Stimulus package bargain buys

We highlight the best gear to buy with Rudd’s cash-bonanza handout.

  • Best Home Theatre: Philips HTS6100 (RRP: $899)

    With an RRP of $899, the Philips HTS6100 is ideally priced for Rudd’ed-up audiophiles. This impressive sound-bar system has the added attraction of decent low frequency response from a dedicated subwoofer. It performs well in terms of sound quality and its virtual surround settings are surprisingly convincing.

    The HTS6100 will make for an unobtrusive addition to your home theatre, fitting in well with the most recent LCD and plasma panels. The addition of a subwoofer means it isn't as streamlined as other sound-bars, but it does provide a welcome boost to bass response.
  • Best Headphones: Sony MDR-NC500D (RRP: $799)

    $799 is pretty hard to justify for a single pair of headphones — even if you’re stinking filthy rich. No matter how much you pine for crystal-clear sound quality, the Sony MDR-NC500Ds are probably outside your price zone. But everything seems more affordable when you’re armed with $900 of ‘free’ cash.

    These noise-cancelling headphones do a fantastic job of blocking out repetitive ambient noise, with an over-the-ear ear-cup design that blocks out nearby racket. The cups are finished in a glossy, deep black which lends a sense of class and occasion — which is just as well, given the price tag. If you buy the Sony MDR-NC500Ds, you’ll have $100 left over to spend on CDs
  • Best Camcorder: Sanyo Xacti HD1010 (RRP: $999)

    The Sanyo Xacti HD1010 is one of the best sub-$1000 high-def camcorders we've ever tested. It combines comprehensive manual features with top-grade video quality and the convenience of removable flash memory recording. Sporting a plus-sized 1/2.5in CMOS sensor with a maximum resolution of 1920x1080p (i.e. Full HD), it is definitely worth the pennies.

    The number of modes and features the Xacti HD1010 offers is astonishing for the asking price, including multiple focus options, adjustable aperture and shutter speeds, ISO sensitivity, noise/flicker reduction and an external microphone jack (to name but a few). This makes it a very good option for people who are serious about video. It also performs well in low lighting.

    With an RRP of $999, the Sanyo Xacti HD1010 will cost an extra $99 on top of your tax bonus — but only because the Green Party sliced $100 off our cheques. (Stinkin’ hippies.)
  • Best Television: Kogan KEVIN37 (RRP: $900)

    Kogan’s 37in Full HD LCD wears its stimulus package credentials on its sleeve — and we mean that literally (it comes with a Kevin07–inspired T-shirt). With its cheeky name and $900 price tag, the KEVIN37 is the ideal stimuli purchase for anyone in need of a HDTV.

    In the words of company founder Ruslan Kogan: "The KEVIN37 in conjunction with the tax bonus is a great combination for Australians looking for an affordable home entertainment solution." With a built-in HD digital tuner, Full HD 1080p resolution, 6ms response time and 1200:1 contrast ratio, it represents reasonable value for money.

    If you don’t support our current government, there’s no need to fret — Kogan is in no way affiliated with Kevin Rudd, as the company points out on its website (amusingly misspelling Labor as ‘Labour’ in the process.)

    The Kogan KEVIN37 can only be purchased directly from the manufacturer. For more information, visit the Kogan Web site.
  • Best MP3 Player: iPod Touch + Apple In Ear Headphones (RRP: $658)

    If you’re one of the handful of people who still haven’t bought an Apple iPod, it’s time to bite the bullet and join the rest of society. After all, you do want to fit in, don’t you? Or would you prefer to be an OUTCAST who REFUSES TO CONFORM? By the end of the year, non-iPod owners will be sent to separate schools and be forced to stand on the bus. New laws will be passed that require them to wear special badges in public. Zune owners will be taken out and quietly machine-gunned. If you want a vision of the future, imagine an iPod shuffle stamping on a human face forever.

