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High-Tech Gadgets for Dads and Grads

They want the hippest, hottest tech stuff on the market. You don't want to buy something that will seem outdated (or worse, just lame) in a month. Solution? Choose from these awesome options that earned two thumbs up in our hands-on tests.

By Dan Tynan and Christina Tynan-Wood

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Nokia phone
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Nokia Lumia 710

Someone lusting after an iPhone could be equally wowed by this Windows handset for a lot less dough. The slick, customizable Live Tiles interface offers one-tap access to e-mails, messages and tweets. On the go, play mobile Xbox games, watch movies on Netflix and more. T-Mobile also tosses in a terrific free navigation app and ESPN for sports highlights. All for $40! Ka-ching.

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SpareOne

Maybe your grad is heading off for a gap-year program before college. Or Dad loves to rough it on camping trips. For any adventurer, a spare cell phone that runs on one easy-to-find AA battery, offers talk time of up to 10 hours and can hold a charge for years (yes, years) is pure genius.

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Jambox

Listen up—when work beckons and it's conference call time, this futuristic-looking device is a speakerphone with spot-on sound. After hours, plug in a computer or cell phone to play movies or music with perfect clarity. No cables handy? Don't need 'em, courtesy of Bluetooth connectivity.

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Samsung DV300F Camera

Forget about needing a pricey smartphone and data plan to post pictures directly to your social network or e-mail them to friends in real time. This adorable, purse-friendly 16-megapixel camera takes fantastic photos and videos and has a real zoom lens. It even has an LCD screen on the front for taking self-portraits. And with a few clicks on the easy-to-understand onscreen menu, it can upload straight to Facebook, Picasa, YouTube or e-mail via (free) Wi-Fi.

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AOC Portable USB Monitor

Watching movies or silly YouTube videos on a computer is really a one-person activity. But with this 16-inch portable display, it becomes a family affair. Just plug the AOC E1649FWU monitor into the USB port of a Mac or Windows laptop—no power cord required—and it shares what's onscreen with everyone in the room. If your grad is asking for a dorm TV, this might solve the problem.

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Wicked Audio Solus Headphones

Hear that? No? That's the point—it's the sound of blissful silence as your grad dons these over-the-ear numbers to listen to the music you hate. Built-in volume controls and a "DJ" switch that lets him cut off the sound in one ear as he cues up the next track are perfect for the budding MC. With plush, comfy cups, handsome styling and a braided cloth cord, the Solus is easy on the eyes, too.

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Striiv

Give the gift of motivation: This pocket-size pedometer/gaming device rewards its owner for walking, climbing stairs and burning calories with points that add up to money for a charitable donation. It also turns gamers into philanthropists, as in an island game where you must walk to build huts and make plants grow. A great way to nudge a grad to lay off the video games and take a stroll instead. Hey, a mom can dream.

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Zumba Fitness Rush

This Kinect video game disguises a workout as a high-energy dance party, potentially making any dorm room the hottest (and healthiest) place on the floor. Swing dancing in Las Vegas? Merengue in Miami? The location, instructor and music will get the party started. Comes with a free pass to a local Zumba class (requires Xbox 360 and Kinect sensor).

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Sony PS Vita

This nifty handheld bests its predecessor (the PlayStation Portable) in just about every way. The Vita boasts a stunning 5-inch display, powerful quad-core processor, two joysticks, a front touchscreen, a rear touchpad and an internal gyroscope to give serious gamers multiple ways to control the action. Connect via Wi-Fi or 3G to surf the Web, play games on the PlayStation Network or download movies and TV shows. While this unit won't play old PSP games, with new titles like Wipeout 2048 and Uncharted: Golden Abyss, they probably won't be missed.

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Samsung Galaxy Note

Instead of struggling to text with tiny keys, Dad can jot musings on the pen-based Galaxy Note for swift translation into text. Photos snapped with the 8-megapixel camera can be posted straight to Facebook. He'll also be surfing at 4G speeds, reading e-books with the Amazon Kindle or Google Play Books apps, even watching live TV (for additional fees) on a gorgeous 5.3-inch screen. And whom will he thank for making him the envy of his generation? You.

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Biscotti

Making everyone huddle around a laptop for video chats is about to seem very '90s, if the Biscotti gets its way. Resembling a plastic version of the namesake cookie, this nifty unit sits on top of your TV, taps into your wireless network and transforms the big screen into a video phone. Best part? Calls are free.

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Apple iPad

Call it love at first sight. The third-generation iPad has double the screen resolution of the iPad 2, which means text is noticeably sharper and colors are much richer. But that's not all. Think 5-megapixel photos, full 1080p HD videos and the option to dictate e-mails and notes for conversion to text. The high-speed 4G wireless model is at least as fast as most home broadband connections. And you can turn that 4G connection into a portable Wi-Fi hotspot to share with other users, making it a gift the entire family can enjoy. (At press time, only Verizon offered portable hotspots.)

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Doxie Go + Wi-Fi

A quick run through this adorable scanner turns bills, receipts, handwritten notes and the like into digital files that are way more useful than random papers. Just install, tell it where to send scans and keep it charged. A solid choice for men, teenagers or pretty much anyone with an aversion to clutter.

Originally published in the June 2012 issue of Family Circle magazine.

This piece was accurate at publication time, but all prices, offerings and styles are subject to change.

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