Tech holiday gift guide
By Ronnie Gill Take one tablet and call us in the morning. The question is, which tablet do you take? In tech's own version of Tablet Wars, Apple recently announced the release of two new versions of iPad on the same day that Microsoft introduced Surface Pro 2 and Nokia the Lumia 2520. And let's not forget about the Google Nexus 7, released a couple of months back. Here's a look at some of the latest in the sizzling tablet market, as well as other state-of-the-art electronic gadgets and gizmos for the techies on your holiday gift list.
iHome Bluetooth Portable FM Stereo Boombox
WHY: Whether you're listening to your favorite radio station or wirelessly streaming music from your iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Android or BlackBerry device, iHome's five-band equalizer, twin 4-inch woofers, 1-inch tweeters and powerful bass deliver great sound. The durable rubberized cabinet combines classic boombox style with contemporary technology and operates on batteries or the included AC adapter. Also comes with a magnetic remote control, 3.5-mm stereo audio cable, FM antenna and a USB port. In gray or purple.
BUY: $200, ihomeaudio.com, target.com, toysrus.com
Kohler Moxie Showerhead + Wireless Speaker
WHY: Singing in the shower takes on a whole new meaning with this speaker embedded in your showerhead that wirelessly streams the music you love from any compatible Bluetooth device. Install the showerhead while you charge the removable, water-resistant sound capsule via the included USB cable (a full charge takes about two hours and lasts for up to seven hours), pop it into the showerhead, then press the button on its front to pair it with your Bluetooth device from up to 32 feet away. The head’s spray face features 60 angled nozzles to deliver a full, enveloping spray at a flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute. The speaker can be used wirelessly in or out of the shower, in other rooms or even at the beach.
BUY: From $149; Home Depot stores, overstock.com, amazon.com
Airocide Air Purifier
WHY: Using technology developed by NASA, Airocide doesn’t use a filter. It rids the air of virtually 100 percent of harmful pathogens that can cause allergies, asthma and other illnesses. Airborne mold, dust, pollen, bacteria, viruses and household volatile organic compounds are completely eliminated. Since nothing is captured, there are no filters or blades to clean. All that exits is crisp, clear air with zero ozone emissions. Used in hospitals and other commercial settings for years, the purifier is backed by more than 12 years of independent research. The FDA-approved purifier requires no maintenance other than replacing the reaction chamber, where the pathogens are destroyed, about once a year.
BUY: $799, $99 reaction chamber kit; airocide.com, amazon.com
WHY: Ergonomically designed to stay anchored in your ear even when you move around, these in-ear headphones are built to deliver precise and powerful bass tones and are finely tuned across a wide bandwidth. Features include a microphone and remote to pick up calls, fast forward or rewind your music, SnapConstruction to connect the ear buds around your neck to prevent loss and CableLoop, so you can wrap up the cord when the headphones are not in use. Available in 10 colors.
BUY: $39; urbanears.com, amazon.com
Ten One Design Magnus mini
WHY: This magnetic stand for the iPad mini seems to defy gravity with its low profile and minimalist design. Weighing little more than half an ounce, it is constructed from ABS plastic and has a tough rubberized finish. Its hidden magnets hold your mini firmly in place, whether in portrait or landscape view. Great for use both in the home or on the go.
BUY: $30; tenonedesign.com, amazon.com
Brookstone HDMI Pocket Projector
WHY: Big things come in small packages. Though this projector fits in the palm of your hand, it projects 1080p HD images up to 60-inches diagonally. It connects via HDMI to most smartphones, tablets, computers, video players, cameras and game consoles, runs for up to two hours on a single charge, has dual built-in speakers and manual focus control. It has a bright 85 lumens lamp and its battery doubles as a USB backup for smartphones. Comes with HDMI cable, micro HDMI adapter, mini HDMI adapter and AC adapter. Note: To connect Apple or any other devices without an HDMI port, you will need an HDMI adapter or Apple Digital AV adapter, which are sold separately.
BUY: $300; brookstone.com, amazon.com
Trent Airbender Mini
WHY: Not only is it water resistant, dirt- and shockproof, this Bluetooth, matte finish, clamshell case for the iPad mini also includes a keyboard so you can type wirelessly with comfort and ease. An adjustable arm piece allows for either vertical or horizontal placement for any viewing angle. The case also includes an integrated screen to prevent scratches and smudges while retaining touch-screen sensitivity and an auto shut-off magnet.
BUY $40: newtrent.com, amazon.com
WHY: Create your own fireproof, waterproof private cloud. The ioSafe N2 is powered by a Synology DiskStation Manager motherboard and operating system. It allows for fast access on your local network and remote access from nearly any device connected to the Internet. This multi-drive NAS/RAID storage device holds up to two 4-terabyte redundant mirrored drives of your business or personal data, music and photos. The drives are hot-swappable in case of failure and will rebuild the volume back to a redundant state upon replacement. ioSafe can withstand temperatures up to 1550 degrees Fahrenheit and full submersion in fresh or salt water up to 10 feet in depth for 72 hours. The ioSafe Data Recovery Service provides a no-questions-asked data recovery service for any loss, no matter the reason. The system also has a built in Kensington lock slot with optional floor mount and padlock kit to prevent theft. Securing the drive also prevents the drive from moving during a disaster.
BUY: From $600 (diskless) to $2,000 (8 terabytes); iosafe.com, newegg.com, amazon.com
Microsoft Surface 2
WHY:The Surface 2 is slightly thinner and lighter than its predecessor and is powered by an NVIDIA Tegra 4 processor, making apps run faster and smoother. Camera resolution has increased, with a 3.5-megapixel front camera and 5-megapixel rear camera, both capable of capturing 1080p video and featuring improved low-light performance, which can be seen on the 10.6-inch full HD display that now renders 1080p video. Battery life has increased to up to 10 hours and its USB port has been upgraded to USB 3.0 for faster file transfers. Surface 2 is available in 32GB and 64GB configurations and runs the Windows RT 8.1 operating systems with RT versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook.
BUY: From $449, keyboard-covers from $120; Best Buy stores, Microsoft stores, staples.com, surface.microsoftstore.com
WHY: This finger-mounted stylus goes where large digits or long nails can’t, to provide touch-screen precision especially on smartphone screens. Developed by a dermatologist for her own accuracy when using a smartphone, it’s perfect for small screen buttons, as well as drawing, writing, gaming, Web searches and photo editing. Plus, it can be worn in the cold over a gloved finger for connectivity with capacitive and resistive touch-screen interfaces. (Note: Screen protectors can interfere with Tech Tips connectivity.)
BUY: $10 for stylus four-pack; usetechtips.com
HMDX Jam ZZZ Bluetooth Alarm Clock
WHY: When is a clock radio not just a clock radio? When it will wirelessly stream music up to 30 feet from your Bluetooth-enabled smartphone, tablet, laptop or MP3 player. You can also charge your phone through the USB port while streaming audio. Other features include dual alarms with snooze and gradual wake, a built-in speakerphone, digital FM radio, 3.5-mm auxiliary-in port, LCD display and battery backup. Available in gray and purple.
BUY: $70; Bed, Bath & Beyond stores, hmdxaudio.com, amazon.com
Fitbit One Wireless Activity + Sleep Tracker
WHY: Monitor your fitness with this small device’s state-of-the art accelerometer and altimeter that track steps, distance, calories burned and stairs climbed during the day and measures how long you sleep during the night. Data syncs wirelessly with Windows and Mac PCs, iPhone or Android apps via Bluetooth so you can set goals and track your progress with charts and graphs. You can also log weight, food, water and workouts on Fitbit’s website or apps. Fitbit data can be exported to SparkPeople, Lose It!, MyFitnessPal and MapMyFITNESS apps and you can import their data into Fitbit's dashboard. Available in black and burgundy, Fitbit is sweat-, rain- and splashproof and comes with a carrying clip, Bluetooth USB dongle, charging cable, sleep wristband and free Fitbit account.
BUY: $100; fitbit.com, att.com/shop, microsoftstore.com, amazon.com
Booq Boa Squeeze
WHY: Slim and sleek for a laptop backpack, the Boa Squeeze eliminates the weight without compromising design or pocket space. Crafted from durable, water-repellent ballistic nylon, it features a densely padded compartment suitable for 13- to 15-inch laptops, numerous pockets for your other devices, a removable key fob, mesh back padding to increase comfort and allow heat to escape, and an ergonomic shoulder strap. A metal plate with a bar code is embedded in the back panel and may help you get your bag back if it is ever lost.
