Holiday Gift Guide: Technology and Gear

27 November, 2012 Life No comments
Holiday Gift Guide: Technology and Gear

The holidays are here, and you know what that means: Technology and gadgets galore! With it just as fun for techies to give as receive, there’s no shortage of high-tech items crowding gearheads’ wish lists either – whether shopping for an LED HDTV, tablet PC, smartphone or otherwise, expect to be well-covered.

But picking the best electronic gifts isn’t as easy as it used to be, as shoppers suddenly face tough decisions on every front, e.g. to buy Apple or Android, 4G LTE or 3G. Thankfully whichever option you choose, and device you settle on, odds are you’re likely to come out a winner. Why? Growing power and performance combined with falling prices and increasing connectivity means that regardless of manufacturer or item, you’re effectively getting more bang for your buck across the board.

In fact, according to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), holiday shoppers plan to spend roughly $252 on tech-related presents this year – a full third of their gift-giving budget. The good news: With value a big watchword for manufacturers in 2012 and 2013, you’ll find that the best high-tech gifts (which now offer wireless and mobile connectivity, including support for downloadable apps and updates) don’t just make jaws drop… they also often keep on giving for months to come. So no matter if you’re dreaming of a snazzy DSLR camera or shiny new Wii U video game system, realize. Plenty of great gift ideas can help you stay snuggled up warm in front of your screen until Jack Frost takes the hint and finally flies south for the winter.

See below for just a few great high-tech gift ideas the whole family will love this holiday, each worth adding to your wish list. Note that you can click the below links to learn more about all options, and for online shopping deals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

APPLE iPAD MINI

Leading a wave of new pint-sized tablet PC launches, the smaller and slimmer iPad Mini does everything its larger cousin does, only in a more portable and lightweight format. A miniaturized alternative to traditional laptops, it also provides extensive online connectivity for surfing the Web or playing books, music, movies, TV shows and games in a format so hyper-intuitive that even toddlers can enjoy it.

Owners can easily check email, videoconference with friends or family, and browse the Internet on its gorgeous 7.9-inch LED screen, or enjoy immediate access to a virtual library’s worth of magazines, newspapers and periodicals to boot. Capable of 1080p high-definition video recording, and measuring up 23% thinner and 53% lighter than its full-sized cousin (clocking in at just 7.2mm and 0.68lbs), the device also packs 10 hours of battery life.

Great for enjoying on the couch or cross-country flights, support for high-speed WiFi and LTE wireless connectivity makes it easy to enjoy the best upside of all: On-demand access to hundreds of thousands of free or value-priced apps (read: bite-sized software programs) in every genre. Buy one, and you’ll greatly minimize chances of ever being bored again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SAMSUNG GALAXY S3

Having recently claimed the title of world’s best-selling smartphone, it’s easy to see why shoppers and critics alike are raving over this sleek, high-speed handset. Among the most popular iPhone 5 alternatives available, the Android 4.0 model doesn’t just offer a brawny dual-core processor, brisk 4G LTE download speeds and sharp 8MP camera. It also packs an ultra-crisp 4/3-inch AMOLED (read: colorful and oversized) display, loads of memory for fast program juggling, and support for both speech recognition and voice commands, a la Apple’s Siri.

Priced competitively and available on a variety of cellular carrier networks including AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular, the gadget also lets you quickly share photos, videos and documents using wireless “S Beam” transfer capabilities. As an added bonus, you can further access turn-by-turn directions, seamlessly share film clips you’ve shot to Samsung TVs and easily check friends’ social network updates. Crammed as the gizmo is with fun features and extras, it’s almost refreshing to note that basics like call quality, reception and data transfer speeds don’t disappoint. Anyone looking for a new phone without an “i” in the title would do well to make it a first port of call.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TOSHIBA 46L5200U 46” LED HDTV

While manufacturer Toshiba’s no slouch in the HDTV market – see its affordably-priced 24L4200U, which delivers myriad connectivity options besides solid screen performance – this stunning LED set quickly helps reinforce the point. A 46-inch flat screen that delivers vivid coloring and snazzy 1080p high-definition graphics in a sleek-looking package, it also offers a 120Hz refresh rate for seamlessly smooth motion while watching sports or movies. As with other models, myriad connections (including 3 HDMI ports, USB support and component video hookups) are offered to boot, so you can easily connect a Blu-ray player, Apple TV or media receiver.

