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Holiday Tech Gift Guide 2012

giftHappy Cyber Monday! As Black Friday bleeds into Cyber Monday… and what is becoming Cyber Week, we want to make sure we give you our gift ideas for the techie on your list. As technology lovers ourselves we love Cyber Monday as it is a day for big online discounts. Hopefully you’ll find some of the items on your list at a deep discount, and we present a few more ideas in our annual tech gift guide.

This year’s gift guide features the latest tablets, a ridiculous TV, mobile gear, the Wii.U, and more.

Microsoft Surface

by David Howard

surfaceI reviewed this a few weeks ago on the Keystone blog. Here’s the short version: I really like it. You want more details for Microsoft’s entrance into the tablet wars? Well alright, I really like the device itself – but I am not sure I like Windows 8. The performance of the Surface is very good; applications open quickly and swiping and zooming are responsive. You can run multiple applications at once with no issues. The whole thing is whisper quiet even when running a lot of apps, no fan, no disk, etc. I am not sure if I would choose this over the iPad, but it is worth considering.

With its price point (mid $500s to mid-$800s) and the lack of a cellular/3G/4G version, I almost think this is an alternative to a laptop or netbook rather than an Ipad… but for the Microsoft fanatics that have been waiting for their answer to an iPad, the Surface is a great product.

Windows Phone 8X from HTC

by Brian Fontanella

windowshtcphoneThe latest Windows Phone by HTC is one fantastic device. I’ve been using it for 2 weeks now and it’s easily one of the best phone’s I’ve owned. The phone is sleek and small but feels solid in your hand. It fits nicely in your pocket not taking up a lot of room. It has a nice 4.3-inch Super LCD 2 Gorilla Glass 2 display and comes with the 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 processor. In other words, the screen is beautiful and the processor is lightning fast.

And as good as the hardware is, the Windows 8 Operating System is even better. It seems like Microsoft has finally got the Windows OS right. I would put this up against Android or an Apple device any day for functionality and ease of use. The new OS supports the latest hardware and hooks in with corporate systems better than other phones while still being easy to use. You can now adjust live tiles to different sizes to really personalize your device so everything is exactly the way you want it.

As a parent, my favorite feature is that it can keep the kids occupied when they get bored. The Kid’s Corner gives them a play area that you customize with whatever apps you want them to be able to use. It also shuts off text messaging and phone calls so you don’t have to worry about them answering that call from your boss.

iPad Mini

by Don Kolojek

Another year, another new iPad. It can be both frustrating and exciting for those of us who try and keep up with the latest and greatest. You know, the early adopters… Apple gets us every year. But this year. I think they have my wife as the iPad mini is at the top of her list.

Usually a very practical shopper, but not immune to the new shiny object, my wife is in love with Apple’s new device. I don’t need to go into all of the features of the iPad – we’ll leave that to the Apple evangelists… rather, I will tell you why my wife wants one. With the new retina display, it is ridiculously light and sleak, making reading with the iPad easier than ever and its portability (and 3G/4G connectivty) makes it the perfect device to slip in her purse to keep up with her busy life.

The price point is $329 for the wifi only model, more than the Kindle or Nook, but in my opinion a much better product. Plus, if you keep the device in good shape, the after market is always good as you can sell it when the iPad mini 2 comes out in a year!

Plantronics Voyager Legend

by Greg Cordray

I’m on the road a lot so it is extremely important to me to be hands free. And with the benefits you receive from being hands free – in terms of safety and following new laws – I’d encourage you to do the same.

And as I’m someone who has gone through numerous headsets… it seems like I’ve experimented with every one of them on the market (and tossed many out), the Plantronics is the only one I consistently stick with and I always look forward to the new model – in this case, the newly released Plantronics Voyager Legend.

As a mobile warrior, I’ve found the Plantronics Voyager line of Bluetooth headsets to have the best call quality for you and your caller. It has excellent battery life/ talk time (7 hrs.) and excellent active noise canceling (this means there is a computer process removing background noise vs. just a wind foam shield).

The only down side for some could be that it isn’t small and sexy. Hey, we all want to feel like a movie hero with a headset no one can detect. With the Voyager, others will know you have a headset on. On the other hand, why should you care about that? You are ‘getting it done!’

Nike+ FuelBand

by Stephanie Thoma

nikefuelband-original-white-ice-black-iceWhether your loved one is looking to be more active (a popular New Years’ resolution) or just wants a way to track their activity, the Nike+ FuelBand is a pretty cool little device. You wear it like a wristband (it comes in black or clear) and measures your activity in terms of the calories you burn each day. The device also tells time – so while you are keeping track of what’s going on with your activity, you can make sure you’re not late for your next appointment… and if you are, hurry up… and see the calories burned multiply.

