What to get for Christmas

Tips & Hints

What is the latest in computers and technology?

21 November 2001

This year's crop of new technology hasn't see anything major released apart from Windows XP. Even here, Windows XP is not an earth-shattering "must buy" for computer users. What we have seen this year is a steady improvement in quality and technology with a steep decrease in prices for the older, established equipment.

Games Consoles

Nintendo and Playstation remain the two major game boxes. While we're encountering a Microsoft marketing blitz for the upcoming release of their X-Box, we won't be seeing it for Christmas. Microsoft are expecting the Australian release mid-March, the US launch was last week.

Personal Digital Assistants

PDAs are getting more popular as prices drop and more businesses are using them. The Palm still leads the field but the Compaq iPAQ is catching up, a third option is the Handspring. Handsprings and Palm use the Palm operating system while Compaq uses Windows CE.

Windows CE has the advantage of better integration with Windows and Microsoft Office but it requires far more power, hence the higher prices for iPAQ models. The Palm software is somewhat dated but very compact, fast and functional.

Digital Cameras

The quality and technology of digital cameras is moving in leaps and bounds. The latest cameras provide excellent resolution and features. Check the memory before buying as cheaper digital cameras often don't have a lot of built-in memory. ZDNet have a recent article that discusses what you should look at when buying a digital camera.

Remember you have to connect it to a computer, so make sure the new camera can connect to your computer. USB is the most common option, Firewire is better if your computer has Firewire ports. Digital cameras with serial connections should be avoided unless you have an older computer that only has serial connections (or runs Windows 95).

Digital Video Cameras

Like digital still cameras the quality and features of video cameras has improved dramatically. Connecting video cameras to a video recorder, television or computer is much more complex than a digital camera. Read your video recorder/computer manuals about what video connections you will need before buying a video camera. Two excellent reference pages are the Camcorder buyers guide and the Active Buyers Guide.

There is another trap for those who intend to edit their videos on computers. Generally video cameras don't come with editing software so unless you are running Windows XP or have a recent model Mac you will have to buy some editing software. You will also need a large, fast hard drive to store the data.


Systems prices continue to fall and many people are taking advantage of the price falls by buying laptop computers. While the laptops look good it is worthwhile questioning whether you need a laptop. From one major computer supplier, a $2500 laptop includes a Pentium III-1000 processor, 128 Mb RAM and a 10Gb hard drive. A $2500 desktop from the same vendor has a PentiumIV-2000, 384 Mb RAM and a 40Gb hard drive, and with a lot more extras with room to expand.

With the low costs of hardware, upgrading is an attractive option. But for many computers the cost really isn't worthwhile. Have a look at our table on upgrading older computers and our previous article on the upgrading options for your computers.

This Christmas doesn't see anything sensationally new in technology. What we do see is a steady improvement in quality and features along with some dramatic drops in prices. But shop around and be wary of some of the cheapest deals, many of these are stores clearing out older stock. Happy shopping.

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