Whether using the set to output images from your PC or screen a marathon of The Lord of the Rings movies, it takes just seconds to get the picture, both literally and otherwise. Credit workmanlike video performance, including wide viewing angles so you can enjoy screenings no matter where you’re reclining in a room, and vibrant coloring that helps bring on-screen images to life. While it lacks 3D capability and smart TV (i.e. Internet-connected and app-based options), it’s worth noting that the television also offers something supporting TVs don’t. Specifically, a more affordable price point, so you can enjoy large screen size and LED backlighting technology without breaking the bank.


 

 

 

 

 

 

HP OFFICEJET PRO 8600

While a printer may not seem the sexiest holiday gift, it’s among the most practical, and likely to keep on giving, especially if you’re in the mood to save vacation photos, or running a small or home-based business. Offering high-quality color prints with a fraction of the time and cost of competitors, the HP Officejet Pro 8600 cranks out up to 20 great-looking pages a minute in black and white or 16 per minute in color. A touchscreen powered all-in-one that offers the ability to copy, scan and fax, it doesn’t just connect to wired or wireless networks either – it also offers downloadable apps and printing from mobile devices.

If you’re looking to enjoy wireless home printing for less, you might also give the HP Officejet 6700 Premium all-in-one a look this holiday season as well. A value-priced option that also packs a touchscreen, WiFi connectivity, built-in apps and the ability to print from mobile devices or throughout the whole home, it strikes a nice balance between performance and practicality too. Whether churning out holiday photos and fliers or simply downloading Disney cutouts or other arts and crafts projects to entertain kids on break, it’s a fun and useful addition to any home, or home office.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOOGLE NEXUS 7

Another strong offering in the slim and lightweight tablet PC category, Google’s answer to the iPad Mini (also available in a 10-inch format) does for Android what its rival does for Apple’s own iOS. Priced to sell and tailor-made for travelers, you may be surprised to learn that the eye-catching 7-inch display isn’t necessarily the main draw here, though. Rather, it’s on-demand access to hundreds of thousands of apps from online store Google Play, serious graphical horsepower, and long-lasting battery life that make the device a must-see for both enthusiasts and casual shoppers alike.

Compatible with mobile wireless GSM carriers worldwide, WiFi-enabled and offering 32GB of storage, we’re most psyched about the NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor the system packs. Able to pump out jaw-dropping 3D graphics and juggle multiple apps with minimal hiccups, the system shines brightest when playing games or pumping out videos, making it a portable digital entertainment hub. Equally great for killing time alongside guests during the holidays or while cruising at 30,000 feet, it also offers effortless web browsing and Internet surfing, and the ability to read reams of eBooks during cold winter nights.

From favorite songs to films, TV shows and novels, it’s all there waiting to be enjoyed from the cloud. Happily, around 9-10 hours of playback or online usage are offered per charge as well, so you won’t find yourself suddenly sprinting for an outlet during extended layovers as you voyage towards sunnier shores.


 

 

 

 

 

 

BORDERLANDS 2 (2K GAMES)

Letting Mad Max fans live out their every post-apocalyptic fantasy, this sequel to the multimillion-selling action role-playing game (RPG) epic will be a surefire favorite with gaming enthusiasts. Albeit for mature audiences, the uniquely-styled adventure – which looks like a living, breathing graphic novel – lets up to four players patrol a blasted futuristic wasteland battling mutants and marauders, and collecting piles of loot as they gallivant along. Packing weeks of replay value in solo or multiplayer modes, it lets you pick from literally millions of weapons, pieces of equipment, and gear, then travel the desert blowing adversaries to kingdom come.

