Monday, December 3, 2007

More Gifts for the Holidays

As I'm sure you can imagine, the magazine world lends itself to very timely deadlines, not to mention limited space within each issue. This means that, when it comes to a holiday gift guide, although I could fill an entire issue of here's how! magazine with the items I think would make great gadget gifts, I'm relegated to just a few pages (as is each other writer). Not to mention that, as Murphy's Law would have it, a cool new item always hits the market as soon as an issue goes to press.

We included a very extensive holiday gift guide in the just-released (literally hot off the press!) December Holiday issue of here's how! magazine. I covered the hot Gadget gifts, while editor Gordon Brockhouse wrote about his fav entertainment gifts; photo expert Peter Burian discussed his top picks in the digital imaging category; and self-professed PC geek, Frank Lenk, provided the latest and greatest in PCs, related accessories, and video gaming. Of course I'm not going ruin the surprise by revealing here what products were chosen. (If you're interested, pick up a copy at one of our participating retail partners; visit for a list). However, as with jello, there's always room for more...

With that said, here's an appendage, if you will, to my here's how! gift guide: cool gadgets that would make great gifts for anyone (but especially the tech-savvy!) on your list:

TiVo: The company just entered the Canadian market, and many people want one just for the sake of getting one; even though they might already have a PVR from their cable or satellite TV provider. Why? 'Cause it's TiVo and it's supposed to be "cool". Although you can't record high-definition content with the Series2 model that will be selling in Canadian retail stores in time for this holiday season (bummer), you can still record up to 80 hours of standard-def content. If you don't mind that setback, along with the $200 price tag, go for it.

Blackberry 8800: I reviewed this phone a few months back, and loved it. Although I haven't yet jumped on the messaging phone bandwagon, this would be one of the models on my radar. It incorporates all of the standard Blackberry features, plus a media player, and the neat trackball for navigating menus. (Click Here, then click on the image to download the full issue of here's how! that contains a review of this smartphone on Pg. 89)

HTC Touch: Although I haven't yet played around with this phone (much less any phone from this relatively new handset manufacturer), there seems to be a lot of buzz about this model, in particular. Operating on the new Windows Mobile 6 platform, it serves as a smartphone with a neat, touch-screen interface. And, of course, it has some additional multimedia features that would appeal to the most tech-savvy friends and family members on your list.

Nintendo Wii: If you can get your hands on one this holiday season, Nintendo's family-friendly Wii gaming console will likely be an appreciated gift for kids, and even adults. It's great for fun parties (think of it as a modern-day Twister!); or even for those looking for a new, more motivating way to get in shape at home during the cold winter months. I tried my hand at the bowling game during the Wii's Canadian launch event last year, and it required just as much effort to play this virtual version as it does to actually bowl; but for the fact that the controller is much lighter than a 14-lb. bowling ball!

HD DVD Player for Microsoft Xbox 360: Speaking of gaming, like many other men in their 30s, my partner owns an Xbox 360 gaming console. To get these guys into the spirit of high-definition DVD, the HD DVD player attachment for the console is pretty much one of the most affordable options. However, you might want to wait it out and see which way this format war goes!

Sirius Stiletto 2: I'm a big fan of satellite radio, and the music fan on your list might appreciate a receiver and subscription to the service. Sure, he'll have to take care of installation in his vehicle (or simply use the FM transmitter option); but if you buy one with a home dock kit, he can instantly connect it to a home stereo and enjoy tunes around the house. The Stiletto 2 can also be used as an on-the-go, portable player, which makes it the most versatile of Sirius' current offerings.

Panasonic Globarange phone: These phones are neat because they operate as standard landline phones, but can also serve as VoIP phones, using Panasonic's own technology. If two people have a Globarange phone, which connects to a phone jack and/or Internet router via Ethernet, you can chat for free using your already active high-speed Internet connection. The service is currently available in 8 countries, including Canada and the U.S. Imagine buying one for you, and one for an overseas family member, or even someone in another province or across the border. The great part is that an account doesn't even need to be set up: just connect the phone system, and an ID number will pop up on screen. (Stay tuned to the upcoming December issue of Marketnews Magazine for more on Globarange technology).

Rubik's Revolution: This high-tech version of the 1980s phenomenon called the Rubik's Cube would make a great "fun" stocking stuffer for anyone on your list that's old enough to remember the original. It's designed the same way as the original model, with checkered squares all around, but houses several electronic games that test your speed and smarts.

Gift cards: When all else fails, gift cards are always a "safe" option. Sure, some complain that they aren't personal nor thoughtful enough, but as long as you know the mindset of your gift recipient, you'll know if it's a good idea to head straight to the cash register and pick one of these up; or spend hours in the store looking for that special something. According to a recent Ipsos Redi study, 72% of people said they'd rather a gift card than an actual gift.


Charles Blaquière said...

"many people want [a TiVo] just for the sake of getting one; even though they might already have a PVR from their cable or satellite TV provider. Why? 'Cause it's TiVo and it's supposed to be "cool".

I have both TiVo and a generic Rogers cable DVR. For standard-def TV viewers, TiVo is so much better it almost defies description:

- Much easier to use, and more fun. Even my 77-year old technophobic father can operate his TiVo.

- TiVo can skip reruns; cable DVRs blindly record every episode, wasting space and requiring babysitting.

-If an episode gets supersized or moved to another timeslot, TiVo seamlessly adjusts. Cable DVRs adjust to length changes, but not timeslot changes - they'll miss moved shows (unless told to record ALL episodes - again, much wasted space and babysitting.) TiVo understands the concept of episodes, and won't record duplicates. (Unless you force it to.)

- Cable DVRs are schedule-based: if it isn't in the grid, you can't program it. TiVo is based on time, title, actor, director, genre, episode, and/or keyword. Like Jennifer Tilly? TiVo will auto-record anything with her in the credits. Going to Venice in 6 months? Have TiVo record shows about your destination. Reading about the hot new US or British show? Enter its title in TiVo and, when it gets here (months or years from now), TiVo will record it. Same thing when your shows go on hiatus or end their season. With TiVo, it's "set it and forget it".

- TiVo also analyzes your tastes, _anonymously_ correlates them with all other TiVo subscribers, and can record shows you'll like, even if you don't know about them. Find new/better shows without spending hours combing the TV Guide. You have a life; TiVo gets it.

- Take your shows on the go: TiVo lets you copy shows to your iPod or PSP, watch them on a different TiVo, and burn DVDs.

- TiVo smartly deals with daily scenarios such as conflicts (it'll auto-locate alternate episodes in another timeslot) and one-time deletions (my cable DVR forces me to delete the entire SERIES - and I must remember to reprogram the series next week, or I lose shows. Again, much babysitting.)

All of this, for a $200 box and a 5 cents/hour service subscription. It's a no-brainer.

TiVo and generic cable/satellite DVRs both record shows and let you pause live TV, but TiVo is light-years ahead. If DVRs were cars, a reporter might write that both get you from point A to point B - but omit that generic DVRs have no heating, no air conditioning, no radio, and no spare tire.

Charles Blaquière said...

My math was wrong; it's less than 2 cents an hour. This puts into perspective naysayers for whom TiVo's 2 cents/hour subscription is "too expensive".