    But there’s still time to join the winning side. By buying an iPod touch ($549) and a pair of Apple In Ear Headphones ($109), you will have demonstrated due obedience to our Apple overlords. (We're joking of course, but we’re sick to death of gushing about the iPod touch — just go out and buy it, okay?)
  • Best Emotion-Numbing Agent: AL6000 Pro Professional Breathalyser + 22 cartons of Carlton Draught ($906)

    As the world coughs and splutters its way towards economic meltdown, it’s easy to feel disillusioned with your lot in life. The relentless media reports of doom-and-gloom are enough to make even the most hardened worker semi-suicidal. So why not drown your sorrows in traditional Depression Era style! With 22 cartons or Carlton Draught ($726) and an AL6000 Pro Professional Breathalyser ($180), you’ll be able to turn your angst into sweet oblivion — without running the risk of drink driving.

    The AL6000 Pro Professional Breathalyser is Australian Standard Certified, which means you don't have to translate the data to match local guidelines. It also comes with two breathalyser modes and is surprisingly easy to operate. It’s the perfect choice for WEC victims who have been cast into a jobless wilderness. [Speaking of which, step into my office, Chris. — Ed.]
  • Best Netbook: Acer Aspire One AOD150 (RRP: $799)

    The Acer Aspire One AOD150 is one of the best netbooks on the market, which makes it a perfect option for mobile stimulus spenders. It has a 160GB hard drive, a beautiful 10.2in screen, and despite its tiny size, a fully featured keyboard. It also sports an attractive design that’s not too flashy and not too dull.

    The 160GB, 4200rpm hard drive will provide plenty of space for applications, photos, music and videos. The Aspire One AOD150 also comes with a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor, 1GB of RAM and an integrated Intel GMA950 graphics card — not too shabby for a netbook. With an RRP of $799, there’ll be enough money left over for an extra battery for those long commutes.
  • Best Frivolous Curio: NV Mobile Sapphire (RRP: $999)

    We’d normally hesitate to recommend the NV Mobile Sapphire, but if you’re looking to spend your tax bonus on something novel and interesting, it may be worth a look.

    This gaudy 1970s-style gold watch is actually a Tri Band GSM smartphone complete with a touch screen and inbuilt camera. The device also packs in a number of multimedia features, including an image viewer, video recorder, audio player, sound recorder and VGA camera. While not without its flaws (call quality isn’t stellar and the design is too chunky), it remains an intriguing proposition for gizmo-obsessed eccentrics.
  • This month, the Federal Government began rolling out its $42 billion stimulus package to citizens nationwide (along with overseas foreigners and corpses, it says here). For individual tax-payers earning $80,000 or less a year, this equates to 900 clams injected directly into their back account. Not bad, eh?

    Rather than putting the money towards bills or mortgages, Kevin Rudd wants us to stimulate the economy — which translates to splurging on big-ticket items like camcorders, notebooks and TVs. Being the helpful bunch that we are, we’ve decided to compile a list of the best gadgets you can bag for $900(ish). To find out what our favourite stimulus-steals are, read on. (Note: Click on the model names for an in-depth review of each product.)

  • Best Blu-ray Player: Sony BDP-S550 (RRP: $649)

    The Sony BDP-S550 is a fully featured Blu-ray player with a wide array of connectivity. Its main selling point is probably its 7.1-channel analog outputs — a must for old-school audiophiles. It also acquits itself well when it comes to Blu-ray playback and DVD upscaling; both of which look absolutely superb.

    The device comes with plenty of ports, including an HDMI 1.3 output, a digital optical audio connection, a coaxial audio output, S-Video out and separate composite and component video out ports. Audio formats supported include DTS bitstream, DTS-HD, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby True HD.

    If you haven’t made the leap to Blu-ray, consider the stimulus cheque as your one-way ticket to a high-def lifestyle. (With an RRP of $649, you’ll also have plenty of your tax bonus left over to spend on Blu-ray movies.)
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