Successfully straddling the line between a white-knuckle first-person shooter and stat-crunching 3D dungeon crawl, it delivers the kind of depth diehard fans crave alongside the accessibility casual players can’t resist. Which makes it something of a rare beast among games these days: The kind you can dive into and blow off stress in just minutes by enjoying a little co-op, split-screen and LAN-based play, or alternately spend months immersed in ferreting out every last collectible or clue. An overarching campaign helps add some depth to the proceedings, but make no mistake whether you’re a PC, PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 owner. The real fun here’s in grabbing a few friends, getting your hands on increasingly spectacular randomly-generated gear, and settling in for an evening of casually using it to splatter slavering monstrosities across the sand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LENOVO IDEAPAD YOGA 13

It’s a tablet. No wait – it’s a notebook. OK, so maybe it’s a little of both, with this so-called Windows 8 “ultrabook” (lightweight, mid-range portable PC that mimics the best features of each) sitting somewhere in-between. Designed for road warriors who demand more versatility from their computing solutions, the touch-based model essentially packs a streamlined layout and physical keyboard for heightened productivity, yet also boasts a screen that swivels a full 360 degrees.

Think form meets functionality: Capable of transforming into four different modes – laptop, tablet, stand and tent – the system is built for maximum convenience. That way, you can switch its setup to pound out reports, play games and videos, or enjoy streaming music and social media updates as situations dictate. Offering a 13.3-inch HD display, multi-touch capability and up to 8 hours of battery life, yet weighing in at only 3.4lbs, it makes an ideal travel companion. Credit a unique mix of performance and practicality, with models capable of packing up to an Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of memory and 128GB SSD storage.

Can’t decide between an iPad and full-sized Windows 8 machine? Perhaps you don’t have to: The Yoga 13 effectively splits the difference, making it a uniquely engaging contender in its own right.

This post is part of eBay Finders, a new partnership that presents collections of items curated by a carefully selected group of electronics experts. Find more great products on eBay Electronics. #eBayFinders

Holiday Tech 2012: Best New Gadgets & Gear

Holiday Tech 2012: Best New Gadgets & Gear

Shopping for the best new high-tech holiday gear has never been easier, thanks to endless online bargains and deals. Just one problem: With hundreds of awesome HDTVs, smartphones, tablet PCs and other cutting-edge electronics suddenly competing for attention, choosing the perfect gift for gadget lovers isn’t always an easy task. Credit a bounty of new stocking stuffers – 2012’s must-have electronics and accessories include great gift-giving options for every interest and budget. Luckily, our team of technology experts have culled through hundreds of the best new tech toys and put together a handy cheat sheet to seven of the season’s hottest picks.

Looking to get your wish-list started? Among the year’s top selections are digital cameras, next-generation video game systems, connected television sets, eReaders, portable computing solutions, and media players of every shape and size. The following list – just a small preview of the coolest new gear available in coming weeks – can help you get a leg up on your holiday shopping. The best part: Sweet as these gadgets are, they’re just the tip of the virtual iceberg.

Apple iPhone 5

Many smartphones such as the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx (notable for its ultra-long battery life) and Samsung Galaxy S3 (recommended for its oversized screen) deserve shoppers’ attention this holiday. But Apple’s latest model, the iPhone 5, is among the very first you should keep on speed dial. Compatible with over 500,000 apps and building on its predecessors’ highlights – videoconferencing, an ultra-crisp display, cloud music streaming, etc. – with all-new features, the best just keeps on getting better.

Roughly 18% thinner, 20% lighter and considerably faster than the iPhone 4S, the iPhone 5 also adds high-speed 4G LTE broadband connectivity for brisk downloads, a larger 4-inch screen, and a brawny A6 processor. Letting you wirelessly stream movies, music, television and games down on-demand, the handset doesn’t just load websites, apps and media faster than ever. It also delivers better graphics and computing performance, and comes with enhanced front- and rear-facing cameras for sharper photos, slicker video recording and stutter-free teleconferencing.

The iPhone 5’s multitude of features – including a touchscreen, motion-sensing gyroscope and support for voice commands through its Siri virtual assistant – make it a supercomputer that fits in your pocket. Using the device, you can enjoy a portable media powerhouse to go, or connect with friends and family from nearly anywhere your holiday travels take you.

Wii U Video Game System

Nintendo’s motion-sensing Wii console redefined gaming for a generation. Featuring a unique tablet Game Pad controller with a dedicated 6.2-inch LCD touchscreen (offering a second view on the action, or allowing for video viewing separate from TV), successor the Wii U hopes to provide a repeat performance.

