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Plug into a very techie Christmas
When you’re busting down retailers’ doors, ‘yule’ find lots to like
If you’re reading this while in line at Best Buy, you’ve probably got the proper attitude for Black Friday, the day-after- Thanksgiving extravaganza (which now starts on Turkey Thursday in some places), when the “cool” gifts are on sale at blow-down-the-door prices.
But whether you’re shopping today or next week, there are plenty of items worth getting for the techie on your gift list … or even for yourself.
Wii Wish U a Merry Christmas: One of the most popular items this year — despite what some critics call an incomplete presentation — is Nintendo’s new Wii U, which, the firm notes, is its “first new home video-game system in six years.”
Connectivity — to an external display such as your fl at-screen TV, and to the Internet and a variety of entertainment services — is the order of the day, according to the maker: “Wii U is an ‘everyday’ connected device — offering a combination of games, entertainment, online connectivity and social activity that will make people want to interact with it daily,” Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime said in a statement.
You can choose between Wii U models, according to Nintendo. The $299.99 Wii U Basic Set features a white Wii U console with 8GB of internal storage, one white touch-screen GamePad controller, AC adapters for both the console and controller, a sensor bar and an HDMI cable to connect to the aforementioned fl at-screen TV. My recommendation: Spend the extra $50 and get the Wii U Deluxe Set, featuring black components. But the extra money buys the Nintendo Land game, increased internal storage totaling 32GB, a console stand, a GamePad stand and a GamePad charging cradle.
Now the downside: Promised services to bring Netfl ix and other video sources to the Wii U aren’t here yet, but are expected in December. For the youngest Wii U devotees, that may not be much of an issue, but it is at least a speed bump on the way to videogame/TV/ media integration, Nintendo-wise.
Small wonder: Amazon.com’s Kindle Fire HD gets my vote for small tablet of the year. The $199 Kindle Fire, with a 7-inch display, does a great job, in my opinion, of being an e-book reader extraordinaire, a very solid media player (with built-in, two-speaker, Dolby sound) and even a decent Web browser/ email reader. No, I wouldn’t want to do office work on it or dash o! more than a very short message. But it’s a lot better than many other similar-sized tablets out there.
If, for you, size matters more, spend an extra $100 for the 8.9-inch display-size model of the device. Want constant wireless connectivity? A $499, 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD model includes a wireless data radio that lets you access (separately priced) AT&T wireless data services.
For me, the 7-inch model and Wi-Fi are more than enough to suit my purposes. A key factor in choosing Amazon’s product is the ecosystem: millions and millions of books, songs, movies, TV shows, etc. at reasonable prices and accessible via iPhone or iPad or computer applications.
Still the one: Although I’ve yet to be won over by the iPad mini, chiefly because the lowest-cost model is $329, its big brother, the “new” iPad, with the phenomenal, high-resolution Retina Display, remains the one plus ultra of tablet computers. Yes, it starts at $499 for a 16GB, Wi-Fi only model, and yes, each “bump” in memory, 32 or 64GB, adds another $100, topping out at $699. Also true: Adding a wireless radio for AT&T or Verizon or Sprint data service means adding another $130 to each unit, making the top-top model $829.
Yes, all that’s true. But when it comes to full-featured tablet computers, there is nothing on the market today offering the range of applications, accessories and performance that the iPad brings to the game. Proof: Microsoft’s Surface tablet, just launched and seen by very few, earned Twitter plaudits from Oprah Winfrey, who wrote from her iPad.
Pocket camera wonders:You can get a lot of digital camera for $499, but you probably won’t find a better compact camera at that price than the Nikon COOLPIX P-7700, which can shoot still images and 1080p HD video. According to the firm, the camera sports a “sharp 7.1x zoom NIKKOR ED glass lens with a maximum aperture of f/2 and a 12.2-megapixel CMOS sensor.” Translation: You’ll get a very good picture from a small package. I’m also impressed with the range of manual controls available — allowing users to adjust almost every aspect of the photograph — as well as the fold-out (or, articulating) LED viewing screen. That makes over-the-head shooting easier, such as from standing room at FedEx Field.
Fashionistas with a visual bent will go for Nikon’s $179.95 COOLPIX S01, a camera so tiny you would hardly notice it’s there. Colors for the camera body include red, white, silver and pink. Controlling the camera is done via a small touchscreen which doubles as a viewfinder. This tiny package produces rather exceptional images of 10.1-megapixel quality. It strikes me as a great party companion, except it can’t serve as your designated driver for the evening.
Computer choices: Some of the best computer options this year may not be available on “Black Friday,” since Apple’s newest 27-inch iMac desktops won’t hit stores until December. These machines, like their 21-inch siblings supposedly now available, can be ordered with a “Fusion Drive,” combining 1 terabyte of hard disk storage with 128GB of solid-state (or flash memory) storage. The solid-state drive stores the operating system and most-used programs for quick starts; the hard drive holds the rest. The new iMacs, when available, will start at $1,299, but models with the Fusion Drive will cost more.
For Windows aficionados, the $999 ASUS All-in-One PC ET2300 is a stunner: a 23-inch, high-definition display that can fold flat to turn the device into a gigantic touch-screen tablet computer. The Windows 8 operating system, not loved by all but certainly touch-friendly, complements the machine’s power and prowess, found in 6GB of RAM and a 1 TB hard drive, along with wireless display capability to stream images to compatible high-def TVs. Your greatest challenge might be finding one, however: Microsoft’s online store lists the ET2300 as being out of stock. Start hunting.
Phone of the year, maybe the decade:There really is no contest, as far as this reviewer is concerned: Apple’s iPhone 5 outclasses rivals with a mix of many available applications, a stunning display and, oh yes, very good battery life. This is a smartphone that can run all day without needing a recharge. Pricing starts at $199 for a 16GB model (with a wireless service plan), but, trust me: Spend $399 for the 64GB model. As I’ve said before, you’ll thank me.
Nokia’s Lumia 920 smartphone, available right now exclusively through AT&T, seems a bargain at $99.99, but user complaints about the phone’s stability cloud its future. The phone uses Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 operating system, but the technical hassles — my test unit was singularly not nice — raise a caution flag for me. If you chance this, get a promise that you can trade it in if need be.
Accessorize: Looking for earbuds for that tablet or smartphone? Look no further than RHA’s noise isolating, in-ear MA450i ones, list price $49.95, They’re machined from solid, aircraft-grade aluminum. The firm says “10mm [audio] drivers are housed within unique, aerophonically designed earphones engineered to produce outstanding audio,” and I can’t disagree one bit. Also nice are the range of interchangeable ear tips (for a great fit) and a 1.5m fabric braided cable, equipped with an Apple-compatible, three-button, in-line remote and microphone for phone calls.
Another nice item is a good case: The AYANO: Luminous Collection of phone case/clutches for the iPhone 5 clock in at $59.99, but also define luxury: They feature an enlarged camera hole to reduce shadow and glare for instant picture taking, without removing the phone; compartments for cash, credit cards and ID; and a convertible strap allowing the case to be carried as a clutch, wristlet or mini purse.
Don’t need a clutch? Try the Acase: Collatio, a card case/iPhone holder of leather and suede that will hold your phone in style. The price is $39.99, and you can order it from Amazon.com.
Sending the children to school with a tablet or notebook computer? Backpacks from iSafe come with a concealed audible alarm system with an undetectable activation pin conveniently built in to the shoulder strap. The maker says an activated alarm “yields a shrilling noise and flashing lights, to bring attention to any potentially harmful or dangerous situations.” The Urban Crew Campus Laptop Backpack model ($89.99) has seven zippered compartments, a computer sleeve, an audio player pocket and padded shoulder straps for added comfort. The pack comes in five bright color schemes, including black, red, purple, green and pink, and weighs 3 pounds with the alarm system and batteries when empty. It might come in handy someday.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Mark A. Kellner is a religion columnist for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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