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Apple Products Buying Guide

Last month, we gave you some tips on where to get some cool tech gifts. And our blog is showcasing one gadget gift every day from December 1st through 24th. (Go to the blog to see the posts you missed; sign up on the blog homepage to get every new blog post in your email inbox.) Today we've got some suggestions of what Apple products might be appropriate for different kinds of people at various price points.

For the person who can never be without his or her Mac

11-inch MacBook Air. I (Ivan) just got one of these to replace my trusty black MacBook, and I think it's the best thing ever. At less than two and a half pounds and less than three-quarters of an inch thick, it simply delights as a marvel of engineering. It's nowhere near as powerful a computer as I'd like it to be, significantly underperforming its larger siblings, but I don't care: it's the ultimate portable Mac bar none, the product I've been wanting Apple to make since the PowerBook Duo and 2400c (the last Mac I really loved). The basic model, suitable for web and email and not much else, is $999; when "maxed out" (a relative term) with faster CPU, 4 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of storage, it's $1399.

For the movie lover

Apple TV. This small $99 box plugs into your TV, joins your WiFi network, and lets you watch streaming Netflix movies over the internet all day long ($7.99/month for an internet-only subscription, $9.99 and up to also include DVD rental). In addition, if you've got music, photos, or movies on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, or your Macs, you can use Apple TV to get them on the big screen. You can also rent TV shows and movies on-demand directly from the Apple iTunes store.

For the kid with iPhone envy

If you've got someone in mind who wants an iPhone, but is too young for a cell phone (or whose parents aren't ready to spend $60/month to support one), the iPod Touch is perfect—it's the iPhone without the phone, with access to a vast number of free or cheap apps, movies, music, and all the other stuff you get with an iPhone. Plus it's got the front-facing camera, so you can use FaceTime video chat to keep in touch. The basic 8GB model is $229, though the $299 32GB model is the better value as it can store much more. There's also a $399 64GB model for the serious portable media hound.

For the athlete

The iPod nano is kind of the MacBook Air of the iPod line—it's a music player that's good looking and absurdly small—so much so that products have appeared which let you wear it as a wristwatch (search for "ipad nano watchband"). It has a built-in clip and a touch screen, and comes in two sizes, 8GB for $149 and 16GB for $179 (again, we think this is the better value).

For the luxury gadget enthusiast

The iPad is still Apple's wow product du jour, and shows no signs of slowing down. Though the hardware is unchanged since its introduction nine months ago, the new iOS 4.2.1 software update brings major new abilities, some of which were first introduced on the iPhone 4, and access to more sophisticated apps. We actually like the basic 16GB WiFi-only model for $499; 32 GB is $599 and 64GB costs $699. Add $129 plus a monthly subscription for AT&T's 3G data service; as an alternative, Verizon now offers the WiFi model bundled with its MiFi portable hotspot card.

For everyone else

If none of the above strike the right note, Apple Store gift cards and iTunes Store gift cards should fill in the blanks. What's the difference? Apple Store cards can be used for merchandise (Apple or non-Apple) sold at retail stores, or Apple's online store. However, these cards can't be used for apps, movies, or music; that's what the iTunes gift card is for. If it's the last minute, you'll have no trouble finding those at most drugstores and supermarkets.

As always, call or email if you have questions about the above or anything else Apple. See you in 2011!

(December 2010)

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