Available in two models – Basic (includes 8GB internal storage) or Deluxe (offers 32GB internal storage + Nintendo Land video game, console stand and a cradle/stand for your GamePad) – it’s a prospective game changer. Credit the ability to play groundbreaking titles such as New Super Mario Bros. Wii U, Pikmin 3, and Madden NFL 13, which allow for solo or multiplayer action across multiple screens. Better yet, awesome options are available for all ages including kids (Skylanders Giants, Just Dance 4), adults (FIFA Soccer 13, Assassin’s Creed 3) and everyone in-between (Disney’s Epic Mickey 2).

Upsides include the ability to view gameplay on both your TV and GamePad, control your television with the tablet’s touschscreen, and link up to four Wii remotes for frantic head-to-head excitement. Backwards compatible with games from the original Wii, it doesn’t skimp on forward-thinking technology either. Bonuses include Internet access for multiplayer match-ups and downloading movies, music and games; video chat capabilities; second-screen viewing experiences; and wireless connectivity that lets you interact with real-world objects.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LS7

Fans of digital photography can give images a boost with this speedy and high-performing compact camera whose lens captures bright, top-quality snapshots even under low-light conditions. Whether using it to fire off bursts of pictures in rapid succession, or tape 1080 high-definition (HD) video, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the device’s premium capabilities and intuitive user interface.

Designed to work in a variety of shooting conditions, including nighttime or outdoor scenes, the device also offers a wide-angle Leica lens with 3.8X zoom functions, so you can take stunning shots from a distance. Built-in noise reduction features are simply icing on the cake, helping ensure your holiday memories look gorgeous when printed or viewed on the DMC-LX7’s 3-inch LCD screen.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 3G

Literally dozens of great eReaders are available from companies like Sony (Reader), Barnes & Noble (Nook HD+) and Kobo (Arc, Glo, etc.). But don’t miss out on Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite, the latest in the bestselling line of eReaders, which adds a higher-resolution and -contrast screen, and a built-in light offering 8 weeks of battery life when charged.

Avid readers will especially love the ability to download thousands of books, newspapers, magazines and more anywhere in the world using free 3G wireless or WiFi capability, all visible on its 6-inch screen even in direct sunlight. Browsing options include over 180,000 exclusives and self-published volumes, so you can catch up on everything from the latest Twilight novel to definitive works on nearly any topic. From children’s books to action-packed thrillers, you’ll be surprised at the selection – and how just akin to real-life reading the experience feels.

Want to catch up on your reading while visiting the in-laws or hitting the beach? Spare yourself the indignity (and hernia) of having to haul along a bunch of hardbacks – able to hold hundreds of volumes, it’s basically a portable library to go.

LG Intuition

Is it a smartphone or tablet – you decide. Following in the footsteps of Samsung’s popular Galaxy Note, this powerful cellular handset with oversized 5-inch screen allows for full-fledged computing performance without sacrificing pocket-ready convenience. Ideal for video viewing, Web surfing or reading, its bright colors, ample visual real estate and high-def resolution should prove a hit with road warriors.

Perfect for jotting down notes with the included stylus, the Intuition also offers lightning-quick wireless 4G LTE connectivity, WiFi support and an 8MP with LED flash. As such, it should also strike a chord with professionals hoping to boost productivity, or avid social media enthusiasts. You know what they say about all work and no play, though – running on the Android 4.0 operating system, tens of thousands of compatible apps are available. That way, whether you’re killing time waiting for a connection or happily cruising along at 10,000 feet, you’ll always have the power to summon up endless sources of entertainment on-demand.

Panasonic Viera TC-P55ST50 TV

Critics have praised this 55-inch plasma HDTV and 3D TV for its arresting picture quality, brilliant contrast and suave aesthetic. But what will really turn heads is its price – think premiere features for a fraction of the cost. Capable of displaying 1080p HD video, you’ll be able to enjoy TV shows and films at staggering levels of detail, with characters and objects that pop right out of the scenes. Of course, ultra-crisp color and 3D viewing support only enhances this effect: Don a pair of active shutter 3D glasses, and high-def images will literally burst from the screen.

