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.
Let's face it, not everyone needs (or wants) to carry their computer around on the daily routine. Sacrificing portability can have its advantages -- and while nettops and all-in-one PCs have become a much more dominant force this year, the traditional, highly upgradeable desktop tower is still the reigning bang-for-the-buck champ. Just make sure your certain special someone has enough desk real estate for whatever potentially-enormous chassis you decide to take home and wrap.
Dell Inspiron Zino HD - That AMD Athlon Neo X2 processor isn't gonna satisfy the diehard gamer, but Dell's attractive little box is more eye candy than most home-shackled machines, and the specs seem tailored perfectly for the HTPC crowd. Do yourself a favor and pick up the TV tuner while you're at it.
Acer AspireRevo R3610-U9012 - Though not perfect by any means, the original AspireRevo was a capable (if unfortunately inconsistent) NVIDIA Ion-infused nettop that managed to become one of the quietest things in our apartments. The R3610 is a natural evolution of that first unit with an upgraded processor (Atom 330 vs. Atom 230) and Windows 7. No real options to upgrade after the fact, though you can take solace in the ability to easily hide the unit and not have fan noise give away its position.
Lenovo IdeaCentre A600- Lenovo's all-in-one series can go for as low as $499 with the C100, but frankly, it'd be worth dropping the extra two Benjamins up front and getting the superior A600 with a 21.5-inch screen, non-Atom Intel processor, and a bonus gyroscopic MediaCenter remote that doubles as a VoIP handset. Assuming you don't need a lot of screen space, you might find the TV tuner option a nice additional bullet point, too.
HP TouchSmart 600 series - While Core 2 Duo processors are getting a bit passé, what makes HP's new TouchSmart series shine is its touch-friendly software suite, with easier access to Netflix, Hulu, Twitter, and voice-controlled recipe app. Additionally, that 23-inch display can be put to maximum potential thanks to composite and HDMI input -- hook up your Xbox 360 and game on in between your devoted and much appreciated Engadget site browsing rituals.
Apple iMac- The new 16:9 widescreen displays are one thing, but If you're asking us, we'd recommend here checking out the 27-inch model. Assuming you don't happen upon a DOA unit, the Core i7 chips should keep the system humming along nicely, and as for those touted video-in capabilities, some recent developments give us the impression its usefulness isn't far from reality.
Maingear Shift- The starting price for this "personal supercomputer" might be a bit of a misnomer -- while accurate, who's really wanting to pick up the base model here? All it took was a handful of clicks and we managed to increase that price ten-fold thanks to numerous high-end GPUs and solid-state drives. If you order now, estimated ship date is January 15th of the new year, but don't worry -- if your loved one knows this is just around the corner, we're pretty sure he or she will be more than content.
Apple Mac Pro - The outlying Mac product that can't put "slim" and "sleek" on its product page, the Mac Pro is the family workhorse for those that need to do some serious design and production work. The big question you have to your ask yourself here is whether or not you want to go for the 8-core model with upgrade options that top out at 2.93 GHz, or exercise a $1,200 premium on the quad-core side for 3.33GHz Xeon processor.
Thermaltake Level 10 pre-built systems- Sure, you can buy the case on its lonesome for just $850 -- assuming you can find it in stock -- and fill it with whatever parts you'd like. Then again, if you're feeling more inclined to be lazy or don't have the know-how to piece together a PC, you might as well let iBuyPower do the work for you. Go for broke on the upfront options and you can expect to break the $7,000 barrier pretty quickly.
Alienware Area-51 ALX- Honestly, what other company could top this list? Alienware is notorious for giving gamers the best in class no matter the cost, and the latest Area-51 ALX is a beast with little to no equal, both in performance and in sheer number of LEDs. If that's not enough to sway you into debt, just remember: it has gills.