Tech Check

Jim Goldman's Greatest Gadget Guide 2009

Share

My Top 10 Tech Toys for the Holidays

Like sands through the hour glass, so our the shopping days left until Christmas and Chanukah dwindling. So, to wit, here goes my top gadget gifts that you might want to consider for under the tree, under the bush or in the stocking. Some of these aren't brand new, and some are not necessarily revolutionary, but all have crossed my desk over the last several weeks, and these are the ones that caught my eye, and are sure to bring a smile to the faces of those who receive them. So, in no particula
Photo Credit: Apple

By Jim Goldman

Like sands through the hour glass, so are the shopping days left until Christmas and Chanukah dwindling. So, to wit, here goes my top gadget gifts that you might want to consider for under the tree, under the bush or in the stocking.

Some of these aren't brand new, and some are not necessarily revolutionary, but all have crossed my desk over the last several weeks, and these are the ones that caught my eye, and are sure to bring a smile to the faces of those who receive them. Are these gift ideas pricey? Yes. I realize that. But certainly in the current economic climate, you're going to want to spend money on something of value, something that matters, something that makes a statement and will last until the holiday shopping season next year, or even the year after. You can't go wrong with any of these. And the smiles you get will be a nice return on your investment.

So, in no particular order, here goes and let the shopping begin.

Happiest of holidays!

Posted Nov. 20, 2009


» Tech Check Blog

Nintendo DSi

Game platforms are under enormous pressure this holiday season, but the DSi continues to perform. The Amazon bundle, which includes the game player and a free game or headset makes the device that much more compelling. A slew of new colors, those two cameras, and a price cut makes this a winning proposition. Great for kids. (Mine are addicted. It's almost scary.) $170.
Photo Credit: Nintendo

Game platforms are under enormous pressure this holiday season, but the DSi continues to perform. The Amazon bundle, which includes the game player and a free game or headset makes the device that much more compelling. A slew of new colors, those two cameras, and a price cut makes this a winning proposition. Great for kids. (Mine are addicted. It's almost scary.) $170.


» Tech Check Blog

Sonos ZonePlayer S5 with iPhone App

Every now and again a company just "gets it," and the Sonos gets it. The company is already known for its room-by-room home music systems, but this new integration with Apple's iPhone is just cool. No more Sonos touchpad; you use your iPhone or iPod Touch instead, thanks to Sonos seizing on the popularity of the Apple App Store, distributing your library of music to any room in the house with a Sonos speaker in it. Better still, because the iPhone/Touch is your controller, you're connected to th
Photo Credit: Sonos

Every now and again a company just "gets it," and the Sonos gets it. The company is already known for its room-by-room home music systems, but this new integration with Apple's iPhone is just cool. No more Sonos touchpad; you use your iPhone or iPod Touch instead, thanks to Sonos seizing on the popularity of the Apple App Store, distributing your library of music to any room in the house with a Sonos speaker in it. Better still, because the iPhone/Touch is your controller, you're connected to the net, which gives you access to 25,000 net radio stations and other online programming. The ZonePlayers look pretty, the sound is awesome. At $349 a room, it's pricey, but at what price convenience, sound quality and "coolness?"


» Tech Check Blog

Jawbone Prime

I have gone through no fewer than a dozen Bluetooth earpieces. Small ones, large ones, thin ones, fat ones. All of them promise great sound quality but only one delivers, and big. The Jawbone from Aliph features the well-known NoiseAssassin noise-canceling technology, and wow, it works well. Even with my car stereo on, and yes, even with the top down, this thing actually acts as advertised. The "Voice Activity Sensor, the rubber protrusion that rests on your skin, and picks up actual vibrations
Photo Credit: Jawbone

I have gone through no fewer than a dozen Bluetooth earpieces. Small ones, large ones, thin ones, fat ones. All of them promise great sound quality but only one delivers, and big. The Jawbone from Aliph features the well-known NoiseAssassin noise-canceling technology, and wow, it works well. Even with my car stereo on, and yes, even with the top down, this thing actually acts as advertised. The "Voice Activity Sensor, the rubber protrusion that rests on your skin, and picks up actual vibrations to make the sounds that much clearer. And it now features 7 colors, including "Drop Me a Lime" green, "Frankly Scarlet" red, "Yello!" yellow, "Lilac You Mean It" purple, "Blah Blah Black" black, and well, you get the picture. It runs $85, which might seem pricey, but this really works and it's really worth it.


