While I'm a Mac user (see previous writeup), I also recognize that (A) PCs based on Windows 7 are quite usable, (B) non-Mac notebooks usually cost less (a lot less) than Macs, and (C) many people are not Mac users.
So, needing a notebook PC for the test lab, I chose one of the latest Acer TimelineX-series products. Why is this a great gift? Well, notebooks should be thin, light, and fast. This one is only about an inch thick, about four pounds, and includes a 2.1 GHz Intel core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive. There's no optical drive (who needs one of those anymore, really?), but the 13.3-inch display with 1,366 by 768 resolution in 16:9 aspect ratio was bright and clear, with excellent graphics performance (it uses the same chipset as the MacBook Air).
Very important for me was the HDMI port and a USB 3.0 port, which is still very rare in notebooks at any price today. This port will be great for testing all those upcoming gigabit-plus wireless LANs hitting the market. Other features include 300Mbps 802.11n wireless (2.4GHz. only, though) a Gigabit Ethernet port, Bluetooth 3.0+HS, and the 64-bit edition of Windows 7 Home Premium. The really good news: all of this, in stunning cobalt blue, is less than $600.
Setup was fast and simple, the included junkware is minimal, and you're good to go quite quickly. The TimelineX operates pretty fast, even running that clunky Windows OS. If you have someone on your holiday list in need of a new PC, check out the Acer TimelineX - it's a great value.
Cool Yule rating: 5 stars
Price: $597.89 at Amazon
Reviewed by C.J. Mathias