Stuff to Buy Channel / Bullz-Eye Home
If you've ever tried to buy a gadget for a supergeek, you know just how hard it can be. There are different model numbers to worry about, upgrades, spec changes, different software versions, firmware versions and then all the normal questions – what color, what size, do I get the warranty? It's so overwhelming that, as the geek in question, I understand why I've typically received the majority of my holiday haul in bright yellow Best Buy gift cards.
Luckily for you, I'm here to help. The following gifts would be perfect for any tech lover, young and old, and I've included a few options for the nerd who has everything.
I know what you're thinking – cell phones are the ultimate geek status symbol. That's a fact and I won't argue it, but this isn't the year. I can't stress this enough. If you love your geek, if you want to show him (or her) that you took the time to pick out the perfect gift, do not
buy a phone. The biggest reason is this: Verizon is almost certainly going to get the iPhone in the first quarter of next year. The American carriers love
to lock you in for two years of service, particularly before their competitors release high-profile devices like the iPhone. If you know someone who's waiting for a phone, do what your mom did when a gift didn't arrive in the mail on time. Give the gift of an IOU for the phone of your loved one's choosing. He'll know what phone he wants and whether or not it would be best to wait.
A couple of months ago I moved to an apartment with limited options for router placement. Unfortunately, my office had to be opposite my internet connection, so no more wired Xbox. I decided to upgrade to the new 360 S, a slimmer version of the old model with a built-in wireless network adapter. I couldn't be happier. The new models are not only smaller, they've also been redesigned to run quieter and cooler, virtually eliminating the Red Ring of Death from models past. I think a lot of people will also appreciate the return to a black console. It just looks better next to your black DVD player and your black TV. Don't forget, Kinect just launched too, making this the system of choice.
Booq was kind enough to send me a Boa Nerve S this year for review, and I can honestly say, I've never been so happy with a laptop bag. The Boa is one of those bags that has a place for everything and yet still manages to be fairly slim and light. Beyond the standard features that make a bag good, Booq built in some nice extras. For your bicycle commuters, there's an extra strap that lashes the bag against your body. I can't tell you how amazing a feature this is. It's exactly this kind of feature that shows how much thought goes into Booq's design. Another simple touch is a plastic handle that allows you to grab the bag in a hurry. It doesn't sound like much, but if you've ever tried to juggle a latte, a laptop, and your bag to get to the seat with an outlet, you know how handy it can be.
There's a threshold of skill after which a gamer can only be as good as his equipment, so put something good in his hands. The NZXT Avatar sports a 2600 DPI LED optical sensor for maximum precision running at a max framerate of 6469 FPS. I realize none of that makes a lick of sense to you, the gracious gifter, but just believe when I say those specs are really nice for a mouse at this price range (it's really not that
expensive, I promise). I should also mention that, yes, Razer is the hot name in gaming peripherals, but I've played with both the Avatar and the Naga and frankly, I prefer the NZXT if only because there aren't so many damn buttons. Razer's Naga makes me feel like I'm resting my hand on a bomb - one false move and I use a bunch of skills I never intended. If your gamer is a WoW player, the Naga isn't a bad choice, so I've listed it in the "Also Consider" for this category.
Call of Duty: Black Ops will easily mark the biggest release for the gaming industry this year. It's a game with a massive following, and gamers will log millions of hours over the next six months just trying to be the first to reach max rank of Prestige. If you want to help your loved one indulge in a wartime bloodbath, these are the perfect headphones. These Psyko 5.1s don't use any sort of digital processing, so there's no latency in sound. You can pinpoint the enemy units sneaking up on you, giving you the jump for a kill. The sound will actually save your ass in game, which means you get to spend more quality time behind a scope instead of staring down the business end.
I rarely endorse the first generation hardware from any manufacturer, and Apple is no different. The first generation is almost always a test, and the developers usually have the specs for the second generation ready to go as soon as the first one launches. Three or four months later and the early adopters are stuck upgrading or dealing with eventual disappointment. Not so with Apple TV. Technically this is the second generation, but the platform and subsequent Apple support are so new it's basically a first-gen product. The good news is that the good stuff is in the software, not the hardware, so you're free to adopt as early as you like. Apple TV is an excellent hub for media sharing at the TV, and a particularly good option if the geek in your life isn't a gamer.
This isn't a gift for the tech savvy so much as the technically challenged. My own family is currently spread across four different states and that could soon become five. We don't see each other much outside holidays, but it's nice to occasionally jump on Skype for a video call. Skype is easy enough for most people to figure out - certainly easy enough to talk someone through over the phone - but, for whatever reason, people have trouble understanding webcams. The Logitech C510 takes a lot of the guesswork out of video chatting. It takes 720p video, has automatic adjustments for ambient lighting and sound, and it works with just about every chatting service out there. As an added bonus, the C510 can swivel a full 360 degrees, so there's no lifting of laptop to get a look at a loved ones new abode.
