Cool Stuff: Your 2006 Holiday Gift Guide

All the best technology gifts to give (and get) this holiday season

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On-the-Go Gadgets

Keeping your contacts, calendar and other data organized; knowing the best way to get where you're going; making sure your car's performing it's best ... OK, maybe these aren't the sexiest things in the world, but we'll bet you've got some practical person on your holiday list who will be tickled by them.

PDA: Hewlett-Packard iPAQ rx5915 Travel Companion

The first truly exciting new pure PDA in four years, Hewlett-Packard's iPAQ rx5915 Travel Companion combines mobile office functionality, built-in Bluetooth and 802.11b/g with fully integrated GPS. Designed as a combination pocket laptop and entertainment center, it comes with built-in streaming video, MP3 audio, and still photo album capabilities as well as Pocket Office. With 64MB SDRAM, 2GB flash RAM for storing music, video and other files, and a Samsung SC32442 processor running at 400 MHz, it combines PC-level power and sexy design in a package that fits easily in the palm of your hand, with no external antennas.

Stay organized, entertained and on the right path with the iPAQ rx5915 Travel Companion. Courtesy of HP.

Stay organized, entertained and on the right path with the iPAQ rx5915 Travel Companion. Courtesy of HP.

(Click image to see larger view)

The unit's TomTom GPS software comes with maps and voice synthesis built in (no SD card required). It can operate in your vehicle to guide you to your next meeting or in your hand to keep you on the right path when walking.

Although not a smart phone, the rx5915 can be connected to any Bluetooth-enabled cell phone or Bluetooth modem when Wi-Fi is unavailable. It can also connect to a Bluetooth wireless headset to play MP3 music and podcast files or the audio track of a digital movie.

The device comes with the latest version of Pocket Office and can run any Windows Mobile software for full office productivity wherever you are. Combined with a portable keyboard such as iGo's Stowaway Bluetooth Keyboard, it can provide near-laptop capability whether you're working in a spreadsheet, writing e-mail, doing Web research or reviewing a PowerPoint presentation.

The rx5915 is so new it may not be available in many stores, but it's available at many online merchants in the $480 to $580 price range. (product details)

—G. Berton Latamore

In-car GPS device: TomTom GO 510

Today's crop of in-car global positioning system (GPS) devices are smaller and more accurate than earlier versions and also provide real-time traffic updates, allow you to specify intermediate stops, work with Bluetooth headsets and have less-vexing touch-screen interfaces that are easier to operate. The best of the bunch is TomTom's GO 510.

This device has just the right mix of features and price (you can find it for as low as $475 online). There are more expensive models that come with hard disks to store MP3 music, have remote controls and can speak in more languages, but they aren't worth the extra dough.

The GO 510 has the right mix of features and price. Courtesy of TomTom.

The GO 510 has the right mix of features and price.

Courtesy of TomTom.

The GO 510 has a 4-in. LCD screen and an integrated antenna. If you want better reception, you can plug in an external antenna. The device changes the volume of its narrated instructions to match the ambient noise of your car, so if you are going slower, it gets quieter. Think of this as the perfect gift for that certain someone who doesn't like to ask for directions. (product details)

—David Strom

Car diagnostic tool: CarMD

For the true road warrior -- someone who's always driving -- what better gift than a clever diagnostic tool called CarMD? It's a handheld tester that can tell if your car is running normally or whether it's time for an appointment at the garage. Plug the tester into the car's OBD2 Data Link connecter, located near or under the dashboard, and turn on the ignition so the tester can collect the car's information.

Next, take the tool inside and plug it into your computer via a USB cable. The information is downloaded to the CarMD Web site, which produces a report on what's probably wrong with your car and what needs to be done to fix it. If you're not near your computer or need a faster response, the tester provides color-coded LED lights to show the car's health status: green, the car's running normally; yellow, there's a possible problem; red, service is required.

CarMD diagnoses your car's health. Courtesy of CarMD.

CarMD diagnoses your car's health.

Courtesy of CarMD.

One caveat is that CarMD works only on vehicles made since 1996, when onboard computers became standard. At $90, it's a handy device to keep in the glove compartment for a road trip. It could also be useful for a quick check of a used car you or someone you know is thinking of buying. (product details)

—Marian Prokop

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