BUY: $130; booqbags.com
Apple iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display
WHY If you love iPads, you probably will love these two, too, but there's not very much new about the iPad Air or iPad mini. iPad Air is a lighter (1 pound), thinner (7.5 mm thick), more powerful (64-bit Apple A7 with M7 motion coprocessor) version of iPad4 and features a 43 percent smaller bezel. It is available in silver, white, gray and black. iPad mini, as its name suggests, now comes with a Retina display for better resolution and a faster processor that promises as much as a four-times boost in performance. It has a new front-facing FaceTime HD camera and MIMO support for faster wireless connectivity and comes in gray or black. Both iPads come with a choice of 16, 32, 64 of 128 gigabytes of storage.
BUY: iPad Air from $499 Wi-Fi or $629 cellular, available Nov. 1; iPad mini with Retina display from $399 Wi-Fi or $529 cellular, available sometime in November; Apple stores, apple.com, Best Buy stores, amazon.com
Powerocks Super Magicstick
WHY: Small yet powerful Magicstick will charge your mobile devices quickly. Carry it with you -- compact and lightweight, it fits easily into a pocket, purse, briefcase or backpack. Its 2800 milliampere hour battery capacity can fully charge most smartphones twice. Magicstick recharges via the included micro USB to USB connection cable. It also comes with a drawstring carrying bag. Available in numerous colors and patterns.
BUY $50; powerocksusa.com, amazon.com
Digital Treasures Power Flask
WHY: Powered by a 13,000 milliampere hour rechargeable lithium-ion battery, power flask can charge three USB devices simultaneously. It includes two 30-pin iPad/iPhone connectors, a USB-to-micro-USB charging cable, a USB-to-dual-micro-USB charging cable and a USB power adapter. The charger’s easy-to-hold curved body is wrapped in textured black leather accented with subtle red stitching. The top and bottom have a shiny chrome finish.
BUY: $90; staples.com, digitaltreasures.com, bestbuy.com
Google Nexus 7
WHY: A is not only for Apple, it's also for Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, the operating system in the new full high-definition version of the Google Nexus tablet. Manufactured by Asus, it is thinner, lighter and faster than its predecessor and comes with either 16 or 32 gigabytes of storage. You won't find as many tablet-optimized apps as you will for iPad, but you can't argue with Nexus 7's features, which include a sharp and very portable 7-inch screen, front and back cameras, micro USB 2.0 port and, perhaps most important, its killer price.
BUY: $229 (16GB), $269 (32GB); P.C. Richard stores and pcrichard.com, bestbuy.com, amazon.com
Olympus Stylus TG-2 iHS Digital Camera
WHY: Point-and-shoot goes one step beyond with the rugged 12-megapixel Stylus TG-2 iHS. In addition to being shockproof, crushproof, freezeproof and dustproof, it has a waterproof depth rating of 50 feet without a housing. And because it has an ultra-bright, high-speed f2.0 lens, it can capture everything from dramatic low light to high-speed action shots. It also takes 1080p full HD video. Added features include a 3-inch monitor, 60 frames per second high-speed sequential shooting, microscopic macro mode to capture things not visible to the eye from a distance of 1 centimeter, telephoto converter lens for greater optical zoom range and artistic blur, and a wide-angle fisheye lens for more expansive views. Available in red or black.
BUY: $380; getolympus.com, tigerdirect.com, bhphotovideo.com, amazon.com
Scottevest SeV Revolution Jacket
WHY: Travelers can carry all of their devices plus a lot more in this jacket’s 26 pockets. Because it a jacket, it is not subject to airline weight rules and regulations, no matter how many souvenirs you fill it with -- extra bag and carry-on fees won’t apply. Made from water-resistant, breathable and machine-washable polyester with sealed seams, the pockets have no-bulge design and magnetic closures. In sizes medium and larger, a PadPocket accommodates an iPad. The clear touch interior pockets let you see and control your devices through the cloth. There are travel document compartments and pockets for items such as digital cameras, cell phones, GPS units, flashlights, change and glasses. Discreet graphic labels on some of the pockets offer suggested uses. The removable hood and sleeves are protect from wind or drizzle and can be stowed in one of the Revolution’s pockets if it is too warm.
