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

Best Holiday Gifts: Home Products

22 November, 2012 Life No comments
Best Holiday Gifts: Home Products

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.

Holiday Gift Guide: Top Kids Games

19 November, 2012 Play No comments
Holiday Gift Guide: Top Kids Games

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.