The clock is counting down to Christmas and each year becomes more of a techy affair than the last. Tech columnist Adam Maguire's Tech Buyers' Guide aims to narrow down the massive array of products out there and tell you about some of the better gadgets currently available, which will hopefully make the buying process that little bit easier.
Netbooks & Laptops
The N140 is Samsung's "high-end" follow-up to the successful and well-made NC10 netbook, released in Ireland at the start of this year.
The N140 has a reliable 10" screen, comfortable keyboard and all the bells and whistles you would want with a netbook including Bluetooth. Most impressively the device houses a battery capable of an amazing 11 hours usage - well ahead of most other netbooks and more than most users will need. What is even more impressive is that space and weight are not compromised in order to pack such power in. The Samsung N140 can be bought on dabs.ie from €370 before P&P.
Dell Studio 15 Laptop
If you need a bit more processing power and screen real estate than a netbook can provide then you will not do badly with the Dell Studio 15. Packing a 15.4" screen it should do the trick for film-watchers, gamers and budding designers alike, while its minimum 3GB RAM and 2.14GHz dual-core processor should make light work of most games and programmes out there. If you are that way inclined you can also select your own colour for the laptop's lid - although be careful of the assumptions you make about the person you are buying it for! Prices for the Dell Studio 15 laptop start at €529 from www.dell.ie
Microsoft Xbox 360
Nintendo's Wii has dominated the gaming charts for the past two Christmasses but a mixture of price cuts, improved title line-up and Nintendo saturation has meant that console rivals are making big gains on the Japanese giant.
Microsoft's Xbox 360 has certainly been charging ahead in the past year, with high profile titles from the Halo franchise, Fable 2 and Gears of War 2 all selling well. The roll-out of new services on the Xbox Live service has also helped turn the 360 into something more than a games console with users being able to Twitter, use Facebook and even watch Sky Digital live (assuming they subscribe). Add to that the development of Microsoft's own Zune video marketplace and the upcoming Project Natal control device and 2010 could well be the year of the Xbox. The Xbox Elite is available with a 120GB HDD for €250 from most electronics retailers.
Standout titles available only on the Xbox 360:
Forza Motorsport 3 - One of the best racing games on the market today, all the better if you have the right accessories and a HD TV to enjoy it in all of its glory (RRP €60).
Halo 3: ODST - Part of the hugely successful Halo franchise and like most Halo titles is worth getting for its online multiplayer alone, not that the single player part is not fun too (RRP €60).
Sony's Playstation 3 (PS3 Slim)
Also enjoying a sales boost on the back of a price cut and a re-design to make it a far more attractive part of the home entertainment system, Sony's Playstation 3 is certain to be a big seller this Christmas.
The machine is technically the most powerful console out there - although in reality that power is only really used to its full potential by Sony's own developers. That said third-party developers are still making good games and the amount of quality titles coming out on the PS3 is now bigger than ever. To top this off its Blu-Ray compatibility makes it a future-proof purchase for anyone thinking of upgrading their DVD collection soon.
If you have a handheld PSP there is also the potential to link the two machines up in certain games, adding novel but sometimes superb additional functionality. The PS3 Slim comes with a 120GB HDD and costs €299.
Standout titles only on the PS3:
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves - Gaining critical acclaim left, right and centre Uncharted 2 is said to be the game Tomb Raider wishes it was. Imagine being Indiana Jones before he got old. (RRP €70)
Ratchet & Clank: A Crank In Time - another in a long-running series of kid-friendly platformers, certainly the best series of games on PS3 for young people. (RRP €70)
Must have titles available on both consoles:
Assassin's Creed II - sequel to one of the best games of recent times; slick, stylish and at times gory but a joy to play.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - Hugely popular shoot-em-up, action titles do not get much better than this.
Cameras & Camcorders
Canon IXUS 200 IS:
The touchscreen has taken over modern technology - be it in the world of gaming or mobile phones - and to that end it is no surprise to find a camera that has touch-based controls too.
What is surprising is just how well Canon have implemented the control system, making it work in an extremely smart and useful way.
Beyond that the IXUS 200 IS is a solid camera by any measure, with a 12.1mp lens, 5x optical zoom and the ability to record videos in HD. Perfect for any type of photograph you want to take well.
The RRP on the Canon IXUS 200 IS is €379 but is likely to be found for less in most outlets.
A camcorder for the YouTube generation, the Flip UltraHD is a pocket video recorder which captures action at an impressive quality and allows you to easily upload it to your favourite video-sharing site.
The camera's interface is simple, as is the software that comes with it, and it is absolutely ideal for home video enthusiasts or companies looking to video blog on a regular basis. The Flip UltraHD can be bought on pixmania.ie from €189 before P&P.
The main handset being pushed by HTC as part of their move into the Irish market, the Hero is visually striking and intuative to use.
Running on a modified version of Google's Android operating system the phone features a responsive touch screen, a 5mp camera and a fully-customisable menu system called 'Sense'.
By far one of the best 'iPhone rivals' on the market today, the HTC Hero is currently available from Meteor from €100 - it can also be purchased SIM-free for €465 from expansys.ie.
If you want something stylish but more straight-forward then Nokia's E52 business phone is a safe and reliable bet. It has a neat candybar style - so no touchscreen - and lets users call, text, e-mail and browse the web all without being obtrusive in the pocket or hand. As with most new Nokia phones it can also connect to the Nokia Ovi Store, allowing you to download applications and back-up contacts online. The modern business phone is no longer a strictly professional affair and to that end the E52 has a decent 3.2mp camera as well as music and video playing functionality - just in case you get bored on the train or plane ride to a meeting. The phone is available on contract from O2 from €29 and Vodafone from €70.
Extras & Accessories
Seecode Vossor Phonebook
In-car Bluetooth kits are nothing new but Seecode can get top marks on originality with its Vossor Phonebook rear-view mirror.
This kit replaces your existing rear-view mirror - or more clips on to it - and can be synced wirelessly and quite easily with your phone to turn it into a hands-free device. The speaker and mic quality is extremely good and the gadget is naturally located in a good position for taking calls. Incoming calls can be accepted or rejected with a simple push of the button and the device can also take contacts from your phonebook and store them internally, making it easy to start a call through the device too (although this is not to be recommended while driving).
Perhaps the most eye-catching thing of all is the little LCD screen that is hidden in the mirror, noticeable only when it displays the caller ID of an incoming call.
The Seecode Vossor Phonebook can be bought from The Carphone Warehouse for €129.
While an operating system may not seem like the most exciting of gifts or purchases, any Windows Vista user you may buy this for will likely be eternally grateful.
Taking all the nice improvements Vista gave us and thankfully skimming away all the fat that made it slow and frustrating to use, Windows 7 is the operating system Microsoft should have released after XP.
The operating system is noticeably faster than what has gone before - indeed it can run comfortably on netbooks - and the compatibility issues that plagued its predecessor are nowhere to be seen.
Most importantly, however, it is easy to use and should feel comfortable to those used to running their computer on previous editions of Windows.
Windows 7 comes in six different versions but only three - Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate - are generally available at retail, costing between €86 and €170 on dabs.ie.