Real-world guitar heroes, hail Power Gig: Rise of the Six String. This ridiculously cool game can be bought bundled with a strummer that connects wirelessly to an Xbox 360 or Sony PS3 console—but also doubles as a fully functional guitar. Gotta love any game that offers bonus points for shredding Kid Rock's "All Summer Long." Talk about music to our ears.
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Hot Holiday Tech Gifts
Power Gig: Rise of the Six String
Camera Xacti, model VPC-CA102YL
Most parents have a kid-video archive including first steps, Halloween costumes, Little League games, ballet recitals. All stuff that's dry—literally. Enter the Sanyo Dual Camera Xacti, a pocket-size camera combo that captures 1920 x 1080 full-HD video and 14-megapixel stills at the touch of a button—and better yet, is waterproof to 10 feet. That feature means footage of your crew swimming, skiing, or singing in the rain could be poised to go viral on YouTube at any moment.
eGo Compact Portable Hard Drive
Marble notebooks of yore have more or less made way for USB key drives for kids' school projects. Think ahead now and buy one large enough to accommodate a scholar's trove of essays and projects, resulting in a single drive with a complete digital record of their school experience. We like the eGo portable drive—with capacities of 320 gigabytes (GB) to 1 terabyte (TB), it holds more data than most typical computers, rendering file space a nonissue.
Look no further for an ideal under-$50 gift for a tween or teen. These over-the-head phones—compatible with any device with a 3.5mm jack—sound amazing, sit on the ears rather than in them, and fold up to stash in a backpack. Best of all, they're customizable with fun, funky colors and emblems. While you're ordering, consider the supercomfy EarPollution CS40 for yourself. You won't regret it.
Finally, the means to ditch your cable subscription and the sky-high bill that comes with it—with a Roku XDS, almost all of your entertainment can come over the Internet through Netflix, Amazon, or one of the dozens of Roku channels like Kung Fu Theater or Major League Baseball. The XDS streams full high-definition (1080p) movies and shows to an HDTV and plays home movies or music stored on a USB key drive. A nifty new remote offers "instant replay" that can rewind the last 10 seconds, as well as a button that displays program info without interrupting the show.
When each family member has a different music goal in mind—tunes in the bedroom and the kitchen, a kick-butt wake-up playlist—the Sonos S5 brings harmony. Plug it into an outlet and Wi-Fi router, install the software on a laptop, and presto—it finds the songs on every computer in the house, asks for log-ins to subscription services (Sirius Satellite Radio, Pandora, and Napster) and is ready for action in minutes. The $100 Zone-Bridge add-on plugs into the router and makes the S5 portable, so you can The S5 still taps all our music, but wirelessly, so we can carry it around easily. Selections and volume can be controlled from anywhere in the house using a laptop, iPhone, or iPad app, or a dedicated Sonos controller ($349).
Virgin Mobile Samsung Intercept
Your kid is begging six ways from Sunday for a Droid. You're loath to pay $40 a month and sign a two-year contract. Solution: the Samsung Intercept, the first Droid phone to work with Virgin Mobile's prepaid service. It has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard and a touch screen. Best of all, Virgin Mobile's cheapest Beyond Talk plan is $25 a month for unlimited data, texting, and e-mail (with 300 voice minutes), and there's no commitment. So if the phone accidentally ends up in the laundry, you can just stop paying the monthly fee.
Netbook computers have been a huge hit with busy moms, even though most units are too small and weak to be a minivan warrior's main machine. Acer's 11.6-inch TimelineX is a prime example of how that's changing: It's fast and powerful, yet the 3-pound machine is small enough to go anywhere. Included is Intel's newest and fastest processor (the i7), 4 GB of RAM, and enough storage to hold everything from photos and kids' art to presentations and spreadsheets. If you want to watch movies and don't mind a slightly larger netbook, you might want to move up to a 14-inch screen (price depending on specs). Don't need that much speed? Save some dinero and get the i3 model ($599).
If you've had it with hearing "I can't find the charger for my cell phone/Gameboy/iPod" at top volume, consider the Powermat wireless charger. Plug it into an outlet, connect a 2-inch-square "powercube" receiver to the gadget that needs power, and lay it flat on the mat. The Powermat 3X can juice three devices simultaneously and comes with assorted tips that connect the powercube to products from Apple, LG, Nintendo, Samsung, and Sony, as well as anything using micro or mini USB chargers.
Dell Inspiron Zino HD
This colorful 8-inch cube fits neatly into tight spaces and makes for a whisper-quiet home entertainment PC. Just plug it into an LCD TV, connect the sound, and use the optional wireless mouse and keyboard to dial up Hulu or Netflix from the couch. A fully loaded Zino with a Blu Ray disc player, Windows 7 Professional, and a massive 1-terabyte hard drive costs $800, but a budget model—perfect for a dorm room—goes for hundreds less.
Toshiba 32CV100 LCD/DVD TV
By combining a DVD player and flat panel HDTV in one device, the Toshiba 32CV100 fits into a small space without cluttering it with wires. The 32-inch model works nicely in a bedroom; it's also available in 19-, 22-, and 26-inch versions perfect for a den, home office, or kitchen. The model automatically converts DVDs to its native 720p HD format, while a USB port on the side lets us display photos or play MP3s.
Files and piles of papers all over the place are so unnecessary in this day and age—just send a digital copy of any "keepers" to any place you choose. Come across a recipe, receipt, business card, or piece of key correspondence? Feed it to Doxie, hit the Heart button, and promptly get asked where to stash or share it: Google Docs, Flickr, Picnik, Evernote, or a program on the laptop. It weighs only 10.9 ounces, is about the size of an empty paper-towel roll, and connects with just one cord.
Little black dress? Check. Statement earrings? Check. Sexy heels that look pricey but weren't? Check. Bulky camera with thick neck strap? Umm, hold on a sec. To make a major fashion statement, go with a compact, colorful Create camera — the results of a collaboration between GE and fashion superstar Jason Wu. Hit one button to review images instantly. Later, just plug the camera into the USB port (using the pop-out plug) to upload. Generous internal memory holds thousands of photos so you never have to bother messing with memory cards.
Originally published in the December 2010 issue of Family Circle magazine.
This piece was accurate at publication time, but all prices, offerings, and styles are subject to change.