The Cool Stuff Holiday Gift Guide is back, with tips for the very best gifts to buy for the tech lovers in your life. This year, be the one whose gifts are the biggest hits.
Our guide features the coolest choices in media players, flat-panel HDTVs, digital cameras, cell phones and much more, selected by the staff of Computerworld. There are also fun gadgets for the home office or your office cubicle, devices to keep you connected around the house, and electronic games for the whole family.
We've also included energy-saving devices for the green-computing enthusiast on your list, as well as "ultimate gifts" for true practitioners of conspicuous consumption -- and those of us who simply like to think big. We've included links to Web sites where you can find more information about each of the products, as well as estimates of how much you can expect to pay for each product online. Please keep in mind that prices do fluctuate, especially during the holiday season.
We hope this guide makes your shopping easier this holiday season. Find something to please even the early adopters on your list, or pass on a hint for something you'd like for yourself. Happy clicking!
Music and mobility
For those on the go, two things are of paramount importance: knowing where you're going and staying entertained on the way. We've got you covered with the best in portable music and video players, headphones that play music as well as they cancel noise, and a GPS device that'll show you the way without breaking the bank.
Personal audio player: iPod Touch
The first generations of Apple's iPod were wildly successful, but the competition was closing in. So what did Apple do? It introduced the iPod Touch (with a starting price of US$294) and blew the competition away.
No other media player approaches the Touch's, well ... touchability. As is the case with its cellular sibling, the iPhone (the Touch has been referred to as an iPhone without the phone), it is a pleasure to hold the Touch and play with its multitouch interface. Adding to its allure is its stunning 3.5-in. display and Wi-Fi access, which is useful for acquiring songs and other media from iTunes and, of course, for checking e-mail and browsing the Web.
Some critics don't think the Touch's screen quality is up to the task of prolonged video viewing. And, yes, you can buy highly competent (if less sexy) music media players for less money -- a lot less. Others gripe about the fact that, like all iPods, the Touch really only works well with one online media store: Apple's iTunes. But, in the end, there is simply no other personal music player that elicits even remotely as much desire as the iPod Touch.
Price: 8GB, US$288-US$299; 16GB, US$394-US$399
Summary: The aptly named iPod Touch is irresistible. Once you have one, you'll have a hard time keeping your hands off.
David Haskin Personal video player: Archos 605 WiFi
The iPod Touch is remarkable, but for many mobile videophiles, a more satisfying choice is the Archos 605 WiFi.
The 605 WiFi has a crisp 4.3-in., 800- by 480-pixel display that makes watching movies and TV shows far more satisfying than is possible with smaller devices. Its hard-drive options range from 30GB to 160GB, providing significantly more storage than is possible with media players that use flash memory. And, for an extra hundred bucks, you can get an add-on that turns the 605 WiFi into a digital video recorder you can attach to your television.
Of course, the device also plays audio files, including music from subscription services such as Rhapsody and Napster. The 605 WiFi's Linux-based touch-screen interface is delightfully easy to navigate, and the built-in Wi-Fi capabilities make it a snap to collect media while you're out and about. That leads to the biggest gripe about the 605 WiFi: You have to pay US$30 more for a browser. Still, that isn't a huge sacrifice given the reasonably low base price (US$279) of the unit.