Cool stuff: Your 2009 holiday gift guide

Find the best HDTVs, laptops, smartphones and some surprise goodies to give this year

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All-purpose PC: Lenovo ThinkPad T400s
Lenovo ThinkPad T400s

Lenovo ThinkPad T400s

(Click to view larger image)

Lenovo's ThinkPad T400s is a light and compact all-purpose machine, weighing 4 pounds and measuring just 0.8 inches thick.

Nevertheless, it squeezes in a lot:

• An excellent LED-backlit 14.1-in. screen with native 1440 x 900 resolution

• A 2.4GHz Intel Core2 Duo processor (2.53GHz also available)

• 2GB RAM (configurable up to 8GB)

• Integrated Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics

• A 120GB hard drive (250GB hard drive or 64GB or 128GB SSD also available)

• A fingerprint reader

• Two navigation systems -- the old-school ThinkPad "eraser" nub and a textured touchpad

And ports! Let PC World's Darren Gladstone tell you about the ports:

This model is literally lined with ports. Whether it's the five-in-one flash card reader or the space allotted for a 9.5mm DVD-ROM burner (or Blu-ray option), this machine has you covered. It even has stuff that might seem like overkill, such as VGA and a DisplayPort option, but even that gives you the opportunity to plug in two monitors. I'm personally a big fan of the built-in USB/eSATA port, which is perfect for high-speed data jockeys. (See the full review)

The T400s starts at $1,600 and goes up to around $3,000 with all the bells and whistles. One option to skip for now is the new touch-screen functionality, which adds $250 to the bottom line but still has some kinks to be worked out.

Lenovo ThinkPad T400s from Lenovo

Street price: $1,200 - $2,300 or configure at Lenovo site

Tech specs  |   Store locator  |  Phone: 866-96-THINK

Summary: The deceptively small ThinkPad T400s performs well and packs in a host of welcome features.

Entertainment

If your giftee's goal is to watch multimedia on a laptop, you'll want to get a model with great graphics and a large, crisp display with a native 1920 x 1080 resolution for playing HD content. Try these.

Mac: 17-in. Apple MacBook Pro
17-in. Apple MacBook Pro

17-in. Apple MacBook Pro

(Click to view larger image)

Subject to the same summer price drops as its smaller brethren, the 17-in. MacBook Pro now starts at $2,500.

Apple's largest laptop includes a 2.8GHz or 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, 4 or 8GB RAM, dual graphics processors (Nvidia GeForce 9400M and 9600M GT GPU with 512MB of discrete video RAM), a 500GB hard drive or a 128 or 256GB SSD, and an 8-hour battery, as well as Apple's usual aluminum unibody chassis, backlit keyboard and multitouch trackpad.

But the real star is the gorgeous screen, as Macworld's Dan Frakes points out:

Along with its aluminum unibody enclosure and impressively long-life battery, the laptop's flagship feature is its 17-inch, mercury-free, LED-backlit display. Sporting a 1920 x 1200-pixel resolution, the screen is protected behind a thin sheet of arsenic-free glossy glass. The screen seems enormous, especially if you're used to a 13- or 15-inch model, making it great for working with multiple windows or applications simultaneously.

(See the full review)

Not to mention watching movies. To cut down on distracting reflections on the glossy screen, consider getting the special antiglare display for $50 more.

17-in. MacBook Pro from Apple Inc.

Street price: $2,300 - $2,900 or configure at Apple site

Tech specs  |  Store locator  |  Phone: 800-MY-APPLE

Summary: With a large, eye-popping screen, Apple's 17-in. MacBook Pro lets you watch multimedia in style.

PC: Dell Studio XPS 16
Dell Studio XPS 16

Dell Studio XPS 16  (Click to view larger image)

Sporting a 15.6- or 16-in. display with edge-to-edge glass and optional leather padding on the lid, Dell's Studio XPS 16 is unquestionably showy on the outside.

Fortunately, it backs up the bling with great graphics and solid value, as PC World's Darren Gladstone notes:

Dell's Studio XPS 16 is squarely aimed at people who want to get a little more for their entertainment buck; it's a solidly built multimedia machine that piles on features without breaking the bank. Dell's Studio XPS 16 looks to be a solid choice for gaming and movies, as well as getting the job done, while keeping costs within reason. (See the full review)

The Studio XPS 16 starts at just $1,000, but for the best multimedia performance you'll want a super-fast Intel Core i7-720QM quad-core processor (the Core i7-820QM is also available); 6GB shared dual-channel RAM (upgradeable to 8GB); a 1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4670 graphics processor; a 500GB, 7,200 rpm hard drive for storing media files (128 and 256GB SSDs also available); a Blu-ray Disc player; and native 1920 x 1080 resolution on the 16-in. RGB LED display with edge-to edge glass. Normally more than $2,300, this configuration is currently on sale for around $2,000 at Dell's Web site.

Dell Studio XPS 16 from Dell

Street price: $1,000 - $2,800 or configure at Dell site

Tech specs |  Phone: 800-WWW-DELL

Summary: Dell's showy Studio XPS 16 offers excellent multimedia features for less than you'd expect.

-- Valerie Potter

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