Most buy tunes the smart way in 2009--via services like eMusic, iTunes and Amazon MP3, which offer individual songs at steep discounts. But technophobes have another idiot-proof option with this current contender: a beginner-friendly music player with a 1.5-inch OLED screen and FM tuner that runs microSD cards preloaded with 1,000 tracks, representing multiple genres. Just pop the joints in (one comes prepackaged, with extras running $39.99/card) and you're ready to rock and roll... even if fixed, pre-selected soundtracks prove a sour note.
www.slotradio.org / $99.99
OK, so the price tag's a little steep for a so-called "netbook" (low-end, ultra-portable notebook computer), and the svelte keyboard takes some getting used to. But this super-stylish 1.4lb laptop--touting a crisp, 8-inch widescreen display, 60GB hard drive, 2GB of RAM, built-in GPS functionality, and both WiFi and 3G broadband connectivity--easily justifies the cost. Pile on quick-boot support for faster Web/email access, and onlookers will invariably drool with envy when you whip it out on your next cross-country romp.
www.sonystyle.com / $899.99
Last year, ginormous gaming rig, the Blackbird, wowed with its stunning industrial design, raw power and plug-and-play configuration, if not for its giant footprint and backbreaking weight. At odds with manufacturer HP's pre-recession excess, nowadays we instead get a slimmed-down performance PC optimized for space-saving and more efficient cooling that's still a decent gaming and multimedia powerhouse. Boasting a Core 2 Quad 9400 processor, 500GB hard drive and dual NVIDIA GeForce 9800S cards, marathon World of Warcraft sessions, here we come...
www.hp.com / $1,799.00 and up
Eva9150 Digital Entertainer Elite
This year, connected home entertainment--a.k.a. the ability to stream audio and video from Internet to HDTV--is a major buzzword. Blame gizmos like this 1080p (high-def) set-top box, which lets you wirelessly push movies, photos, podcasts, MP3 tunes and more from Mac, PC or home network throughout the house. A pirate's best friend, the device even sports a 500GB hard drive for storing all those BitTorrent specials, and USB and iPod ports, handling digital media with the greatest of ease.
www.netgear.com / $399.99
Satellite radio makes us happy, what with the medium's lack of commercials, unpredictable playlists, better reception and relaxed censorship guidelines--not to mention endless hours of Oprah or Martha Stewart! But up until now, no one player could field broadcasts from both Sirius and XM. Remedying the issue, this combo tuner lets you cue up all your favorite stations and shock jocks, or record 60 minutes of talk/music on command... though regular subscription plans do start at (doh!) $19.99/month.www.sirius.com / $249.99
Heroes Over Europe
Stay fly the old-school way--by taking to the skies in over 40 historical planes and enjoying riveting high-resolution dogfights as you soar miles above beautiful World War II-era battlegrounds. Customize an aircraft, hop into the cockpit, and intuitive controls make perforating rival aces a breeze, with one's survival dependent equally as much on brains as button-mashing technique. Granted, flight sim purists may scoff at the title's arcade-like approach, but it'll have casual pilots happily cruising along on a wing and prayer.
www.atari.com / PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Sacred: Fallen Angel
Classic desktop outing Diablo might have set the mold for dozens of mouse-mashing medieval dungeon crawls to follow, but this inspired knock-off proves there's still life in the old loot grind, yet. Recently ported from PC, the game won't win awards for originality--basic setup: kill monster, collect spoils, pimp one's character with arms/abilities, rinse, repeat--but shines for depth and multiplayer value nonetheless. Repetitious nature notwithstanding, it's worth copping for closet D&D fans, especially if you can score on discount.
www.cdvus.com / PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Puzzle Quest: Galactrix
Every geek's favorite guilty pleasure returns. The original--a bizarre hybrid of casual mindbender and intricate fantasy role-player--scored a sleeper hit with its addictive play and streamlined approach to adventuring. Enter an equally engaging sci-fi spin-off, which introduces a hexagonal puzzle board, galaxy-spanning storyline, personalized spaceships and countless more hours of strategically-minded mayhem. Though the pacing and difficult CPU opponents can frustrate, it's sure to have Trench Coat Mafia members throwing up their 20-sided dice in glee regardless.
www.d3publisher.us / Nintendo DS
Major League Baseball 2k9
Talk about foul ball: Videogame-wise, America's national pastime often gets short shrift compared to juggernauts like Madden and FIFA. Not so here, as ongoing roster updates (PS3/Xbox 360 versions), enhanced controls and additional player animations (resulting in more natural movement) help the sport's premier simulation belt one out of the park. A lively broadcast-style presentation and Internet-shareable highlight reels and rosters are other perks, though lesser editions trade high-definition bombast for motion-sensitive commands (Wii) and expanded career options (PS2).
www.2ksports.com / PS2, PS3, PSP, Xbox 360, Wii
Time to break out the Xanax and stock up on adult diapers: Gaming's illest survival horror series kicks its intensity up a notch, as blinding shifts from shadow to daylight now mask fast-moving homicidal mutant villagers' approach. Notable extras further include a fresh African setting and emphasis on co-op play (pairing original series headliner Chris Redfield with gal-pal Sheva), with added options for tag-teaming the adventure online a major plus. Occasionally predictable layouts and shocks aside, bloody good fun nonetheless.
www.capcom.com / PS3, Xbox 360