Cool Stuff: Your 2007 Holiday Gift Guide
More than 50 amazing gifts for the technology lovers in your life
Computerworld - The Cool Stuff Holiday Gift Guide is back, with tips for the very best gifts to buy for the tech lovers in your life. This year, be the one whose gifts are the biggest hits.
Our guide features the coolest choices in media players, flat-panel HDTVs, digital cameras, cell phones and much more, selected by the staff of Computerworld. There are also fun gadgets for the home office or your office cubicle, devices to keep you connected around the house, and electronic games for the whole family.
We've also included energy-saving devices for the green-computing enthusiast on your list, as well as "ultimate gifts" for true practitioners of conspicuous consumption -- and those of us who simply like to think big. We've included links to Web sites where you can find more information about each of the products, as well as estimates of how much you can expect to pay for each product online. Please keep in mind that prices do fluctuate, especially during the holiday season.
Music and Mobility
For those on the go, two things are of paramount importance: knowing where you're going and staying entertained on the way. We've got you covered with the best in portable music and video players, headphones that play music as well as they cancel noise, and a GPS device that'll show you the way without breaking the bank.
Personal audio player: iPod Touch
The first generations of Apple's iPod were wildly successful, but the competition was closing in. So what did Apple do? It introduced the iPod Touch (with a starting price of $294) and blew the competition away.
No other media player approaches the Touch's, well ... touchability. As is the case with its cellular sibling, the iPhone (the Touch has been referred to as an iPhone without the phone), it is a pleasure to hold the Touch and play with its multitouch interface. Adding to its allure is its stunning 3.5-in. display and Wi-Fi access, which is useful for acquiring songs and other media from iTunes and, of course, for checking e-mail and browsing the Web.
Some critics don't think the Touch's screen quality is up to the task of prolonged video viewing. And, yes, you can buy highly competent (if less sexy) music media players for less money -- a lot less. Others gripe about the fact that, like all iPods, the Touch really only works well with one online media store: Apple's iTunes. But, in the end, there is simply no other personal music player that elicits even remotely as much desire as the iPod Touch.
Personal video player: Archos 605 WiFi
The iPod Touch is remarkable, but for many mobile videophiles, a more satisfying choice is the Archos 605 WiFi.
The 605 WiFi has a crisp 4.3-in., 800- by 480-pixel display that makes watching movies and TV shows far more satisfying than is possible with smaller devices. Its hard-drive options range from 30GB to 160GB, providing significantly more storage than is possible with media players that use flash memory. And, for an extra hundred bucks, you can get an add-on that turns the 605 WiFi into a digital video recorder you can attach to your television.
Of course, the device also plays audio files, including music from subscription services such as Rhapsody and Napster. The 605 WiFi's Linux-based touch-screen interface is delightfully easy to navigate, and the built-in Wi-Fi capabilities make it a snap to collect media while you're out and about. That leads to the biggest gripe about the 605 WiFi: You have to pay $30 more for a browser. Still, that isn't a huge sacrifice given the reasonably low base price ($279) of the unit.
Archos offers the 705 WiFi, which has a 7-in. screen, but the beauty of the 605 WiFi is the balance it strikes between compactness and viewability. At 4.8 by 3.2 by 0.6 in. for the 30GB model, it delivers outstanding video quality in a surprisingly small package.
Creative Technology's new noise-canceling headphones have accomplished a previously unthinkable feat by besting Bose's legendary QuietComfort 2 headphones with a combination of cushy comfort and excellent sound quality.
While the noise-canceling features of the Aurvana X-Fi headphones will be of great convenience to frequent fliers, the most impressive and unique attribute is Creative's integration of its proprietary X-Fi technology directly into the headphones.
Essentially an algorithm devised to restore high and low sounds that are lost during the compression of digital music, the X-Fi Crystallizer delivers a marked increase in sound quality with no distortion at all.
The headphones also feature Creative's X-Fi CMSS-3D technology, which simulates a home theater surround-sound environment, making them perfect for watching movies. Both of these features, as well as the noise-canceling functionality, can be activated or deactivated at any time.
With earpieces crafted out of soft simulated leather and a fairly light profile, the Aurvana headset is an ideal holiday gift for the traveler in your life.
The Garmin Nüvi 200 is a great entry into the world of Global Positioning System (GPS) devices. At about 4 by 3 in. in size, it can be mounted in your vehicle or carried for pedestrian travel or activities such as geocaching.
The entry-level device, which can be found on the Web for about $200, doesn't include fancy extras such as Bluetooth capability or MP3 playback. But it does come with a picture viewer, a world travel clock, a currency and measurement converter and a calculator.
The Nüvi 200 includes preloaded maps of the continental U.S., Hawaii and Puerto Rico (other model numbers come with different map packages). With just a few pokes at the touch-screen display, you can be on your way to specific addresses or even "points of interest" such as the nearest ATM, restaurant, hospital or hotel (13 categories in all). It can also accommodate an SD memory card that lets you add your own points of interest. The maps are generally accurate and up to date, although in about one month of use I did find it chooses to completely ignore one shortcut near my home, instead sending me on a longer route.
For GPS navigation, it includes the options of a 3-D or flat map display, auto, bicycle or pedestrian travel modes and feature avoidance (for bypassing toll roads, for example). You can choose to travel by the fastest time or shortest route. You can even choose different vehicle icons, in case you want to pretend you're driving a monster truck, for example.
Click Play to see a video of the Nüvi 200 in action.
Navigation is a breeze, with audible turn directions and a display that constantly updates the distance to the next turn. This unit lacks the higher-end feature of text-to-speech, which allows for audible directions in which the service pronounces actual street names, such as "turn left at Main Street," for example, instead of "drive 1.2 miles and turn left." You can display your elapsed time, estimated time of arrival, compass direction, average speed, time spent stopped and more.
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