Kevin Hunt - The Electronic Jungle
The Electronic Jungle
11:29 AM EST, December 7, 2012
Need a gift that will short the circuit boards of your tech-inclined loved one? Look no further. Here's another Hot 10 list of holiday gift ideas from Santa Grouch.
Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 ($300, ardrone2.parrot.com): Who says only the U.S. military can fly surveillance drones? Parrot's AR.Drone 2.0 quadricopter has a hi-def camera (720p) that shoots video and photos from heights up to 164 feet. (The first AR.Drone peaked at 20.) It's now easier to pilot with a three-axis magnetometer added to a three-axis gyro and three-axis accelerometer. Even if that means nothing, it'll impress the gift recipient. Best of all, this drone is controllable by an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch app.
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT50 55-inch ($2,500, often discounted to $2,200, pansonic.com/viera): Big money gets the best picture. This 55-inch plasma will please the pickiest viewer in the house. The remarkably deep black levels create rich, vivid colors and an almost multidimensional picture — it's also 3-D, if that matters, though it does not come with 3-D glasses. As always, a plasma HDTV is great for off-angle viewing, so the entire family can gather around the set for the "It's a Wonderful Life" marathon.
Samsung HT-E6730W 7.1-channel Blu-ray 3D home theater system ($800, samsung.com/us): This eight-channel — seven speakers and a subwoofer — surround system with receiver and Blu-ray player is a technological freak. Samsung powers it with a combination of new and old technology, a (digital) Crystal Amplifier Plus with a vacuum-tube (analog) preamplifier. The two 12AU7 tubes give this system an old-school glow. Even cooler, perhaps: Samsung's DA-E750 speaker dock ($700) that also uses vacuum-tube technology, prominently displayed.
3M Projector Sleeve ($229, bit.ly/Q3Sr7O): Slide it onto an iPhone 4/4S and you've got an instant projector that beams pictures, apps, Netflix movies, etc. onto a wall or screen. The good: image sizes up to 60 inches, measured diagonally. The bad: The battery lasts 100 minutes, at best.
Pelican i1075 HardBack Case for iPad ($80, pelican.com): Pelican makes hard-shell cases and lighting for the military, but it also has a consumer division that makes this military-tough dustproof, crushproof and watertight case for the rest of us.
I can confirm its toughness but not its watertightness (not brave enough to risk my iPad). The i1075 is like a tiny briefcase for the iPad that also fits a power adapter and Apple Wireless Keyboard.
Clarity Pal ($99, claritypal.com): Seniors and the hearing-impaired will love this ultra-simple cellphone ("smartphone" does not apply), an old-style rectangular brick, with 25 decibels of amplification. In a mini-review in September, I noted the laser-focus sound seemingly beamed directly into the ears. Seniors will also welcome the oversize buttons and type.
As a GSM phone, it's usable with AT&T, T-Mobile and some prepaid-service providers. Unfortunately, Clarity has been unable to land Verizon's service.
VTech Cogsley Educational Robot ($40, vtechkids.com): Robot for kids 3 through 6 years old with 30 computer-chip learning tokens that, when placed in a slot above Cogsley's nose, plays animation on an LCD screen. Cogsley also responds when kids sing to him or clap their hands. How much fun is that? (Runs on four AA batteries.)
Fluance FiSDK500 speaker dock ($199 through Dec. 15, $230 thereafter at fluance.com): A superbly built speaker dock out of Niagara Falls, Ontario, with few technological frills but superb sound. Anytime you find a $200 speaker dock with a wood (medium-density fiberboard) cabinet, screw-in metal spikes and woven-fiberglass low-frequency drivers, it's bound to be a great deal. When I reviewed it last year, I likened it to big-ticket docks like Bowers & Wilkins' $600 Zeppelin Air than the usual all-plastic, low-quality $200 speaker dock. It's still a great deal, especially when it's rolled back to 2011 pricing.
Octa TabletTail: Whale Kit Vacuum Dock For Tablets ($50, octa.com): A two-piece computer stand — a plastic-dome with pump-it-up suction and the whale-tail leg. The dome also acts as a comfortable grip. Warning: This dock might make hockey fans long for the NHL's long-gone Hartford Whalers.
HDMI cables (starting at $1.97, monoprice.com): A high-quality, low-price combination makes Monoprice my favorite place for cables of any kind. Don't let a store salesman talk you into paying $50 for an HDMI cable to go with your HDTV or Xbox.
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