Author: Yogi Schulz

Wondering about the ideal Christmas gift for your high-tech friend? Here’s an overview of recent products that will appeal to even the most gadget-obsessed among your friends. Electronics are invading most gadgets and toys. Even barbeques, beds and curtains now come with remote controls. Some toys are now smarter than those who play with them.

The prices shown are approximate Canadian dollars with GST included.

Mobile Music

Apple’s iPod continues to dominate the mobile music market. The latest iPod Mini typically sells for under $400.00. The iPod Mini is cheaper, lighter and includes less storage (but still more than enough) than the regular iPod. Since your friend probably already owns one, consider an audio-enhancing accessory as a gift.

Bose’s SoundDoc digital music system adds an amplifier, substantial speakers, a remote control and a cradle for the iPod. Now the music can fill an entire room while charging the iPod. The cost is about $425.00.

Adaptors from Belkin, Griffin and Sony let you play your iPod music through your car stereo. Cost is under $50.00.

Mobile Video

For those who want to show pictures or watch video while on the move (but hopefully not while driving), there’s mobile video. Apple’s new iPod Photo is a poor choice because the eternal struggle between weight and functionality has produced a screen that’s probably too small to be useful. Connecting the iPod Photo to a convenient TV with the supplied cable can solve the small screen problem in stationary situations.

Alternatives that cost and weigh more but sport a larger screen include the Archos AV400 and the Epson P-2000 that cost about $750.00. Most automobile manufacturers and after-market accessory companies offer DVD units for various makes of cars and SUV’s. Typical price of a DVD unit with audio headsets is $1,500.00 to $2,000.00 installed.

Cell phone with Camera

In the last few years, cell phones have sprouted cameras that made small, grainy pictures. The good news was the ability to easily e-mail the images. The bad news was the poor resolution of the pictures.

New for this year are cell phones with up to 1.3 megapixel resolution, zoom and flash capability. These features have improved the image quality of the pictures enormously. Good examples are the Nokia 3205i and the AudioVox 8900. The Nokia also offers mpeg video recording. These phones cost under $300.00 with a typical two-year contract.

Cell Phone with Personal Digital Assistant

For those who want to limit the number of gadgets clipped to their belt or stored in their purse, a combination cell phone with Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) is likely the answer. These phones combine e-mail and voice calling. They sport small keyboards.

One new model is the PalmOne Treo 600 that offers hand-writing with a stylus plus an SD expansion card to store pictures taken by the integrated camera or music for the optional MP3 player. The Treo 600 costs about $650.00 with a typical two-year contract.

RIM offers the Blackberry 7100r. It makes telephoning easier than its e-mail oriented predecessors. Typing speed is enhanced by the auto-complete feature, named SureType, that anticipates well what you’re planning to type. The Blackberry 7100r costs about $550.00 with a typical two-year contract.

They are available for the GSM/GPRS network (Rogers and Bell) and for the CDMA (Telus) network. Buy the model for cell network where your friend already has a number because numbers are not yet portable.

For great advice on cell phone alternatives and accessories speak to Al Abdallah at Downtown Wireless.

Global Positioning System

Global Positioning System (GPS) units help you know where you are. They have become easier to use, lighter and more functional. In addition to the GPS unit, you’ll need a CD of digital maps and some software for plotting out your route and downloading the annotated map into your GPS unit. Expect to spend about $900.00 for a Palm OS-based Garmin iQue 3600, map data and software.

My good friend Stephen Langley, an avid outdoorsman, uses his GPS on every hiking trip to the mountains. He cautions that effective use of GPS requires effort to plan the trip (always a good idea) and to become familiar with the software. While the GPS has not replaced the printed map & compass, it has added a new level of reassurance that you’re not lost in the woods.

Avoid GPS units as a gift if the intended recipient can’t tell one UTM zone from another and believes that NAD 27 and NAD 83 are synonyms.

Digital Camera

Digital cameras have become both larger and smaller while becoming more capable and cheaper. Feature creep makes some cameras intimidating to operate. FujiFilm’s easy-to-use FinePix S3100 avoids this problem. It offers a professional look at $400.00.

Some cameras have become so small that there’s risk of you taking pictures of your fingers or covering the flash. The Canon PowerShot SD300 is an example of small, light and capable at $500.00.

Larger, more expensive cameras now offer a wider assortment of lenses and features to ensure spectacular quality pictures even in marginal light. An important consideration in the selection of an expensive digital camera is its ability to use the collection of lenses one may already own.

