Gateway calls it a Plasma TV, I call it a super-sized monitor, my son calls it the best game station and my friends call it affordable. No matter what name you give it, Gateway’s new 42-inch TV for $2,999 is breaking the barriers for both price and quality.

Formally introduced in early November, this sets a new standard for the way to take technology out of the home office and put it in the den. It’s easy to install and comes with complete instructions for hooking up cable TV, stand alone DVD player, game station, PC, or an external sound system.

The back of the monitor has 24 ports – so you can hook up plenty of devices, and then switch from one to another easily with the included remote control. The Plasma TV works with or without a PC attached. The instruction book, one of the smallest and most readable that I’ve seen, gives you directions for connecting components. It covers DVD players, HDTV decoder set-top boxes, VCRs, off-air TV and Cable TV, external audio devices, and computers. You could be a complete neophyte and still connect components to the plasma TV.

The unit comes with built-in stereo speakers. While they sounded great to me, audiophiles will appreciate the connectors for an external subwoofer and external speakers. With those hooked up, you could just about blast yourself out of the room.

And, like other high end TVs, this unit has PIP and POP. With picture-in-picture (PIP), you can watch two programs simultaneously with the second (smaller) picture in one of four window position settings. The picture-on-picture (POP) mode lets you watch two programs (side by side) at the same time.

For me, the best feature is turning it into a super-sized PC monitor. The Gateway Plasma TV has a standard VGA input as well as a Digital DVI port. It converts PC signals up to 1280×1024 to its best operating mode, which approximates 800 x 600.

To make the most comfortable computing environment, add a wireless keyboard and mouse to the computer you use with the Plasma TV. Then you can sit across the room in an easy chair while you surf the web, balance your bank accounts, or return emails.

For my testing, I used a Logitech Cordless Freedom Optical keyboard and mouse set. This package combines Logitech’s best cordless keyboard and optical mouse together in the same package. It has a very comfortable fit and smooth optical mouse performance. With this cordless freedom, you can sit anywhere in the room and control the PC.

In fact, I was very comfortable sitting between 8 to 15 feet from the screen. The Plasma TV screen was very readable, and the wireless mouse and keyboard worked perfectly.

I also tested a new mouse from Logitech – the MX700 Cordless Optical Mouse. Available for about $69, this unit doesn’t require batteries because it sits in a charging cradle when not in use. And, this new series of mice use a finely tuned tracking system that captures up to 4.7 megapixels of surface tracking information per second – the fastest to date. So if you wants a mouse that is responsive to your fastest movements, or require precision pointing, this one won’t disappoint.

So as you start pondering technology “toys” to add to your holiday list, consider putting the Gateway Plasma TV at the top. You’ll get a great alternative work location, and your family will enjoy the best game station, TV and DVD room. The only problem I’ve found is that everybody wants to use it at the same time.