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When Dad has everything, technology delivers more

Awe him this Father’s Day with the latest in tablets, accessories and sound

- - Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ever-restless, technology never sleeps and never ceases to surpass itself. That's why even for the "man who has everything," there's always a new tech gift on the horizon. Here are a few your Dad may not have, but likely would enjoy.

Tale of the tabs

Digital tablets are handy for reading, e-mailing and even video chatting. You know, for when you want to visit but can't.

Apple Inc.'s iPad (starting at $399 for the iPad 2 and $499 for the "new" model that bowed in March) is the gold standard. A whopping 73 percent of consumers surveyed in April by Bethesda-based ChangeWave Research said they want to buy an iPad, while only 8 percent preferred Amazon.com's Kindle Fire device.

The differences between the tablets are many, but the chief one is size: The new iPad is sleek and large, with a 9.7-inch "retina display" that delivers incredible photo and video images. The Kindle Fire, no slouch in the optics department, counters with a 7-inch display and a budget-friendly $199 price tag.

Which one to buy? If you're looking to give Dad something that could, in many ways, replace his bulky desktop or notebook PC, the iPad wins, hands down. The ocean of applications, the many accessories (see below) and the vast user base assure a great future here.

On the other hand, the more I think about the Kindle Fire, the more I like it as a bedside/chairside "reader" and media device. If Dad is an Amazon Prime customer, he can borrow tons of books free of charge — including Stephen R. Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" and the entire "Harry Potter" series — stream videos and movies, and have it all in a rather handy size.

On the case

Protecting that portable tablet is another matter.

Amazon offers its own cases, and some others, for the Kindle Fire, but for variety, the iPad market reigns supreme. Firms such as OtterBox, iLuv and ZAGG are among those offering a wide selection of on-the-go options.

OtterBox is noted for producing rugged cases that can stand some heavy conditions. Nothing is impervious, but the OtterBox line — which also has cases for the Apple iPhone and some other smartphones — is worth investigation, particularly if your Dad is, well, in any way accident-prone.

Those looking for something sleek and snazzy for Dad's new iPad will want the $99.99 Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover (http://bit.ly/MBYdNK). Charge up the keyboard, and its magnetic flap clips on to the iPad's side. To type, position the tablet, in either portrait or landscape mode, on the keyboard, link the two via Bluetooth, and you're good to go. I've used one for about a week, and it's magnificent.

Sound investments

For a smartphone with a beat, try the HTC One X, featuring Beats Audio, the high-tech, high-quality sound endorsed by rapper Dr. Dre, along with a wireless speaker system called the Beatbox. AT&T will sell you the phone for $199.99 with a two-year contract, or $549 without the commitment. The Beatbox, sold separately for $399, will handle music from the HTC phone or, ironically, dock an Apple iPhone or iPod.

Keep in mind that the HTC One X is an Android-based phone, based on the Google-created operating system. Apps come from the "Android Store," so those expecting connections to Apple's iTunes and associated applications will be disappointed. Then again, the Android platform does have its fans out there, and the addition of high-quality audio is a plus, indeed.

I remain a committed fan of the Sonos line of Internet-friendly audio products. Connect one (or more) to your home's wireless or wired network, and stream music from your computers or the Internet. Two days after Father's Day, the firm is expected to launch the "Sub," a $699 subwoofer that's also wireless; link it to the proper Sonos device (see www.sonos.com for details), and the firm says you'll rattle your fillings. Well, they actually claim floor-pounding bass, if that's your thing.

The $119 NuForce Cube offers a portable speaker, a headphone amplifier, and a USB digital audio converter all in one. It comes from a firm noted for its high-end audio products and can probably help make those long road trips easier to bear.

If it's bass in your earbuds you crave, check out Jays a-Jays product, featuring flat, tangle-free cables, as well as a three-button remote and microphone for the iPhone. The firm says these headphones were "tweaked to perform even better in the voice frequency ranges," which, for $69.99, isn't a bad deal.

Some dads may prefer an on-ear headphone, and for those who appreciate products that are high-quality and a little quirky, the Redemption Song OE headphones from the House of Marley (http://bit.ly/Mgmy5e) are well worth the $199.99 price tag. Everything about these headphones is either sustainable (as in the raw materials used to make the product) or easily recyclable (as in the packaging, made from recycled paper).

What isn't recycled, by any stretch, is the awesome sound. Listening to Carlos Santana's classic "Oye Como Va," I thought for a moment that his ensemble was next to me rather than being a recording on my iPhone. These headphones are distinctive without being overly flashy, and the sound, again, is just awesome, whether it's Santana or Johann Strauss' "Radetzky March."

Label mate

Epson's LabelWorks LW-300 and LW-400 label printers, $39.99 and $49.99 respectively, will generate pressure-sensitive labels to classify all the stuff in Dad's garage, attic or basement. According to Epson, the "LW-300 works with a variety of tape widths ranging from six millimeters (~1/4 inch) to 12 millimeters (~1/2 inch)," while the "LW-400 accommodates tapes up to 18 millimeters (~3/4 inch) wide. The tapes are available in a variety of traditional colors, as well as specialty colors and textures such as metallic, fluorescent, pearlized, iron-on, and glow-in-the-dark," which suggests there is a label for just about every use, and a way to keep Dad occupied for many weekends to come.