SanDisk slotMusic Cards and Player
slotmusic.org, $15 cards; $20 playerHere’s an interesting proposition: pick up a special, pre-loaded 1 GB micro-SD memory card and get popular music in MP3 format, along with cover art, lyrics, and even limited video content. This material plays back on compatible cellphones, MP3 players, computers, and other devices that accept SD, mini-SD, and micro-SD cards. In addition to online purchase, you can also pick these puppies up for around $15 at Best Buy and Walmart stores. Available artists include mostly major acts from Abba to Rihanna. For another $20, you can pick up a SanDisk slotMusic player with mini-headphones for quick’n’cheap playback. A single AAA battery keeps you in tunes for up to 15 hours.
Dell Inspiron Mini 9 Notebook PC
Dell.com, $349 and upImagine a tiny (9.13" x 1.07" x 6.77") lightweight (2.28 lbs) light-duty netbook with built-in wired and wireless networking, an 8.9" LED display, and modest storage (up to 16 GB on a solid state drive), and you’ve described the Dell Inspiron Mini 9. For peripatetic types on a tight budget with basic processing needs (e-mail, Web surfing, chat, and light content creation), the Mini 9 makes good compromises among size, weight, and computing power. Models come in obsidian black or alpine white, and run on Ubuntu Linux (Windows XP support costs more); no optical drive is included. You do get 802.11g wireless networking and 10/100 wired Ethernet, 3 USB 2.0 ports, and a 3-in-1 memory card reader, and can add options such as Bluetooth or a Webcam cheaply. A great gift for a mobile someone with modest computing needs.
Targus Zip-Thru Corporate Traveler Laptop Case
Targus.com, $99Although Targus has a different and longer name for this excellent bag, it’s known in the trade as “the TSA bag” because its design enables its carriers to unzip the whole thing down the middle and isolate their notebook PCs on one side for clear, unobstructed X-rays. Why does this matter? Because the TSA’s recent pronouncement that notebooks can be X-rayed inside sleeves also means that it’s OK to leave them inside their side of this stylish black nylon PC tote as well. Saves time and the hassle of extracting and then reinserting your notebook into your briefcase while struggling through sometimes heavy security lines. With all the other usual Targus goodies inside: dedicated file section, zip-down workstation, key clips, and accessory compartments, this is just what Santa needs to pack for world-weary road warriors.
Fujifilm FinePix F60fd
Fuijifilm.com, $250The FinePix F60fd offers a great combination of image size (12 megapixels), a large 3" LCD screen/image viewer, and nice automated features (scene recognition, face detection, image stabilization, and more) at a good price. It’s also compact and lightweight (5.7 oz, 3.7" x 0.9" x 2.3") with a sensitive and reasonably accurate CCD image sensor. In addition to the Auto mode typical of point-and-shoot cameras, the F60fd also offers scene recognition mode for portrait, landscape, macro, and night shots to the mix, plus manual control over exposure and white balance settings. Gain control over aperture and shutter in A/S mode, kill the flash with Natural mode, and more. Great for semi-serious snappers who want a compact, capable digital camera.
SimpleTech[re]drive Hard Drive
Simpletech.com, $110With a handsome, durable enclosure made of recycled aluminum and renewable bamboo that conceals a low-power 500 GB USB 2.0 hard drive, along with an Energy Star power adapter, the SimpleTech [re]drive hard disk enclosure manages to mix good looks, ample storage, and environmental friendliness in a single package. Even the box include no extra waste: no plastic bag, no extra padding, nor even an instruction sheet (an installation guide is printed on the inside of the [re]drive’s cardboard carton). Although it doesn’t do eSATA or Firewire, the drive is speedy enough for everyday use, and works with Macintoshes, and Windows XP and Vista.
A cheap “stocking stuffer” that could work for anyone who listens to music, Purebuds feel better in the ear than the earbuds that come with your music player. They’re designed to protect your ears, as well as personalize themselves to an individual’s musical tastes (the buds come with a three sets of silicone covers in different shapes: one for surround sound, one for bass boosting, and a third for full-range sound). These earbuds are comfy. They’re also stable—probably because the ear-pieces are bigger than standard earbuds. Jump around or run on a treadmill and they’ll stay put. A feature called “reverse sound technology” aims to keep music pumping towards the earbud itself, then bouncing toward your eardrum, in an effort to keep your delicate cochlea out of harm’s way.