The Canon EOS 10D and the Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D, that cost is the range of $1,200 to $2,000, can both use lenses from their analog cousins.

Specialized Photo Printer

This year several specialized photo printers are vying for your megapixel business. Specialized means that you can produce prints from your digital camera images without needing a personal computer as an intermediary. PictBridge is the name of the software standard that supports direct connection using a standard USB cable. Available printers include Canon’s Selphy DS700 and CP330, Epson’s PictureMate, Hewlett-Packard’s Photosmart 375, the Olympus P-10, Sony’s FP30 and EX50. Prices range from $200.00 to $300.00.

High-Tech Swiss Army Knife

Here’s an idea for a budget-constrained gift to the high-tech oriented. For those who need even more functionality in the classical Swiss Army knife, Victorinox makes the Swissmemory model that adds up to 128 MB USB storage and a mini light. Expect to spend under $100.00.

Microsoft Media Center Extender

Your high-tech friend is likely to own a personal computer full of pictures, video and music. The Microsoft Media Center Extender, once connected to a TV, can make that rich library of content available to that TV. Cost is about $500.00.

There are a few techie pre-requisites to the effective operation of the Extender. First the base personal computer must be running Windows XP Media Center Edition. Second, the Extender operates best on a wired Ethernet connection because of its voracious bandwidth consumption. If you have only a wireless network, the Extender must run on the 802.11a frequency band while the rest of your network is probably best served by the 802.11g frequency band. Using only one band for all network traffic won’t be successful. For this reason, introducing the Extender, often triggers a wireless router upgrade that costs under $200.00.

Media Oriented Personal Computer

If your friend needs a better personal computer for gaming and to manage all the media, consider the Voodoo Vibe. It’s made right here in Calgary. Its high-end feel, cool looks and low noise are sure to turn heads. Expect to spend over $3,000.00.

Tablet PC

Being able to write on the screen with a stylus makes Tablet PCs interesting for some lap top users. I own the Toshiba version, a Portégé M200. I like the light weight, 4 hour battery life and the variety of communication options. The HP tc1100 is also credible. Either brand costs about $2,800.00.

NEC recently announced a Tablet PC called the VersaPro VY11F/GL-R that is only 11mm-thick and weighs much less than the current models. That’s sure to appeal to gadget-oriented friends.

Personal Video Recorders

The big attraction of Personal Video Recorders (PVR), like TiVo and Replay TV, is the ability to “pause” a live TV program to answer the phone or to make a snack in the kitchen. When you return, you can catch up by skipping through the commercials. This capability is likely to undermine the business model of commercial television as we know it. That outlook should not distract us from our Christmas shopping though.

Personal video recorders also let you record one TV program while watching another channel or record when you’re not at home for later viewing.

For 2004, the new feature of PVRs is support for High-Definition TeleVision or HDTV. The new models are specific to your cable or satellite service provider so contact them for details. Shaw Cable offers an HDTV PVR for $339.00 with the usual asterisk related to signing up for a cable service plan.


This year has produced a new crop of technical advances in high-tech gadgets of all kinds. You’re sure to find something that will look great under your Christmas tree. If you’d like a set of web links for the products I’ve mentioned, please send me an e-mail. Happy Christmas shopping for your high-tech friends.


Apple iPod

BOSE SoundDock for iPod

Apple iPod accessories

Apple iPod Photo

Archos AV400

Epson P-2000

Ford Ceiling-mounted DVD player

Nokia 3205i

AudioVox 8900

PalmOne Treo600;jsessionid=YQNZ2RG4K4ZKXQFIAE0SFE4AVAATMIV0

RIM Blackberry

Garmin iQue 3600

FujiFilm FinePix S3100

Canon PowerShot SD300

Canon EOS 10D

Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D

Canon’s Selphy DS700 and CP330

Epson’s PictureMate

Hewlett-Packard’s Photosmart 375

Olympus P-10

Sony’s FP30 and EX50

Swiss Army Knife, VICTORINOXSWISSMEMORY ™ for computer users on the move.

Microsoft Media Center Extender

Voodoo Vibe

Toshiba Tablet PC – Portégé M200

HP Tablet PC – tc1100

NEC’s new 11mm thick Tablet PCPosted Aug 2, 2004, 10:23 AM ET by Peter Rojas


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