Tax Refund Special: Hardware 2.0 top picks

Last year the average US tax refund was $2,429. That's a lot of cash and could, if you felt like having a big of a spend, get you some pretty neat hardware!
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Last year the average US tax refund was $2,429. That's a lot of cash and could, if you felt like having a big of a spend, get you some pretty neat hardware!

Since consumerism is supposed to give the economy a much-needed jump-start, here are some ideas as to how you could spend your hard-earned cash on (or you could just pop it into your savings account ... though I have chosen products that will leave you with a spare couple of hundred buck that you can squirrel away!).

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GTX 295
There's a lot to like about NVIDIA's latest powerhouse graphics card. The GTX 295 is the fastest, most powerful single card solution currently available, boasting the very best 3D performance currently available.

The GTX 295 is a dual-GPU solution, but since the two GPUs are integrated onto the single card, and the software drivers handle all the SLI stuff, getting dual-GPU power is now easier than ever.

Expect to pay around $500 for the GTX 295, which is a lot of money for a graphics card, though that said, top-end GPUs have always been pricey!

NVIDIA GTX 295 - [Read the reviews] [Gallery]

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Intel Core i7 965 Extreme Edition CPU

Core i7The Core i7 processors represents a new era in architecture for Intel. Gone is the LGA 775 socket, instead replaced by the larger Socket LGA 1366.

With the Core i7 Intel has also reintroduced Hyper-Threading, giving the desktop CPUs the power of eight virtual cores. You also get the brand new X58 chipset and support for DDR3.

How can I put how powerful the Core i7 processors are in context? Well, let’s put it this way. the lowest speed Core i7 (the 920) is faster in almost every benchmark than the previous CPU speed-king, the Core 2 Extreme QX9770.

Core i7 965 - [Read the reviews] [Prices] [Gallery]

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Intel X-25M SSD

Intel X25-M
There's no doubt that solid-state SATA hard drives (SSDs) are the future. You get fast transfer speeds, improved battery life on notebooks, and quicker boot times. The only downsides - cost per gigabyte.

The Intel X-25M comes in two flavors - the expensive 80GB model (around $370) and the very expensive 160GB model (around $730).

Also worth remembering is that these drives are 2.5" form-factor, so you need to take that into account if fitting them into desktop systems.

Intel X25-M - [Read the reviews]

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ASUS Eee PC 1000

eee pc 1000I like ASUS's Eee PC, and if it wasn't for the keyboard being just a little bit on the tiny side for my huge hands and stubby fingers, I'd have one of these.

There's plenty to like about the Eee PC 1000 - the 10" screen, the 40GB solid-state hard drive, the 7.5 hour battery life, the Intel Atom N270 CPU. In fact, it's hard for me to decide whether the Eee PC 1000  is a netbook or just a small notebook.

A great bit of kit for the road warrior who's not in need of too much processing power.

ASUS Eee PC 1000 - [Read the reviews] [Check prices]

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IronKey 4GB Secure flash drive

I used to just use whatever USB key that was close to hand. This mean that I either had to encrypt the data that was on the drive or just take a chance that I wouldn't lose it. I don't have this any more thanks to the IronKey.

The IronKey is a USB flash drive with a difference. Not only do you have an ultra-tough and waterproof drive where the delicate innards are protected by being encased in hard epoxy and then then wrapped in a tough metal shell (believe me, this thing is tough) but you get all the benefits of always-on hardware encryption. No more having to mess about with software driver of applications. Because all the encryption is done by hardware all the data is protected against cold-boot and brute force attacks.

On top of robust security you also get a private web browsing feature and secure password storage.

IronKey - [Spec] [Check prices]

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