By Molly Bergen
The iPig is not just another pretty face, though its adorableness will surely please those who need their music to emanate from something fun. This pint size cutie really packs a punch. We had our doubts about such a tiny speaker, but with its internal subwoofer you can hear this thing all over the house. It even pulled its weight at an outdoor Halloween party. One of iPig’s charms is the Alice in Wonderland-like feature that allows you to turn up the volume by rubbing the iPig’s ears. The pig mouth glows when the speaker is on, which is fine, but when you turn the speakers off via remote the mouth flashes in standby mode and doesn’t turn off. So, unless you can cope with a Cheshire Cat smile flashing at you when you’re trying to go to sleep, you have to get up and flick the switch. But the iPig is the sweetest little speaker set you’ll see this Holiday season. And unlike many cute gimmicks, this pig can really fly.
Kensington Mini Battery Pack and Charger for iPhone and iPod
There are plenty of other portable iPhone batter packs on the market, but this one has the distinction of being among the cheapest. With many millions of iPhones in the wild, you must know at least one chatterbox who wears down her iPhone battery. Snap this one onto the bottom of the phone, and gain three more hours of talk time (or six hours of video, or thirty hours of music). A retractable USB cable charges the battery pack. Blue indicator lights on the pack tell you how much time you’ve got left on the extra battery. It could be a lifesaver.
Microsoft Explorer Mini Mouse
Microsoft.com, $49.99In addition to its role as a major software vendor, Microsoft also dabbles seriously in the computer hardware. The Microsoft Explorer Mini Mouse utilizes a proprietary tracking technology called BlueTrack that merges the best of optical and laser tracking devices to offer precision performance on just about kind of surface (including marble or even carpet). The device also includes a small USB transceiver that does away with wires and works well on both notebook and desktop PCs, and that tucks into the bottom of the mouse when it’s not in use. It uses a single AA battery which lasts for up to four months of everyday use. It’s also a snap to use: feed it a battery, plug in the transceiver, and you’re ready to roll!
RocketLife Photo Book
Rocketlife.com, $9.95-$35.95Sometimes, tech isn’t the gift itself, but the tool that helps you get creative. In this case, the gift is a beautifully bound and customized photo album. But the tech—RocketLife’s online book editing software—is what makes it unique. We uploaded photos (quickly) from a parade we watched during a trip to Belgium. RocketLife automatically picked the choicest photos and arranged them artfully on the number of pages we specified. Doing it by hand would’ve taken hours, but this took ten minutes. Different sizes, textures, colors, and patterns, along with a customized cover and book jacket, make this a more special photo book than the ones created at mainstream photo-printing Web sites.
Polaroid Pogo Printer
The Pogo riffs on the Polaroid of yore, providing instant gratification with funky-shaped photographs. But instead of being a printer and camera in one, the Pogo is just a printer that reads pictures off phones and cameras via Bluetooth and PictBridge. The pictures it prints are 2”x3”, and take about one minute each to creep out of the Pogo. Rather than ink, the eight-ounce Pogo makes use of heat-activated “dye crystals,” billions of which are embedded within special paper to produce images. A company called Zink makes the paper — a 10-pack of sheets costs $3.99. Some of the paper has a peel-off adhesive layer, making it perfect for decorating notebooks, lockers, skateboards and so forth.
Freestyle Soundwave Player
Freestyleaudio.com, $89.99Music can add to quality of life, whether that’s the sedentary life, the sporting life, or the life aquatic. This Mp3-player can bring joy to any active lifestyle by following gamely into the water, or onto the trail. It is rugged and hardy, and waterproof (it can handle laps in the pool, but we don’t advise taking it deep sea diving, as it is only advertised as submersible to ten feet), as well as buoyant. You can still see the screen in bright sunlight due to a cheerful blue OLED screen. The included arm strap keeps the Soundwave close, while deflecting sweat, and a standard headphone jack means that you can use higher-quality headphones than the included waterproof ones when you’re not near water. Store two gigabytes of music here, and rock out to the Beach Boys at the beach or sing “Splish Splash,” while you’re taking a bath.