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10 of our favorite gadgets of 2009

December 01, 2009
  • Tyler Graffam, left, and Austin West of Falmouth, Maine, play the DJ Hero video game at a Best Buy in South Portland, Maine.
Tyler Graffam, left, and Austin West of Falmouth, Maine, play the DJ Hero… (Robert F. Bukaty / Associated…)

With holiday shopping well underway, the Times technology staff has compiled a list of 10 favorite gadgets of 2009 that might help those who are weighing stocking stuffers for someone else -- or themselves.


FOR THE RECORD:
Holiday gadgets: An article in the Dec. 1 Business section said the Kindle device restricted readers to books purchased on Amazon.com's online store. Although Kindle readers are unable to read copy-protected digital books borrowed from most public libraries or purchased from booksellers such as Sony Corp. and Barnes & Noble Inc., they can read public domain books offered free by Google Inc., ManyBooks.net, GutenbergProject.org and others. —

Sony Reader Touch Edition

Price: $300

What: Sony, which has been making digital book readers since 2006, has come up with a device that trumps Amazon's Kindle in two ways.

The first is the touch screen, which users can use to turn pages or highlight text.

The second is the ability to borrow digital books from thousands of public libraries around the country. (Kindle readers are restricted to books purchased from Amazon.)

What's neat about digital library lending is that readers don't rack up late fees if they can't make the trip to the library in time; the digital book simply disappears from the device when time's up.

-- Alex Pham

Motorola Droid

Price: $200 (with two-year service plan with Verizon)

What: If you believe Verizon's nerdy sci-fi commercials, its new cellphone is going to take over the world.

Not quite, but at the very least, the free GPS app will take over your car. The latest device based on Google's Android software is really powerful.

Droid has apps, maps and most of what makes the iPhone great. Plus a slide-out keyboard. Its camera and dinky flash aren't as good as you might expect, but come on, at $200 (with a rebate), it's one of the best phones on the market.

-- Mark Milian

Sonos S5

Price: $399

What: The Sonos music system lets you stream music wirelessly from your computer to speakers around the house. Sure, the barrier to entry is pretty high. You'll want to have a good wireless Internet setup in your home, a computer that's always on and an iPhone or iPod Touch to control it all.

The S5 is Sonos' first affordable all-in-one, but it's still not cheap if you want one for every room. However, music junkies will absolutely love the streamlined approach to digital music.

-- Mark Milian

Nintendo Wii MotionPlus Controller

Price: $20

What: Nintendo has gradually introduced a smattering of new ways to interact with its popular Wii game system, including the Balance Board (for fitness and skiing), the Zapper (for shooting) and the Wii Speak (for remote trash-talking).

This year's addition, the MotionPlus, makes the motion-sensitive Wii controller respond more precisely to wrist movements and hand positions, adding a welcome dose of realism -- and difficulty -- to compatible sports games. Want to put a wicked spin on those pingpong shots, or add topspin to your virtual forehand? Now you can. Unfortunately, so can your opponents.

-- Jon Healey

Apple iPod Nano

Price: $149-$179

What: The latest version of Apple's bestselling portable media player didn't change in price or size, but it got a bunch of new features, including a video camera, FM radio, a microphone and a speaker.

The video camera is especially cool -- it's not versatile enough (and doesn't have good enough optics) to shoot something like a sports event or wedding, but for the equivalent of a video postcard, it's just the thing to capture a moment that can later be uploaded and sent to friends.

-- David Colker

Plantronics Voyager Pro Bluetooth headset

Price: About $70

What: Bluetooth cellphone headsets are great in theory, but for years -- in real-world use -- they had mediocre-to-awful sound (incoming and outgoing), and many models were too complicated to use, especially while driving. But improvements have been made, and this top-of-the-line model from Plantronics scores well in all areas: sound quality, ease of use, comfort and battery life. It even looks less dorky than many Bluetooth headsets, and that's a major plus.

-- David Colker

DJ Hero

Price: $120 What: In the overcrowded field of music video games, DJ Hero rises to the top. The game features more than 100 licensed songs, which make up more than 80 original mixes, and it's bundled with a clever plastic turntable and mixer.

Game play consists of pressing buttons on the turntable, and moving the record for scratches, in time with the music on screen. The music is broad enough in appeal, such as 50 Cent being mashed with David Bowie, that the new title just might end up being the life of your next house party.

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Sanyo R227 Wi-Fi Radio

Price: $140

What: If you've got Wi-Fi in your house, you can put this tabletop clock radio just about anywhere (no need to hook it up to a computer) and it will pick up Internet radio stations from all over the world.

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