-- As consumers cautiously creep out of the recession and into the 2011 holiday season, manufacturers are hoping their latest tech products will catch the eye of gift givers. Reviewed.com, a division of USA TODAY, puts hundreds of products through the rigors of its testing labs. Its annual Select Awards spotlight the best personal tech the industry has to offer. Here's a selection of some of this year's award-winners, including tips on how to find the best deals .
Camera of the year
Nikon D5100 (MSRP $849.95): The advent of the sub-$1,000 digital SLR has been great for amateur shooters looking to get more serious about photography. With image quality that can match (and at times exceed) more expensive cameras, the D5100 offers entry-level shooters great image quality in a lightweight, affordable package.
Holiday Shopping Deals: Our camera of the year is well worth the full retail price, and you won't find it on sale in many places. Black Friday through Sunday, however, BJ's is offering a great deal: $849.99 for the camera with the 18-55mm kit lens, 55-200mm telephoto lens, Nikon camera bag, and instructional DVD.
Best camera value
Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS (MSRP $179.99)
The Canon ELPH 100 HS is a near-perfect point-and-shoot specimen. It's incredibly fast, easy to use, and captures better pictures and video than the competition — and certainly better than your smartphone. Canon manages to cram all that quality and usability into a $180 camera, which makes the 100 HS a great buy for the holidays.
Holiday Shopping Deals: You'll find the 100 HS on sale for $130 all over the Internet, making this incredible deal even better. Some places to shop: Office Depot, $129.99 w/ free 4GB Memory Card; Radio Shack, $129.99 (case, 4GB memory, and screen protectors for another $12.99); Staples, $129.99, with 50% off all regularly priced camera bags.
Camcorder of the year
Canon Vixia HF G10 (MSRP $1,499.99)
The Canon HF G10 is a bold, powerful, camcorder that produced excellent HD video in all of our tests. Canon's decision to go with a brand-new image sensor paid off, producing crisp, clean video in bright light, while working wonders in low-light situations. Loaded with professional-grade controls and features, the HF G10 skirts the line between professional and consumer. The price tag, while steep, is justified.
Holiday Shopping Deals: You can't expect to find the best camcorder of the year for cheap. A few places, however, are shaving a couple hundred dollars off the price for the holiday season: Abe's of Maine, $1,299.00; Amazon, $1,279.95; Sears, $1,279.00.
Best budget camcorder
Samsung HMX-W200 (MSRP $159.99)
It's a rare occasion for a budget camcorder to truly impress us with good video performance, but that's exactly what happened when the Samsung HMX-W200 waltzed into our labs. Compared to other models in its price range, the W200 produced some of the sharpest video we've ever seen, and its results in low light conditions were equally as impressive. For a camcorder that retails for well under $200, the HMX-W200 is an excellent deal. It is compact, waterproof, records beautiful Full HD video, and is easy to use.
Holiday Shopping Deals: The W200 is already a budget camcorder, but if you're still on the fence, look for some Black Friday sales to turn this into a true bargain. The best offering right now is at B&H: $99.99 (through Nov. 26).
Television of the year
Samsung D7000 Plasma Series (MSRP $1,799.99 - $3,399.99)
If you're looking for the crème de la crème of HDTVs this year, look no further than the Samsung D7000 plasma series (available in 51-, 59-, and 64-inch sizes). When we're talking about TVs, screen quality comes first. There is no question that the D7000 delivers. Samsung's new Smart Hub is an elegant and easy way to watch streaming video. And the series supports active shutter 3-D glasses, though 3-D is actually the least compelling feature.
Holiday Shopping Deals: Our top TV can be found throughout the web, as well as in old fashioned brick 'n' mortar stores. Prices can change daily, but look for it on Amazon for about $1,300-$2,300 depending on screen size.
Best 3-D television
Panasonic VT30 Plasma Series (MSRP $2,499.95 - $3,999.95)
We're still not sold on the whole 3-D craze, but some people must have the latest gadgets. If you're shopping with 3-D in mind, the Panasonic VT30 is the best in the business. Available in 55- and 65-inch models, it offers the most immersive experience with the least amount of "cross-talk," or bleed between the left and right eye. The VT30 is also an excellent 2-D television—which is what you'll actually be watching most of the time.
Holiday Shopping Deals: For all you 3-D enthusiasts out there, Black Friday may be the ideal time to pick up the Panasonic VT30. Check it out on Buy.com at $2,169.00 - $3,095.00, depending on screen size.
Headphones of the year
Audio Technica ATH-AD900 (MSRP $299.95)
The Audio Technica ATH-AD900 headphones offer balanced, accurate sound. A smart pick for modern audiophiles on a budget, these are some of the most comfortable headphones we've reviewed. With great marks across the board, these over-ear headphones strike the perfect balance of price, performance, and comfort.
Holiday Shopping Deals: Find these hi-fi headphones this holiday season on Adorama for $219.95.
Best travelers' headphones
Sennheiser IE 8i (MSRP $599.95)
With the ability to go anywhere and plug into just about anything, the Sennheiser IE 8i headphones offer some of the best travel options for globetrotters. Though many headphones we've reviewed include an adapter that allows you to listen to an in-flight movie, few of those block out as much noise as these, and few are this easy to carry around.
Holiday Shopping Deals: You'll find a huge bargain on Amazon this time of year — only $348.00, perfect for the road warrior on your shopping list.
eReader of the year
Amazon Kindle Keyboard 3G (MSRP $139.00)
It may not be the latest device by Amazon, but it is the best. Maybe we're just suckers for the ability to type on a full qwerty keyboard rather than a touch screen. With a clean and clear screen that works in a wide range of lighting conditions, and instant access to the world's largest eBook store, the Amazon Kindle Keyboard 3G is our top eReader.
Holiday Shopping Deals: For guaranteed availability, your best bet is to go right to the source. Get it discounted from Amazon by allowing them to run ads on your device for $139.00. The ad-free version runs the price up to $189. Best Buy is running a special on the "ads-included" edition for $89.99.
Tablet of the year
Apple iPad2 (MSRP $499.00 - $829.00)
Despite having half the memory of some of its Android competitors, the Apple iPad 2 has not only an impressive battery life, but a remarkable screen as well. Along with access to the largest app store, the iPad 2 has set the standard for offering connectivity with a dead-simple user interface. Despite the hefty price (especially for Apple's 3G models), the iPad 2 remains our pick of the year.
Holiday Shopping Deals: Apple is not traditionally disposed to holiday sales. Because it's the hottest tech product on the market, there's a lot of ambiguous web links promising sales that merely direct you back to Amazon, where it's frequently priced higher than the MSRP. Walmart is offering discounts on bundled accessories. You can also buy direct from Apple, but there's no discount.
The Reviewed.com 2011 Select Awards represent the very best products in over 40 categories, chosen from hundreds of products reviewed this year. To view all the 2011 winners, please visit www.reviewed.com. Reviewed.com is a division of USA TODAY.