As far as ease-of-use, you'd be hard pressed to beat this new Flip MinoHD. Small, sleek and ultra convenient, this is a great little camcorder to have stashed in your pocket or your companion's purse for any video-worthy events that may crop up. With 8 GB of built-in memory, you can shoot up to two hours of stunning HD video (720p / 60fps), and then organize and share those videos using the included FlipShare software. The MinoHD's newest feature, image stabilization, is definitely a welcomed addition, but it would be nice if this had an external chargeable battery so that you could have a spare on hand when you're using the camera. As is, as soon as the battery runs out, you're out of commission until it's recharged and ready to go again. Still, while there are all sorts of options in the pocket camcorder arena, this Flip MinoHD is definitely a contender.
As much as I hate on early adopting, it can be a lot of fun to be on the cutting edge of the newest technology. The 3D industry is still in its infancy, but we're already seeing some very cool gadgets that are capable of some very cool things. The Aiptek 3D Camcorder does exactly what the name suggests - it records 3D video. This little digital video recorder sports two sensors in order to capture a bifocal image. It also has a built-in 3D display on the back, so you can watch what you shoot without worrying about those pesky glasses. Obviously that doesn't work on other screens, so each Aiptek 3D comes with a pair of red and cyan glasses for larger screen viewings. The videos can be uploaded to YouTube in 3D, so your friends can view them, so long as they have 3D glasses of your own. At $200, it seems a little expensive, but it would make a very cool gift for your Avatar-obsessed friends.
What do you get for the geek who has everything? Focus on something that doubles its nerd cred with great functionality. Everyday items are usually best, because that's typically where your average gadget lover has gone without. As far as thermos mugs go, these camera lens coffee mugs are a little pricey, but more than a little bit awesome. Built to exactly resemble an SLR lens, these mugs will turn many a geeky head. The mugs come in different sizes, as represented by the actual different lenses. The models I've currently seen are 70-200mm for those extra tall lattes and 24-105mm for something a little more squat. These mugs are the perfect marriage of everyday activity and geeky guilty pleasure.
When it comes to handy little gadgets, the Zhip is a must-have for anyone on the go, particularly those who often find themselves in need of something to keep their kids occupied in a pinch. With its detachable hook and three-foot long "no drop" cord, the Zhip (pronounced "zip") gives you a convenient way to mount your smart phone to the back of a car seat, onto the treadmill at the gym, on the seat in front of you on an airplane, or just about anywhere you can string the Zhip up. Just clamp the "no scratch" claws around your phone, pull out the detachable hook, wrap the cord around a stationary and secure object, tighten and lock the cord, and you're all set. Of course, you can leave the cord retracted and just use the Zhip as a desktop stand. We haven't had a chance to put the Zhip through all the paces yet (we're eager to try it out on a plane), but with what we've seen so far, we're confident this pocket-sized wonder can adapt to just about any situation.
In today’s computerized world, where you rarely need to leave your computer, let alone your house, it’s a given that your PC needs to be equipped with both a high-quality microphone and a top-notch camera. It’s been quite some time since the folks at Blue Microphones first made the technological leap to combine these two pieces of hardware with their wondrous Eyeball, but mark 2010 down as the year they upgraded and offered us the must-own 2.0 version. We’ve tested it out firsthand, using it for our editorial meetings (when you’re a web magazine with contributors spread across several states, online meetings are the only way to go), and, as such, we can vouch for the sound quality from repeated use. Of course, none of us actually wants to look at each other during these meetings, but we’ve also done a few video interviews, so we’re still able to vouch for the picture quality. Best of all, the Eyeball 2.0 is reasonably priced, coming it at under $50 just about everywhere you might care to shop.
It's strange to make a gift list with two "don't buys" on it, but in the gadget world I think it's really important advice. As with the smartphone, this just isn't the right time for the iPad. If your loved one is really jonesing for a tablet consider one of the many options on the market. You could go for the Dell Streak or the Archos 9, but I'd say both are a little pricey for what they offer. I really like the iPad, but as I mentioned on the Apple TV, I can't recommend buying the first generation. Apple has already stated that there would be millions of FaceTime enabled devices in the market in 2011. You can bet the iPad will soon be one of them. Teardowns of the iPad case have already revealed space for a camera at the top of the bezel. It's not just FaceTime you'll be waiting on, though. That same camera can be used with Skype or any other video messaging program. Unless you absolutely have to have one, try to wait a couple months. You could also give an IOU, as I mentioned for the smartphone.