Top Tech Gifts for Dads and Grads
GE DV1 1080p HD Digital Video Camera
Here it is, June again: Father's Day festivities on the third Sunday and graduations all month as kids move from grade to middle to high school to college and beyond. Skip the tie (y-a-w-n). Resist the same-old gift card. We live in amazing times, so why not give a gift that reflects that? Tablet computers are changing the way people communicate, work and play. Searching for a too-elusive Wi-Fi signal is a thing of the past. Even on a budget that's closer to pen than Porsche, you have plenty of options.
Talk about user-friendly—this adorably pocket-sized (not to mention waterproof!) handheld 1080p HD digital camera boasts a built-in flip out USB plug for instantly connecting and uploading HD videos and photos. In other words, no more searching for cables that are never where you could swear you stuffed them. It's rugged enough to easily withstand fingerprints, dirt, dust and sand and comes in five bright colors: aqua blue, citrus orange, lime green, graphite gray and velvet red.
With 3-D all the rage, it's only natural that a handheld game console with that capability could make a major splash—and it has. The big news is that the 3-D effects don't require any special glasses whatsoever. Other desirable features include the ability to adjust (or turn off altogether) the 3-D effect with the Depth Slider, stereo cameras that can take 3D photos, plenty of built-in software and broad compatibility with other Nintendo DS products.
Logitech Revue with Google TV
Powered by Google's smart TV technology, this book-sized set top box connects your HDTV, cable box, and DVR to our home network, allowing the four to switch easily between live, YouTube, and Netflix or Amazon movies, while streaming music, surfing the Web, checking e-mail, and updating Facebook. Parental controls help keep a safe distance between younger surfers and the Web's seamier side. And instead of a half dozen remotes cluttering the coffee table (when they're not misplaced, that is), we can do it all from the Smart TV's wireless keyboard. That alone is worth it.
Samsung Galaxy Tab
Once upon a time it was customary to give a college grad a fancy briefcase or leather day timer. In 2011, the way to go is a 7-inch Android tablet. Instantly on, always handy, it keeps a schedule and all e-communications handy, web-surfs like a dream and even can handle conference calls using the Galaxy's front-facing camera. It can do pretty much anything—except land that all-important first job.
HP Pavilion dm1z
This sleek, compact notebook features HP's CoolSense technology, which knows if the notebook is on a lap or desk and adjusts its temperature accordingly. It measures about 1 inch thick and has plenty of memory for photos, music, videos and the like. With a sweet under-$500 price tag and notably excellent battery life, this is a great way to get in on a red-hot trend.
TiVo revolutionized the television world when it shipped the first consumer digital video recorder in March 1999, forever changing how we watch TV for the better. (No more racing to get home to catch a show before it started! Or dealing with clunky, usually unlabeled VCR tapes!) The ensuing decade-plus has brought still more change in our viewing habits and zeal for information, and the new TiVo Premiere reflects them all. It's smaller, more energy efficient, can access a mind-boggling selection of videos on demand and records up to 45 hours of HD programming. And of course, slow-mo and instant replay. The charming little guy with antennas who serves as ringmaster is just a bonus.
This "connected" digital photo frame boasts its own unique e-mail address—meaning, anyone with that info can text or e-mail a photo from a cell phone, computer or other Web-enabled device, and almost as if by magic, the Vizit will display the image moments later, along with the sender's ID. All photos sent are automatically backed up on the company's secure site, where they can be accessed, edited, organized or deleted. Any changes are copied to the frame in real time. Since this 10.4-inch touchscreen frame runs on the AT&T cellular network, it doesn't require a Wi-Fi hookup.
Black & Decker iShred Vertical Shredder
Junk mail had better be ready to meet its maker in any household with a Black & Decker iShred—this efficient machine chews through unsolicited credit card offers and coupon mailers like a beaver through soft pine. It alerts you to potential paper jams before they happen (and offers a reverse mode if they do), and lets you know when the bin is full and if it needs to cool down before going at it again. Just bear in mind that at 28 inches high and 14 wide at the base, the iShred is not petite—in other words, the recipient will likely want to keep it next to his desk, not on it.
