Holiday gift ideas: Travel Gear

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Nextar's 3.5-inch GPS is a solidly built, very accurate and efficient device that does the basics -- it gets you where you want to go. There are none of the extra bells and whistles -- nobody tells you when you're exceeding the speed limit, no Bluetooth, no live traffic reports. But the M3 did a nice job leading me along the back roads on my 16-mile commute to work. When I took an alternate route to avoid a traffic backlog, the M3 swiftly re-calibrated and even showed me a route home that I hadn't considered before.

The touch screen has a cute feature that narrows the available letters down to the logical ones that you would pick next. In other words, if you're entering "Thomas Street," after you enter "t" and "h" the screen just shows vowels in a tight circle in the middle of the display. This might not save that much time, but it's an interesting touch. The text-to-speech feature does a good job, making sure to tell you which lane to get into and giving you adequate warning when you need to make a turn. Of course, it seriously mispronounces streets every once in a while. And I found that the adapter jack doesn't make a snug fit with the device, so it's always on the verge of popping out.

Overall, I liked the M3. The interface is intuitive and easy to use. It has a nice touch screen that lets you adjust the map with your fingers. At one point, I was trying to enter a route while I was driving and it actually refused and told me to pull over before it would accept the route info. Thanks, Nextar.

Cool Yule Rating: 4 starsPrice: $180Product Web site.Reviewed by Neal Weinberg

Westin Heavenly Travel Blanket

If you've ever stayed at a Westin hotel, you know how soft and comfortable their Heavenly Blanket and beds are. If you haven't, you can now experience that feel with the Heavenly Travel Blanket.

For travelers, it's a nice blanket that you can use on the plane instead of those scratchy blue blankets that have probably been coughed on a few times. In addition, the blanket folds up into a hidden pouch to create a comfortable travel pillow.

There's no real technology here (I took some heat from editors on recommending this for our guide), but I don't care -- the blanket is comfortable.

Cool Yule Rating: 4 starsPrice: $60Product Web site.Reviewed by Keith Shaw ~~

Remington 8-in-1 Grooming System

This 8-in-1 grooming system is aimed at hairy, unkempt, clueless males who need special tools to trim their nose hair, ear hair, eyebrows, neckline, sideburns, beard, mustache, etc. In other words, pretty much everybody with XY chromosomes.Make no mistake, this is not a shaver. You know, the thing that you use to actually shave. This is a "personal groomer with neckliner," something you use after you shave to make yourself more presentable. The unit comes with a stand into which you plug the rechargeable core device. Then you can easily add a variety of attachments.

The idea that somebody could come up with all these different attachments is a tribute to the power of modern product marketing. This product features a "detail trimmer," a mini-shaver, a nose and ear-hair attachment, a full trimmer (not to be confused with the detail trimmer), a hair clipper comb with 10 cutting lengths, a mustache and beard comb with five settings, and a charging and storage stand, and the aforementioned neckliner. This is actually a curved piece of plastic that you fit around the back of your neck, so you can trim your neckline in a straight line. The odds of me being able to hold the neckliner thing straight across and hold the trimmer straight as I shave the back of my neck is pretty slim.

But hey, for $19.99, what do you expect?

I'm sure Remington makes some wonderful top of the line products (Ed. Note: Yes, they do), but this isn't one of them. At $19.99, what you're getting is a bunch of really small blades that are best suited for touch-up work, if that's what you need.

Cool Yule Rating: 2.5 starsPrice: $19.99Product Web site.Reviewed by Neal Weinberg (who grows and shaves his mustache every now and then).

Mio Moov M300

I tested out the Mio Moov M300 on a trip from Massachusetts to New York. It is a drive I am familiar with, so I figured it would be the perfect opportunity. Set up was simple, I easily programmed in my "Home" and my destination. It quickly calculated a route. The Moov features "Text-to-Speech"- it reads out the names of the streets. While the voice is definitely robotic, knowing the street names is a definite plus. However, the Moov began racking up minuses before I reached the end of the block.

The default color scheme is an orange guidance line against yellow roads. So while the screen is bright and clear, a glance will not tell you which way you are supposed to be heading. I took a moment to try and change the setting (okay, granted, at a red light) and got the standard "you shouldn't be using this while you're driving" error message, ignored it, and proceeded to the settings menu. When the light turned green (the car behind me was kind enough to let me know), I learned something else about the Moov- it doesn't have a quick way back to the map. A quick stop at the gas station gave me the chance to get all set up again.

The quickest way to drive from Massachusetts to New York is to drive diagonally through Connecticut. Unfortunately, no one told the Moov. It wanted me to drive west through Massachusetts to the New York border, then down in a giant capital letter "L"- aka the least efficient way possible. Thankfully once I turned off to go my usual way, the Moov quickly recalculated the route. As we drove along, it reminded me about every 10 miles where my next turn would be. This got old rather quickly, but rather than risk the settings menu again, I turned the radio up. Loud. Problem solved.

Midway through Connecticut, there is a choice between two highways. You can continue on Interstate 91, or exit off onto a narrower, less trafficked route. Both take essentially the same amount of time, but I simply prefer the wider one. So despite the fact that the Moov wanted me to take the smaller, I ignored it again. And here's where my real problem happened.

At this point, I was about 15 miles from the end of Interstate 91. From there, I would have to join Interstate 95 for about 60 miles, then hit local roads to make my way home. However, when I opted to stay on 91, the Moov instructed me to "Continue 75 miles" to the next turn. I was confused- there is a major highway change in the middle of those 75 miles. So I drove on to the end of 91, where I was faced with 3 lanes, and 3 exits. 95 North, 95 South, or a local exit. Guess which the Moov suggested? NONE. IT DIDN'T EVEN KNOW THERE WAS AN OPTION. Thankfully, having done the drive many times, I knew which to choose, but what if this was someone who was completely unfamiliar with where they were going? That was when I stopped reviewing the GPS. I understand errors in maps, but major highways should be accurate.

To be fair, I went on the Moov Web site to inform them that there was a problem with one of their maps. However, once I got there, there wasn't a quick way to report map errors. On further inspection, there wasn't ANY way to report map errors.To sum up, while the GPS has some nice features, such as the street name readout and a clear display, a navigation unit that can't navigate should only be given to the relatives that you are hoping will not make it to your house for Christmas dinner

And just for a hint of irony- their slogan is "Explore more." If you follow the Moov, you will be exploring far more than you bargained for.

Cool Yule Rating: 0.5 starsPrice: $120Product Web siteReviewed by Claire Kiely

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This story, "Holiday gift ideas: Travel Gear" was originally published by Network World.

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