» Tech Check Blog

Flip Mino HD

Need an inexpensive video camera that goes anywhere? Fits anywhere? Heck, Cisco Systems' John Chambers liked this little gizmo so much he pulled a Victor Kiam and bought the whole company! Cisco spent $600 million to buy PureDigital, but your cost will be much, much less. The little Flip features 8 gigs of onboard memory, 2 hours of recording time, HDMI output, 16:9 widescreen, and retailing for $230. Neat little camera with almost instant uploads to Facebook, MySpace and YouTube. One nit: The F
Photo Credit: Pure Digital Technologies

Need an inexpensive video camera that goes anywhere? Fits anywhere? Heck, Cisco Systems' John Chambers liked this little gizmo so much he pulled a Victor Kiam and bought the whole company! Cisco spent $600 million to buy PureDigital, but your cost will be much, much less. The little Flip features 8 gigs of onboard memory, 2 hours of recording time, HDMI output, 16:9 widescreen, and retailing for $230. Neat little camera with almost instant uploads to Facebook, MySpace and YouTube. One nit: The Flip Mino HD claims "HD" but only records in 720p (1280 x 720). Just sayin'. Cool thing: You can upload your images and create your own skin to personalize the Flip.


» Tech Check Blog

Apple's Magic Mouse, iTunes Extras, iPods, Macs, and the iPhone

Apple claims it has its best holiday shopping product line-up ever. And the best part: The products address just about every price point, and might be your best bet for the ultimate last-minute idea. Yes, new Macs run $1,000 or more but if you're in the market for a new computer, now's a good time. At the other end of the spectrum, the iPhone and iPod Touch. Like the iPhone but not those high monthly charges or AT&T or the lack of a real keyboard? Get the iPod Touch. Both link to iTunes and the
Photo Credit: Apple

Apple claims it has its best holiday shopping product line-up ever. And the best part: The products address just about every price point, and might be your best bet for the ultimate last-minute idea. Yes, new Macs run $1,000 or more but if you're in the market for a new computer, now's a good time. At the other end of the spectrum, the iPhone and iPod Touch. Like the iPhone but not those high monthly charges or AT&T or the lack of a real keyboard? Get the iPod Touch. Both link to iTunes and the App Store, and that App Store makes either device the gift that keeps on giving with well over 100,000 available applications ready for download. Apple's new "Magic Mouse" is just nifty. The wireless device borrows the multi-touch technology from MacBooks and runs $45. Apple stores are now offering gift-wrapping for the first time too. And for last-minute shoppers, check out iTunes Extra, a way you can "gift" films like "Up," "Star Trek," "Twilight" and others instantly via email, or print a gift certificate right from your computer. And some of the movies feature exclusive extra content just for iTunes shoppers.


» Tech Check Blog

Logitech's Harmony 900 Universal Remote

Finally, an easy-to-use, intuitive, touch-screen with keypad, dual infrared/RF universal remote. One word: Wow. The LCD screen is small, but crystal clear, the rechargeable lithium ion battery is actually removable too, the excellent RF Blaster accessories let you finally control all your components without leaving the cabinetry open. I've seen this for $400, but if you shop carefully, you should be able to pick it up for around $300. I have used Harmony remotes before and loved how easy they ar
Photo Credit: Logitech

Finally, an easy-to-use, intuitive, touch-screen with keypad, dual infrared/RF universal remote. One word: Wow. The LCD screen is small, but crystal clear, the rechargeable lithium ion battery is actually removable too, the excellent RF Blaster accessories let you finally control all your components without leaving the cabinetry open. I've seen this for $400, but if you shop carefully, you should be able to pick it up for around $300. I have used Harmony remotes before and loved how easy they are to set up just by hooking them into your computer and doing everything online. Save for a set-up quirk with the Dish Network PVR which needs to be addressed more clearly by Logitech in manuals and its tech support staff, this one builds on all the good things of the past, and takes success to a new level.


