1. HP Pavilion SlimLine s3200t
Editors' rating: 8.7
The good: Hybrid HD DVD/Blu-ray drive frees you from the format tyranny and gives you both technologies for a better price than a dedicated drive from the competition; small case offers flexibility; strong basic bang for the buck.
The bad: HDMI can still present compatibility issues, and more so with the Slimline's Nvidia graphics card; no 802.11n wireless networking.
The bottom line: The HP Pavilion Slimline s3200t offers perhaps the strongest bang for the buck we've ever seen thanks to its HD DVD/Blu-ray hybrid optical drive and its strong overall configuration. It outclasses every other HD-equipped system we've seen so far. If you're shopping for a living room PC and want complete HD format flexibility, this is the system we'd buy.
Price range: $499.99
Editors' rating: 8.6
The good: Swanky design with quiet operation; all games in high-definition; PSP-like easy-to-use interface; plays high-def Blu-ray movies in addition to upscaling standard DVDs; built-in Wi-Fi and flash media reader; 80GB hard drive; online play is free; HDMI output with 1080p support; no external power supply; free online gaming service; plays most PS2 and PS1 games.
The bad: Compelling exclusive games are still few and far between; backwards compatibility is software-based; PlayStation Home and rumble controller not available until 2008; a USB port on the back would've been nice; no infrared port means non-Bluetooth universal remotes aren't compatible; glossy black finish is a fingerprint magnet; online gaming, media, and commerce options not nearly as developed as Xbox Live.
The bottom line: The high-end Sony PlayStation 3's larger hard drive and ability to play older PS2 games makes it a worthwhile alternative to the cheaper model--so long as you're willing to wait several months for the more promising exclusive titles to hit store shelves.
Price range: $495.00 - $619.99
3. Microsoft Xbox 360 w/ Forza Motorsport 2 and Marvel: Ultimate Al
Editors' rating: 8.5
The good: Superior selection of games, including several console-exclusive titles; all games in high-definition; user-friendly Dashboard interface; excellent online gaming and communications via Xbox Live; plays hundreds of (but not all) original Xbox titles; doubles as a superior digital media hub and Windows Media Center extender; online Marketplace allows for easy purchases of downloadable full-scale games, mini-games, movies, and TV shows; latest version offers HDMI output with 1080p support.
The bad: Early versions of the console prone to "red ring of death" system crash; noisy exhaust fan and DVD drive; gigantic oversize power supply; no built-in wireless networking or flash media reader; DVD playback has substandard video quality; support for next-gen HD DVD movies requires a bulky external accessory; 20GB hard drive fills up very quickly; online gaming requires a paid subscription to Xbox Live.
The bottom line: With its extensive digital media features, a superior online service, and an excellent game library, the Xbox 360 remains the game console to beat.
Price range: $349.94 - $349.99
4. LG Voyager - VX10000 (Verizon Wireless)
Editors' rating: 8.3
The good: The LG Voyager VX10000 has a cutting-edge design with a brilliant touch screen and a spacious keyboard. It offers a generous features set that includes EV-DO support, V Cast Mobile TV Bluetooth, a top-notch Web browser, and an integrated GPS application. And if that's not enough, its call quality was excellent.
The bad: The LG Voyager VX10000's camera lacks such extra options as a flash and Wi-Fi. The touch screen can be clunky at times, and the streaming video quality and EV-DO connection speed were uneven.
The bottom line: Though we had some minor complaints here and there, the Voyager's sleek design, generous feature set and excellent performance make it the best LG messaging and multimedia phone by far.
5. ATI Radeon HD 3850
Editors' rating: 8.0
The good: Fastest 3D card under $200; solid home-theater capabilities; supports multiple card configurations with up to four cards in the same PC.
The bad: CrossFire performance remains sketchy depending on the game; despite DirectX 10 support, actually switching those features on remains too challenging; newer, potentially faster Nvidia cards in the same price range are supposedly just around the corner.
The bottom line: Despite the usual caveats of an ever-fluctuating 3D market, for the moment, at least, ATI's new Radeon HD 3850 graphics card delivers the best bang-for-the buck in PC graphics hardware. Until now we haven't had an acceptable sub-$200 option for PC gaming this year. Thanks to AMD, now we do.
6. LG Venus VX8800 (Verizon Wireless)
Editors' rating: 8.1
The good: The LG Venus has a unique dual-screen design with onscreen navigation controls that change layout depending on the application, plus it has vibrating feedback when touched. It also comes with a wealth of multimedia features, EV-DO support, plus great performance.
The bad: The LG Venus's touch screen is a bit gimmicky and takes some getting used to, and there aren't any touch-sensitivity settings for it. The camera has no flash and no self-portrait mirror.
The bottom line: The LG Venus is a beautiful slider phone with a great feature set, but we would recommend taking the time to get used to the unusual touch-screen controls.
7. Dell XPS One
Editors' rating: 7.9
The good: Best HD-equipped all-in-one; 802.11n and Bluetooth for plenty of wireless flexibility; convenient walk-up controls.
The bad: In light of a recent HP SlimLine system, PC vendor HD format allegiances now look silly; not as fast as an iMac, not as home-theater-capable as the aforementioned HP; $2,400 is a lot for a secondary home entertainment PC; no video out.
The bottom line: It's outclassed as a computer by Apple's iMac, and as a home entertainment system by a recent HP, but in the weird niche of high-end, digital-media-friendly all-in-ones (of which we know of one other competitor) the Dell XPS One gets our nod. If you're not shopping in that narrow market, move on.
8. Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi3
Editors' rating: 7.7
The good: SLI graphics at a relatively low price; good gaming performance; HDMI output.
The bad: Pitiful battery life; too much Toshiba branding; mini spacebar; fixed configuration means no GPU options; lower screen resolution than some other 17-inch laptops.
The bottom line: Toshiba's Satellite X205 offers dual-GPU SLI graphics starting at less than $2,000, making it a solid choice for mobile gamers on a budget.
Price range: $2,299.00 - $2,499.99
9. Amazon Kindle
Editors' rating: 7.5
The good: Excellent high-contrast screen does a great job of simulating a printed page; large library of tens of thousands of e-books, newspapers, magazines, and blogs via Amazon's familiar online store; built-in free wireless "Whispernet" data network--no PC needed; built-in keyboard for notes; SD card expansion slot; compatible with Windows and Mac machines.
The bad: Design is ergonomic, but not very elegant; pricing for nearly all the content seems too high, especially considering the periodicals and blogs are available for free online; black-and-white screen is fine for books, but less impressive for periodicals and Web content; lacks a true Web browser; included cover is clumsy and poorly designed; additional file formats need to be e-mailed to Amazon for conversion; yet another dedicated device you'll need to lug around with you.
The bottom line: With its free built-in wireless capabilities and PC-free operation, Amazon's Kindle holds a distinct advantage over Sony's Reader and is a promising evolution of the electronic book--but Amazon needs to bring down the pricing for both the device and the content to attract a wider audience.
Editors' rating: 7.5
The good: Slim vertical saddlebag design; cool interior fabric pattern; magnetic clasp; velvet interior pockets won't scratch gadgets.
The bad: Back pocket is hard to access; material can be somewhat stiff.
The bottom line: The Kensington Contour Active Vertical Messenger bag is a slim and stylish case for 15-inch or smaller laptops, as long as you don't need too much extra room for accessories.
Price range: $48.10