600 Bucks: So Much Money, So Little Time

We ask PC World staffers how they might spend their $600 economic stimulus payment.

Whoa--600 Bucks!

A stack of crisp new dollar bills, delivered to your doorstep courtesy of Uncle Sam. Can an economic stimulus package really help pump up a faltering economy? No matter your political stance or your take on deficit spending, $600 that you previously didn't have is still better than nothing.

Considering all of the gear that comes across our desks, some PC World staffers know exactly what to do with the sudden cash infusion.

HTC Touch

Darren Gladstone, Senior Writer: T-Mobile has cheesed me off with its lousy data service for the last time! That's why I've earmarked some cash for a new phone (the HTC Touch) and a new carrier (Sprint, you'd better be good to me--don't hose me with hidden costs). The Touch is a sweet little device, and--I hate to say it--I find this Windows Mobile 6 cell a lot more useful than the *cough* iPhone *cough* (he says, while bracing for hateful comments from iFollowers).

Of course, my master plan could run into one little snag: upgraded Touches. The unlocked HTC Touch Dual comes to GSM carriers through Best Buy at the end of May. And then there's the recently unveiled Touch Diamond, which will make the iPhone "cri" when it launches later this year. The way I see it, I have two choices: Squirrel away my hush money until the dollar is actually worth more than kindling, or just let my newfound greenbacks "trickle down" to Bay Area bartenders. Decisions, decisions...

Latest Prices | PCW Review

Yamaha Tenori-On

Danny Allen, Associate Editor: My $600 check will nicely cover half the cost of Yamaha's $1200 Tenori-On musical instrument/addictive toy, which recently (finally!) went on sale in the United States. As I elaborated on when we named the Tenori-On one of the 25 Most Innovative Products of 2007, it features a grid of LED-illuminated buttons that a user touches to manipulate sound in a variety of intuitive, trippy, and eye-catching ways.

Shopping Link

Flip Video Ultra + Creative Zen + Rock Band = $600

Tim Moynihan, Senior Editor: Forget "less is more." More is more, and I'd spend my $600 on a bunch of devices rather than one big-ticket item. First off, I'd pick up the 60-minute version of the Flip Video Ultra ($150), a dead-simple, tape-recorder-size camcorder that has a flip-out USB connector. It's built for YouTube clips. Next on my list would be the tiny but feature-packed 32GB flash-based Creative Zen music player ($300), the perfect upgrade for my current hard-drive-based Creative Zen Vision M player. And that leaves me with $150, which happens to be the price of Rock Band for the PlayStation 2, complete with faux Fenders and plastic drum kit. Y'know, just like real rockers use.

Creative Zen: Full Review | Latest Prices

Flip Video Ultra: Latest Prices

Rock Band: Video Review | Latest Prices

The Blu-ray Train

Kellie Parker, Online Community Manager: With $600 to blow, I'd buy a Blu-ray player and some Blu-ray discs. My DVD player conked out over a year ago, and I've been watching my standard DVDs on my PlayStation 2. (I'm not a huge gamer, but I do like Guitar Hero.) I have an HDTV, and I'm ready to move my DVD watching to HD as well. I would rebuy some of my old favorite movies, but I would also pick up Season 3 of "Lost" and seasons 1 and (soon!) 2 of "Heroes" on Blu-ray.

Latest Prices

I Want My TiVo HD

Harry McCracken, Editor in Chief: My beloved-but-aging TiVo does only standard-definition video, making it an anachronism in a high-def world. Worse, it seems to be dying--it can't go more than a few days without freezing up. So I can't think of a better way to splurge than buying a new TiVo HD with "lifetime" service, eliminating the need to pay a monthly service charge. (Did I mention I hate monthly fees?) The whole package goes for $698, which is, tragically, more than the stimulus payment. But TiVo throws in both a wireless adapter and a plush doll of its TV-set mascot--extras that must be worth close to 98 bucks between them...right?

Full Review | Latest Prices

Pay Down Debt

Steven Gray, Senior Copy Editor: My first thought was, "Hey, with gasoline at $4.19 a gallon, that's 142.857 gallons of Chevron Supreme with Techron! And at 18 mpg, my 1984 Volvo station wagon can turn that fuel into 2561.6 miles of road time!" But though indulging in hydrocarbons may be both practical and patriotic, I decided instead to do what the government should have done with my windfall (and yours and everybody else's): Pay down debt. I hope that, four years from now, when the next presidential election and the next rebate bonanza coincide, my rediscovered sense of fiscal responsibility will have translated into a manageable financial situation in which reckless deficit spending is only an unpleasant memory.

