Engadget's Holiday Gift Guide: HDTVs and home theater

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Engadget's Holiday Gift Guide: HDTVs and home theater
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.
A brand new HDTV is a gift that can get plenty of use throughout the year, but it's also one of the more expensive items on Santa's list. If you're shopping for the home theater enthusiast who has everything, there's always room in the cabinet for another streamer or demo disc. From 3DTV to network connected to throwback disc-based media, there's a lot of new options on deck for the 2010 holiday season - let's see if we can narrow the list a bit and make sure your gift scores a ten out of ten even if your budget is more like a two.

Stocking stuffers

Roku HD

Nothing brings more smiles than Netflix streaming, and at this price, there should be more than a few to go around. The Roku HD streamer has shrunken in size, while offering even more channels of content, with WiFi built-in, and a multitude of channels including Amazon VOD, Hulu Plus, MLB, NHL and more there's no doubt you'll get the most for your money here.

Key specs: 720p, WiFi, HDMI output

Price: $59.99

For the perfectionist...

Disney World of Wonder Blu-ray
- $22.89 and up

They already spent the big dollars on their home theater equipment, but you can make sure they get the most out of it with this disc. Plenty of calibration tools and clear explanations make it a must have for those new, or not-so-new, to the HD lifestyle.

Another option...

Inception Blu-ray
- $18 and up

You can't go wrong with a movie, and if they're slipping one Blu-ray out of a stocking this month make sure it's one of the best. Director Chris Nolan delights with high story, picture and audio quality plus enough extras to make repeat watching worthwhile.

Oh, you shouldn't have

LG BD570

Digital delivery is hot sure, but for the highest audio and picture quality and easy content availability we're not ready to ditch discs just yet, and that's where LG's BD570 Blu-ray player comes in. It continues the lines reputation of high quality efforts and includes access to digital streams from Netflix, VUDU, CinemaNow, YouTube and Pandora, plus DLNA browsing to play your own stuff from a connected PC and even DivX TV to watch the Engadget Show. Built in WiFi N and a sale price under two bills put this directly in our sweet spot, and yours.

Key specs: WiFi B/G/N, DTS-HD MA & Dolby TrueHD audio, 1080p, USB host

Price: $165 & up

Another option...

Sony BDP-S570 - $169.99 & up

Sony's Blu-ray deck doesn't have quite the streaming acumen of LG's offering above, but it is seriously speedy and a series of upgrades through the year have added 3D Blu-ray, DLNA and Qriocity to the list of supported features without inflating the pricetag.

For the iLife...

Apple TV
- $99

It's a little pricier than Roku's lineup and unless you're already into iTunes, iPad and the like its feature set is somewhat limited, but for just under a hundred its combo of Netflix streaming and easy integration with other Apple products -- and the potential of an app store someday -- make it a no brainer for those so inclined.

And another...

Boxee Box - $199

Our review found it slightly lacking in polish some would expect from the media streamer powerhouse, but for file compatibility and easy access few can match its overall specs. This purchase is a bit of a bet on the future of the Boxee platform, but it'll look even better once the VUDU and Hulu Plus updates arrive.

We can't afford the rent now, can we?

Panasonic TC-P65VT25

When you're spending this kind of money there's no sense in buying anything but the best, and Panasonic's VT25 series plasma HDTVs fit the bill. Reviews peg the set for high quality on 2D and 3D video, and a pack-in of the year's most exclusive demo material doesn't hurt one bit. For the top TV of 2010, look no further than the 65-inch.

Key specs: Plasma, 1080p, Full HD 3D, Infinite Black Panel, Netflix, Pandora, Twitter, Skype

Price: $4,299

Another option...

- $1,498 and up

The budget TV maker has come a long way, with its local dimming LED LCD set offering a set of features a mile long while combining a lower price tag than most of the competition with picture quality that earns it entry to the top tier of displays.

And another...

Sony XBR-52HX909
- $3,568

Sony's local dimming LCDs feature 3D readiness and black levels that match or surpass any competition, but we're still blown away by their slick "monolith" design. It's a bit pricey, but consider tilting one of these up on your TV stand for the holidays and adjusting the rest of your room to match the new style.
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