Happy holidays! But wait, what’s that you say: You forgot to grab a gift? No sweat – dozens of great high-tech options await gearheads of every age and interest. Better still – thanks to the magic of online shopping, there’s still time to score great deals and get presents in-hand in time to make festive deadlines without having to phone you-know-who’s little elves and beg for help as well. On the hunt for the perfect present for a fan of gadgets, gear and technology? Below, you’ll find several top picks sure to please casual techies and diehard enthusiasts alike.
Read it and weep – literally, and mostly for what it and other eReaders like the Kindle Paperwhite are quickly doing to laptops’ relevance. Splitting the difference between souped-up eBook player and tablet PC, this 9-inch high-definition beauty offers 1080p high-definition video playback, oodles of apps, and millions of books or magazines on-demand. Cooler still, every member of the family can customize a profile with its own multimedia content library for the device, so no one has to know about your secret addiction to Twilight.
Offering WiFi connectivity, an endless supply of software (think games, entertainment and lifestyle applications for cooking, TV watching, news reading and more) and streaming videos galore, what’s not to love? Surprisingly lightweight, it also travels well, and offers 10 hours of battery life on one charge, so you can keep you head buried in it the entire flight to the in-laws, or hypnotize the kids into silence on lengthy road trips.
Granted, many tablets are competing for a share of your attention this holiday season, from the Nexus 7 to the iPad Mini, as are countless eReaders by Amazon, Sony and more. But with Barnes and Noble’s catalogue of books and publications behind it, the Nook HD+ reminds why reading is fundamental – and adds a slew of streaming and downloadable extras to boot.
As many memories as most plan to make this holiday season, it’s wise to invest in an equally memorable way to capture them. Critically-lauded for its variety of shooting modes (including options for amateurs and professional paparazzi alike), solid picture and video quality, and extreme zoom capabilities, the PowerShot SX260 HS makes a wise choice. While you won’t necessarily need to take advantage of 20X close-up features this winter, trust us: They’re great to have, especially if you should find yourself sprinting off to enjoy a beach vacation. Ditto for 1080p high-definition video capture with HDMI output to TV options, great for screening movies of the adventure – consider them merely an added bonus on top of the camera’s slick-looking 12.1MP stills.
Still, there’s no faulting performance here: It’s nice to see Canon deliver solid low-light and wide-angle capabilities at an affordable price, and in such an attractive format. You even get sweet image stabilization capabilities, so pictures turn out great even if you’ve got the jitters, or overdo it on the eggnog. Auto-detection features further help streamline the photo-taking process as well by providing presets for a variety of scenarios, so you don’t have to be an expert to take professional-looking shots. Equally handy for holiday parties as year-end getaways, consider packing it along on your next trip to see the difference.
Shopping for a new HDTV this winter? A 50-inch LED beauty that won’t break the bank, this killer set makes a strong case with sizzling picture quality so sharp you can spot fine details in your favorite primetime programs. As is the norm for Samsung sets, color pops nicely from the display, with images achieving surprisingly vivid tones and scenery taking on a pleasingly candy-colored or crisp feel depending on the context. Fast action doesn’t throw it for a loop either, with motion nicely reproduced in video games and sports programs, so you don’t have to worry about blurring or lag while watching high-speed chases, sprints or shootouts.
A sleek, aerodynamic design also gives the set a modern look that fits nicely into most living rooms, and affords more display space for actual viewing. That’s a big plus as the set doesn’t just run TV shows, but also songs, photos or films you can plug in from an external USB thumb or hard drive. Low energy consumption simply proves a nice bonus, considering how much use the sets will get, especially as compared to LCD models. But the best upside of all? How amazingly willing the whole family will be to gather around it and actually spend a little holiday time in each others’ company for once.
Shopping for a shutterbug? Don’t settle for less than the best in terms of raw features, as represented by this high-performance digital camera which delivers 20X wide-angle zoom, eye-catching 14.1MP photos, and sharp-looking portrait or landscape shots, even from a distance.
