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Holiday Gift Guide

The Gizmo Guide

Could this be the holiday season when we remember the true meaning of gadgets?

December 09, 2007|David Colker | David Colker covers technology for The Times. Contact him at

Digital gizmos used to be objects of wonder--devices that seemed almost magical in their ability to communicate, entertain or help us find our way home. But somewhere along the way, obsession trumped wonder and our little gadgets began to diminish what's left of our social skills. So in the spirit of the season, let's all remind ourselves that these incredibly cool, sophisticated devices should make life richer, not more isolated. Here are some gadget suggestions for a few of the archetypes you might have on your gift-giving list. Share the wonder. And don't forget to keep the receipt.



Type:If you're helping support one of these, whether in K-12 or college, you're probably on a budget. Look for items that won't eat into your grocery money but are still cool enough to make even a sullen youth grateful.

Cellphone: Centro (Palm, $100, currently only from Sprint) is a starter smart phone thats beats out more expensive models. It uses the aged but seldom improved-upon Palm OS for its address book and calendar functions.

GPS: For a monthly charge, many cellphone providers offer GPS locator services that are surprisingly useful despite the little screens. Or you can step up to a budget unit such as the DigiWalker C230 (Mio, $182).

Music: The new version of the iPod Nano (Apple, $150) isn't the cheapest music player around, but it comes packed with a lot of quality features for the money. For those who already have an iPod, an iTunes gift certificate for downloadable music (Apple, $10 and up) is an always-appreciated budget choice.

Laptop: The Inspiron 1501 (Dell, $549) is a practical, relatively lightweight PC model. On the Apple side, the starter is the MacBook ($1,099).

Game: They should be hitting the books instead! But if you weaken, the Nintendo DS Lite ($130) provides portable, mindless fun.



Type:These dudes were funny, like, five years ago. Now their parents really do want to remodel the basement. Help them get the hint with gifts that are portable.

Cellphone: The Sidekick ID (T-Mobile, $50, with cell plan) has easy-to-setup e-mailing, texting and IMing. It's clunky compared with other smart phones, but sleek is probably not a high ideal in this group.

GPS: Doesn't need one. Really isn't going anywhere.

Music: Stop playing that stereo so loud in your room! Even an ample music collection can be put on the iPod Classic 160MB (Apple, $349). It holds about 2,600 hours of audio.

Laptop: Probably not a good choice. Desktops are preferred for online game play.

Game:Though it's not portable, the Xbox360 (Microsoft, $350 and up) allows for online voice chat with other gamers. Provides a social life.



Type: The thankfully brief flurry of techno fashion--with built-in gadget pockets and strategic holes for earphone lines--seems to have passed. Now gadgets themselves are fashion statements.

Cellphone: For the ultimate label worshiper, the LG KE850 Prada (LG, $480). Yes, that Prada, with the logo right above the touch screen. Problem is, no U.S. carrier offers it, so you must buy it separately and find a friendly geek to set it up.

GPS: It came standard with the car.

Music: The iPod Nano 8GB (Apple, $200) comes in five colors. And it's adorable.

Laptop: Those are for assistants. Alternatively, the Vaio TZ (Sony, $2,100) models are amazingly sleek, measuring only about an inch thick and weighing 3 pounds--probably less than most shopping bags after an afternoon on Melrose.


Not unless it comes with a cappuccino attachment.


Digital native

Type: Remember the Walkman? Rotary phones? Love letters? If you do, skip this. You're not a member of this digital-era generation.

Cellphone:The pro-Apple types will want the famed iPhone ($400) with all its glories and shortcomings, but make sure they can access AT&T cell signals. Otherwise, the sleek Motorazr2 V9 (Motorola, $250-$300) is supposed to be an improvement over the original Razr. Let's hope so.

GPS: When only a full-feature model will do, the Nuvi 660 (Garmin, $600) has plenty of multimedia bells and whistles. But not a good choice for those easily distracted while driving.

Music: Anti-Apple types might like a Zune (Microsoft, $150-$250), a much-hyped portable player greeted mostly by yawns when it debuted late last year. Or you could get an extra set of black earphones. If the earphones aren't white, no one has to know you're listening to an iPod.

Laptop: Don't even try. The Digital Native will know the exact operating system and specs he or she will want. Let them order their own.

Game: If you get one, make sure it's returnable. Again, the DN will have specific choices in mind.

Parent with mortgage

Type: Let's just hope it's not a sub-prime mortgage. Seriously, there are bargain choices that anyone giving or receiving will appreciate.

Cellphone: Most cellphone providers offer perfectly fine models for under $20 or even free with a two-year service contract. And there are multiple-phone deals.

GPS: The DigiWalker C230 (Mio, $182) is a relative bargain. But an ink-on-paper Thomas Guide can be as little as $10 for a 2007 edition (because the 2008s are already available).

Music: Parents don't have much time for earphone listening. So a nice alternative is a state-of-the-art tabletop radio such as the Cambridge SoundWorks 820HD ($200). It's less than half the price of the over-hyped Bose models, and can pull in the newfangled HD station signals that offer improved sound.

Laptop: A wonderful present, but it's rare for a parent to get one. Usually, there are other priorities.

Game: The runaway game sensation, the Wii (Nintendo, $460), is a hit because it's fun for the whole family. And the Wii games are available for about $20 and up.

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