally find a suitable replacement.
Thankfully, the LP2475w's recent launch has restored my faith in HP. On paper, the LP2475w seems to have it all: an S-IPS panel, DisplayPort, multiple DVI-I ports, HDMI, component, S-Video, composite, and even an integrated USB hub. Once again, HP has made the odd decision of targeting business customers with this monitor, despite all of its enthusiast-friendly connectivity options. Maybe that's because of the "professional" stigma of IPS panels. However, HP charges a lower premium for the "business" label than what I paid before, and the LP2475w is currently selling for a reasonable $649. Although that's more than what you'll typically pay for other 24" monitors, the inclusion of an IPS panel no doubt makes the LP2475w a winner. Now, I just wish I could find an excuse to upgrade from my current L2335.
Asus' Xonar D2X sound card
I'm sick of my Creative X-Fi—it's just that simple. It's taken me years and countless motherboards to come up with a system configuration that doesn't constantly crash because of the thing (or cause the X-Fi to snap, crackle, and pop out of my speakers while under load). Though my audio solution is finally stable, I'm impressed with the increased competition from other chipmakers, and Geoff's review made me want to toss a Xonar in my Vista system all the more. The only question that remains is if I could get by with the less expensive Xonar DX.
I could go on and on about all the goodies I'd like, but I'm more interested to learn what you guys are hoping to unwrap this year. Is it PC components, a long list of video games, or maybe one of those slick new Nintendo DSi handhelds? Let me know in the comments, as I'm still on the lookout for killer gift ideas. Happy holidays! Or maybe that should be happy shopping?