Extras are plentiful too – Smart TV (a.k.a. Internet-ready) features being among the most prominent. Via Panasonic’s Viera Cast options, you can access Pandora for streaming music, enjoy video-on-demand from services like CinemaNow, and enjoy MLB, MLS and NHL news and info whenever the mood strikes. Online video won’t blur while playing either, thanks to enhanced image reproduction. But perhaps most engaging is the availability of 2D to 3D upconversion, which lets you take standard everyday content – e.g. your favorite TV shows, Blu-ray movies and online media – and screen them in 3D. Consider it a gift that keeps on giving: Put the set in your living room, and every time neighbors come to visit for holiday gatherings, their jaws will drop.

Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700

Many portable computing enthusiasts now own an iPad (and with good reason). But if you’ve been holding out on buying a tablet PC, especially if you’re torn over the decision between purchasing a more fully-featured laptop, this is the model that will make you reconsider. Among the best Android selections, The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 packs full HD resolution, a dedicated NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core CPU and serious processing muscle. Translated into plain English, that means sick 3D graphics, speedy load times and apps so powerful you’d think you were sitting in front of a desktop system.

Capable of delivering jaw-dropping 3D visuals for a fraction of the price, the tablet PC is also compatible with an optional QWERTY keyboard dock with touchpad, SD card reader and USB port that extends battery life to 14 hours. Pair the two, and you can effectively enjoy the best of both worlds, letting the Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 double as a notebook PC. Bonuses include an 8MP camera for snapping natty-looking photos, cloud storage solutions for archiving files online, and a full suite of office and productivity software. Compatible with thousands of apps, it’s a nicely portable and expandable alternative to traditional laptop systems that lets you enjoy two computing options for the price of one.

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 at ebayelectronics.tumblr.com. #eBayFinders


Buying Technology and Gadgets On a Budget

15 October, 2012 Life No comments
Buying Technology and Gadgets On a Budget

Gadgets are more than frivolities; in many instances, we need them to work and function alongside the rest of our connected society. Problem is, tech is expensive and nobody is doling out iPhones like free bowls of soup. If we want the smartphones and laptops that have become part of our day-to-day lives, we need to fend for ourselves. Luckily, with a little patience and research, it’s possible to buy the best tech and gadgets even when you’re on a budget.

From laptops to tablets, and from Android phones to desktop towers, you can find what you’re looking for on the cheap with some patience, sleuthing, and a little luck. Here are five ways to grab high-tech gadgets for cheap: 

Join the FreeCycle Network – FreeCycle (TFN)is an organization based in Arizona that hooks up people with technology by way of free “gifts.” Looking for a computer monitor that’s in decent shape? FreeCycle may be able to connect you with a person in your area who just happens to have what you need. FreeCycle is one of several worldwide networks that aims to promote the “gifting” aspect of consumer culture. Not only will you save money by participating, but you’ll help keep toxic items out of landfills—and you might even make a new friend. 

Buy the previous model of tablet/phone/laptop – Tech evolves faster than Pokemon, but yesterday’s laptop still needs a good home. Consider your needs before you go ahead and drop money on something that’s cutting-edge. For example, if you plan to use your iPhone for some serious processing and gaming, then you’re going to want your hardware to be up-to-the-second. If you’re looking to do some lighter work, like surf the web, read books, play Solitaire, or just make phone calls (who uses their phone for that anymore?), ask about pricing plans for previous models. 

Buy refurbished/second-hand items – Never turn your back on the free/refurbished tech market. It’s huge. Big box retail stores like Wal-Mart and Best Buy are always refurbishing used items and putting them up for sale at massive discounts. Keep an eye out for open-box items, too. 

Watch out for “Deals of the Day” – Woot.com is the go-to site for Daily Deals, but you should also keep tabs on other major retailers’ websites, including Amazon. Manufacturers are constantly advertising blowouts and deals, though finding exactly what you need admittedly takes some luck and patience. Even so, keep checking back. You never know when you’ll score that magic item. 

Learn to do minor repairs – Learn how to make small electrical repairs: There are hundreds of resources on the Internet. We’ve unfortunately become a bit of a throw-away society, and people discard expensive electronics because of a blown bulb or a loose wire. Not only will you be able to rescue these items from thrift stores, but you’ll also find it satisfying to work with your hands. 

For more advice on buying affordable technology, visit: 

5 Tips for Nabbing Tech on the Cheap at ABC

How to Buy Used Tech Gear Cheap at BusinessWeek

The 20 Best Products Under $100 at PCMag