The holidays are a complicated time, but they don’t need to be. In fact, there are dozens of practical, affordable gifts you can give that are sleek, cool, and useful. The holidays are a great opportunity to load up a friend with household gadgets that he or she will actually use for years—or you can sneak in a common-sense treat for yourself, since you’ve earned the right to make your life a bit easier.
Here are the ten best household gadgets and appliances worth giving away for Christmas 2012.
Keurig Coffee Makers – When you’re slogging in the morning or in the middle of the day, there’s nothing quite as welcome as a cup of coffee. And if you can opt for real brewed coffee instead of some hot water poured over tarry black powder, all the better. Keurig coffee makers make perfect cups of coffee at home or at work, and it can also brew up some mean tea and hot chocolate.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 – Samsung’s Android-based tablet features a ten-inch screen, 2 gigs of RAM, a 1.4 GHz quad-core processer, and an “S-Pen” that allows for particularly delicate drawing and note-taking. It also has an SD card slot, a convenience that the iPad lacks. The Galaxy Note 10.1 is a great tablet to pass around the house for reading digital books, watching movies, doing work, and playing games. Even the Queen of England has one.
Vitamix Blender – Vitamix blenders are hardy, easy to use, and beloved across the restaurant industry. If you have a friend who adores convenience, there are even self-cleaning units to be bought.
Homz Hanging Sweater Dryer – This hanging sweater dryer isn’t really a gadget, but it’s still a clever and inexpensive way of saving money on your energy bill. The dryer has three tiers that lets you dry your heavy sweaters quickly and without the need for heat. It can be used to dry other articles of clothing, too. We won’t tell.
Bissell Lift-Off Deep-Cleaning System – Giving a rug a necessary deep-cleaning probably isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time, which is why it pays to give a good friend the Lift-Off deep cleaning system from Bissell. This two-in-one appliance leaves rugs fresh and removes spots. It’s easy to use, and it’s portable.
Nest Self-Learning Thermostat – Nobody wants to think about how much it costs to heat their home, but saving money is always a good conversation-starter. The Nest self-learning thermostat actually gets a feel for the temperature you typically like to keep your house at, and at what time of the day. You can even control your house’s temperature from your phone. Nest is easy to install, and can save you up to 20% on your annual heating bill.
Sodastream – Hooray for pop. Double-hooray for keeping bottles and cans out of landfills. SodaStream lets fizzy drink enthusiasts make their own delicious beverages with a fraction of the amount of sugar and caffeine that’s in a can of Coke or Pepsi. Check out its new Sodastream Source model to see just how far the technology has come in terms of both ease of use and industrial design.
Food Savor Vacuum Sealer – Anyone who’s looking to reduce their food budget and their waistline will appreciate the Food Savor Vaccuum Sealer, which makes it easy to freeze and store meals for future use without having to worry about the frosty zap of freezer burn.
Solio Classic2 Battery Pack and Charger – The Solio Classic2 lets you charge pretty much anything, anytime, anywhere by harnessing the power of the sun. When you don’t have a place to plug in your electronics, this solar charger may wind up being your best pal.
Nostalgia Electrics Ice Cream Maker – Ice cream is a runaway favorite at dessert time, but the stuff you buy at the store tends to be filled with all kinds of weird ingredients (except for cream). Nostalgia Electrics’ ice cream maker churns all the ingredients for you the old-fashioned way.
Kids to together like ice cream and nuts, like peanut butter and jelly, like—well, you get the idea. Even though video games have reached far beyond the youth market, young people are far and away the most enthusiastic patrons of the pastime and there are still plenty of safe, fun games for them to enjoy.
In fact, this list of 2012’s best games for kids shouldn’t exclusively be viewed as a collection of games that are for children; every game named is capable of ensnaring any player of any gender or age. The important thing is that they’re thematically safe and easy to learn.
