Holiday Gadgets 2010

By Jason Griffey |

With the Holiday season quickly approaching, I decided that I should try and condense the last few months of gadget craziness into something like a recommended list for that special someone in your life. Or just for you...

This particular space is getting really crowded, but there are still a couple of clear standouts. If you want to buy an eInk based eReader, I still like the Amazon Kindle 3rd Gen WiFi in Graphite. It’s the best hardware with the best eInk screen, and it’s backed by the eBook store with the widest selection. And after the recent price drop, it’s only $139. It’s one real shortcoming is the fact that it doesn’t play well with ePub files (ok, it doesn’t play at all with ePub files). This means that while you can get more titles for the Kindle than any other eReader, you still can’t borrow a library book on one. But between the wifi version linked above, and the $189 3G version, and I think that Amazon is gonna sell a million of these things over the holidays.

The other choice is the Barnes & Noble Nook...or the Nook’s younger, more colorful cousin, the NookColor. The NookColor I think is especially interesting, as it’s the first dedicated eBook reader to try and take a serious swing at using an LCD screen instead of an eInk screen. While we haven’t actually seen the NookColor in the flesh yet, the assumption is that it will have the same capabilities as the Nook, and will be able to deal with the typical library ePub with DRM solution provided by the likes of Overdrive and others.

Of the two suggestions I’ll give for audio players (both play more than just MP3, so I’m sticking with the generic “audio”), the first will come as no surprise. The 4th gen iPod Touch is the best value-per-dollar on the market, even if much of the value no longer comes from the audio part of it’s DNA. The iPod Touch is truly a pocket computer, not only providing great MP3 playback, but also handling video, photos, games, ebooks, and the latest generation even includes a camera for quick snapshots. The Touch is definitely the top of the line for this category, though...and has a price-point to match: $220 for the 8GB model. But you’re getting a lot more than just the ability to listen to the latest Katy Perry album with the Touch.

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is my other suggestion for audio, for those who simply want something well designed that will take audio files and play them back: the Sansa Clip+. The Clip+ is a one-trick pony in the land of multi-taskers, but it does a great job of playing back any audio you throw at it, and doing it at a very high quality. Available in a range from 2 to 8 Gigs in capacity, the 2 gig model is available for $32.00 from Amazon.

Miscellaneous Gadget Fun
Here’s a couple of gadgets that I’ve been watching that I think are really interesting. The AR Drone is a quadricopter by a company called Parrot, and is a sort of 21st Century remote control plane. But this thing is so, so much cooler than any remote control plane you’ve ever seen. From it’s insane maneuverability, built-in cameras, and the fact that it can use an iPad as a remote control, it’s definitely not a toy. My favorite aspect of the AR Drone is that it can use the built in cameras to provide you with a Augmented Reality dogfight game, showing you “enemies” where there is, in reality, nothing, and having you hunt them and shoot them out of the air. Insanely cool...check out the demo video and see what I mean.

The second is a piece of hardware that isn’t available yet, but looks to be interesting. I’m also a complete sucker for good industrial design, and these look really great...the Jawbone Jambox. Jawbone is better known for it’s bluetooth earpieces, and this is its first foray into speakers, but they’ve wrapped a lot of functionality into a very small space, and intrigued me. The Jambox is a bluetooth speaker with an integrated battery that doubles as a speakerphone when needed. This connects to your phone, your laptop, whatever you have that is capable of pumping out stereo bluetooth, and acts as a speaker....a very loud and solid speaker, from the online reports. It also has a built in microphone that uses Jawbone’s patented audio software to reduce background noise and enhance the voice, making this a credible answer for a speakerphone when needed. I’m most interested in it’s ability to pair easily with my phone, and give me portable tunes when I travel. The price tag for portability is high, however...$200 on pre-order, but I’m betting that once they hit the market you’ll be able to get them a bit cheaper via Amazon or other reseller.

Ok, so those last two are stretching it, but you can't deny they aren't interesting examples of the modern gadget...pretty, interesting, technically difficult, and just plain cool. Here's hoping something as interesting shows up in your holiday goodies!