» Tech Check Blog

Flat Panel Mania

If you haven't gotten an LCD or Plasma television, now is the time. Prices are absolutely plunging, and while I'm partial to Samsung's LCD picture, there are some absolutely amazing deals out there. Check out Wal-mart's Sharp 42-inch set for $498, normally $768 and a 46-inch model marked down from $1,158 to $698. Shop carefully and compare picture. There are some phenomenal deals on 50-inch sets, but be careful on resolution: 720p versus 1080p on a set smaller than 42 inches may not be noticeabl
Photo Credit: Samsung

If you haven't gotten an LCD or Plasma television, now is the time. Prices are absolutely plunging, and while I'm partial to Samsung's LCD picture, there are some absolutely amazing deals out there. Check out Wal-mart's Sharp 42-inch set for $498, normally $768 and a 46-inch model marked down from $1,158 to $698. Shop carefully and compare picture. There are some phenomenal deals on 50-inch sets, but be careful on resolution: 720p versus 1080p on a set smaller than 42 inches may not be noticeable, but 46 inches and above, you'll want to spend the little extra for full 1080p. You can see the difference on those larger screens.


» Tech Check Blog

Best Buy Home PC Makeover

Hands down, the best deal going if you're in the market for a new PC and don't want to buy a Mac. This all started as a tie-in to Microsoft's Windows 7 release but it has been such a success for Best Buy and HP, that the deals continue. And what a deal: An HP Slimline desktop with Windows 7; 18.5 inch LCD monitor; an HP laptop; an HP Mini netbook; a Netgear Wireless-G router; and home network Geek Squad set-up and the whole package runs $1,200.
Photo Credit: Best Buy

Hands down, the best deal going if you're in the market for a new PC and don't want to buy a Mac. This all started as a tie-in to Microsoft's Windows 7 release but it has been such a success for Best Buy and HP, that the deals continue. And what a deal: An HP Slimline desktop with Windows 7; 18.5 inch LCD monitor; an HP laptop; an HP Mini netbook; a Netgear Wireless-G router; and home network Geek Squad set-up and the whole package runs $1,200.


» Tech Check Blog

The Mole from Astak

If you need a little, inexpensive but highly capable security system, check out The Mole. It's a small, standalone video camera that can be deployed virtually anywhere and it's completely controlled over the net. The video you shoot can even be uploaded to YouTube. Users can get live email feeds and even Twitter and best of all, you can watch live feeds from your smart phone no matter the operating system, so it'll work on Blackberrys as well as on iPhones. Night vision, two-way audio, onboard D
Photo Credit: Astak

If you need a little, inexpensive but highly capable security system, check out The Mole. It's a small, standalone video camera that can be deployed virtually anywhere and it's completely controlled over the net. The video you shoot can even be uploaded to YouTube. Users can get live email feeds and even Twitter and best of all, you can watch live feeds from your smart phone no matter the operating system, so it'll work on Blackberrys as well as on iPhones. Night vision, two-way audio, onboard DVR and motion detection. It retails for $300 and you can get it Fry's, Costco and Amazon.com.


» Tech Check Blog

Amazon's Kindle/Sony's eReader

Electronic books have reached a tipping point of sorts. Amazon's Kindle, Sony's eReader, and increasingly Barnes and Noble's Nook are engaged in a pitched battle for your digital dollar. Amazon's sold nearly 2 million units, and a recent price cut should turbo-charge those numbers even more. Amazon now offers 350,000 titles on its online Kindle bookstore. And analysts say 1 million e-readers could sell this holiday shopping season alone. There are 17 e-readers on, or coming to, the market. Each
Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Electronic books have reached a tipping point of sorts. Amazon's Kindle, Sony's eReader, and increasingly Barnes and Noble's Nook are engaged in a pitched battle for your digital dollar. Amazon's sold nearly 2 million units, and a recent price cut should turbo-charge those numbers even more. Amazon now offers 350,000 titles on its online Kindle bookstore. And analysts say 1 million e-readers could sell this holiday shopping season alone. There are 17 e-readers on, or coming to, the market. Each has its own pros and cons, and it's a matter of personal preference. They're both excellent, and this has certainly become THE year for digital books. Just ask Google. More price points for Sony, starting at $200, versus Amazon's starting at $300. One thing: Sony's got touchscreen capabilities, and Amazon doesn't.


» Tech Check Blog