’Tis the time to be spending, but what to buy? Tech shopping over the holidays can get confusing. Allow us to suggest a few things for you to splurge on
You’re probably already sick of all the ads screaming out to you from billboards as you navigate your way through rush hour traffic. (And also those in papers, mags...) Every year around Diwali (or Deepavali), companies put everything up on sale, advertise like mad and hope to win your heart over, along with your Lakshmi (money, wealth, paisa, etc.). Friends and relatives all act as facilitators when it comes to decision time—except when it’s something from the tech domain. Here, the majority of we Indians depend a lot on ads. Most of us have friends who know less (or at best, as much) about technology as we do. Those of you who read Digit ought to know better than to base a decision on an ad, and should whip out those old issues of Digit, or head on over to our site (www.thinkdigit.com) to look at our tests and decide on a product. But this year, we’re making it even easier—with our holiday shopping list, sourced from those in the Digit editorial team: “If you had a million rupees, this Diwali you would buy...”. Answers varied across categories, and we present what we’re calling “Digit’s Ultimate Holiday Shopping Guide.”
Because everyone loves gaming!
If it’s portable entertainment, nothing beats the Sony PSP (PlayStation Portable). There’s a new version out called the PSP Slim, widely available with your local grey market vendor. Price varies between Rs 7.5 and 8.5K. So what’s so good about it? Well, the Slim (PSP 2000) is lighter than the PSP (PSP 1000)—down to 189 gm with batteries. It has been optimised to use less power. The RAM has been doubled to 64 MB. The screen remains unchanged—480x272 (16:9) wide-screen TFT LCD. The buttons are more responsive and stick out a little further from the body. The drive seems a little less noisy. The Slim features a video-out connector. When you’re at home or in a Wi-Fi hotspot, you can connect and start surfing.
For the price, nothing beats the PSP if you’re into gaming on the move. If you’re a movie buff, however, move on to Entertainment (three pages down).
Xbox 360 Elite
This black beauty comes with an HDMI-out—perfect if you’re planning on getting an LCD HDTV. The Elite sports a full 1080p HD resolution; it also comes with a 120 GB hard drive, and unfortunately, not much more in terms of features than the regular Xbox models. But well, you’ll be able to actually use it as a media centre to play back movies on your HDTV. Besides, with the Elite you get digital audio. And more...
The Elite is supposed to be backwards-compatible with previous Xbox and Xbox 360 games, but this doesn’t hold true all the time. However, if you want to enjoy the games you buy in full HD splendour, the Elite is your only option when it comes to the Xbox 360. The Elite is being sold in India at www.indiatimes.com for Rs 34,990. We’re mentioning both the Elite and the PS3 because choosing between them often comes down to what games you like to play. We suggest you look at the games available for each platform, decide on which has more of the games you’d like to own, and only then make your purchase. Also, the Xbox 360 Elite is available in the Gulf for considerably less than the Indian price.
Coming to the PS3, we wonder if we really need to explain any further. Well, here’s a look at its spec sheet: Cell processor (capable of 218 GFlops); Full HD capability (1080p); 2xHDMI ports; Dolby 5.1/DTS capable audio; Blu-ray DVD player (CD/DVD/BD); wireless controllers; and more... What makes the PS3 special is its native support for HDTV using the two HDMI inputs and the mind-blowing sound experience it offers. The PS3 has always been full HD compatible (1080p), so you can enjoy it on any HDTV out there. The inbuilt Blu-ray DVD player is a huge bonus, making you quite future-proof. Incidentally, you can get an HD-DVD player for the 360 Elite, to future-proof it, but it’s an external player and will cost you about Rs 8,000 more—huge advantage for Sony’s PS3 here. Currently, the game selection for PS3 available in India makes it a formidable force, and considering that you get Dolby 5.1/DTS, a Blu-ray player, 2 HDMI ports... the choice when buying from India is simple—get the PS3 for Rs 34,990 (MRP, and a little cheaper at certain stores). The PS3 will cost between Rs 25,000 to 30,000 abroad, so it might not be worth losing support for it.
Overall, this Diwali, make sure you get yourself a gaming console—an Xbox via friends or relative from abroad or a PS3 right here. Nintendo fans will complain about us not mentioning the Wii, but lack of official availability and games forces us to ignore it at this time—maybe next Diwali!
What good is it to earn if you can’t splurge on yourself?
Go ahead, pamper away!
Looking to buy a stylish phone? If you have a budget of about Rs 25,000 for a phone, the Nokia N95 is your best bet. This 3G phone weighs in at just 120 gm, features a 240 x 320 TFT screen, a camera that is capable of 5 mega pixel pictures, with a Carl Zeiss lens, and an almost unlimited supply of phonebook space, and much more.