Epic Mickey 2: Power of Two (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Wii U, Windows, Mac) – This sequel to 2012’s Epic Mickey for the Wii lets to players adventure side-by-side as Mickey Mouse and his compatriot, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. The duo team up to save the Cartoon Wasteland once more, and much like the first game, splashing paint or thinner on the scenery plays a big part in getting things done.
Skylanders: Giants (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS) – It’s no surprise that 2011’s monster hit Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure received a sequel. As was the case in the first game, this action/adventure experience pairs up a digital experience with collectable plastic toys that become “real” in the game world. The merger is sure to continue to be a hit with kids.
Super Mario Wii U (Wii U) – Kids love Mario games, and for good reason. Nintendo is launching the Wii U alongside its latest side-scrolling Mario platformer, and both look great. Four players can work through the game simultaneously, which should put an end to “I’M NEXT!” battles.
Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita) – The Lego property and comic book heroes tend to fit together like, uh, Lego bricks. This open-world action/adventure game starting Batman and his pals (and enemies) is colorful, fun, and will delight young new fans and veterans alike.
Scribblenauts Unlimited (Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, Windows) – Scribblenauts Unlimited is more than a fun game with a great sense of humor. It’s also an opportunity to let kids practice creative problem solving. Players reach the goals outlined in each stage using a magic notebook that can make almost any object come to life.
Paper Mario Sticker Star (Nintendo 3DS) – The latest entry from the weird but wonderful Paper Mario game series combines action, platforming, and role-playing. Of course, there are battles to be fought—lots of them—which Mario accomplishes by collecting and utilizing stickers. The shinier, the better.
Pokemon Black Version 2/White Version 2 (Nintendo DS) – Pokemon lives. Pokemon Black Version 2/White Version 2 are direct follow-ups to Pokemon Black/White for the Nintendo DS. That equals a lot more exploration, a lot more story, and, needless to say, a lot more Pokemon-catching.
Minecraft (Xbox 360, PC, iOS, Anrdoid) – Though Minecraft was released to a mainstream audience in late 2011, it has endured through 2012 as one of its most popular games. The world of Minecraft is as open-ended as a world can get. Players can choose to survive against enemies and hunger while they build shelters and forage for food, or they can simply build, build, build whatever their hearts desire.
Rhythm Heaven Fever (Wii) – Rhythm games that utilize licensed music (Guitar Hero/Rock Band) may have overstayed their welcome, but rhythm games that feature original, odd visuals and music are still thriving. Rhythm Heaven Fever for Wii is one of the best entries in the rhythm genre, as it features unique graphics and incredibly catchy tunes. It’s easy to play, but scoring a coveted “Perfect” on every stage is going to take hours of practice.
Kid Icarus: Uprising (Nintendo 3DS) – If you remember the original Kid Icarus for the NES, you might be a little old. But you can be any age to appreciate Kid Icarus: Uprising for the Nintendo 3DS. It combines non-stop shooting and action with one of the funniest game scripts to hit gaming in a long time.
Nintendo has a long, proud history of providing top-quality video game consoles for adults and kids of all ages, dating back to the 1985 release of its defining Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The device wasn’t just the first such machine to command a millions-strong global following in the post-Atari 2600 world. It also helped save the industry from a crippling 1983 crash, single-handedly proved that video games weren’t a fad (actually a cultural question mark at the time), and came to define home gaming for an entire generation. Dozens of popular franchises established during this era – including Super Mario Bros., Metroid and The Legend of Zelda – are still going strong today. Poised at the launch of its latest console, the Wii U (powered by a tablet PC-like touchscreen controller, fully online-/media-enabled, and the first Nintendo system to support high-definition graphics), the company’s legacy bears remembering.
Case in point: Over the past two decades, the much-beloved Japanese giant has brought players a wealth of technological advancements, proving that both innovation and imagination is in its DNA. Granted, not all have been successful: Anyone remember migraine-inducing semi-portable the Virtual Boy or two-hit wonder R.O.B. the robot (essentially included with the NES to con retailers burned by the ’83 crash into thinking it was more high-tech novelty item than game)? But from the original Game Boy tagalong to the 3D graphics-enabled Nintendo 3DS handheld, seminal 16-bit system the Super Nintendo to groundbreaking motion-controlled outing the Wii, you have to applaud the manufacturer. While it’s been prone to both wildly successful and wildly bizarre experiments, its many phenomenal successes have helped drive the industry forward, and the company has never been shy about its commitment to raising the bar. Say what you will about the house that brought us Mario, Donkey Kong and the rest of the supporting cast of Super Smash Bros.: It’s seldom one to follow in the footsteps of competitors.
All of which, of course, brings us to the dawn of the Wii U – the first of the next round of next-generation consoles to arrive, and among its most promising and original. Aimed at taking gamers beyond what they can currently get from rivals the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, it’s also the first shot fired in what promises to be a long and lasting battle for living room domination. Designed to deliver eye-popping 1080p HD graphics; facilitate digital downloads of music, movies, games and more; and allow for differing play experiences on TV vs. tablet controller, hopes for the system currently run high. As the first new set-top video game system in six years, and the long-awaited sequel to the Wii – the bestselling console of its generation, and first to both offer gesture controls and reach near-ubiquitous mainstream awareness – it’s hard not to be excited. But the sweetest news of all surrounding the system may also be a point that many have missed. As the below games illustrate, despite Nintendo’s storied and proud history to date, for both the manufacturer and fans alike, the best may be very well yet to come.
WII U SYSTEMS
The Wii U is available in two configurations: Basic (includes 8GB internal storage) and Deluxe (offers 32GB internal storage + Nintendo Land video game, console stand and a cradle/stand for your GamePad). Systems are defined by a custom 6.2-inch LCD touchscreen-powered tablet GamePad controller which offers secondary perspectives on on-screen action, and lets you view videos separately from the TV. Features allow for gameplay viewing on both your television and the GamePad, and support for controlling your set using the tablet, with benefits also extending to wireless Internet connectivity, online multiplayer and multimedia downloads, and video chat or second-screen viewing experiences. Needless to say, it crams a lot of performance into one small package.
BEST WII U GAMES
Note that you can click the below links to learn more about all Wii U game options, and for online shopping deals.
Classic arcade fun for all ages: Run, jump and stomp on enemies’ heads while collecting coins, nabbing ability-enhancing power-ups and exploring the Mushroom Kingdom’s candy-colored cartoon world. Featuring favorite characters such as Mario, Toad and Luigi, it offers familiar fast-paced thrills that players of every skill level can enjoy, plus a new twist: The ability for GamePad users to try and assist or antagonize others enjoying simultaneous multiplayer challenges. Besides a raft of sweet features – e.g. bonuses like the Flying Squirrel suit, options to import your Mii virtual avatar into various challenges, and more – it’s also the first must-have title for the system. Blending nostalgia with new high-tech tricks, we’d be amazed if it also wasn’t the first bestseller.
An original adventure pairing Mr. M-O-U-S-E himself with less well-known predecessor Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, this gorgeously-appointed action-adventure sends you wandering through a world of forgotten Disney characters and backdrops. Wielding a magical paint brush and high-powered remote control, players must help the twin heroes solve tricky puzzles, overcome fiendish foes and explore an evolving storyline that changes based on your choices. Support for two-man cooperative (co-op) play lets friends and family get in on the excitement, and Wii U owners benefit especially, with the GamePad offering a second view on the action. As much a love letter to Disney’s creations as first-rate gaming experience, its rich storyline, engaging suite of challenges and atmospheric environs make the title a top draw this holiday season.
Rewinding the clock to the Revolutionary War, the latest in the multimillion-selling action-adventure series – wherein discerning adults play a historical hitman – puts you in the shoes of a lethal assassin. From the Battle of Bunker Hill to raging shipboard engagements and the streets of New York, you get a chance to rewrite history by cleverly stalking and eliminating targets, then making daring acrobatic escapes. Set in a living, breathing 3D world of haunting characters and locales, it’s designed to test both your wits and reflexes. The Wii U edition provides added benefits by putting a map of targets’ locations right at-hand, and offers touch commands for easy weapon switching when it’s time to do your patriotic duty.
Among the most original puzzle games of the past decade, Scribblenauts Unlimited provides a clever approach to tackling challenges: With a touch of your finger, you can create objects and summon them on-screen to help hero Maxwell. Literally thousands of combinations are possible as you mix and match parts while moving through a seemingly hand-drawn, open-ended world designed to be traveled at your leisure. Inventions can also be shared online for friends to remix and pass along, making the title among the more creative options out there for kids and adults alike. Anyone who’s ever spent hours idly doodling in a notepad will understand its promise immediately.
EA Sports’ line of popular athletic simulations – other options include FIFA Soccer 13, NHL 13, etc. – has been a longstanding hit with gamers of all ages. But even though, similar to its siblings, Madden NFL 13 is available (and highly recommended) on other systems, you haven’t seen virtual football like this before. Letting you take on the role of player or coach, and play in dazzling HD, the key upside here are touchscreen commands – you can use the GamePad to call plays, make substitutions and more in the most intuitive format yet seen on a gaming console. Backed by online connectivity, authentic game day presentation and commentary, and the same pigskin action millions know and love, it’s clearly among the year’s hottest new MVPs for sporting fans.
Enjoy 3D fighting games? Check out the latest in the long-running martial arts series, which amps up the action with a huge roster of brawlers who can kick, punch and flying uppercut their way through one-on-one, one-on-two, or two-on-two tag team battles. Over 50 bruisers to pick from, extensive multiplayer support (up to four can get in on the action) and loads of extra features – i.e. killer replay videos, numerous game modes, extensive practice options, and an arresting range of international stages to scrap on – add ample replay value. If you’re looking for head-to-head action with a bit of nuance, you’ll find its strategic showdowns demand approaching with a sense of gravity, even as a range of kooky costumes and gonzo characters reflect the title’s unwillingness to take itself too seriously.
Outside of the Resident Evil series, horror-themed games typically aren’t the first thing you’d associate with Nintendo’s traditionally family-friendly systems. But UbiSoft hopes to challenge players’ thinking in this promising new survival horror outing custom-designed for the Wii U that pits you against legions of walking dead. Set in a London overrun by walking cadavers, your goal is simple: Stay alive. But that’s easier said than done when you have to keep glancing between your GamePad controller and the TV, or dealing with competing players in multiplayer modes that let evil-minded pals try and plague friends by becoming an adversarial Zombie Master.
Yes, the critically-acclaimed run-n-gun franchise is available on other systems such as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360; an obvious choice for first-person shooter fans; and for Mature audiences only. But if you’re a discerning adult looking for a Hollywood-style gun battle experience that’s sure to make the neighbors’ jaws drop, then pop this neo-futuristic firefight in and watch their eyes bug out of their head. Boasting branching storylines, multiplayer standoffs so immersive you’ll enjoy weeks’ worth of excitement from just these modes alone, and support for second-screen play (i.e. touchscreen controls for picking maps or loadouts), rest assured. For pure, white-knuckle thrills, they don’t make ‘em better than this – or more capable of keeping you glued to the screen, whichever (TV or GamePad) you prefer.
Mass Effect 3 (Role-Playing)
SiNG Party (Music)
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge (Action-Adventure)
Pikmin 3 (Strategy)
Ben 10: Omniverse (Action)
Sonic & All-Stars Racing (Racing)
007 Legends (Shooter)
Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013 (Simulation)
Darksiders II (Action-Adventure)
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