BUY: $175; scottevest.com, thinkgeek.com
All-New Kindle Paperwhite
WHY There are many improvements in this latest iteration of the Paperwhite, including better contrast and a 25 percent faster processor. It also allows you to skim page-by-page, scan by chapter or skip to the end without losing your place; margin notes can be added, edited, deleted or exported to your computer; highlighted sections can be shared on Facebook and Twitter; you can read the complete text of each footnote without changing your page or losing your place; there are typeface options and eight text sizes to choose from; and you can see at a glance how long it will take to finish a chapter or book based on your reading speed. Kindle Paperwhite holds up to 1,100 books. The 3G version has no monthly fees.
BUY: $119, $189 3G version; amazon.com
Seidio Obex Waterproof Case
WHY: To protect your Samsung Galaxy S4, consider the Seidio Obex. It will safeguard your smartphone against drops, dust, dirt, inclement weather and water while maintaining screen sensitivity and keeping it fully functional. The raised edges on the case and screen protector create a barrier from external elements, yet the shape of the phone within the case remains slim and sleek. BUY: $80; seidio.com, amazon.com
Samsung Galaxy S4 Smartphone
WHY: The Galaxy S4 has a 5-inch full HD display and all of the other expected amenities, but there are surprises, too. Among them: You can put yourself in a scenic picture by taking simultaneous front and back photos and edit the pictures on the phone; there are slow- and fast - motion video modes; you can wave your hand at the screen to accept calls, tilt your head to scroll a Web page, or pause a video that is playing by looking away from your phone. When you look back at the screen, the video resumes from where you left off. The S4 also comes equipped with temperature, barometer and humidity sensors, an RGB light sensor to optimize screen brightness and sharpness and reduce eye strain, and an accelerometer to count the number of steps you’ve taken. The S4 runs on the Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean) operating system and has up to 15 1/2 hours of talk time or up to 18 days standby time.
BUY: From $99, depending on carrier and contract; Sprint, AT&T, Verizon
WHY: This little box will redefine the way you watch TV. It comes fully loaded with more than 1,000 movie, TV, music and gaming channels that stream directly to your TV from the Internet via your home network. Roku 3 requires that you have an HDTV, HDMI cable for high definition and a broadband Internet connection with a Wi-Fi router. The player has hundreds of free channels, but other channels, including Netflix, Hulu Plus and MLB.TV, require monthly subscriptions fees. Roku 3's remote control that has a built-in headphone jack for private listening as well as motion-sensing technology for playing games with a flick of the wrist.
BUY: $90; roku.com, Best Buy stores, online or for pickup at P.C. Richard & Son, Target and Walmart stores
CLICK & GROW: For those whose thumbs are any color but green, Click & Grow is an automated electronic planter that takes the guesswork out of gardening. Open the package, add water and four AA batteries and this smartpot does the rest. Each plant cartridge includes seeds and growing media -- eliminating the need for soil or fertilizer -- a microchip with special software and a sensor that measures and metes out the exact amount of water the plant needs. The pot's indicator light changes color when it needs more water or batteries. Starter kits, which include the smartpot and plant cartridge, come in basil and cockscomb. Refill cartridges include French marigold, basil, mini tomato, painted nettle, lemon balm, cockscomb, thyme and busy lizzy (impatiens).
Starter kit $59.99, refill cartridges $19.90; clickandgrow.com
FITBIT ARIA WI-FI SMART SCALE: Watching your weight takes on a whole new meaning with this scale that measures not only pounds, but also your body fat percentage and body mass index (BMI). Wi-Fi enabled, you can link Aria to your home wireless network via computer or smart phone. Your stats are uploaded automatically to your Fitbit dashboard on Fitbit.com, where you can set goals, track your progress with free online graphs and tools, and log your eating and exercise habits. Your data remains private unless you choose to share it. Progress can be checked from your computer or with the free iPhone and Android apps. The scale can be set up to automatically recognize up to eight users. Available in black or white.
$129.95; bloomingdales.com, target.com, buy.com, amazon.com, fitbit.com
NEST LEARNING THERMOSTAT SECOND GENERATION T200577: This thermostat doesn't need to burn the midnight oil to get smarter --- in fact, because it keeps getter smarter, it'll be burning less of that oil. Nest learns what temperatures you like and your home's unique thermal profile. It can turn itself down when you're away or be controlled from anywhere over your Wi-Fi network, saving you up to 20 percent on heating and cooling bills. Attractive and easy to install, the thermostat can also provide an energy usage history and remind you to change your air filter based on how many hours your heat or air-conditioning has run. It is compatible with most gas, oil, electric, forced air, heat pump and radiant heating and cooling systems.
