HotHardware Holiday Gift Guide
Input Devices, Monitors, Sound Cards
Logitech Cordless Desktop EX110 - $25
We normally avoid low-end wireless keyboards and mice like, but the Cordless Desktop EX110 is a Logitech product. If you've never used a wireless combo by Logitech then you know the EX110 will be well worth the minimal investment.
While we can't accurately claim that this is the best wireless setup you'll find. It's certainly one of the most cost effective wireless combos out there, especially for a setup that isn't likely to drive you mad because the mouse or keyboard isn't responding properly.
On the downside, you won't be able to tell your friends that you got creamed in your weekly game of Battlefield 2 because your wireless mouse and keyboard weren't up to snuff. Time to start practicing, soldier!
Logitech MX 5000 Bluetooth Keyboard - $95
If you're looking for something to do with your Bluetooth connection and are also searching for an accurate laser mouse and a keyboard with more functionality than the base models, then you might very well be looking for the Logitech MX 5000 Bluetooth Keyboard & Mouse Combo and not even know it.
Let's start with the keyboard. It has all the buttons you'd find on a normal keyboard, plus an LCD screen that lets programs send messages to the LCD, additional macro keys, and a slew of audio control keys. The keyboard can be a little intimidating at first, but once you get used to it, it's hard to go back to a plain vanilla input device.
The mouse itself is no slouch, it has a 5.8 MegaPixel scanner and offers 800 dpi resolution. And it can be recharged on the included cradle, so you don't have to buy new batteries every few weeks.
The package has other features such as a remote control that is compatible with Media center 2005 and one touch synchronization with many cell phones. All this for less than $100.
Microsoft Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000 - $250
You might be asking yourself who the heck would charge $250 for a wireless keyboard and mouse combo, and the answer would be Microsoft. You didn't honestly think that Bill Gates got rich selling things at a bargain price, did you?
Seriously though, there are reasons this combo is so pricey. Why you ask? Let's start with the futuristic looking keyboard - it is actually rechargeable. Yes, that's right, the keyboard itself can be recharged. And it's got a slew of additional buttons too. You can do everything from check out your favorite web pages to start your media center from this thing. Did we mention that it has an intelligent backlighting system, it's thin, and relatively compact considering all of its features?
The included mouse is also a rechargeable piece of brushed aluminum beauty. We haven't felt a mouse that seemed so solid since our good old MX700. There's just something satisfying about a heavy wireless mouse. Did we mention the mouse has 1000 dpi hardware resolution?
The monitor is perhaps one of the most under-appreciated parts of the entire computing experience. Regardless of how much RAM/storage/CPU power your machine has, ultimately your interactivity with it boils down to tactile use of the keyboard and mouse plus the visual feedback and from the monitor. We’ll get into sound next, but let’s stick with the visuals for a bit.
HP 30" LP3065 - $1065
Our high end pick for monitors is the 30” HP LP3065. Its size is impressive and it has excellent visual quality to boot. The HP LP3065 comes from a name we trust, has a price we think we can all agree with, and 4,096,000 pixels to adore. We have no reservations about recommending the LP3065 as our high-end monitor of choice, that's why it earned a coveted HotHardware Editor's Choice Award and both Dave and Marco use them on their personal rigs.
If you're a serious multi-tasker, then you'll love this screen. You can have numerous web pages and other applications up and on the screen at the same time without having to swap back and forth due to the enormous amount of screen real estate.
ACER AL2416WBsd - $375
If you’re looking for a monitor at a more down-to-Earth price that still features enough screen real estate to make your neighbors envious we suggest going with a 24” monitor such as the ACER AL2416WBsd.
The 24" ACER has a native resolution of 1920 by 1200 which will enable you to enjoy full HD 1080 without any compromises. The only catch is that it only has a DVI input, so if you're running an older video card you'll either need to get a VGA to DVI converter or simply upgrade.
All things considered, this monitor is well worth its current street price of $375, and we'd honestly have expected to pay a bit more for such a big, high-resolution screen from a name we know and trust.
ACER AL1916WAbd - $169
If you want a quality LCD monitor but still need to make car payments, feast your eyes on the little brother to the AL2416WBsd, the AL1916WAbd. Decoding those long names, we end up discovering that this is a 19" LCD widescreen monitor with a native resolution of 1440 x 900. It's not the largest monitor around, but we think it's a hard act to follow given the price unless you want to buy from a brand that isn't quite so well known.
If you do have a discerning ear or the desire to offload more of the audio processing chores to the DSP, you can’t go wrong with one of the X-Fi cards from Creative Labs.
Creative Labs X-Fi Xtreme Audio - $55
If you’re a casual gamer and/or audiophile in training, then we suggest the X-Fi Xtreme Audio, a close cousin to the X-Fi XtremeMusic card we reviewed two years ago. There are very few computer components that wouldn't be considered virtual antiques after two years, but sound cards seem to be a special breed of hardware that don't evolve at the same rate as components such as GPUs or storage.
Despite its age the X-Fi family is still the king of the hill. Other companies have tried to challenge Creative Labs but none have managed to wrestle control of the sound card market from them.
Creative Labs X-Fi Xtreme Elite Pro - $250
On the other hand, if you’re a hardcore audiophile and/or hardcore gamer then there is really only one choice for you: The X-Fi Elite Pro. It comes with a break-out box that lets you easily adjust various settings without the need to exit a full screen program and has a 116 dB signal-to-noise ratio that competes with many 'professional' cards used by movie and music studios.