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What Can You Buy For Under $160? (Part 1)

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The market is filled with bargains. James looks at what it’s possible to buy if you can’t bring yourself to stretch past the $160 barrier

If you have Christmas money burning a hole in your pocket, one of the best ways to spend it is to buy a present for yourself to combat the drudgery of the New Year. The January sales are a good time to go searching for bargains, but obviously you don’t want to spend too much. So what can you buy for $159?

We’ve had a look for the best sub-$160 gift ideas to see if there’s anything you might want to treat yourself to, whatever piece of hardware you’re after.

Blu-ray Writer: Asus SBW-06D2X-U - External Blu-ray Writer

Price: $144

Asus SBW-06D2X-U

Asus SBW-06D2X-U

Writable Blu-ray hardware is finally reaching reasonable levels of affordability, and with up to 128GB of data storage on a single disc, it’s not hard to see why you might want one. Although there are a few on the market right now, Asus’s external Blu-ray writer stands out from the pack as one that’s impressive on every level. Features such as Auto Tuning Power technology and double-strength disc encryption with password controls give the user added control and confidence over the recording process, while the portable design lets you easily deploy it on any desktop or laptop with a USB port. Even its appearance sets it apart from other Blu-ray drives, with a slim and glossy exterior mounted, optionally, on a rakishly angled stand. We can’t think of any finer Blu-ray writer to buy.

Mouse: Logitech G400 Optical - Gaming Mouse

Price: $64

Logitech G400 Optical

Logitech G400 Optical

Specialist peripherals are this year’s must have accessories for the dedicated gamer in your family, and the Logitech G400 gaming mouse is utterly packed with game friendly features. With eight buttons and a high-resolution 3600dpi sensor that can be tweaked on the fly for easy switching between precise and super-fast inputs, it’s guaranteed to impress. The construction is tested for durability too, with buttons that are stress tested to survive one million clicks.

What makes this mouse special is that unlike most gaming mice, it doesn’t look like it’s been through the car crusher twice in an attempt to give it some street cred, so you’ll still feel normal while using it for your browsing or office work. You might even get some use out of its extra buttons yourself!

Keyboard: Steel Series 6G v2 Mechanical - Gaming Keyboard

Price: $121

Steel Series 6G v2 Mechanical

Steel Series 6G v2 Mechanical

If you’ve never used a mechanical keyboard, then we’re sad to inform you that you’ve never really experienced typing. With individually micro switched keys that react faster and more sensitively than a regular keyboard, a mechanical keyboard gives gamers the edge they need to get the jump on their opponents, be they real or virtual. And let’s face it, even if you’re just typing out an email, they’re so much nicer to type on than anything else - the computerized equivalent of a biro on banana skins.

We won’t pretend $120 isn’t steep for a keyboard, but with a durable metal case and sturdy design, you should at least get your money’s worth out of it. Don’t talk yourself out of owning the Rolls Royce of keyboards just because you’re only used to driving a Morris Minor.

Wireless Adaptor: Asus EA-N66 Pyramid - Adaptor

Price: $144

Asus EA-N66 Pyramid

Asus EA-N66 Pyramid

USB wireless adapters are virtually synonymous with low-price, low-quality purchases, but with the Asus EA-N66 wireless pyramid, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

With frankly awe-inspiring design sensibilities, this 450Mbps wireless adapter has multiple orthogonally arranged antennas to lessen interference and boost signal coverage. It supports dual-band communication for full wireless N support, and it has a 3-in-1 design that lets it switch instantly between acting as a wireless adaptor, repeater or access point. You may not need it, but you’re lying if you say you don’t want it.

Case: Antec 902 V3 Midi Gaming Case

Price: $139

Antec 902 V3 Midi Gaming Case

Antec 902 V3 Midi Gaming Case

The Antec 902 v3 is a fantastic mid-priced gaming case with a variety of desirable features, including a huge side-panel window, internal LEDs and 2.5” drive bays specifically designed for SSDs mounted at the base of the case. It’s quite possibly the perfect home for a modern PC particularly if you want to build a rig that’s going to impress your friends at a LAN party.

What’s more, the perforated frontage gives it extra cooling capabilities, while a CPU cut-out and the three included fans (there’s space for even more) mean it’s capable of keeping even the most powerful PC chilly. If you’re not overclocking or running a high-end graphics card, then it’s arguably overkill, but when it looks this good, who cares how necessary it is?

Media Streamer: SumVision Cyclone - Micro 2+ MKV Player

Price: $48

SumVision Cyclone

SumVision Cyclone

If you want to make it easier than ever to get digital video playing on your TV, this pocket-sized media streaming device allows you to pipe a huge variety of digital formats straight onto the big screen, including, as the name suggests, the oft-neglected MKV file. With HDMI and 5.1 digital coax support, this small box still allows you to get home cinema-style sound and visuals.

And why’s it so cheap? Well, its maker has scrimped a little on storage (which is to say, there isn’t any) but the USB port allows you to connect almost any type of device, so if you have a USB key hanging around, you can hook it up for simple file storage and transfer. That’s convenience we can live with.

RAM: Crucial Ballistix Sport 8GB DDR3 - Memory Kit

Price: $58

Crucial Ballistix Sport 8GB DDR3

Crucial Ballistix Sport 8GB DDR3

In case you hadn’t noticed, Windows 8 claims to need a minimum of 2GB of RAM to run but, let’s face it, giving your 64-bit operating system anything less than 4GB is a waste of time. Rather than try to scrape by at the bare minimum, why not splash out on this 8GB Crucial Ballistix kit? Not only will you be well ahead of the curve for the next couple of years, but you can take advantage of this year’s famously cheap RAM prices. This is a 2 x 4GB kit, which means it offers the best balance of access times and physical space constraints, and because it’s the ‘Sport’ version, it’s rated at 1600MHz better than average speeds, which are fast enough for all but the most hardened over clocker.

TV Card: Hauppauge WinTV Nova HD S2

Price: $112

Hauppauge WinTV Nova HD S2

Hauppauge WinTV Nova HD S2

Watching TV on your computer is as easy as it’s ever been, but it can get just that little bit easier if you install a TV card. Manufacturer Hauppauge Computer Works has been the leading manufacturer of TV cards for virtually as long as they’ve existed, and the Nova HD S2 features a satellite-capable DVB-S/DVB-S2 tuner that you can use in conjunction with any digital dish to receive free HD satellite channels from across Europe. However, although it’s worth noting you can’t use it to directly receive encrypted signals, such as Sky, even if you have a subscription. Still, with extras like built-in PVR recording and multiple input and output ports, anyone who wants a TV card that means business should start here.

 

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