And for the total techie, this connects with an iPhone, iPod through Bluetooth or to your computer through USB – a great way to set goals and track your progress.

Nikon D3100 Camera

by Justin James

Yes, cameras still exist as separate devices from phones. And if you or yours are serious about taking pictures, the Nikon D3100 is the perfect gift to get started in Digital Single-Lens Reflex (DSLR) photography. This camera was recently replaced by the new D3200 so the D3100 is being sold with huge discounts! The only real difference between the D3100 and the new D3200 is higher megapixels – which is at a level that you and I won’t notice. The Nikon D3100 is a very competent and ultra-lightweight DSLR. It is small and light, but doesn’t feel dinky. It feels like the precision product it is. The D3100 is Nikon’s lightest SLR, ever, small, and portable. This particular model comes in a candy apple red or standard black. You can get the starter kit that comes with a 18mm-55mm VR lens or get one of the higher kits that also includes a 55mm-200mm or 55mm-300mm telephoto lens at closeout prices!

GoPro Hero3

by Brandon Conrad

The GoPro Hero3 Black Edition is the ultimate gift for the tech savvy adventurer. From backcountry skiing to skydiving and whitewater, this camera will capture all of your adventures in stunning 1080p 60fps HD video.

Click here for an idea of the fantastic footage you can take with the GoPro.

Are you ready to share your adventures with the world?

Sharp Elite Pro

by Mike Riemenschneider

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a videophile. I collect BluRays and love the experience of attending a concert or movie in the comfort of my own living room.

So this year, I got my favorite person on my list (me) the best 70 inch TV I could find, Sharp’s 70” Elite Pro-70X5FD. The price, as well as the picture, is not for the faint of heart. But if you’re like me and second best when it comes to TV’s just won’t do – well this should be your new television.

Nintendo Wii.U

by Dan Ragan

Nintendo’s latest game console, the Wii U was released last week… just in time for the holiday season. What really makes this device special is its separate 6.2”color touchscreen “GamePad,” a controller and tablet hybrid which can be used as a supplemental device to gameplay or to replicate the TV… or a nifty feature – watch a TV program on the GamePad while playing a game at the same time. The controller also contains an accelerometer, yroscope, camera, dual analog sticks, a sensor strip, microphone, infrared, and near field communication… okay, that is a lot, so it must be good. This is also Nintendo’s first HD console and comes as either a “Basic Set” which comes with 8GB of storage memory for $299 or the “Deluxe Set” for $349 which comes with 32GB of storage memory, a charging cradle, the Nintendo Land game, and a savings program which discounts games purchased through the eShop . Even if you opt for the Basic Set, Nintendo allows for the use of almost any external storage to be used, including external hard drives, flash drives, and SD cards. Also, the Wii U is completely backwards compatible with Wii controllers and games.

The GamePad really starts to shine when you understand its versatility. Not only can Junior play his game on the GamePad while Dad watches the football game, having two separate screens for gameplay will open developers to a world of new possibilities. Games can be split between the two screens, with the GamePad requiring the screen to be tilted to steer, maybe you will use the GamePad as the main screen and your TV as a supplemental screen, or maybe you will have to turn your body 180 degrees to look behind you with the GamePad as your eyes; I’m sure you get the idea. Local multiplayer has never seen anything like it as each player can have “privacy.”

Beyond games, Wii U can be used to stream movies and supports Netflix, which can be watched on a TV screen or independently on the GamePad. The same also holds true for Internet web-browsing. The Wii U comes with a pre-installed web-browser which can be controlled by or on the GamePad.

The Wii U is really an awesome product as Nintendo strives to become your all-in-one gaming, media, and entertainment center.

Slingbox 500

by Sean Yost

slingbox-500-main-e1353943041517One thing I’ve found… my life doesn’t get any simpler. Still… there are shows that I would like to keep up with or a game I’d like to watch. Problem is – the time I have to sit in front of the TV is limited.

So how does someone like myself keep up with the latest episodes and the local teams? I present the Slingbox. It’s not a new concept, but the Slingbox 500 is the latest offering from Sling allowing you to watch your television from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection.

The Slingbox 500 connects to your home DVR to allow you to control or watch your live or recorded programs from your mobile device, PC or Mac. With additional storage you can also store your shows for as long as you need without them getting erased – or recorded over. The best part? This is not a subscription service – buy this device once and it is yours forever. This is also great for anyone in sales who who is on the road a lot and does not want to be limited by the 8 channels on the hotel TV.

Watch TV when and where you want with this awesome device.