Tech toys for the holidays
Dec 1, 2007, 11:52 GMT
Despite rocketing corporate value and two market-leading videogame consoles, Nintendo Co.\'s president Satoru Iwata (pictured left) has denied rumours that it is to implement a price cut to its innovative Wii hardware ahead of the busy holiday season. EPA/FRANCK ROBICHON
Washington - The holiday season is fast approaching in many parts of the world. And that means gift-giving time is near.
Technology gifts are among the most popular these days, and with good reason. Just about everyone needs or uses some technology gadget, and most folks have a tech toy or two on their wish list.
But unless you know which technology gifts are worth giving and which you should pass up, the number of choices available can be daunting. Never fear: here are some ideas to get you started.
--- Nintendo Wii
If you can find a Nintendo Wii gaming console locally or online, it's sure to be a hit among game-playing members of the family. Even those who might not normally indulge in technology-based games can and do have fun with the ground-breaking Wii, which is no doubt why it's in such short supply around the world.
What Wii has over other gaming consoles is that it offers the first usable implementation of virtual reality available to consumers. Instead of sitting at a computer or holding punch-pad controllers in front of a television set, Wii's games get you up and moving.
The Wii controllers allow your real-world movements to be coordinated with the actions of on-screen characters. So if you're playing Wii tennis, for instance, you stand up and swing the controller as though you were holding a tennis racket. Your strokes determine how your on-screen character swings - and the effect is remarkably life-like. You can play against the Wii console or against another person - and the standard games delivered with Wii are both fun and varied.
--- Easy grip digital camera
There's little doubt that taking pictures can be fun, even for kids. But for kids under 10, regular digital cameras can be too difficult to use - and too fragile. That's why a number of companies have recently focused on creating rugged, easy-to-use, and easy-to- handle digital cameras. The results are surprisingly good.
Digital Concepts' Crayola VGA camera, for instance, is made of tough plastic and has two big handles that allow kids to hold up the camera to frame images on the 1.3-inch preview screen. The VGA- resolution camera housed inside takes pictures good enough to for use in the simple, project-oriented software that comes with the unit.
Many of the big names in kids toys - including Fisher Price and Disney - have unveiled digital cameras aimed at tots. Most are reasonably priced - under 50 dollars - and come with software that gives kids all kinds of neat ways to use their pictures.
--- Dual format DVD player
Lots of folks have or are getting high-definition LCD televisions these days. There's only one problem: most DVD players can't play high-def DVDs. The main problem, though, is not the players themselves but the fact there's still a war raging between proponents of Sony's Blue Ray high-definition standard and those of the HD DVD standard, backed by Sony, NEC, and others. DVD player manufacturers and consumers alike have been holding back until one camp wins the standards war.
LG, though, has bucked this trend and started shipping a hybrid DVD player that works with both Blu Ray and HD DVD disks. Although other manufacturers have announced plans to release hybrid players, they've all been slow to get products on shelves. For now, the LG Super Blu High-Def Multiplayer is one of the hottest DVD players on the market. You'll pay a price for the pleasure - these units can cost over 700 dollars - but your worries about which standard will win the high-def standards war will be over.
--- Mobile multifunction devices
When it comes to portable electronics, multifunction is in - and for good reason. Who wants to carry around a separate MP3 player, cell phone, digital camera, GPS, and notebook computer to access e- mail messages? Practically no one.
That's why the iPhone is so coveted, and if you can afford one, it's hard to go wrong giving one as a gift. But if you're going to spend the kind of money you'll have to lay out for an iPhone - probably over 500 dollars - you should also put the Nokia N95 smartphone on your shopping list.
Both devices give you the staples of mobile multimedia devices: phone, MP3 player, Internet capability, and video playback.
But remember that Nokia has been doing phones a lot longer than Apple, maker of the iPhone, has. Plus the N95 boasts a better internal camera, more hookup options, GPS, video capture, and compatibility with more wireless networks. The iPhone is slimmer, but the N95 beats it in features that matter to many.
--- External hard drive
Storage might be boring, but the fact is that no one has enough - and no one particularly enjoys buying storage for themselves. That makes a gift of storage ideal for the tech-connected person on your gift-giving list.
Today there are many types of external, portable storage. USB keys plug right into a free USB port, giving the user an extra gigabyte or two of additional storage. Heftier storage requirements can be fulfilled with any of the widely available 'backup' drives from manufacturers such as Seagate and Western Digital. Prices range from 50 to 300 dollars.
--- Notebook computer
If you're vying for another person in your household for time on the computer, maybe a gift of a notebook could solve two problems at once. Dell and other major manufacturers now have fully-equipped notebooks for less than 500 dollars, and they're fine for students or others with needs that don't go much beyond checking e-mail, surfing the Internet, or playing the occasional game.
For lower-priced tech gifts, don't forget to look at what those on your gift-giving list already have - and then consider accessories for them. Digital camera users are always in need of more memory to hold pictures - and you'll find Compact Flash and Smart Media cards for as little as 25 dollars.
iPods have a huge array of useful accessories that are available at most local electronics stores. Computers themselves can always be enhanced with useful add-ons - everything from a headset for using Skype or speech recognition to a Web cam that will enable video chatting online.
Cases for notebooks, paper for printers, cleansers for keyboards and monitors - the range of accessories available today is staggering but provide plenty of options for inexpensive but appreciated holiday gifts.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur