If you’re reading this blog, chances are you are the type of person who thinks a gadget can make for a mind-blowing gift.
Here’s a handy compendium for blowing minds on the (relatively) cheap. These gifts range in price from a $30 pair of hi-fi headphones to a $200 tablet, and they’ll make the nerd on your list smile. Or scream and jump around like that one House of Pain song never went out of style.
And if the latter is the case, we humbly request that you film it and upload it to YouTube with the title “Thank You VentureBeat.”
Tablets & E-readers
Kindle Fire: $199
This tablet-and-e-reader hybrid is currently the most popular in its class. With this Android tablet, you get access to a huge media library of 18 million movies, TV shows, songs, magazines and books through Amazon itself, as well as from third-party services like Hulu, Pandora and Netflix. The device supports thousands of games and apps, and runs Amazon Silk, the company’s own web browser.
The Fire features a 7-inch touchscreen and supports Wi-Fi connectivity.
Nook Color: $199
This e-reader from Barnes & Noble also features some suspiciously tablet-like touches, such as apps, multimedia services, email access and web browsing. It also has access to a library of more than 2.5 million books and magazines. Netflix and Hulu support are coming soon, as is Nook Comics, a Marvel-fueled marketplace of comic books and graphic novels. Nook users can get device support (Genius Bar-style) inside Barnes & Nobel stores.
The 7-inch color touchscreen device supports Wi-Fi connectivity.
This e-reader-and-tablet hybrid sports Wi-Fi connectivity, a 7-inch color touchscreen and an Android operating system, which means you’ll find the expected range of apps, games and music and video services. You’ll also get web browsing, email access and the Kobo Store, which houses 2.2 million books alone, as well as magazines and newspapers. Kobo also wants us all to know about Pulse, its attempt to socialize the reading experience.
Toys & Games
This remote-controlled toy can actually be controlled with the iHelecopter app on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. And if you feel like buying more than one, up to three iHelicopters can be controlled by three different iOS devices in the same space, thanks to a handy band selection feature. For $10 more, you can spring for the missile-launching version.
This motion-sensitive controller turns a hardcore gaming console like the Xbox 360 into something that’s approachable and fun for the whole family. Plus, it’ll keep your favorite couch potato on his or her feet, with many Kinect-focused games based on dancing, racing and similar activities. The Xbox itself is sold separately; you can find it at some stores or online retailers for less than $200.
Sony Xperia Play 4G: $49 (with contract)
If you’re open to signing up for an AT&T two-year contract, you can pick up one of these PlayStation-certified gadgets on a 4G network. The Play functions as a full phone, complete with front- and rear-facing cameras, texting, web browsing and apps. But it also comes bundled with seven PlayStation games. More games can be purchased separately.
Image via theirhistory/Flickr
Music & Media Devices
If your gift recipient is a TV and film buff, but is thinking of cutting the cable, this glorious gift is like a permanent season-pass to classic and new content. While you’ll still have to pay the relatively nominal fees for Hulu Plus, Netflix or other third-party services you choose, this Roku player can deliver the content in 1080p via an HDMI connection to your TV. The box is WiFi compatible, as well.
Audiophiles and earbuds don’t mix too well, generally speaking. But the perfectionists at Etymotic Research have crafted the hf5 noise-cancelling, highly accurate earbuds to rave reviews. The ‘buds come in three colors (black, ruby and cobalt) and are packaged with a few different types of eartips for your listening enjoyment and ear-hole comfort. If comfort is really an issue, you can spring for the custom-fitted eartips, too.
Apple’s now-classic line of MP3 players is practically unchallenged in the mass market. For squeal-worthy stocking stuffers, we recommend the mid-range nano. It’s delightfully tiny, but its touchscreen supports convenient MP3 management as well as radio-listening and a few other features.
What’s not to love about this sleek MP3 player dock? It comes with a remote control and a 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable for connecting the Pipe to a range of smartphones, laptops and MP3 players. Or, you can pop your iPhone or compatible iPod right on top. Best of all, it can run on four AAA batteries, so feel free to toss it in your bike basket and cruise with tunes. The Pipe comes in black, white, blue and chrome finishes, as well as a rasta stripe.
Described by a VentureBeat editor as a “crazy good deal,” these cans boast clean bass, crisp sound and good noise cancellation. Reviewers also say they’re comfortable, and their compact size makes them great for a frequent traveler or mass transit commuter (trust me, you don’t want to be the only dork sporting headphones the size of pot lids on the morning train).
Cameras, Phones & The Kitchen Sink
This slick little number features a three-inch LCD screen and can capture 1080p HD video in addition to all those luminous photos we’re sure your gift recipient will be snapping. The HS system with a 12.1 MP active pixel sensor will help to lower noise levels and improve results in low lighting. Better still, the camera’s Movie Digest Mode lets you make a whole day’s worth of clips into a single video, and its scene modes for stills lets you apply trendy toy camera and monochromatic filters.
Lark is the silent un-alarm clock that will wake you up without disturbing your partner. The makers of Lark also recently launched Lark Pro, which includes an online and mobile sleep coaching problem. The Lark team highly recommended the Pro version to a couple VentureBeaters with sleep issues such as insomnia. The app tracks your sleeping patterns for a week, then creates targets, reminders and recommendations to help you get a better night’s sleep.
HTC Titan: $199 (with contract)
This longtime Android fangirl is being called over to the dark side — the new Windows Phone devices are attractive and curiously hot right now. A quick scroll through the phone’s interface shows us why: These phones are high-gloss, visually stunning gadgets that are user-friendly and sure to challenge the Big Two in terms of design and user experience. We picked the 4G-capable Titan for this showcase because it’s friggin’ huge. Its monster 4.7-inch screen might be more cinematic than what you’re looking for, but its 9.9 mm body is slender enough to impress.
Samsung Sidekick 4G: $29 (with contract)
If you’re looking for a pretty, fun smartphone that’s less of a beast than the Titan (something for your “can I have a cell phone this year, can I, can I?” teen, perhaps), we highly recommend checking out the Sidekick. It’s almost obnoxiously social, with baked-in group texting features and a Twitter- and Facebook-powered address book. Your recipient will get special media controls (at fast playback with 4G connectivity), a QWERTY slide-out keyboard for speedy typing and a face-to-face video chat app, too. The device features a 3MP and 1.3MP front- and rear-facing cameras for all the moody crumpled napkin and self-aggrandizing portraiture photography you can stand.
Fitbit has been all the rage this year among the digerati. The Fitbit tracker is a tiny device that, when slipped into a wristband and kept on your person, tracks your activity (including steps walked and stairs climbed), the calories you’re burning, the distance you travel, how much you sleep and more. The companion mobile and web apps also help you track your food intake as well as other vital stats. This one is perfect for the aspiring health nut on your list.