Author: Yogi Schulz
Finding just the right gift for a high-tech friend can be quite a challenge, particularly if you have a low-tech orientation yourself. Since your friend probably has more ties or perfume than he or she can possibly use in a life time, finding that unique gift will be tough. If you’re in a big hurry, don’t have time for a lot of research and need to get to the bottom-line, here are some great high-tech Christmas gift ideas. All prices are in CDN$ before GST.
Most technology oriented households now have high-speed Internet access. However, if your friend doesn’t, it’s a great gift at about $35.00 per month. The choices are cable from Shaw or ADSL from Telus. I’ve heard about good and bad experiences from both services. Be sure your home is located well inside the Telus distance limit for ADSL. Unfortunately, there’s a difference of opinion between the Telus engineering department and the marketing department about where this limit falls.
It’s difficult to navigate through the huge selection of digital cameras. I recommend a camera with about 3 megapixels of image capture. That number achieves the same photographic resolution as 35 mm film. The PowerShot series of cameras from Canon offers good value, including a 3 megapixel camera, for about $600.00. If you want to spend more money, spend it on a more powerful zoom lens not on more megapixels.
A USB connection provides sufficient speed to transfer pictures to a PC. The more expensive and faster FireWire connection is necessary only if your shutter bug friend takes dozens of pictures most days. There is not much cost or performance difference among the different storage card alternatives.
Personal Digital Assistant
The selection of Personal Digital Assistants (PDA) is considerable. In the Palm OS lineup, I like the Palm Clie for about $200.00 because it offers color, better screen resolution and nifty styling.
For someone who already owns a Palm, there’s the FanklinCovey PlanPlus calendaring and task/goal management software that integrates with Microsoft Outlook for $120.00.
The major competitor to Palm is the Pocket PC. Here the Compaq, now HP, iPAQ is among the best for features and software at about $700.00. The advantages over the Palm include color, better screen resolution, better handwriting recognition, faster processor as well as Microsoft Reader, Pocket Word and Excel software.
Adding cell phone capability to an existing PDA can be achieved with an AirCard 555, that slides into the expansion slot, for about $600.00.
The latest cell phones are incredibly inexpensive, starting with the popular Motorola C333 for $25.00 with the usual cell service contract. Don’t buy a phone associated with a carrier that’s different from the carrier your friend uses. Telephone numbers are not yet portable.
The latest product trend is a cell phone with Short Messaging Service (SMS) integrated into a PDA. Rogers offers the Palm OS Handspring Treo or the RIM Blackberry for about $700.00. These two PDA’s offer the two-thumbs keyboard that is quite popular. Bell offers the Pocket PC AudioVox Thera for $1,100.00. Telus offers the Palm OS Kyocera 7135 for $800.00.
If your friend is tired of the wire tangle that accompanies hands-free operation of a cell phone, consider the Jabra BlueTooth headset for about $300.00. BlueTooth is an emerging short-range wireless transmission technology that connects the cell phone on your belt or in your purse to a speaker/microphone combo stuck in your ear.
For great advice on cell phone alternatives and accessories talk to Al Abdallah at Downtown Wireless.
The latest Personal Computer, with handwriting recognition and stylus input, is the Tablet PC. It’s available in a variety of shapes and sizes that cost from about $2,800 to $3,800. Toshiba offers the fastest of the integrated-keyboard Tablet PCs with the largest screen at 12.1 inches. However, it is also the heaviest at about 4 lb. and the most expensive. Fujitsu is the best designed of the no-keyboard Tablets because it offers low weight and the clearest, brightest screen. The Compaq is appealing because it offers the most innovative design and the lowest price. This web page contains links to all the hardware manufacturers that offer Tablet PCs: http://www.microsoft.com/canada/windowsxp/tabletpc/default.mspx.
Digital Video Recorder
Digital video recorders are an emerging product that is ideal for the friend who may have almost everything. These machines, like the TiVo, use a disk drive instead of a VHS tape to record television for later play back. Most models expect that you will subscribe to a programming service so that the device can record shows that fit your viewing profile. Some models like the ReplayTV can connect to a network and be used to distribute video throughout the home. Expect to pay between $400.00 and $800.00 depending on the storage capacity expressed in hours of recorded TV programming.
For the high-tech gourmet, there’s the NorPro temperature probe and timer with LCD readout available at the Compleat Cook. A wire connects the probe, stuck into the turkey, to the LCD panel. You never have to open the stove to check on the turkey. A bargain at only $50.00.
If your friend is a stickler for punctuality, a clock that receives a radio time signal from the U. S. atomic clock operated by the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., costs about $200.00. Remote temperature monitoring for various parts of your estate, if that’s needed, adds another $100.00.
There must almost a million models of CD Walkmans starting at $120.00. Spending more money for more features is probably a waste of time because your high-tech friend will value simplicity above most other features. Be sure your model can read MP3 format CDs.
If your friend is worried about being hacked, consider a firewall. It’s a small box that’s installed between your cable or ADSL modem and your computer. Good examples are the Linksys BEFSR41 or the D-Link DI-604 that cost under $300.00. I’m not a fan of software firewalls, like those that come with Windows XP. They’re easier to circumvent, require occasional attention and soak up processor resources continually.
Global Positioning System
For the hiker or fishing enthusiast among your friends, a handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver that makes becoming lost in the woods very difficult, starts at about $250.00.
There’s no shortage of unique products that can become the greatest Christmas gift for a high-tech friend. If this list isn’t sufficiently ambitious, think Camcorder or Home Theater.