What’s that “much more”, you ask? For starters, quad-band GSM, class 10 GPRS (48 Kbps), EDGE (296 Kbps), HSPDA (3G), WiFi (b/g) and Bluetooth are the options you have for connectivity to networks and other devices. It features a 3.5 mm audio jack so you can connect a decent set of headphones without worrying about proprietary formats. The built in GPS navigation ensures you never lose your way, while the 5 mp (2592x1944 pixel) camera let’s you capture every trip you take. The camera with Karl Zeiss optics lets you capture VGA (640x480) video at 30 fps, more than enough for capturing your family frolicking on a holiday. The phone provides 160 MB of internal memory, comes with a 128 MB microSD card, which you can safely ignore because you know you’re going to want to buy a multiple-GB microSD replacement for it! With over six hours of talk time and over 200 hours of standby time, you’ll rarely find yourself running low on charge between plug points. The phone is running Symbian OS 9.2, and hooks up to your PC via the mini USB port, so file transfers are easy. As for looks, take a look at the picture alongside—you know you want this cool slider from Nokia!
Apple iPod Touch
Rumoured to be launched officially some time before Diwali, the iPod Touch is what everyone wants—at least until the iPhone is officially launched here. So what is the iPod Touch? Think the iPhone, without the phone function! There are two variants to the Flash memory-based Touch: 8 GB and 16 GB. Already available and quite popular in the grey market, the iPod touch is retailing at around Rs 15,000 for the 8 GB and 19,000 for the 16 GB models. Featuring the already famous Apple Multi-touch interface, a 3.5 inch 480 x 320 touch-screen, the Safari Internet browser, WiFi access to connect the browser to the Net, and the ability to download songs from iTunes, this is a must buy for those who can afford it. Regular specifications are: Weight 120 gm; Display 3.5-inch; Audio AAC, MP3, Apple lossless, AIFF, and WAV; Video capabilities M4V, MP4 and MOV; Other Features 3.5 mm headphone jack, 22 hours of music playback, etc. Heard enough? If all the specifications and pictures are making you drool over this magazine, close mouth, run to your tech retailer and get one of these!
Sony Ericsson S500i
Not everyone will set themselves a budget as high as Rs 25K for a phone. Most of us Diwali shoppers will look for more mid-range phones... so we decided to recommend something new, something that will let your purchase stand out from the crowd. Sony Ericsson launched the S500i in the beginning of October, and at first glance, this phone looks really cool. Of the four colours available—Mysterious Green, Ice Purple, Contrasted Copper and Spring Yellow—our favourites are the first two. The phone is a slider; the 2-inch TFT display works at 240 x 320, with 262K colours. It’s EDGE-capable, has quad-band GSM capability and supports Bluetooth (A2DP stereo, for wireless headphones). The phone weighs just 92 gm, and is 14 mm thick. Onboard memory is scarce—just 12 MB—but you can upgrade to 2 GB using the Memory Stick Micro (M2) slot. The phone features Sony’s Walkman software for phones, so your music experience will be good. The 2MP camera offers decent pictures, and is on par with other phones in this range. The buttons are small, but well-designed and tactile enough. Talk time is 9 hours and standby time is 370 hours. The menu is exciting to play with, and Sony Ericsson says, “...S500i keeps you in harmony with the world around you. Let desktop and menu themes change with the season; or as day turns to night.” So your phone menu looks different on different days and even changes between day and night! You can personalise the phone’s “light effects”—the way the phone lights up when a call comes through. In terms of specs, the phone is quite what you’d expect for the price—nothing extraordinary. However, if you’d like to make a style statement with your phone, the S500i can be the centre of attention... if you want it to be.
From semi-professional to point-and-click
The D40x is our personal favourite camera. We suggest you use this as a benchmark for other “Diwali offers” you might find. This is a 10.2MP camera that seems to fit perfectly in your hands. It’slight—a mere 495 gm without the battery. Even professional photographers have showered praises on the camera’s image quality at its low price. The D40x is in India available for around Rs 29,000. We should warn you that the older D40 (6.1MP) is also still being sold in India for around Rs 22,000, so make sure you don’t get confused between the D40 and D40x. Although the older D40 is a very good camera in itself, the D40x comes with an 18-55 mm Nikkor lens bundled, so it’s actually a way better deal. The D40x uses SD memory cards to store pictures, which is good because SD flash memory prices are plummeting. The camera features auto white balance, Nikon’s Multi-CAM 530 autofocus technology, five shooting modes, Nikon’s 3D Color Matrix Metering II exposure control system, and a lot of shooting controls to give you a perfectly exposed and timed picture. Shutter speeds range from 30 to 1/4000. The pop-up flash is good for indoor-low-light shooting. The D40x uses a custom Li-ion battery that has a decent life, but shutterbugs who shoot in excess of 500 pics on a single charge might need a spare battery. Overall, any semi-professional shooter would be quite happy with this camera.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC W200
For those of you on a smaller budget, or if you just want a pocket-able camera that gives you great quality and ease of use, we recommend the DSC W200. This Cyber-shot camera from Sony is really compact for its 12MP rating. The DSC W200 features Sony’s Super SteadyShot optical image stabilisation technology, face detection and 9-point autofocus. This translates to an easy to use camera that very rarely gives you blurry shots. Video capture is possible at 30 fps VGA. The camera has a Carl Zeiss lens with 3x optical zoom, which provides good results in well-lit scenarios. At 142 gm, the camera is as light as you’d expect it to be, but still feels good and steady in your hands. The design also helps you get a good grip of the thing when you’re shooting, and coupled with the image stabilisation software you’re not likely to get motion blurs. Apart from standard USB and AV connectors, the camera features a HD output jack, so you can hook it up directly to your HDTV. Software running on the camera lets you set up slide-shows for viewing on your HDTV. The DSC W200 is available at quite a varied price—between Rs 13,000 and Rs 16,000—because some dealers sell only the camera, some sell it with a carry pouch, and some even throw in a 2 GB Memory Stick Pro Duo.
