The gift-giving season brings both joy and frustration to those determined to find just the right present for their loved ones. Those of us who love tech heads, gadget gurus and geeks know that the right electronic doohickey can go a long way to getting that picture-perfect moment when it's time to open gifts. But sorting through all the options is an exhausting and overwhelming prospect.
How do you know which digital horse to back when shopping for gadgets? Some devices, like Apple's iPad tablets, have met with incredible success and will be supported for years to come. But others, like the Nintendo 3DS, have had a rougher time after a big debut, and may struggle down the road.
That's where our list comes in. We've taken a look at some of the newest gadgets on the market and looked at the buzz surrounding them. Following are five gadgets we think make good gifts for the gadget lover in your life.
Many tablets have tried to challenge Apple for the title of Tablet King of the Universe, but for now, the iPad still retains its spot at the top. One of the most impressive competitors is Sony's Tablet S, which relies on Google Android's Honeycomb operating system.
The Tablet S boasts some pretty impressive features. For one, Sony has designed the tablet so that it can play certain PlayStation One and PSP titles. This makes the Tablet S one of the more compelling tablets as far as mobile gaming is concerned.
The Tablet S also has Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) compatibility technology. Devices that are DLNA certified can interact with one another over a local wireless network. Pair a Tablet S with DLNA speakers, and you've got a sound system that can pull content from the Internet. You could also push video from the Tablet S to a DLNA-capable television.
There are some drawbacks with the Tablet S. For one thing, the tablet requires a proprietary charging cable. If you need to replace the cable, it might be a bit harder to track down than a typical USB cord. The Tablet S is also much thicker than the svelte iPad, which might be a strike against it in the eyes of some people.
Every gadget fan knows that a low battery is a cause for concern. As our tech arsenals grow, we run the risk of draining a battery to empty just as we need a gadget the most. The Solio Bolt Charger is a support device -- it holds enough juice to recharge a smartphone up to two times without needing its own recharge.
There are a couple of options you can use to power up a Solio Bolt Charger. The gadget has solar panels on it, so just leaving it in a sunny place will allow it to store electricity. You can also plug it into a wall using an adapter or into a USB charging port with a USB cable.
If you're buying a Solio Bolt Charger as a companion for a specific gadget, you should keep in mind that the charger doesn't come with USB cables. You might want to purchase an extra cable for the companion device.
The Internet provides us with access to far more content than we could ever hope to experience. But while watching old sitcom episodes or the latest music videos on a computer can be fun, it doesn't really compare to experiencing video on a television. That's where the Roku 2 comes in. There are three versions of the Roku 2, which offer slightly different sets of features. With all of them, you connect the box to your television and your home network so that you can stream content from the Internet to your TV.
Your programming choices aren't unlimited -- the Roku 2 has specific content channels available. If you're a Netflix Instant, Hulu Plus or Amazon Prime customer, you can connect your account to the Roku 2 device and watch content on your television. The Roku 2 also has content from other providers as well, ranging from Major League Baseball to independent podcasters.
The controller for the Roku 2 XS -- the top-of-the-line model -- doubles as a gamepad. You can play several games on the device, including one that's nearly synonymous with Internet games: "Angry Birds."
One thing you should keep in mind if you're going to give a Roku 2 as a present: To get the most out of a Roku 2, you have to subscribe to other content providers. While there's no subscription for the Roku 2 itself, you do have to pay fees to content providers if you want access to channels like Netflix or Hulu.
Buying a smartphone for a gadget geek can be risky. Not only must you guess at which operating system the geek will prefer, but you may also commit that person to a contract. In some ways, smartphones are the gift that keeps on taking -- you have to pay a monthly phone and data bill just to keep your gadget in working order. But Apple's iPod touch gives you the experience of owning a smartphone without the pesky phone part.
The latest iPod touch models start at $199, making them a pricy MP3 player option. But consider the features. The iPod touch can run many of the same apps as an iPhone. The new models can use iMessage when connected to a network, giving you instant messaging capabilities. And you can even have a video call with other Apple mobile device users with Facetime. We've come a long way from the days when the most advanced feature on an MP3 player was shuffle.
In a way, the iPod touch replaces several other devices all in one go. You can use it as a digital camera or HD camcorder. You can play games on it. You can watch movies or listen to music on it. It's one of the more versatile pieces of technology on the market.
The Kindle isn't exactly new -- Amazon launched the first Kindle e-reader in 2007. But in late 2011, Amazon updated its line of electronic book readers and the tech world took notice. As of the time of this writing, there are six models of the Kindle. The basic Kindle is a paperback-sized e-reader with a five-way controller priced at $79. That alone was enough to grab the attention of tech journalists.
But Amazon didn't stop there. The company also introduced new Kindles with touch-screen interfaces, allowing you to turn pages and navigate without using hardware buttons. And the show-stealing product was the Amazon Kindle Fire. It's not just an e-reader -- it's a fully-fledged tablet device.
The Kindle Fire has an operating system that has its roots in Google's Android OS. Amazon markets the Fire as a tablet for media consumption. It's priced at $199, making it significantly cheaper than the iPad, which is the dominant tablet on the market. And with Amazon's enormous library of content, the company seems to be on the right track to hit big sales numbers.
For more about gadgets and other related topics, take a look at the links on the next page.
MIT's AlterEgo allows people to control computers without ever uttering one word. HowStuffWorks looks at how this could change the way we communicate.
- Amazon. " Introducing the All-New Kindle Family: Four New Kindles, Four Amazing Price Points." (Nov. 10, 2011) http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1610968&highlight=
- Apple. "iPod touch." (Nov. 9, 2011) http://www.apple.com/ipodtouch/
- DLNA. "About DLNA." (Nov. 10, 2011) http://www.dlna.org/about_us/about/
- Solio. "Solar Chargers." (Nov. 10, 2011) http://store.solio.com/Solio-Store/Solar-Chargers/Solio-Bolt-Solar-Charger-S620-AH1RW
- Sony. "Sony Tablet S - 16 GB." (Nov. 9, 2011) http://store.sony.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10551&storeId=10151&langId=-1&productId=8198552921666369301