Holiday Toys for Grown-Ups 2011
By Dawn Gordon Luks
Every year I get dozens of emails asking for unique electronic holiday gift ideas. Below are my favorites ranging in price from $40 to $499.
Parrot AR Drone ($299.99) http://ardrone.parrot.com/parrot-ar-drone/usa/
Using WiFi you can control all aspects of flight using your iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad or Android-based phones and tablets. This quad-copter can fly indoors or outdoors and it features both forward and rear facing video cameras for real-time flight views. Easily the best toy this year.
Apple iPad 2 ($499+) www.apple.com
Aside from the iPhone 4S, the iPad 2 is probably the coolest piece of technology around. With new features such as Face Time, it's not the least expensive tablet on the block, but it's the best.
UltraSteam 2 Jewelry Cleaner ($199) www.frontgate.com
Combining the cleaning power of ultrasonic waves and professional-strength variable steam, this product uses plain tap water to keep your jewelry sparkling. If you've ever watched a jewelry store technician clean your jewelry you know that they first put it into an ultrasonic cleaner and afterwards use bursts of steam to clean out all the crevices. The Ultrasteam offers the same functionality and you never have to leave your house. The included mini baskets and tweezers allow you to hold and turn jewelry while steam cleaning.
Audyssey South of Market Audio Dock for iPod & iPhone ($399.99) www.audyssey.com
From the people who bring room equalization to the modern AV receiver, the folks at Audyssey have developed a rocking iPod speaker/dock with outstanding sound quality at a great price. The dock also features wireless audio streaming and a speakerphone function via two microphones. There's also an Audyssey iPhone app that provides additional control and customizable EQ.
Automatic Wine Opener with Foil Cutter ($39.95) www.brookstone.com
Brookstone's latest electric wine opener effortlessly removes corks from wine bottles quickly and easily. Featuring one-touch operation, this unit is rechargeable and can remove 50 corks (natural or synthetic) on a single charge. Includes a built-in foil cutter, recharging base and AC adapter.
Ultimate Rechargeable Heated Gloves ($199.99) www.frontgate.com
At about $200 these gloves are priced at the very top, but they offer the latest technology and an amazing 8 hours of heat on a single charge. The flexible gloves are powered by lightweight lithium-ion batteries that are so thin, they're undetectable. These waterproof, leather gloves are available in 5 sizes.
Kindle Fire ($199) www.amazon.com
iPad 2 notwithstanding, the hottest tablet is the new Kindle Fire. At only 7-inches this device is smaller and a lot less expensive than the iPad, yet it offers 19 million movies, TV shows, songs, magazines, and books, thousands of popular apps and games, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora and more. The fire also features web browsing, and free cloud storage for all your Amazon content.
Garmin nüvi 2495LMT ($229.99) www.Garmin.com
Garmin's nüvi 2495LMT is an affordable GPS device with high-end features such as voice navigation, free real-time traffic, as well as Bluetooth connectivity to your cell phone. Other features include enhanced pedestrian navigation and a "Where Am I?" emergency locator that always knows your location. Simply tap the screen to get your exact latitude and longitude coordinates, the nearest address and intersection and the closest hospitals, police stations and fuel stations. Of course, the GPS provides complete maps for North America and a Text-to-Speech feature, so you get turn-by-turn spoken directions with the real street names. The unit also has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and includes useful travel tools like a JPEG picture viewer, world travel clock with time zones, currency converter, measurement converter and calculator.
Dawn Gordon Luks is a veteran consumer electronics journalist. In addition to her writing schedule, Dawn also designs home audio, home theater, and home automation installations in South Florida. Send an email to Dawn Gordon Luks.