Like many models, it also packs in high-definition video recording and image stabilization to offset wobbling hands. But as you’ll see firsthand, the true beauty here is in the details. Look closely at images, and you’ll notice fine elements of scenes, such as the light playing through the trees or smiles dancing in loved ones’ eyes. Needless to say, it’s a cool effect.
If you consider yourself a part-time photographer, or demand more from your devices, then it’s easy to appreciate the model’s overall feature set and design. Solid performance even in dimly-lit (i.e. nighttime or indoor) scenes only hammers home the impression of workmanlike quality, with fast speeds and a variety of shooting modes ready accessible as well. Note that touchscreen controls are also included, helping minimize confusion, and get you from setup to saying cheese in a matter of seconds.
On a scale of one to ten, the ten-ton gorilla of military first-person shooters clocks in at around 1400 in terms of heart-pounding intensity. Brimming with white-knuckle run and gun mayhem, Hollywood-style set pieces and gasoline-soaked environments, its neo-futuristic Cold War scenario piles on the face-melting pyrotechnics to pronounced effect. Curiously, as much of a home theater showpiece as the game remains – fire it up on a new big-screen LED TV, and watch the neighbors’ jaws drop – single-player is almost an afterthought, however. The real draw here, as ever, remains a hyper-robust online multiplayer mode that’ll frantically have you scrambling for spare bullet clips for weeks on end.
Featuring a storyline split between two time periods and multiple characters, players are also treated to extras like zombie-fighting modes, where the action switches to more of a horror-based scenario. But, for the most part, it’s simply business as usual, i.e. staring down strike forces full of screaming commandos single-handedly and frantically mashing the trigger in hopes an incoming rainstorm of hollow-points won’t randomly turn your head into a piñata. Played one Call of Duty, played them all: If you’re a fan of the series, you know what you’re getting from the holiday season’s hottest virtual firefight. But if you haven’t, now’s the time to dive in: This is the closest you’ll come to the front lines short of actually enlisting.
We’ve mentioned several digital cameras here, and with good reason… All are steadily increasing in power and performance even as they continue to come down in price, while providing a gift that keeps on giving in the form of glittering snapshots. Available at a mid-range price, and both compact and ultra-speedy, where Sony’s Cyber-Shot DSC-WX150 wins is in its role as one of the more portable, yet powerfully-featured options out there. Though technical readouts aren’t as advanced as you’ll find on some competing models, what you do get here – 10-20X zoom, up to 18MP photos and loads of automatic shooting options – travels well, and represents surprisingly solid value for the cost.
Not only do images taken on the device look great, but also can be fired off exceptionally quickly, thanks to its high-speed auto focus features, a big plus if you’re a sports fan, or often find yourself chasing after squealing toddlers. Much of the graininess found in photos is also removed, and amateur filmmakers can record video at 1080i HD quality as well, making for all-around solid visuals. Between these upsides, and quickly becoming standardized features that the camera offers such as anti-shake stabilization, it’s one you’ll definitely want to keep on your last-minute wish list.
Guess who’s back? Courtesy of Hasbro’s high-tech division, the crazy critters that first captured the world’s attention in 1998 are getting a second shot at stardom, much to digital kids’ delight. Bizarre looks aside (the mechanical toy resembles a fur-covered owl with bat ears), you’ll be surprised how quickly you fall for these futuristic pets. The kicker: The more you tickle, talk to or interact with them, the more their personality develops.
Capable of speaking out loud, the creatures at first talk gibberish – or ‘Furbish’ to be specific – but the more you engage with them, the more they learn to speak English over time. Interestingly, the goofy little beast, which can respond to touch, chatter or music, can now interface with other Furby units or companion apps for Apple devices as well. Even adults should be warned: Pat its head or rub its tummy, watch the response, and you’ll quickly see why so many have fallen under its spell.
Ironically, the better you treat the toy, the better it responds: TLC is required to get the most out of it. But while your family may fear commitment, look on the bright side. The next time you kid begs for a pet, just think about how much easier it’ll be to clean up after.
This post is part of eBay Finders, a new partnership that presents collections of items curated by a carefully selected group of electronics experts. Meet more of the Finders on the eBay Electronics blog. #eBayFinders