The HalfByte Gift Guide or decent stuff under a hundred bucks

This is the time of the year when blogs and other web sites offer up gift ideas for loved ones or for yourself.  Last year, I offered up some free paper based gifts.  This year, I thought I’d go one better offer up some honest to goodness (and real) gifts.  I set an upper limit of a hundred dollars, most being under fifty US dollars.  These are offered in no particular order.

First up, the Zune.  TigerDirect has the 4 and 8 gb players for under $100.  They offer the 4gb player for about $65 and refurb 8gb for about the same.  The accessories, however, are about the same as other places, though, since all Zunes except the HD are discontinued, the accessories for those devices are now being discounted and, if you shop around, you can find them bundled with the device.  Go here and take a peek.

If bare bones mp3/mp4 players are acceptable, and there are some nice little players out there, then look no further than your local Wal-Mart or Target.  There are a plethora of 2 and 4gb devices from Philips, Sanyo, Samsung and Haeir that can be had starting at around $39.95.  Some of the nicer ones have beautiful color screens in the two inch neighborhood. One of the nicer units the iRiver E100 MP3/MP4 player at Target.  It contains 4gb of storage, has 2.4 inch, 320×240 display, plays back Mpeg 4 video, Windows Media and MP3 as well as other, more obscure, formats.  Read about it here.

Digital cameras are more popular and far cheaper than ever.  Don’t let the low prices fool you into thinking you are getting junk, in many cases, a low price does not mean low quality pictures.  You have know what to expect and live within the limitations of the device.  For example, Kodak makes a few nice digicams for under $100.  Most of them will also record full frame, full motion video and a few even do 720p video. Also at Target, the Kodak EasyShare 8.0MP CD14 digital camera features HD video recording.  Now, make no mistake, this camera will not give you the same quality photos as a Nikon or Canon DSLR, but it will give you good quality mid-resolution photos and better than average video. In HD.  As with any low cost camera, the video, while HD resolution, will not be as nice a true, dedicated HD Video camera, but it will give decent quality, higher resolution video for a nice price:  $49.

Hi-Def home video, until now, has not been a cheap proposition.  Blu-Ray has led the list in expensive home video gear.  Until now.  The Blu-Ray movies are coming down in price, with many catalog titles available for under fifteen dollars.  The players have also begun to come down in price.  For under a hundred dollars, you can be the proud owner of a Magnavox Blu-Ray player. Available from CompUSA.com, the player is a refurbished player that comes with a full warranty.  It plays DVD’s, CD’s, and Blu-Ray discs.

Wireless-N is the new, fast standard in wireless networking.  And it is not expensive either.  The Linksys RB-WRT110 is just $24.99.  The router is backward compatible with the b and g standards, meaning you can upgrade at your own pace.  Buy the router, then as you can or want, buy the adaptors for your computer.  Or, get them all at once. For example, and also for $24.99, you can get the Netgear RB-WN111 USB adaptor.  Both are available (for a ‘limited time only’ at this price from CompUSA.com.

For the always-connected-to-their-cellphone person in your life, there’s the Motorola Blue H375 Bluetooth headset from Wal-Mart for $19.97.  For Bluetooth headsets, this one looks better than most.  It has a shiny blue sheen and is pretty small.  Note:  it is only available at this price online.  In-store prices ‘will vary.’ 

Also at Wal-Mart:  prepaid phones.  Now, I’m not talking those cheap, who’d want to keep them, flip phones.  No, I’m talking fairly decent feature phones or smartphones.  For example:  the Samsung SGH-a177 GoPhone from AT&T.  This is a feature phone that is perfect for teens.  It has a VGA camera, bluetooth, text and picture messaging and a 2.2 inch display.  The only real disadvantage is that it uses AT&T. It is currently priced at $78.88 online.  Some of the other feature phones also include ‘free’ air time, up to fifty dollars worth.  You may not get iPhone like features, but you will get a decently equipped phone, without a contract, for little money.

For those weather minded people, there is the Sharper Image Internet Weather Station at Best Buy.  This slick device, priced at $59.99, offers up a continually updated five day forecast for your local area.  You can see temperature and weather conditions on the display, delivered wirelessly.  See more here.

In previous years, if you lost power, you could always use that old, battery powered, black and white portable television to get your news and entertainment.  Well, now that the digital transition has taken place, that old television is useless for that purpose.  Time for an upgrade.  For $99, you can get a nine-inch digital portable television from OfficeMax.  The Pegasus HDTV contains a built-in rechargeable battery, can get NTSC and ATSC (digital) broadcasts.  There are still a handful of analog NTSC stations on the air (low power television or other exempted stations) left and this set will get them too.  Here in Richmond, VA, there is at least one of them, a Spanish language LPTV station, still on and this set definitely gets the station.  The nine inch wide screen is ample enough for several people to watch.  The set features a composite video in, S-Video in and stereo audio inputs. 

Digital photo frames are still very popular and there are a ton to choose from.  Office Max, like other retailers, has a large selection to choose from.  The Imation seven inch frame costs just $29.99.  Image quality is going to be decent, at a resolution of 480 by 234.  It features an onscreen calendar and clock and has four interchangeable inserts and remote control.

So, there you are.  A nice selection of gifts that are under a hundred bucks.  Everything from cell phones to HDTV sets and digital cameras.  I specifically left out games.  Since 90% of video games are already under a hundred bucks, there are just too many to list.  Game deals can be found at Best Buy, Five Below, KMart, Gamestop and a slew of other retailers.   Also, I left out movies.  You can find good movies cheap.  Scour the Sunday ads.  Your best buy for good and cheap movies will be places like Wal-Mart, Target, KMart and MovieStop.  Online is probably a good place to look as well. With all of these great buys, who needs Black Friday?

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