Buffalo DriveStation and Canon PowerShot SD750

Amber Bouman, Editorial Assistant: Since I nearly killed my laptop a few months back, I've become a proponent of backing up everything. I've yet to put my money where my mouth is, however, and the longer I wait, the more information I have on my Inspiron 9300 that I would really hate to lose. Following what is kindly referred to as the "tea incident" in my house, Assistant Editor Greg Adler helped me back up all of my data onto a Buffalo DriveStation External Hard Drive. Aside from the simple fact that I know better than to go without backing up data, I was truly impressed by how easy the DriveStation was to use, and I've been planning on buying one since November. Anything that requires just two steps--plug in, click OK--is my sort of machine.

Who doesn't have a digital camera these days? Me, apparently. I keep meaning to change that, and I even have a camera in mind. The Canon PowerShot SD750 that I borrowed from the PC World Test Center worked really well, fit into my purse and/or pocket, was easy to learn to use, and is priced decently. I know there are more-recent models, but something about the simplicity and ease of the SD750 really appeals to me. Adding to the attraction: Most people I spoke to said that their PowerShot cameras had a suprisingly long life and were rugged enough to withstand most abuse.

Buffalo DriveStation: Latest Prices

Canon PowerShot SD750: Latest Prices

Garmin Zumo 550

Tony Leung, Senior Data Analyst: I would spend my $600 on a Garmin Zumo 550. I'm an avid motorcycle rider, and a waterproof navigator would be the perfect companion for my bike. Plus, with an XM subscription I could get traffic, weather, and XM radio for the long boring stretches on a lengthy road trip. With the built in Bluetooth, I could make hands-free calls without removing my gloves and helmet.

Latest Prices

Canon PowerShot SD1100

Kimberly Brinson, Managing Editor: I think I'd buy PC World's top-recommended point-and-shoot camera, the Canon PowerShot SD1100.

Actually, since we're talking about 600 bucks to throw around, I'd get two so that my husband and I could each carry one and have optimal chance at snapping adorable-kid moments. I have a digital SLR, but lugging it around to everyday events like swimming classes or beach outings is a real pain. Something much smaller with outstanding image quality would fill the bill nicely.

Full Review | Latest Prices

Harvestman Modular Synthesizer

Peter Tripodi, Facilities Coordinator: Assuming I can get it together to find all my paperwork (I'm a tax "extentialist"), I'll probably spend the payment on a few modules for my ever growing modular synthesizer. Maybe a bitcrusher to offset its mostly analog composition. There's a voltage controlled 8-bit delay/looper by Harvestman that I've had my eyes on. Lo-fi? Sub-fi, baby!! Or I could get a Flame Midi-Talking-Synth; having dual Speakjets is like having two Stephen Hawkings doing bird calls and barnyard impressions at the twist of a joystick. That's what I call economically stimulating.

Wheel of Fortune

Chris Manners, Media Specialist: I'll be using my economic stimulus check to pay off the credit card that I used to pay my taxes. You know, make it come full circle.

3G iPhone

Yardena Arar, Senior Editor: Like some of my colleagues, I'm going the new-phone route. And since my birthday is coming up, I'm taking a leap of faith and splurging on the 3G iPhone that everyone expects to see in the next couple of months. I say "leap of faith" because (a) I'm still nervous about a software keyboard and (b) I'm a little hazy on how I'll deal with our corporate e-mail/calendar/address-book system (Lotus Notes) on the iPhone. (Apparently there are ways to make that work, but I'm not clear on whether they require our IT department to play ball.) I'm not a heavy business traveler, though, so the absence of that capability wouldn't be a deal-breaker. I may be late to the iPhone party, but mobile broadband is a must-have for my next phone--and if Apple is selling it, I'm ready to buy.

If there's leftover money (which I doubt), birthday beer is on me.


So, reader: What would you do if you were to splurge? How do you plan to spend your check? Leave a comment and let the world know!

Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by PCWorld's Editors