Welcome to the Engadget Holiday Gift Guide! The team here is well aware of the heartbreaking difficulties of the seasonal shopping experience, and we want to help you sort through the trash and come up with the treasures this year. Below is today's bevy of hand curated picks, and you can head back to the Gift Guide hub to see the rest of the product guides as they're added throughout the holiday season.
Want a gift the whole family can enjoy? A brand new television is sure to do the trick and with more HDTV content available than ever from antenna, cable, satellite, Blu-ray discs or even the internet, there will always be something to watch. Whether it's their first flat-panel or an upgrade, these picks come through in several price ranges selected to maximize
, we mean their, viewing pleasure. The only question left we can't help you with? Who gets the first turn on the remote.
VIZIO SV421XVT -
Over the last few years VIZIO has carved out a healthy piece of the market by toeing the luxury feature line without forgetting its value-priced roots, and the SV421XVT is a great example of that. Just a little over $800 will bring a capable 1080p dorm-room bigscreen LCD to your Secret Santa recipient, with 240Hz motion processing, wide viewing angles and energy efficient backlighting. Sprinkle four HDMI inputs and the ability to play back HD movies, music and images via its USB port and the only problem will be pulling them away from this screen long enough to thank you. (Also available in 32- to 55-inch sizes)
From $830 - Shop for VIZIO SV421XVT
Panasonic TC-P42S1 -
Usually, dipping under the $1,000 barrier means picture quality is thrown to the wayside, but that's not the case with Panasonic's S1 plasma series. Based on the company's G12 NeoPDP panel it's got the brightness and antireflective filter to keep images popping even in well lit rooms, and with a 40,000:1 native contrast ratio and sub-$800 price tag at many local retailers, it pulls off a double trick of pleasing the eyes and the wallet. Additional features like an SD slot for viewing digital camera pictures and VIERA Link HDMI control over compatible equipment are just more proof you don't have to spend a lot to get that proper home theater started. (Also available in 46-, 50-, 54-, 68- and 65-inch sizes)
From $745 - Shop for Panasonic TC-P42S1
Insignia LBD32X-10A - This HDTV may be a surprise on our list, but the combination of a cheapo LCD and Blu-ray player in an all-in-one package creates the no configuration needed setup that keeps on giving.
One delivery of the LBD32X by Santa then you can come through with Blu-ray discs from now until the next format war -- and at a penny under six bills there will be cash left over to grab a few movies right away.
$599 - Best Buy
Oh, you shouldn't have
- Know someone concerned about the environment? Squelch any arguments over whether the Yule Log is contributing to climate change by nudging them closer to the box holding a LC-52LE700UN - its LED backlighting means that despite merely average picture quality and price, you'll be watching a super sized flat-panel with well above average energy efficiency. There's even simple web widgets and tech support via AQUOS Net while the wide viewing angles mean you can keep an eye on the action and the electricity meter all at once.
From $1,565 - Shop for Sharp AQUOS LC-52LE700UN
- Super slim, energy efficient LCDs are all the rage this holiday season and with Yahoo! Widgets, DLNA streaming, nice picture quality (once calibrated), a backlit remote and optional WiFi the 1.2-inch thick B7000 series has enough style for anyone on your gift list. It's a little pricier than other HDTVs in this segment based on size, and we've still got some issues with the slow Widget menus, but sliding Samsung's baby under the tree is worth it to stay on the cutting edge, and its skinny edge lit LED frame should be a good reminder. (Also available in 40- and 55-inch sizes)
From $1,500 - Shop for Samsung UN46B7000
- For some, there's no LCD available that will satisfy the need for accurate colors and deep blacks, and with the KURO reduced to a few models still bouncing around warehouses, Panasonic's V10 series has filled the void. While the lower end G10 series is also an option, these screens feature both the one step calibration ease of a THX mode or enough manual calibration settings for even the most obsessive calibrators to dive in and get the most of its deep, inky blacks and 96Hz image processing for some of the best Blu-ray movie playback available. Just check the reviews, if a plasma fan is the target, this is a guaranteed hit. (Also available in 54-, 58- and 65-inch sizes)
From $1,800 - Shop for Panasonic TC-P50V10
We can't afford the rent now, can we?
- Why compromise? With LED backlighting (better than its edge lit B7000 counterpart) high quality image processing and the deepest black levels you'll see on an LCD this one earns its spot as the king of Samsung's line. The UN55B8500 even has an RF remote for those times when line-of-sight is just out of the question and Yahoo! Widgets support means there's plenty of video on-demand, Twitter and other interactivity to be had. Aside from being beautiful, it's slim, energy efficient and most importantly expensive, but we're sure you can find someone deserving. (Also available in a 46-inch size)
From $3,200 - Shop for Samsung UN55B8500
- For another local dimming LED backlit solution beyond the Samsung above, LG's THX certified LH90 series brings high quality color reproduction attached to a cheaper form of 240Hz motion processing for those looking to save a few bucks. Of course that slick glossy bezel design will keep your thriftiness a secret -- pack in a USB stick loaded with 1080p DivX rips and no one will ask any questions. (Also available in 42- and 47-inch sizes)
From $2,499 - Shop for LG 55LH90
- If you need to go big, the Z1
is a perfect choice, it strips all those unnecessary wires that other HDTVs use to connect to things and relegates them to separate box located elsewhere in the room; simply wall mount this 1-inch thick beauty, plug in the power and enjoy. How is it done? You can explain all the tech involved in SiBeam's WirelessHD
... or not, for this price, it's totally your call.
From $3,999 - Shop for Panasonic TC-P54Z1
- Buying for someone who can't or won't get a proper surround sound system? Those 18 speakers along the bottom of Mitsubishi's LT-52249 add up to a huge advantage in sound quality over other flat panels while ISF calibration options and 1080p movie streaming from VUDU make sure what they're looking at is also up to par. (Also available in a 46-inch size)
From $2,323 - Shop for Mitsubishi LT-52249