November 6, 2011's picks for top gadget gifts

An Associated Press reporter demonstrates the camera on the Apple iPad 2 in San Francisco.
Associated Press An Associated Press reporter demonstrates the camera on the Apple iPad 2 in San Francisco.

As consumers cautiously creep out of the recession and into the 2011 holiday buying season, manufacturers are hoping their latest tech products will catch the eye of gift givers across the country., a division of USA TODAY, put hundreds of products through the rigors of its testing labs and publishes in-depth reviews of the latest in consumer electronics. Here is a list of some of Select Award winners for this year. To view all the 2011 winners, please visit

Camera of the year

Nikon D5100 (MSRP $849.95): The advent of the sub-$1,000 digital SLR has been great for amateur shooters looking to get more serious about photography. With image quality that can match (and at times exceed) more expensive cameras, the D5100 offers entry-level shooters great image quality in a lightweight, affordable package.

Best camera value

Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS (MSRP $179.99)

The Canon ELPH 100 HS is a near-perfect point-and-shoot specimen. It's incredibly fast, easy to use, and captures better pictures and video than the competition -- and certainly better than your smartphone. Canon manages to cram all that quality and usability into a $180 camera, which makes the 100 HS a great buy for the holidays.

Camcorder of the year

Canon Vixia HF G10 (MSRP $1,499.99)

The Canon HF G10 is a bold, powerful, camcorder that produced excellent HD video in all of our tests. Canon's decision to go with a brand-new image sensor paid off, producing crisp, clean video in bright light, while working wonders in low-light situations. Loaded with professional-grade controls and features, the HF G10 skirts the line between professional and consumer. The price tag, while steep, is justified.

Best budget camcorder

Samsung HMX-W200 (MSRP $159.99)

It's a rare occasion for a budget camcorder to truly impress us with good video performance, but that's exactly what happened when the Samsung HMX-W200 waltzed into our labs. Compared to other models in its price range, the W200 produced some of the sharpest video we've ever seen, and its results in low light conditions were equally as impressive. For a camcorder that retails for well under $200, the HMX-W200 is an excellent deal. It is compact, waterproof, records beautiful Full HD video, and is easy to use.

Television of the year

Samsung D7000 Plasma Series (MSRP $1,799.99 - $3,399.99)

If you're looking for the crème de la crème of HDTVs this year, look no further than the Samsung D7000 plasma series (available in 51-, 59-, and 64-inch sizes). When we're talking about TVs, screen quality comes first. There is no question that the D7000 delivers. Samsung's new Smart Hub is an elegant and easy way to watch streaming video. And the series supports active shutter 3-D glasses, though 3-D is actually the least compelling feature.

xBest 3-D television

Panasonic VT30 Plasma Series (MSRP $2,499.95 - $3,999.95)

We're still not sold on the whole 3-D craze, but some people must have the latest gadgets. If you're shopping with 3-D in mind, the Panasonic VT30 is the best in the business. Available in 55- and 65-inch models, it offers the most immersive experience with the least amount of "cross-talk," or bleed between the left and right eye. The VT30 is also an excellent 2-D television--which is what you'll actually be watching most of the time.

Headphones of the year

Audio Technica ATH-AD900 (MSRP $299.95)

The Audio Technica ATH-AD900 headphones offer balanced, accurate sound. A smart pick for modern audiophiles on a budget, these are some of the most comfortable headphones we've reviewed. With great marks across the board, these over-ear headphones strike the perfect balance of price, performance, and comfort.

Best travelers' headphones

Sennheiser IE 8i (MSRP $599.95)

With the ability to go anywhere and plug into just about anything, the Sennheiser IE 8i headphones offer some of the best travel options for globetrotters. Though many headphones we've reviewed include an adapter that allows you to listen to an in-flight movie, few of those block out as much noise as these, and few are this easy to carry around.

eReader of the year

Amazon Kindle Keyboard 3G (MSRP $139.00)

It may not be the latest device by Amazon, but it is the best. Maybe we're just suckers for the ability to type on a full qwerty keyboard rather than a touch screen. With a clean and clear screen that works in a wide range of lighting conditions, and instant access to the world's largest eBook store, the Amazon Kindle Keyboard 3G is our top eReader.

Tablet of the year

Apple iPad2 (MSRP $499.00 - $829.00)

Despite having half the memory of some of its Android competitors, the Apple iPad 2 has not only an impressive battery life, but a remarkable screen as well. Along with access to the largest app store, the iPad 2 has set the standard for offering connectivity with a dead-simple user interface. Despite the hefty price (especially for Apple's 3G models), the iPad 2 remains our pick of the year.

by - Nov. 1, 2011 09:59 AM's picks for top gadget gifts

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