$249.99, lowes.com, store.apple.com, amazon.com, nest.com - Ronnie Gill
KINIVO BTH220 BLUETOOTH STEREO HEADPHONES: Keep your cranium wire free without blowing the budget, with these comfortable and lightweight headphones compatible with most Bluetooth-enabled music players, tablets and smartphones. The headset's play, pause, track and volume functions manage your tunes, or you can use the headphones for hands-free calling with up to eight hours of talk time. USB charging cable and carrying pouch are included.
$44.99; amazon.com, newegg.com, buy.com, cableandcase.com
DBEST TRANSFORMATIVE BLUETOOTH HIFI SYSTEM: When you think of speaker systems, appearance may not be at the top of your list, but Transformative combines form with function. The crisp-sounding speakers are packaged in a convertible design that can be changed into dozens of different shapes to complement your mood and environment. There's also a microSD slot, built-in microphone, 3.5-mm auxiliary port and Bluetooth to connect wirelessly to a compatible device. The system can be used for music playback or as a portable call-conferencing device and the OLED display provides battery status, caller ID, track information, clock and calendar. The rechargeable lithium battery provides up to 50 hours of continuous listening. A protective travel pouch is included.
4IIII INNOVATIONS SPORTIIIIS: Get into the zone with Sportiiiis, a compact audio-visual device that attaches to any pair of regular or sunglasses to give runners, cyclists and endurance athletes performance feedback without distracting them from their activity. Using Mac, PC or smartphone software, Sportiiiis' colored LEDs can be programmed to visually respond to data from wireless sensor devices, such as heart-rate straps, to create a workout program that is then downloaded to the Sportiiiis unit. The LEDs and verbal prompts guide users to their targets for heart rate, speed, pace, cadence and power.
$149.99, footPod or bike sensor $59 each, heart-rate strap $69; amazon.com, 4iiii.com
QUIRKY WRAPSTER HEADPHONE CORD ORGANIZER : If you get a knot in your stomach every time you find your headphone cord tangled up, this simple device will straighten out the problem. The earbud or earclip cords run through two separated side tubes and wrap vertically around a central bar when not in use. They'll be ready and untangled the next time you go to use them. And the compact design means you can slip the whole thing neatly into a pocket. When cords are not wrapped around it, you can use Wrapster as a stand for iPhone in landscape mode. Available in blue, purple, charcoal, and white.
$6.99, quirky.com, bedbathandbeyond.com, jr.com, amazon.com
DROPCAM HD: You'll know when they are sleeping, you'll know when they're awake with Dropcam HD Wi-Fi video monitoring. The small, stylish camera makes it effortless to watch live and recorded video to check in on your kids, the pets and the safety of your home when you're not there. Setup is easy and you can view a live picture from your iPhone, Android or computer as it automatically joins your wireless network, securely connects to the Dropcam service and instantly streams video to you. You are notified by email and push alerts when motion or audio is detected. Unlimited real-time viewing from any device plus email and push motion/sound alerts are free. Recording plans to capture up to 30 days of video start at $9.95 a month.
$149; amazon.com, dropcam.com
GRACE DIGITAL ECOXGEAR ECOXBT: Don't go into the water without this rugged, waterproof floating speaker that connects to any Bluetooth-enabled device, such as your smartphone or laptop. The built-in lithium battery is good for up to 10 hours of music before it needs a recharge. There is also a waterproof headphone jack. USB cord, AC power adapter and carabineer clip are included. Available in black, red and orange.
$129.99; amazon.com, jr.com; ecoxgear.com
LOGITECH WIRELESS SOLAR KEYBOARD K760: There's no need for batteries or a plug with this solar-powered Bluetooth keyboard for Macs, iPads and iPhones. Powered indoors or outdoors by lamplight or sunlight, fully charged it works for at least three months -- even in total darkness. The concave key design delivers fast, quiet typing. Designed to reduce its environmental footprint, the keyboard is PVC-free and comes in a fully recyclable box.
$79.99; newegg.com, amazon.com, buy.com