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Christmas 2009 buyers' guide: For the film buff...

PVRs, camcorders and video-playing laptops

PC Advisor selects the best technology gifts for the film-lover in your life.

Christmas 2009 buyers' guide: For the film buff...

Videographers and film fans have been royally spoiled in the past 18 months, with the number of Blu-ray laptops continuing to grow and screen sizes getting new dimensions to accommodate the aspect ratio favoured by HD video.

Hence, 16:9 proportions have gradually taken over from the 16:10 screens previously in favour. The result: no more chopped-off legs or scalps or weird distortions - you'll get to see the whole image. So if you're shopping for an entertainment-centric laptop, an 18.4in or 16in model is what you need.

Not all HD laptops are created equal, though. If you want a ‘true' HD laptop or PC, look for a 1920x1080 screen resolution rather than the 720 displays that are also marketed as being HD models.

A slew of such HD models came out in time for Windows 7's launch, so you're now spoiled for choice in this respect. The 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-based Toshiba Qosmio X500, for example, is a 18.4in gaming laptop that's also geared up for HD video and aural entertainment. It offers a 1920x1080 screen resolution, built-in Harmon Kardon speakers and a Blu-ray recordable drive for good measure. Up to a terabyte of hard-disk space, 8GB of DDR2 RAM and 1GB of graphics memory are offered.

For a less flashy-looking and more modestly priced HD laptop, look to Acer's Gemstone range. The 15.4in 5935 comes in versions that can play and/or write to Blu-ray discs. While the smaller screen size means the resolution is 1366x768 pixels, you get the full-HD experience if you hook it up to an HD TV or other suitably capable screen.

Running a dual-core processor and dedicated nVidia graphics, you can upgrade to the more friendly Windows 7 from (Vista Home Premium) and probably shave £200 or so off the original selling price of £1,100.

Christmas 2009 buyers' guide: Recording the action

Christmas is as much about recording family get-togethers as it is about sitting around enjoying the latest film action on an HD screen. If you're keen on a ‘proper' camcorder that can record in the latest AVCHD HD video format, Sony and Panasonic have some pleasingly compact camcorders to suit your needs. Meanwhile, the £530 Canon Legria HF200 has won plaudits for being slightly less pricey. Video is saved to a removable SD High Capacity (SDHC) card that you can simply insert into a PC and copy the footage to your hard drive for editing.

Another camcorder that impressed us was the Panasonic SDR-S26, which keeps the 2.7in flip-out display (adjustable by 180 degrees) of traditional video cameras but has a price tag more like the new breed of flash-based pocket camcorders. Now it's been around some time, you can pick one up for an incredible £170.

The 70x zoom nearly made us fall over when we tried it - we'd not seen such an effective zoom on a consumer camera. Use this with a tripod to get steady results. Panasonic also offers a stills mode so you won't need to take a second camera with you.

See also: Sanyo Xacti VPC-FH1 review

Christmas 2009 buyers' guide: Video-tastic

You'll have seen various celebs touting a Flip camcorder, and the indie band Arctic Monkeys famously shot one of their music videos using one. The appeal is in its low-cost, one-touch-to-record, plug-it-into-a-PC-to-offload-footage approach. It's also a far cry from the expensive, not-useful-for-anything-other-than-video-recording media that you were previously expected to use when recording home videos.

The Flip Video MinoHD (£132 inc VAT, flipvideo.co.uk) is not only smaller than the original Flip camcorder that shook up the consumer video-recording market when it launched in 2007, it's also able to take 1280x720p video footage and has a more generous 4GB memory and an HDMI port. Flip Video even supplies some useful video-editing software and the option to upload your finished clips to YouTube.

Digital World

Christmas 2009 buyers' guide: Affordable footage

If you're taken by the idea of a lightweight video camera that's no larger - and far less expensive to replace - than a high-end cameraphone, the Medion S47000 Sports Camcorder is another model to consider.

Doubling as an MP3 player, the £99 gadget has a 2in LCD screen and 2x digital zoom. It's also splashproof, making it suitable for activity breaks as well as more sedate pursuits. SD Card removable memory can be used to boost the 128MB onboard memory.

It takes AA batteries or a rechargable lithium-ion battery pack and weighs 85g.

INDEX:

PC Advisor Christmas 2009 technology buyers' guide

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