Eye-Fi Mobile X2
Does Dad juggle a digital camera and a smartphone at every soccer game and birthday party? He needs a free hand for hot dogs and ice cream too. Help the man out by giving him this wireless/memory card. The Eye-Fi not only stores 8GB of photos, it also connects the camera wirelessly (but securely) to his smartphone so he can get the photos off the good camera and share them quickly via his phone. Back within his home Wi-Fi network, the Eye-Fi automatically uploads his photos to Eye-Fi's secure site. All he has to do is turn the camera on and let the card do its thing. His camera will never be out of memory, his photos will always be backed up and the wind will always be at his back.
Wicked Audio Helix
For noise-reducing earbuds that don't cost an arm and a leg, try these over-the-ear numbers on for size. They stay put pretty much no matter what, and because the buds don't totally fill the ear, the Helix is less likely to mess up a kid's hearing. (As for Dad, well, he's probably just pretending not to hear what's going on.) And the price can't be beat.
Energi To Go XP2000K Travel Kit
There's nothing quite as irritating as being stranded with a dead cell. Enter the Energi To Go, a pocket-size dingus that adds hours of juice to mobile phones, MP3 players, digital cameras and other portable gadgets. Just charge overnight and it's ready for action; when a gadget starts to run too low for comfort, the Energi can pick up the slack until there's an outlet handy. The XP2000K kit comes with wall and car adapters, and connectors for four popular types of devices, all in a trim carrying case. (If needed, tips are available from the Energizer site.) Don't leave home without one.
Novatel MiFi 2200 Mobile Hotspot
Anyone who regularly tries to log in and grab e-mail when out and about knows that while it seems like there's Wi-Fi everywhere nowadays, sometimes when a signal is desperately needed there's not a single bar to be had. MiFi uses 3G and 4G cellular networks to create instant hotspots that can be shared by up to five Wi-Fi devices, even in a moving vehicle. Built by Novatel Wireless, the MiFi 2200 is available with a pay-as-you-go broadband service from Virgin Mobile ($10 for 100MB of data, $50 for a month unlimited), or free with a two-year data contract from Verizon or Sprint.
In this era of smartphones and video calls, the home phone is quickly becoming a relic. But there's something to be said for picking up a handset when it rings and saying, "Hello?" (It's easy, for one thing.) This Internet-based home phone has that, along with some very modern features: You can use your cell phone as an additional handset. Give everyone in the house his or her own phone number (for a fee). Or use it from an app on your iPod, iPad or smartphone—even if you leave the house. You can plug your current home phones into it or buy handsets that take advantage of smart features. But there's one thing the old-school land line comes with that Ooma doesn't: a monthly bill.
Pinnacle Studio HD
If our young teen (post-production editor) and tween (writer and director) could use Pinnacle Studio to turn a dozen awkward video interviews into a thrilling, fast-cut short film in a couple of hours on a school night, think what it can do for a dad's boring home videos or slide shows. This video-editing suite makes whipping together a movie or slide show so easy, he'll think he's channeling Quentin Tarantino. He simply plugs the video camera into the computer, drags scenes into the order he wants them, clips out the dull bits, tosses in fades and special effects (the effect that created the smoke monster on Lost is an add-on) and slaps on the credits. It will even automatically generate a sound track to fit.
Apple iPad 2
Maybe it's finally time to spring for the device pretty much everyone wants—this sleek, 1.3-pound beauty puts the Web, e-mail, calendars, videos, music, maps and about a zillion software apps literally at a person's fingertips. Next-gen add-ons include front and rear cameras that capture still shots and hi-def movies, and that support video chat on the generous 10-inch screen. It also boasts the ability to run popular Mac software like GarageBand (music mixing) and iMovie (video editing). Even with the optional keyboard dock ($69), though, the iPad isn't for serious work. But no one will mind in the least.
Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360 and Kinect Adventures
The Kinect sensor is an Xbox accessory that even Mom—usually the one looking to limit screen time—can get behind. Once the device can "see" a person with its uncannily accurate lens eyes, he actually becomes the game controller. After it gets to know a specific individual, it will even change to his avatar when he steps up to play. Just get over how creepy that is and jump to ride the white-water rapids, lean to avoid those rocks, reach to grab those passing trees. This add-on is an easy way to make an existing Xbox 360 more active. (Though you might also want to pick up a copy of Kinect Sports for boxing, soccer and more.) Any gamer, even a hard-core one, will soon be jumping around the room working up a sweat.
Originally published in the June 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.
This piece was accurate at publication time, but all prices, offerings and styles are subject to change.