High-fidelity and high-definition here
Samsung Bordeaux LA32R81B
Chances are you’re going to get a pretty good offer on this TV these holidays. The 32R8 is a black beauty from the Samsung Bordeaux collection, and is one revision up from its predecessor the LA32R71B. The newer model is slightly sleeker looking (not that any improvement was required to begin with), and the contrast ratio has been beefed up from 5000:1 to 8000:1 on the new range. Prices have fallen as well, and the TV was retailing for Rs 52,000 the last time we checked, and may even fall further during the shopping season.
The display is not true HD, and is 1080i (1366 x 768), which shouldn’t be much of a problem for most, because we hardly have any 1080i capable outputs. If you own a PS3 or Xbox though, you might want to look at full HD displays.
The brightness is rated at 550 cd/m2, and coupled with a viewing angle of 178 degrees, this makes the TV well viewable from everywhere in your room. The inbuilt speakers aren’t great, and at 10 watt RMS don’t pack a punch—but you can’t have everything now can you?
There are 3 HDMI inputs, so those of you who want to be able to simultaneously connect multiple HD sources are in luck here. There’s PC connectivity as well, via a D-sub port that connects directly to your graphics card. We love the picture-in-picture implementation on this TV though, which comes in handy when you’ve connected your PC up and want to watch the cricket match while you work. Picture quality is good and this is a good buy for most people.
Also available in the Indian market are the older R7 models of this 32-inch TV, and you should check carefully what you’re buying. There’s nothing wrong with the R7 series per se, and if you get a good deal on one, they’re still great buys. The difference is that the R7s feature just a single HDMI port and a reduced contrast ratio of 5000:1. A good idea would be to look for clearance sales of the R7, and if you get lucky, you could get them for Rs 42,000 or less—a good buy if you’re not interested in hooking up too many HD sources (of which we have so few anyway in India). Those of you with friends / relatives going to the gulf might want to ask them to check for the R7s there—one of our colleagues got an LA32R71B for a mere 27,000 at a clearance sale in the gulf!
Now there are those of you who will want larger than 32 inch TVs, or just insist on full HD (1080p) TVs. Be prepared to pay a steep price though. If you’ve got a budget of over 1,50,000, you may want to take a look at full HD LCDs and Plasmas from Philips, Sony and Hitachi. The Philips Ambilight LCE TVs are also something you may want to look at—they’re different and definitely a good looking addition to any wall. Speaking of good looking, the Sony Bravia line has some really nice full HD TVs, and they’ve got some good discounts and offers lined up this Diwali.
Bose QuietComfort 3
With all that shopping you’re planning, chances are you’re going to have a lot of new audio-visual gear at home—all of which is useless at 2:00 AM when you want to catch that flick on TV or when you just want to chill to some loud music. If your family doesn’t kill you first, your neighbours will. The only option is to take your entertainment to more personal level, and get headphones. However, not just any headphones, because what use is it watching your favourite movie or listening to that Beethoven/Van Halen/Madonna/Linkin’ Park/(we could go on forever) CD on a substandard pair of headphones.
’Tis the time to be spending, but what to buy? Tech shopping over the holidays can get confusing. Allow us to suggest a few things for you to splurge on
Audio quality is something you can stop worrying about as soon as the word Bose is mentioned. We all know they’re good, period. Bose’s QuietComfort 3 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones are something everyone should have, but not just anyone can afford. Priced at Rs 21,263, these headphones cause most of us to sputter in awe when we hear the price tag. “Why?” is generally the next question we all ask; here’s the answer:
The headphones are really noise cancelling, and putting them on isolate you from the noise around, as well as ensure that any noise in your music is electronically cut out. They also feature active equalisation—electronics in the headset analyse and control the frequency response of the headphones, on-the-fly, to ensure the best audio quality always. In short, you have to hear them to believe them. Only for those with money to splurge though, or those who have ears as sensitive as professional composers. They do make for some serious flaunt value though!
|Time To Open The Goodies|
We certainly hope that this article has inspired you to go out and look for good deals… Remember, there are plenty more great ones out there in every segment we've mentioned; these are just suggestions.