Got a gadget buff on your holiday shopping list? Chances are good that most of us will buy at least one tech-related gift this year. Whether it’s a portable media player or a photo key chain, there’s a tech-related gift for every budget this holiday season.
IRIVER LPLAYER ($70-$100)
If you like your portable media players simple, affordable and fairly bite-sized, iriver’s Lplayer will fit the bill. The sleek device comes with 4 or 8 gigabytes of flash memory, and its face consists only of a bright 2-inch screen. You press the sides of the screen to control the device. At first, the controls were a little confusing, but I found the simplicity appealing once I got used to it, and overall the player is fairly easy to navigate. Videos and photos look crisp on the tiny screen, and music sounded good, too. I also dug the iriver software on the device, which was uncluttered and simple, like the player itself.
"I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER?: A LOLCAT COLLECKSHUN" ($8 on Amazon.com)
OMG. I wantz it now! This is the book version of the popular I Can Has Cheezburger Web site, which pairs photos of cats with misspelled, funny captions. Like the one of a tabby kitty sprawled on top of a row of books: "I lernz bai osmozzis." May not be suitable for dog people or fifth-grade English teachers.
MUSIC VIDEO GAMES ($50 and up)
A music game, whether it’s "Rock Band," "Guitar Hero" or "Wii Music," is a good antidote to the cabin fever your family will start to feel around mid-January, having canceled winter travel plans because of the bad economy. "Guitar Hero III" with a Gibson Les Paul controller sells for $80 at Best Buy. The "Rock Band" special edition bundle for the Wii or the PlayStation 2 is available for about $100 and includes a microphone, drum controller and a Fender Stratocaster-modeled guitar controller so you can rock out to Metallica with Mom and Dad.
ROKU NETFLIX PLAYER ($100)
This is the perfect gift for the friend who gets bored waiting for the next Netflix DVD to arrive in the mail. Connected to a high-speed Internet line, this tiny box brings movies and TV shows from Netflix’s Internet library to a TV set. Remarkably, it doesn’t cost anything additional to watch as much as you want, provided you’re already paying Netflix at least $9 per month for DVDs through the mail. It’s very easy to use, and comes with a remote. The movie selection is limited and the image quality can be iffy, but some of the TV shows actually look better than DVDs. For the best quality, the user should have an Internet connection faster than 1.5 megabits per second.
SANSA SLOTMUSIC PLAYER ($20, cards are $15)
This itty-bitty music player won’t show you playlists or hook up to your computer. Nor will it shuffle your songs. It runs on one AAA battery and plays music from fingernail-sized albums called microSD cards. In some ways it’s a throwback to my Walkman years — simpler times when I was content playing just one album from beginning to end and that was that. The player feels sturdy and fits comfortably in the palm of my hand or in my pocket. The cards are so tiny, though, that I worry about losing them or dropping them on the filthy subway floor. While the device doesn’t connect to a PC, the microSD cards can, using a special case that plugs in a computer’s USB port. For the price, it’s a good gift for your technophobe uncle who still swears by his Discman and doesn’t see the point of having to use his computer to play "Dark Side of the Moon."
FLEXIBLE MINI-TRIPOD (about $22 to $55)
For photo-savvy friends who always carry their digital cameras, a flexible mini-tripod such as the Joby Gorillapod could be a good stocking-stuffer. The Joby has bendy legs that can attach to anything from tree branches to fences, to help you take group photos or shoot in low-light conditions without a flash. They are available for point-and-shoot as well as SLR cameras, and come in fun colors.