- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Here’s a look at a few of the best and brightest gift ideas for the electronic entertainment lover in the family.

NES Classic Edition

What is it? A gaming system
Price:
$59.99
Gift group:
Gamers looking for a heavy dose of 1980s nostalgia

Santa’s scoop: Nintendo takes owners down a very long and colorful 8-bit memory lane with a compact, plug-and-play version of its original, 1985 entertainment system.

Aboard a box looking like a mini-me version of its grand daddy (sized 5 inches long by 4 inches wide) are 30 legendary games from the era including “Donkey Kong,” “Mario Bros.,” “Castlevania,” “Pac-Man,” “Metroid,” “Ninja Gaiden,” “Kirby’s Adventure,” “Punch Out!!” and “Ghosts and Goblins.”

Once plugged into a television or monitor, three visual settings spice up the antiquated, pixelated action, all in a 4:3 aspect ratio. Purists should stick to the “CRT Filter” option to get the most faithful, albeit, worst-looking result complete with excess of blur and scan lines.


SEE ALSO: Holiday Gift Guide 2016: Best in home and health gadgets and electronics


And, just like the original system, coach potatoes will need to get off their butts to hit a reset button on the box to get out of a game. They will return to the main menu screen to select a new challenge and will even see a saved bookmark of the game they were playing.

I was simply mesmerized during sessions with memorable games such as “Tecmo Bowl” (cheesy football at its finest) and “Galaga” (a more intense “Space Invaders”), taking me back to a simpler time in my video game history.

The package contains one corded controller, an HDMI cable and USB power cable (that plugs directly into USB ports on modern TVs) or into the included AC adapter converter. Also, Nintendo also offers access to all of the original manuals either through a website (https://www.nintendo.co.jp/clv/manuals/en/index.html) or using onscreen QR codes with a smart device.

There are a couple of issues worth noting. The controller cord is only 28 inches long, and it creates a tethered conundrum in today’s modern entertainment center by forcing players to huddle near the TV rather than sitting comfortable in their puffy recliners. Well, one could argue that it is truly a retro experience.

Next, only about half of the games are for two players (another controller required, sold separately, $9.99) and some can be played with swapping the controller, but that requires re-plugging in the controller for the other player.

Younger players used to stellar graphics and high action will scratch their heads at their parents’ fascination with the NES Classic Edition.

However, I guarantee it makes the perfect gift for the roughly 45-year-old in the family who remembers the days of mall arcades and cathode-ray televisions.

UBD-K8500, HW-K950 and UN65KS9800

What is it? A trio of products highlighting Samsung’s premiere multimedia line-up, delivering a visual and aural immersion into the 4K ultra high-definition experience
Price:
$6,400 combined (as low as $4,132 from online retailers)
Gift group:
Lovers of digital entertainment

Santa’s scoop: Home theater owners are in the midst of a 4K ultra high-definition revolution, and this holiday season is the perfect time to jump aboard a digital technology that boasts stunning picture quality and four times the resolution of traditional Blu-ray discs.

Start with the UBD-K8500 ($399), a native 4K UHD player, and the first to come to the market earlier this year. It not only handles the latest disc technology but also does a solid job of upscaling the image attributes of Blu-ray (especially remastered movies), 3-D Blu-ray and DVD discs to 4K quality.

The compact player (16 inches wide and 9 inches deep) loads discs quickly (under 8 seconds) and features a colorful and easy-to-navigate, full-screen menu system. The remote, a bit too small for big-handed humans, features a full array of standard options to move around the disc functions.

The device includes built in Wi-Fi and an Ethernet port with app support to easily stream popular media services such as as Netflix, Amazon Video, Crackle, Hulu and Pandora, two HDMI ports, USB ports (to view or listen to storage drive content), Bluetooth connectivity and screen mirroring with compatible smart phone and tablets.

Next, owners of the player will need a television to appreciate the new digital medium. Samsung’s UN65KS9800 ($4,499) should fit the bill.

This 65-inch, curved, plug-and-play, multimedia monster features Cadmium-free 10-bit Quantum Dot technology and one of the brightest high dynamic experiences available (a maximum light output of more than 1,000 nits will really dazzle the eyeballs). With help from a backlight system, it delivers a more uniform brightness and deep black level to offer stunning, lifelike picture quality.

This smart television uses a quad-core processor to easily digest and recognize HDMI sources (four inputs possible for such devices as a cable box or Xbox One, connected to a minihub that then plugs into the television) and its Wi-Fi enabled to handle streaming services (such as watching Netflix and easily seeing previous choices from the service).

Beauty will be in the eye of the beholder here as Samsung offers four picture quality preset options out of the box (natural, standard, movie and dynamic) and allows finicky calibration experts to fiddle deeper with color adjustments. I found the natural setting great for Blu-ray while the 4K UHD films really popped with the standard picture mode.

New owners will also appreciate the estimated $22 a year in energy consumption and no image burn in (guaranteed for life).

Additionally, and most important, both the 4K UHD player and TV work together to use high-dynamic-range technology. That translates into delivering the widest color spectrum along with brightest whites and darkest blacks in the history of digital technology to more accurately display lifelike colors.

Overall Samsung’s flagship television will satisfy cinephiles looking to plop themselves right in front of its enormous screen, but it could be expensive compared to other manufacturers’ models. Keep in mind, prices will fluctuate to the benefit of the consumer and the gift-buying season gets in full swing.

Finally, toss in the HW-K950 ($1,499), a 500-watt, 5.1.4 channels sound system to take advantage of the 360-degree immersion of a Dolby Atmos sound mix that accompanies many of the 4K UHD movie releases.

This set-up offers a total of 15 speakers (including four drivers that fire toward the ceiling) spread throughout a sound bar (positioned under the television), a bass-gorging subwoofer (on the floor near it) and a pair of smaller speakers (behind the entertainment room seats).

The beauty of this stress-free system is the external speakers and subwoofer auto connect to the soundbar via Bluetooth, dispatching away with those nasty wires.

The only corded connection required is between the sound bar and television via an HDMI or optical audio inputs.

OK, so we got the player, television and the sound system, now how about some movies?

Recommended choices to add into the stocking for the new 4K UHD adopter include “Mad Max: Fury Road” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Rated R, $44.95); “The Lego Movie”  (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Rated PG, $44.95); “Star Trek Into Darkness” (Paramount Home Entertainment, Rated PG-13, $47.99); “The Martian” (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Rated PG-13, $39.99); “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay” (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, Rated PG-13, $22.99); “X-Men: Apocalypse” (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Rated PG-13, $39.99) and “The Revenant” (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Rated R, $39.99)

Xtreme Cycle Moto-Cam

What is it? A radio-controlled motorcycle with a mounted video camera
Price:
$79.99
Gift group:
Youngster, 8 years and older, attempting to capture the thrills of an Evel Knieval in action on their back yard patio

Santa’s scoop: Wicked Cool Toys presents a roughly 13-inch-long, 11-inch-tall, plastic dirt bike featuring rubber wheels, shocks, a blue-and-black color scheme and mounted, helmeted rider.

Owners use a wireless controller (2 AA batteries included) to handle the sturdy bike’s acceleration, braking and steering to easily perform awesome doughnuts, flips, rolls, skids, peel-outs and even jumps using the included ramp (assembly required).

The video tech features a 640x480 VGA resolution built-in helmet camera with a slot in the rider’s back to install an included 512MB removable SD card to capture roughly 15 minutes of first perspective action.

Children will also be thrilled by the gyroscope stabilization system spinning on the rear wheel that keeps the cycle upright but sounds like an engine revving.

It’s worth noting that the Xtreme Cycle requires a large area to drive around, such as a basketball court or dirt field, to fully appreciate it potential and speed bursts.

Additionally, don’t expect high-definition quality from the camera. It’s a functional novelty at best but still a slick idea for the tech-savvy youngster looking to capture his new plastic pal’s greatest rides.

Parents should beware that the cycle needs a roughly 6-hour charge to its 9-volt battery using the included USB cable attached to a power source (such as a laptop), and stickers need to be applied (mostly on the ramp) before Junior takes control of his new high-speed daredevil.

The cycle will take a beating and has a charge life of around 30 minutes per session.

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