This is the time of year when it’s ok to want things. In fact, you’re told to want things and then put them on a list. In case you’re having a hard time coming up with items to put on that list, here are some cool gadgets that are fun and functional. If you were nice, you might just find some of these under your Christmas tree this year.
The Looxcie is a bluetooth camcorder. You wear it on your ear just like a bluetooth headset and it allows you to record anything you see hands-free. A cool feature of the Looxcie is that it pairs with your iPhone or Android smartphone and allows you to do any editing or sharing directly through your phone. The Looxcie has enough storage capacity of its own for 5 hours of continuous video capture. You can use the Instant Clip button to clip and save the previous 30 seconds of video. You can also connect the Looxcie to a Mac or PC via USB to access the saved footage.
For an example of the Looxcie video capture, watch this footage or check out the clips on the Looxcie YouTube channel.
At $199 through Amazon, this could be the perfect gadget to pair with your smartphone for capturing your adventures. It might also be worth waiting until the next version for the inevitable upgrades and improvements.
Now I’m not a coffee fan in the least but the Keurig single-cup home-brewing system has captured even my attention. The Keurig system uses patented K-Cups to hold the mixes and keep coffee grounds fresher, brew the right amount, and offer a greater variety. Even though its focus is on coffee, there are a number of hot tea and hot cocoa mixes out there that would simplify life and make me more inclined to enjoy a hot drink on my way to work. There’s also the added benefit of being able to serve coffee to any visitors that happen to stop by even though I have no idea how to make coffee.
Keurig has a number of different models out there with different features while other companies like CuisinArt are manufacturing their own compatible systems. Shop around to see if there’s a system to meet your needs if you’d like a hot drink any time of day.
3. LED Monitors & TVs
I’m calling it now, I believe 2011 will be the year of the second monitor. And why not? Flat-panel, wide-screen LED monitors and TVs keep coming down in prices and multi-tasking is going up. LED monitors are also more energy efficient and typically have a higher contrast ratio than standard LCD monitors, the time to upgrade could be now with a Christmas present. Whether it’s replacing a CRT for energy efficiency reasons or replacing an older LCD monitor for a larger wide-screen format, there are excellent products out there at good prices.
I like this 22-inch LED monitor from ViewSonic and a pair of them would be even nicer. The only other feature I’d like would be a height-adjustable stand although a dual LCD monitor stand could take care of that.
4. Rocketfish Wireless Speaker System
I’ve owned the Rocketfish wireless rear speaker system for about a month now. It makes a 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound system more practical by allowing you to use this device as a middleman to connect the rear-speakers instead of running the wires all the way around to rear-left and rear-right. I have this connected with my home theater system and it has been working great. I paired the system once and haven’t had to touch it since. There is no delay and they sound great. My only wish is that the volume went a little higher on the rear speakers though maybe that is on my receiver and not the wireless receiver. Another solution might be the Rocketfish Wireless HD Audio Kit.
5. USB 3.0 External Storage
USB 3.0 is here. If you don’t want to wait until your next motherboard to get 5.0 Gbps data transfer, grab a card like this Rosewill 2-port USB 3.0 card for under $40 from NewEgg and plug it into an available PCI Express (x1) slot and voila! you now have a USB 3.0 compatible PC.
Partner your new USB 3.0 card with a Western Digital 1Terabyte USB 3.0-capable drive to begin taking advantage of your computer’s new found speed.
6. Tablets / E-Readers
I’m not quite sold on the functionality that the Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader, Barnes & Noble Nook (or Nook Color), iPad, or the Samsung Galaxy Tab provide but for some of you, it might be ideal. If you’re looking at using your new eReader in conjunction with your local library, I’d recommend staying away from the Kindle because of its locked-down, limited format support.
7. TiVo Premiere
I recently purchased the TiVo Premiere for my home theater system and I’m very happy with it. It offers all of the standard DVR functionality with a snappier interface, can record up to 45 hours of HD broadcasting, supports up to 1080p HD video, and has replaced my cable box with a dual-tuner cable card. You can also stream Netflix, Amazon Video on Demand, and soon Hulu Plus. I haven’t had to torrent or stream a missed episode since, hopefully putting me back on the right side of the law. The price for a TiVo has drastically dropped this past week if you sign up for a year of service, making for a great deal!
The OnLive requires a little bit of a step into the unknown since OnLive game consoles just started shipping last week. The OnLive game system receives your streaming game from the OnLive servers, allowing you to buy and play games on demand. You can use OnLive gaming on your Mac or PC but you can put it on your television by connecting the OnLive Microconsole. Since you’re playing the game streaming, you don’t necessarily have to have high-end equipment or replace your console every 4 years.
I’ve got an OnLive game system on the way, so you can expect a more in-depth article covering it soon.
Veebeam is the gadget I would have gotten had I known about its existence before I resolved my issue of being able to connect my laptop to my TV screen. The Veebeam uses a Wireless USB connection to either clone or extend your desktop to your HD or standard TV screen. The prospect of doing all of that wirelessly sounds fantastic. While it might be a little redundant to have it and the VGA2TV converter around, the device is exciting technology. Do you want to buy a device like the Logitech Revue for Google TV functionality when you could do all the same things on the computer you own already and display them on the TV?
The Veebeam HD and Veebeam SD are now both available through Amazon. I may get this eventually just to reduce the number of cables running to the TV. I’m looking into applications for this device at work where we have monitors in conference rooms for presentations. There is a similar product from Imation that might be worth considering as well.
10. PlayStation Move Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360
I’ve gotten over the Nintendo Wii and I failed miserably at a Microsoft Kinect demo where you were supposed to fist bump to the music, so I’m not too big on the gimmicky motion-sensor consoles right now. I had fun with the Kinect rafting game and rally ball but I don’t think it’s enticing enough for me to buy. I also had two negative experiences with the Kinect: I kept being told that I was too close to the sensor after jumping up on the raft and I couldn’t get the menu to activate at all for me. If you’d like to see some videos of people playing the Kinect, check out Kinect.Me. This item might also be hard to find this time of year.
The PlayStation Move isn’t flying off the shelves like the Kinect but it seems like it would be less frustrating and more reliable for a gaming platform. If you already have a PlayStation 3, an investment in the Move might not be a bad choice for an addition to your Christmas wish list.
11. Energy-Saving Smart Power Strip
While an energy-saving power strip doesn’t sound particularly exciting for a Christmas present, a gift that save you money year-round is a bit better. Perhaps it will make a great stocking stuffer. There are plenty of choices out there for these power strips that defeat vampire sucking appliances but I like this Belkin Conserve Smart AV Energy-Saving Power Strip. Plug something like your TV into the green outlet and then when the TV gets shut off, the 5 other light gray outlets will also be shut off, perfect for your AV system, DVD player, or other peripherals. Then use the two dark gray outlets for things you don’t want automatically powering off like your DVR. You’ll save electricity and simplify the setup by only having to find one remote.
Some alternatives to consider include the HP MonsterDigital PowerCenter or the iGo Green Power Smart Tower. They do the same thing, they just have different layouts and features like rotating outlets.
12. Laser Mouse
I’ve been sold on Laser mice ever since I bought the Logitech G5 Laser mouse back in 2007. I’ve since bought the Logitech LS1 Laser mouse for my wife ($20) which resolved the issue of an optical mouse not working on a particular desk surface.
Note that there is a big difference between an optical mouse and a laser mouse. I switched when my wrist started aching after my optical mouse started acting up and required a lot more motion to wrangle the cursor. Now the Logitech laser mouse is awesome: it has sensitivity you can toggle right on the mouse, back and forward buttons, and it has weights you can insert into it to get the exact right substantial feeling you need. It works great for gaming and every day use. If you want even higher resolution, for example using your mouse on a glass surface, you might want to look into the Logitech Darkfield Laser Tracking technology (PDF) in some of their mice.
There are plenty of options out there for a Laser mouse. I prefer a corded mouse but you can shop around to your preference before adding it to your Christmas list. I stand by the Logitech G5 but it looks like it is being phased out. The comparable current versions would be the Gaming Mouse G500 or the G9x Laser Mouse.
13. Heated boots
Columbia offers a number of different boot designs with their Omni-Heat Technology to keep your toes toasty including a few models with their electric heat technology. The Columbia Sportswear Men’s Bugathermo Techlite snow boot includes a replaceable battery that can actively heat your boot at a low or high setting. The battery in this one is charged by a micro USB port, so you’ve probably got a few cables laying around that could charge your spare. Other models of their electric heat boots are AC charged and have a fixed plug at the back of the boot to connect your charger. If you’re going to be outside plenty and need to keep your feet warm this winter, these boots might be worth adding to your Christmas list.
14. Bose VideoWave
At least for my budget this time of year, the Bose VideoWave would take up my next dozen Christmas gifts with its $5,349 price tag. However, if you’re going to buy a new LCD TV and a surround sound system, the VideoWave can make a pretty good solution. I can agree with Bose on one fact, the built-in speakers coming on today’s HDTVs are weak. Bose improves that problem by integrating their Bose sound technology into the TV. You don’t have to have any external speakers so you get an aesthetically pleasing entertainment center. I got to witness a demonstration of the Bose VideoWave and I was very impressed. Unfortunately, it would also leave quite the impression on my wallet. That’s why you ask Santa for it.