Tis the season. Get in lines at midnight. Get online and scour for deals….oh, yeah, peace on Earth, good will towards men….blah, blah, blah. The holiday season is upon us and the infamous consumer frenzy known as “Black Friday” means a ton of awesome deals for you. But are you really buying something you need for that amazing price? That’s what we’re hoping to help you out with right here. I’m going to highlight a couple of the go-to items HP cooked up this year that could be good for anyone’s gift list. I’ll dig deep in and describe the kind of computers you should consider – and try to steer you to the right upgrades. Last, but not least, if I hear of any sweet HP-centric deals happening on HP's site, this is the story to you want to bookmark.
UPDATE 11/24, 8:30am PT: HP's Black Friday deals are happening now! There's an entire Black Friday site up now where you can find the deals RIGHT HERE. My favorite that I've seen so far: A game-ready desktop, the Pavilion HPE h8z.
Let’s break this down by who you might be shopping for...
Grandparents, parents and people in long-distance relationships….
Webcam: If you’ve bought a laptop in the past few years, you’re probably covered on this. But if you know people with traditional desktops, the odds are that someone you know might not have taken full advantage of the wonderful world of Skype. I’ve been playing with the HP Webcam HD 5210, using it with the family and it works great. Too great. Now my niece doesn’t want to talk to me unless she can see me on Skype, goofing around with the extra software suite that adds graphic elements to our chats (I go into that here). This $100 Webcam has all the bells and whistles (stereo noise cancelling mic and ability to capture 1080p and stream 720p video) but if your grandpappy doesn’t need the Cadillac of ‘cams, there are more modest models. Just something to think about.
Printer: This is going to sound like an oddball recommendation, but think about giving those you love an HP ePrint-enabled printer for the holidays. Take my Grandma. She’s in a nursing home a couple states away and I visit her when I can. But she LOVES pictures. I can’t send her enough of em. So why not email them directly to the printer? Yep, that’s something I’m thinking about doing this year for the holidays: Hooking up the home with a networked printer like the Envy 110. All I need to do is set it up with an ePrint account and I’m going to be able to email pictures directly to the printer from anywhere. My home after I’ve Photoshopped some hair back on my head in a shot. Of something I snap with the wifey on my cell phone – whatever!
For housebound techies…. Wireless TV Streaming: I’ve been going on about HP’s Wireless TV Connect technology since its first iteration last year. Here’s the skinny, in a nutshell: You can now transmit 1080p 3D video (and 7.1 surround sound) between any two devices about 20 feet away. That means fewer connection headaches and crossed wires. I’ve tested it myself in various situations….and recently drafted a fellow skeptical nerd buddy of mine to test it as well. You can read about those results here. The non-3D transmitting version sells for about $150. The 3D-ready transmitter goes for $180. And considering the installation flexibility it can give you in your home, it’s something worth checking out. At the very least check the above story I wrote. It’s too much to go into here.
An All-in-One home PC: I like TouchSmart computers for a couple reasons – the biggest one being that touch screen (shocker, I know). If you’re at all a fan of smartphones where you can pinch, zoom and do sorts of cool stuff on-screen, think of doing it on a bigger scale. These machines looks slick and can still pack a punch – provided you kit them out when you’re ordering. I wrote a whole desktop tips story about that RIGHT HERE. So hit that for key tips like knowing what sort of hard drive you should put in these units. The two styles / models that I’m currently spending time with: A tricked-out TouchSmart 610xt and a TouchSmart 520. The 610 and 620 models stand out for the unique drop-down easel design and the 520 for its sleek aluminum struts. Want to get in on the touch action, but want to save a couple bucks? There’s always an HP TouchSmart 320. They start at around $600 and get you in at the ground floor with a good experience. Here’s what I’d get and how I’d configure it: The TouchSmart 610 Quad Series. (I figure if you’re getting an All-in-One, you might as well stack it up. But I’m a power user….and I’d jack up my PC.)
3D Monitor: Give your desktop (or laptop) a 3D kick in the pants. Thanks to the 2311gt and the bundled software suite, you’re able to get a sampling of how images can jump off the screen. I went deep into how the tech works in a separate story, but strap on some passive glasses (the same kind of shades you get in most 3D movies) and content that wasn’t made to work in 3D, suddenly does. Games, movies…old pictures that you took. It’s pretty cool – and honestly, not bad for the $300 asking price.
For students / people on-the-go (Laptops!!!) If you’re trying to arm someone for school with a good “getting around” computer, You need something that’s affordable…and won’t weigh down your bag. Luckily, I know a couple Pavilion portables that are hard to beat…
HP Pavilion dm1: when these guys first launched at the beginning of 2011, we promised day-long battery life and good performance. The Pavilion dm1 has more than enough juice to get your work done – and play games after hours. Since then, we’ve already got the next generation dm1 up at bat with an even faster APU (CPU & graphics processor). And the crazy part is that this 1-inch deep, 11.6-inch screened guy starts at 400 bones. And did I mention that it drops into a backpack pretty easily? Since I’ve had a chance to play with a dm1, here’s how I’d spec it out (DISCLAIMER: I’m a power user on a budget):
CPU: AMD E-450 + Radeon HD 6320M (This is an upgrade – trust me, get this processor.) RAM: 8GB (upgrade) HDD: 500GB 7200rpm (If you really need speed, a 128GB SSD)
HP Pavilion dm4: Maybe you want a little bigger screen. Or a little more “oomph” under the hood. Want the latest graphics processors, CPUs and a big, bright screen? Check the dm4 out. While I haven’t had a chance to play with this latest wave of laptop at length, it looks and feels like big-brother to the dm1. Plus if you want to pony up for the Beats edition of the dm4, you can get a more premium feel and better audio performance. You can learn more about these guys here.
Folio13: Have a busy jetsetter on your shopping list? We recently unveiled our first business Ultrabook. The Folio13 boots quickly for a business machine while loading on good battery life a security suite that’ll keep IT off your back and a sturdy design that can take a couple knocks. Oh, yeah, and it actually packs a surprising amount of power considering how slim this thing is. I unfortunately haven’t been able to run my usual battery of tests on this guy just yet. BUT I do have a quick breakdown here of what makes this micro-machine worth checking out.
For the power user… (me, if you’re paying attention, Mom)
The ENVY 15 / ENVY 17 / ENVY 17 3D: You might’ve just caught wind of the new ENVY laptops that go on sale come December 7. These are the top-of-the-line. The hotness. The best processors and graphics jammed inside a two-tone case. I recently pulled together a bunch of details from prototype units– you can find my ENVY 15 and 17 tests right here – and these laptops are primed to handle what you can throw at it. Content creation or games, for instance. There’s also going to be a refresh of the ENVY 17 3D model with the new chassis.
Now if you’re wonder how I’d go tricking out this machine as a cost-conscious gaming power user, here’s what I’d opt for under the hood.
CPU: Core i7-2860M at 2.5GHz RAM: 8GB (Maybe upgrade it even more?) Graphics: [It’s a new AMD Radeon-class processor that I can’t talk about yet, unfortunately.] HDD: 750GB 7200rpm (If you really need speed, I’d get a dual drive system with a 7200rpm drive for holding data and an SSD as the boot drive.)
OK, now here’s where I’m going to keep building on this story. You know there are bound to be some good deals going on for the holidays. If I hear of any juicy ones that are happening on the HP shopping site, I’ll plug them into the story. But if you guys hear of stuff as well, share the love in the comment box below!