Holiday Gift Guide 2012: Gadgets
Need the kind of gift that will make the special someone in your life go “wow” this holiday season? We’ve got you covered with part three of The GATE’s Holiday Gift Guide: the gadgets. This week we bring you some suggestions for the hottest gadgets and technology, including cameras, headphones, speakers, a tablet, and more.
My favorite gift this season also happens to be one of the most expensive items on the list, but the Parrot Zik is worth every penny.
These powerful, beautifully designed headphones offer some of the best options you will find on any headphones. Whether you’re using them wired or wireless (they come with optional wires you can attach to any standard audio port), on your phone or on a device or through your computer, the Zik headpones are just purely amazing on every level.
Designed by Starck, the headphones are surprisingly simple: there’s an on button, a USB port to plug them in, and a port for the audio cable. Once they’re on, however, and connected through Bluetooth, users can control playback through the touch-sensitive area on the side of the headphones. Swipe up or down on the right side of the headphones to raise or lower the volume, or swipe forward or backwards to change tracks–it’s simple and easy. The headphones even pause music if you take them off in the middle of a song.
When used with a mobile device, users can also download the Parrot Audio Suite app to adjust the noise-cancelling, equalization, and concert-hall style effect options.
Best of all, the headphones are simply comfortable, and sound great without any adjustments.
While the price tag is higher than most headphones, they are durable and well made, and they are sure to put a smile on the face of your favorite audiophile, gamer, or technology junkie.
Microsoft Surface with Windows RT
There are numerous tablets available this holiday season, but Microsoft’s Surface sets a new standard for a powerful device that’s both comfortable and easy to use for a respectable price.
The Surface itself is a sturdy, cleanly designed tablet that not only sports a full-size USB port, but also a relatively unseen extra: a built-in kick stand that is surprisingly useful. Packaged with 32 GB on the base model–twice the amount of most competitors–the Surface is also quick, with a clean interface, and a bright, responsive display.
While app support for the Microsoft Surface is still a little low, existing Windows users will enjoy the tablet, which offers easy access to Windows computers and their content.
Topping it all off, you can pick up covers for the Surface, which feature a keyboard on the inside, for $129.99 each. The covers take what is otherwise a solid tablet, and make the device a practical lightweight laptop replacement for most users, and a great all-round tablet for anyone.
—-Nikon Coolpix S01
The Nikon Coolpix S01 is possibly the cutest little camera you will ever see, but despite that size, it offers a decent view screen and good features, including a flash, zoom, and audio-video output through USB.
With built-in memory, and a 10-megapixel sensor, the S01 is also just a simple, easy-to-use camera for any age, with quality that exceeds what you could expect from mobile phones.
The price point also makes it affordable for most budgets, with room to spare for some other goodies.
Nikon Coolpix S800C
If you’re looking for a camera with a little more power, look no further than the Nikon Coolpix S800C.
This Android-powered camera acts more like a mobile phone than a standard point-and-shoot, but unlike your phone, the S800C packs in a 16-megapixel sensor with a solid f3.2-5.8, 25 to 250mm lens.
The real perk of the S800C though is the fact that you can run Android apps off of the camera, allowing you to upload photos directly to Facebook, Twitter, or any of your favorite social media websites.
Featuring HDMI and USB ports, and a big touch-sensitive display screen, the S800C is a great all-purpose camera that works very well in low-light conditions, or almost anywhere you want to take it.
Edifier On The Go Encore – iF350
Edifier has a number of great portable music systems, but one of my favorites this year is the Edifier On The Go Encore, which features a remote control, built-in rechargeable battery, and an FM tuner, all built in to a device that connects with your iPhone or iPod.
Audio quality on the Encore is good, and will fill most average spaces, and the device folds down to travel exceptionally well for road trips with the carrying pouch that comes with it.
Using the AUX input port on the back of the Encore, it’s also easy to connect other MP3 players for the same quality sound.
For the price, the Encore is a great deal, and it won’t disappoint in terms of sound or overall quality. With the remote, it’s also perfect for an office, living room, or for the bedroom.
For users looking for a more advanced speaker system, the Sonos Play offers a networkable device that plays music or streaming services directly through your wireless router.
While I did not get a chance to review the Play:3, the device speaks for itself. Once it’s connected through Wi-fi, the speaker can play standard audio files or services like Rdio or Last.fm, and you can pair two of the speakers up in the same room to act as the left and right channels, or just set one speaker up as a single output.
Sonos also revealed this week that the Sonos app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch now also allows you to play music directly from the devices.
——MXL Tempo USB Condenser
For the budding singer, podcaster, or just for the person who loves to talk online, the MXL Tempo USB Condenser is a great entry-level microphone that works for PC and Mac, and best of all, it’s very easy to set up.
Featuring a headphone jack for audio quality monitoring, and a stand to keep it firmly positioned where you need it, the Tempo microphone can handle most of your audio needs. It’s a sturdy piece of equipment that can withstand a lot of abuse.
Thanks to the simple USB connection, you just need to plug it in, and select it as your default microphone, and you’re ready to go. The audio quality is also well above what the average built-in microphone can offer, making Skype or other online calls clearer than before.
Radio controlled helicopters come in all shapes and sizes, but the Black Swann stands out because it’s not just a fun toy, but also because it comes with a built-in video camera.
While the mini-helicopter can be a challenge to fly–you’re best flying in a moderately-sized space to reduce the risk of crashes–it’s a lot of fun, and it can take a fair amount of abuse too.
My favorite feature though is the 640 x 480 video camera, which records to a MicroSD card slot and can be saved using a card reader that comes with the helicopter. To record video, you just have to press a button on the remote control, and the quality is surprisingly good, even in fairly dim conditions.
For the child, or the big kid in your life, this is a great toy. Just be warned that the remote control takes 6 AA batteries, and the helicopter’s built-in rechargeable battery needs to charge for 70 minutes for 6-8 minutes of flying time.
Coming up next in our Holiday Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers!