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Electronics Gift Guide

Shoppers are still going to flock to TVs, GPS units and cameras this year, even if they spend less. Nearly 50% of consumers said they plan on buying electronics as gifts, according to Consumer Reports, but not everyone is going to know the best-of-breed in the most popular categories. That’s where Paul Reynolds, Consumer Reports electronics editor, comes in.

One of the hottest electronics categories this year will be global positioning systems, Reynolds said. Consumer Reports does extensive testing of GPS units, factoring in accuracy, ease-of-use and overall performance. The best products in the category for those on a budget are the TomTom 130, the Navigon 2200T and the Garmin Nuvi 200, he said. Garmin performed the best overall, and the Consumer Reports GPS best buy is the Garmin Nuvi 255W, which retails for $280. This product is one of the least expensive while also having the best features and extras, Reynolds said.

Digital cameras are always hot gifts, and once again Consumer Reports does extensive testing to alert shoppers to the best cameras for their money. They test for image quality, versatility, dynamic range and ease-of-use. The best subcompact camera on the market is the Canon Powershot, the testing found. The best point-and-shoot camera under $175 is the Canon Powershot A590 and the best compact camera was a tie between the Fuji FinePix and Sony Cybershot. Consumer Reports’ overall best digital camera buy was the Canon Powershot A590IS, which retailers for $140 and exhibited excellent dynamic range, versatility and the shortest next-shot delay, according to Reynolds.

Then there are televisions, and the ongoing battle between LCD and plasma flat screens. Consumer Reports technicians once again tested a plethora of models, and found that LCDs tend to have a brighter picture but plasmas were better for fast motion and color accuracy. The best LCD buy was the Samsung A550 40-inch, which retailers for $1250. The best plasma buy was the Samsung A550 50-inch for $1600, Reynolds said.

Whether you’re shopping for a TV, digital camera or GPS unit, go online. Reynolds said that consumers are now more satisfied with their online electronics purchases than brick-and-mortar store experiences. And with free shipping more frequent, there’s no excuse not to shop from the comfort of your living room. The best online electronics retailers he found were Amazon, Crutchfieldand B&H Photo.