Tech gifts for the tech guy or gal

By Justin Crawford, December, 2011

It is now the holiday season, and it is time to think about what you want to get for that person on your list that knows more about IP addresses than sweater vests (or even knows what an IP address is).  There are all kinds of gadgets out there with different features and prices, so instead of creating an Excel spreadsheet comparing all of them, I thought I would share with you my list.  Hopefully, it will give you some insight on items you might have heard of but never really looked into.  One thing to note: I haven’t actually had hands on experience with the items on the list. I am going by what the manufacturer’s website says.

Kindle Fire

This is number one on my list. I have been lusting over the Kindle Fire since I heard about it. The reason is very simple: The price is $199. Let’s think about the question “what are you really going to do with a tablet?” More than likely, your day-to-day use will include getting on the internet, checking email, playing some games and listening to music. That is four checks with the Fire.  So, with all of those activities covered for the price of $199, then why not?

Now time to add to that value. The Fire only comes with 8GB of storage, however, you can store on the cloud.  By the way, 8GB is actually enough to do a lot.  It does force you to think about what you have on the device and what you are actually going to use.  For example, if you have a smart phone, take it out right now and count how many apps you have and how many you actually use (I have 17 apps and use all 17, but I just got the phone two weeks ago).

Now for a big plus: It’s a Kindle, so you can download books just like a regular Kindle, but in color. You can actually switch magazine subscriptions to the Fire (Perhaps, Validity will be available soon). You can also subscribe to the Amazon Prime service for $80 per year (that’s $6.66 per month–take that Netflix and your price-raising ways!).  With Prime, you can stream movies and TV shows, plus get free $2 shipping on many items sold on Amazon and use Kindle owners’ lending library, which allows you to borrow books for free (1 book per month).

Let’s get technical.  What does the Kindle Fire look like under the hood?  It has a 7” touch screen, 8GB of storage, 8 hours of battery life, wireless internet access and 1 micro USB slot.  That is all you need!

And that is the Kindle Fire.  There are other features that would really depend on hands on usage, so I am not going to form opinions on those features until I play with them (by the way, I just got word that my wonderful fiancée just ordered me one and it will be here in one week). I did forget one key feature… The Fire looks sleek and snazzy.  Ok, I will now wipe the drool from my keyboard and move on to the next item on my Christmas List.

Google TV

The Google TV is pretty cool. It is your standard 46” Sony LED HDTV (comes in 32” and 40” as well) with one huge plug:  Google optimization.  What does that mean, you ask?  It means you get an Android operating system built into the TV.  You can download apps, search the web, watch videos online and search Google TV.

What apps are available?  While it does not look like Angry Birds is available, there are quite a few, including Netflix, Pandora, CNN and Twitter.  Also, there are games, including Dragon, Fly which I am excited about.  Go to the September issue of Validity to read my reviews on some of these apps.

Sure, there are ways to search the web on some non-Google TVs, but do they look as cool? No! I haven’t played with many TVs so I can’t say the Google TV is easier to use, but it has Google built-in.  Google pretty much invented searching the web.  When you search the web on a TV what are you more than likely going to end up doing?  Watching YouTube videos.  Google TV allows you to watch other videos from online also, including Hulu, Netflix and perhaps Amazon instant. Thus, making a Google TV the perfect partner to a Kindle Fire.

How can it get any better? Search Google TV.   Sounds kind of boring right?  Wrong!  With this feature you search for a show (Seinfeld, for instance) and your Google TV will search your cable or satellite provider’s channel guide for that show, search the internet (YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, etc.), and with Dish Network, even search your DVR.

Helo TC

Ok, I already have one of these.  However, I think this is a really cool gift idea. The Helo TC is a helicopter that you fly with your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad.  This thing is seriously cool. You hook up your device to the controller that comes with the helicopter, open the app that is free in the app store and you are ready to fly.

Inside the app is a joystick that allows you to fly with ease. The tricky part is getting the power set properly to maintain flight. If you have too much you fly into the ceiling, too little and you fall back to the floor. If you get good at it you can record your flight pattern, which enables you to repeat the same tricks with ease (just click “replay flight plan”). Once you get into the “advanced” stage, you can lose the joystick and control the Helo just by tilting your iDevice.

The Helo TC operates using infrared rays (the same way a TV remote communicates with a TV), making it great for indoors, considering how infrared rays can bounce off surfaces to maintain signal.  However, that means that operating the Helo TC outdoors is almost out of the question.  The Helo TC also makes it easy to have multiple Helos going at once.  You can choose between three different channels so you can fly up to three at once.

Roku

This little device is pretty sweet. It allows you to convert any TV into a streaming TV with a Wi-Fi connection.  This is a device that you wouldn’t want to get if you have a TV that can already get on the internet and stream content (Like the Google TV). With a Roku box, you can stream Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO Go, NHL Center Ice (Go Preds!), CNBC and many others.

The Roku comes in a few different models, and all but one does HD.  A few other features you can get if you pay the price are an enhanced remote for playing games, an Ethernet connection (usually faster and more reliable than Wi-Fi), Bluetooth and even Angry Birds.

Gift Cards

Ok, ok, ok, I know gift cards are not that techie.  But they can be the perfect gift at times. Some of the best places to get gift cards are Amazon, iTunes, Best Buy and anywhere they sell tech gear. You can even gift services like Netflix.

 

Justin Crawford holds a degree in Engineering Technology from MTSU.  He is employed as a network engineer.

 


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