MBJ gadget gift guide

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Published: November 28,2009

Tags: Chistmas, gadgets, gifts

The official Christmas 2009 shopping season kicked off last week with Black Friday, the day retailers throw open their doors for a blitz of mouth watering, crack-of-dawn sales.

For our readers who are forgoing the efficient but impersonal gift card in exchange for frenzied trips to the nearest shopping center, MBJ has put together some research that just may help you get through the day a little faster.

PHONES
Let’s face it. Cell phones just do way more than they used to. The very term “smartphone” even sounds passé since it’s inception into the English lexicon in the last decade. Some development engineers are batting around a new term- “media phone”- just to describe how versatile the devices are these days, from downloading music and video to surfing the Internet to instant messaging and social media. There’s even rumblings of a phone that will soon run a PowerPoint presentation all on its own. All the user has to do is upload the data and leave the phone on the table so it can throw the presentation up on the wall.

The newest wave of cellular technology broke in 2007 with the introduction of a Google owned open-source platform software dubbed “Android”. Engineers say that, Android has changed both the playbook and the playing field for the cellular industry, bringing the technology down to the consumer level and giving birth to a line of the most customizable phones ever. Check your local retailers for competitive plans and pricing.

HTC has fully embraced Android, putting the platform on four of its models (the Dream, Magic, Hero and Tattoo). Android is also embedded on the Motorola Droid and the Samsung Galaxy. The jury is still out on whether any of these models will be an iPhone killer. The Apple device is still enormously popular, recently passing Nokia in third-quarter handset sales.

All of these astounding advances in technology just leave one wondering, “We may not have flying cars anytime soon. We may just be flying around in our cell phones.”

COMPUTERS
Most PC’s continue to come down in price and size while going up in quality and speed. Apple fans, however, still have to fork over the big bucks. Those looking to “switch to Mac” can find a good desktop in the recently retouched iMac. The iMac’s chic high-resolution 16:9 “theater” screens now have LED back lighting along with built-in Bluetooth, stereo speakers and iSight webcam capabilities. The iMac is powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, has a 320 GB hard drive and is accompanied by the Apple Wireless Keyboard and the new wireless Magic Mouse. It retails at $1,400.

Other more portable products from the Apple family include the $1,500 three-pound ultra-thin MacBook Air, the much cheaper and greener Mac Mini, and Apple’s latest operating system, the Mac OS X 10.6 (dubbed “Snow Leopard”) that was unveiled this summer.

On the other side of Silicon Valley, the boys and girls at Microsoft were all giddy this fall about the launch of Windows 7, a retooling of their Windows Vista program that got off to such a shaky start in 2007. So far, no major alarm bells have gone off in the techie world. PC Magazine called Windows 7 a “big improvement” over Vista, praising its retooled taskbar, simpler home networking, and faster start-up.

Both Windows 7, and the older Windows XP operating system, can be found on the HP Mini 110 Netbook, a new generation in laptop portability. The sturdy computers with their LED widescreen displays are just over an inch thick and travel-friendly in any backpack or briefcase. They retail at $330. Best Buy has a number of regular sized laptops with top customer ratings going to the Dell Inspiron and its Intel Pentium processor and built-in Ethernet LAN.

TELEVISIONS
High-definition television is here to stay. Since the “Big Switch” this year from analog to digital signals, nearly every TV sold today is now an “HDTV”.

Whether you want a plasma for the boardroom or an LCD for the deer camp, the screen size of your television will probably be the biggest factor in your decision. Since plasma models only have screens 40-inches or bigger, LCD is probably the way to go for families or offices on a tighter budget this year. Resolution is another issue; decide whether you want 720p or 1080p (the number stands for the screen’s number of vertical lines of resolution while the “p” stands for progressive scan).

When it comes to quality, Samsung and Sony dominate with a wide range of models to fit any budget. Best Buy has a Samsung 46-inch LCD flat-panel 1080p that retails at $1,700 while the Sony Bravia 46-inch is available for around $1,600. The Sony Bravia also comes with an HDTV tuner and has LightSensor technology that monitors lighting conditions and adjusts the backlit intensity accordingly.

If money is an object, then Best Buy also has a few 50-inch Sony and Samsung models out there, as well as a 40-inch Toshiba 1080p and a 42-inch Panasonic Viera 720p that includes a media card slot for viewing digital photos. Stay away from LG unless you want weird screen lighting problems next time you pop in a DVD. They make great refrigerators but lousy TV’s.

iPhone

Ring in the holidays with iPhone 3GS– the fastest, most powerful iPhone yet, packed with incredible new features, longer battery life and improved speed and performance—up to twice as fast as iPhone 3G. (www.apple.com/iphone)

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