When it comes to a geekalicious Christmas, the line between fun and practical has a tendency to blur. Some items that seem purely practical to one person can send a shiver of delight down a techno geek’s adamantium-reinforced spine. So if you’re looking to tickle his or her fancy this holiday season, read on. As usual, I’ll keep the nerdish to a minimum.
On the fun side, how can you go wrong with a remote-controlled helicopter with the added geekalicious element of using your iPod Touch or iPhone as the remote?
Griffin delivers the smiles with its HELO TC ($49.99 US; griffintechnology.com) — a twin-rotor, remote-controlled helicopter designed to drive your pets crazy. The included Flight Deck snaps onto your iPod/iPhone and, combined with a free app, beams infrared commands to the chopper. Although too fragile for young children, this is a grin-inducing toy for the more patient teen or adult.
Speaking of iPods/iPhones, the one thing they lack is decent sound when you’re not in the mood for headphones. That’s where the iHome iDM12 Wireless Speaker ($69.99 US; ihomeaudio.com) comes in. This hotdog bun-sized device is a rechargeable and portable Bluetooth speaker system that is both extremely handy to toss in a backpack and delivers a nice, clean sound. Because it’s Bluetooth, it also works great with an iPad, laptop or any other device that supports the standard. And as a nice bonus, it also has an Aux-in jack.
Another iHome speaker that is fun to play with (especially for a teenage daughter) is the iA17 ($99.99 US), a unique colour changing alarm clock radio. This app-enhanced speaker can change its base colour at the touch of a button to match your mood, while waking you up to your favourite tunes.
While rocking out, you’ll want to make sure your iDevice is protected. And geeks love having their stockings filled with accessories. One of the best scratch-proof films for your screen is iShieldz ($14.97 US for iPhone; $29.97 for iPad; ishieldz.com). A little patience is needed with the install (as it is for all films), but once on, it’s so perfectly clear that you won’t even know it’s there. The package contains everything you need to install the film and with a clean work area, it only takes a minute. You will be amazed.
When it comes to iPhone cases, I’ve never been completely sold on them — until now. Moshi has a line of iGlaze ($25 US; moshimonde.com) snap-on cases that offer minimalist-style protection with a specialized coating that looks and feels great. I’m one of those people who enjoys the tactility of my gadgets, and the iGlaze has a silky feel that definitely works for me. Moshi also make a line of screen protectors, iVisor AG ($24.95) that offer the easiest, bubble-free install. Simply peel and stick, and they can be removed and washed. Just make sure to order the right one for your phone as they come pre-coloured.
For the iPad2 ($519 Cdn; apple.ca), I discovered a line of beautiful cases that offer both stealth and protection. The basic DODOcase ($59.95 US; dodocase.com) has a black Moroccan cloth cover and a solid bamboo core, which makes it both rigid and incredibly light. The cover also folds back to be used as a stand. It’s really a work of art, but for more colourful options they also do a line of artist cases. I checked out their whimsical Morris Lessmore ($64.95) in striking red faux leather and found it a perfect fit.
Now if instead of an iPad, you’ve decided to read one of my three edge-of-your-seat thrillers (Switch, No Cry For Help and K.A.R.M.A) on your Kindle or Kobo e-reader, you’ll become so engrossed that you’re going to need a light in order to keep reading in bed. Through careful experimentation, I’ve found that the rechargeable Verso Arc Light ($39.99; lightwedge.com) is extremely lightweight and distributes a bright reading light across the entire screen. And if my villains make you a little jumpy or you just need a confidence boost when walking alone at night, Ila Security has a couple of personal alarms that could make you feel more secure. The ila Pebble ($15; ilasecurity.com) is a cute keyring with an ear-piercing 130Db alarm that is activated at the push of a button. The ila Dusk ($25) is designed to be attached to your handbag and emits a high decibel female scream that will definitely attract attention. A stocking stuffer for that teenage or college-age daughter again, perhaps.
I’m always amazed at how small, light and inexpensive camcorders have become. Lately, I’ve been playing with the DXG-5F0V ($179.99 US; dxgusa.com) camcorder that fits in the palm of my hand and delivers 1080p high-definition video at 30fps, 5X optical zoom and a 5 megapixel sensor for stills. That is quite the package for under $200, and I found it extremely easy to use. Pop in an SD card and you’re ready to record. Amazing.
Another great Christmas gift theme is home entertainment. Blu-Ray DVD players have really dropped in price, while adding quite a few extras. I took the Vizio VBR120 ($129.99 US; vizio.com) for a spin recently, but came away disappointed. Although it does a great job at delivering full 1080p high-definition video and 7.1 surround sound, its extra functions are limited because it needs an ethernet connection to the internet. Now, if your Shaw or Telus high-speed internet modem is located beside your TV, ethernet makes for a faster and more stable connection, but for most people, access isn’t so convenient. In that case, you’re better off buying a player that offers a wireless connection. Once connected, the Vizio offers such additional services as Netflix, Pandora Radio, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
If you prefer to rent movies from the comfort of your couch, Apple TV ($119 Cdn; apple.ca) makes a great gift for the whole family. Connect it to your TV via an HDMI cable, sign in to your wireless network, and you can download movies and TV shows from iTunes or stream your music collection. Access to YouTube, Netflix and more add to the enjoyment. In typical Apple fashion, this device is a joy to use. Now, if you happen to have a collection of movies that have been ripped in other formats, you may prefer the LG SMART TV Upgrader ST600 ($149 US; lg.com). This nifty little device gives your TV wireless access to Netflix, YouTube and a multitude of LG Apps, including games. Plus, it can read a larger variety of video formats, including DivX, WMV, etc.
And once you’ve done all that shopping, it’s time to treat yourself to a wee cup of tea. Victoria’s Silk Road is carrying an interesting in-cup brewing creation called the TipCup ($29.90; silkroadtea.com). Co-designed by Daniela Cubelic, tea master and owner of Silk Road, the Finnish-invented cup features a removable strainer and a dual-angled, triangle-shaped bottom – tip one side to brew and tip the other side to drink. Enjoy. M