It's a pretty fair bet that someone on your shopping list is a gadget hound. While the odds aren't quite as good, it's still better than average odds that you're going to indulge them.
Nearly one-third of the money spent on gifts this year will go towards consumer electronics, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. But sorting out the hot items from the ones destined to end up in the clearance bin can be tough. If you're looking for a perfect tech gift for a friend or loved one, here are a few can't miss suggestions.
By Chris Morris, Special to CNBC.com
Posted 9 November 2011
The Nikon J1 is compact, has interchangeable lenses and shoots high-definition video. The camera (and its more expensive cousin, the V1) shoots spectacular images — on-par or better than a Micro Four Thirds camera — and has a speed-shooting mode that's staggeringly fast. Hobbyists and people looking to step up from point-and-shoot cameras will be awestruck with the system, which is Nikon's first new camera line in nearly 50 years.
Price: $499 to $829
It probably doesn't come as a shock to see the iPad 2 here. Apple's tablet offering is still so far ahead of its competition that there really are no runner-ups at this point. The iPad 2 is sleek, light, imminently user-friendly — and business-friendly. With the huge catalog of the App Store backing it up, you're bound to find several applications that are perfect for most any giftee.
Looking for a tech toy for the person who's already wired in? How about their own spy robot? The Brookstone Rover is described as a "wireless spy tank" that skitters around your house, terrifying your pets and shooting video wherever it goes. (It even has a night-vision mode.) You control the device from your iPhone or iPad (where you can also watch the video) via a free app. It's a frivolous purchase, yes — but a darned fun one.
Price: $1,100 to $1,500
Asus' entry in the new Ultrabook laptop category is incredibly thin (roughly the size of a first generation iPad), light (3 pounds), and powerful. Powered by a second-gen Intel Core chip, the UX series is faster than most desktops and boots up in no time (the "resume" time from sleep mode is a mere two seconds). It's expensive, yes, but it's also loaded with some of the most advanced computer components on the market — and it will never cause back strain when you carry it around through the course of the day.
While the tech industry tried to foist dedicated mobile TVs onto people a couple years ago, they flopped —mainly because no one wanted to carry another gadget around. This device, though, streams TV from your cable or satellite system directly to your mobile device, no matter where you are, as long as there's an Internet connection. It's a snap to set up and it delivers impressively clear images.
Price: $199 to $399
The iPhone 4S might not sound as "next gen" as iPhone 5, but don't let the name fool you. The onboard camera threatens to make point-and-shoot cameras obsolete and the inclusion of Siri, a voice-activated “digital assistant,” points the way for a new generation of products from the company. It might not have a new outward appearance, but the 4S is a notable leap forward from its predecessor — plus, all three of the major telecommunications companies now carry it.
Price: $2,150 to $3,500
LCD and LED TVs are getting better fast, but plasma screens still offer the best picture. Panasonic's flagship PVT30 series is the best of the bunch. It works well in brightly lit rooms and comes with a full suite of Internet apps. It's also a 3D set, for those interested in exploring that technology, with impressive images that pop off the screen. (Although, be warned, there's still a lack of pervasive quality 3D content.)
Cable bills are pretty high these days, but many people feel trapped because they want high-definition TV — and don't want to install a roof antenna. The Mohu Leaf is a viable alternative that not only captures quality HD signals, it does so using an unobtrusive design that's not much bigger (or thicker) than a sheet of paper. It may not be ideal for people in very rural areas, but if you're near a HD broadcast hub (virtually any city with a transmit tower), it does a fantastic job.
For infrequent business travelers, working on the road can be a pain. The monthly fees that accompany a mobile broadband card are too high to justify having one for occasional jaunts. And hotel WiFi is often a spotty affair. Virgin Mobile's MiFi provides 3G broadband on an as-needed basis, without the need for contracts. The signal, which uses Sprint's network, can be spotty depending on location — and 4G is faster — but the monthly fees are fair and it's certainly more convenient than trying to find an Internet café.