An iPad can be many things to many people: Laptop replacement, travel companion, entertainment source or just good old-old fashioned toy. The 16GB Wi-Fi version of Apple's tablet will run you $499 and suit most people's needs, but the on-the-go gadget buff probably really wants the 3G model, which starts at $629. Buying the data plan required for the later would certainly wrap a nice extra bow on the gift.
What gift do you get for the tech-obsessed professional or business owner who works, works and then works some more? It can be tough to figure out, especially if they're always on the go and you can't keep tabs on what they already have. The good news: These busy pros are usually so devoted to their work or business that they never take time to give themselves gifts -- and that's where you come in. Here are some ideas for work and for play, though of course the line between the two might get a bit blurry.
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For the true reader -- eReader, to be precise -- Amazon's Kindle is the way to go. It's also relatively friendly to your wallet: $139 for the Wi-Fi version, or $189 for 3G. It's a hair over a half a pound and a third of inch thick, but can hold up to 3,500 books -- storage enough for the most voracious bibliophile, with great battery life and a ton of neat features. And another cool one is coming soon: Book lending among Kindle users.
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This is the Android smartphone from Sprint: 4G, 4.3-inch screen, dual cameras, hotspot for eight Wi-Fi devices, 32GB MicroSD card slot and more. The 4G network could likely use some time to mature, but when it does, this device is poised to be one of the must-haves on it. It costs about $200 with a new two-year service contract with Sprint.
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Look ma, no controllers! The Kinect for XBOX360 delivers hands-free entertainment, and a wonderful new array of excuses for those extended gaming binges: I'm exercising! (Really, I am!) Devoted couch potatoes fear not: A wave of the hand and simple voice commands can kick off an HD movie marathon, no arduous lifting of a remote control required.
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Though it's facing increasing competition from some other worthy smartphones, the iPhone continues to be a frontrunner and is unlikely to disappoint. Reports of a Verizon Wireless edition coming soon -- which would be the first network available for the device other than AT&T Wireless -- adds even wider appeal and access. iPhone 4 starts at $199 for the 16GB model.
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The next big thing in TV? 3D. This is the big-ticket gift for the early adopter home entertainment junkie. The technology and marketplace are both barely out of their infancy, and priced accordingly. The 58" plasma model Samsung's 8000 series runs about $2,999. Not to mention all that wrapping paper. Suffice it to say: You'll probably get a thank you note for this one.
Got a friend clamoring for Google TV? Sony Internet TV is the knock-their-socks-off gift for them: Search, surf, use your Android or iPhone as a remote control, send your phone screen on the big screen, get apps, watch YouTube, stream Netflix and plenty more. Screen size runs from 24" to 46", and price varies accordingly, around $600-$1,400.
Want Google TV but don't want to shell out for a new flat-screen? Sony Internet TV Blu-ray works with your current HDTV, and will save you a few bucks on the upgrade: At about $400, it costs $200 less than Sony's least expensive TV model. And you're getting a Blu-ray player, which almost seems like an afterthought in the buzz around Google TV.
Jawbone JAMBOX delivers smart, stunning sound with style and easy portability. Supersize your audio for video, music, gaming -- even conference calls. Up to 85 decibels in a 12-ounce package that fits in your hand, and in four cool colors. About $200 from Aliph.
The next big thing in mice: The flexible (literally), stylish Arc Touch. It curves for use and flattens for packing and travel, includes touch scrolling and BlueTrack for unfriendly surfaces. And face it: It looks a heck of a lot cooler than you're standard-issue mouse. You'll have to wait a bit to put this one in the lucky recipient's hand, but it's available for pre-order now for under $70.
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Getting every gadget on your wish list might create a problem: How the heck to keep all of them juiced? Idapt enables you to charge up to four devices simultaneously with three charging points and an additional USB point. It runs around $60 and works with thousands of devices: Smartphones, tablets, cameras, GPS, games consoles, Bluetooth, rechargeable batteries and more.
Nothing worse dropping a new device on the pavement the day you take it out of the box. The Defender Series from OtterBox protects your tech gear from the inevitable butterfingers and other mishaps. The BlackBerry version is pictured here, but they offer models for most major manufacturers and devices. Prices vary, but most current smartphone models run $50 or less.
Roku streams instant entertainment for film fanatics, casual viewers and cord cutters alike. For $99.99, Roku's top-of-the-line XDS box works with most any TV, delivers dual-band Wireless N, and offers instant access to MLB.tv, Amazon VOD, Hulu Plus and others. But its killer content app at the moment is Netflix, which continues to shift its strategy away from DVDs to online video, meaning the selection should continue to grow more robust.
The virtual stocking stuffer or small gift for the food tech: Hack your kitchen with the Ratio App for iPhone/iPad and Android, from the author of Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking. For $4.99, you get 32 critical culinary ratios and a full menu of calculators, converters and other features designed to enable the home chef to whip up daily delights without following a recipe.
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Give the gift of mobile storage, backup, encryption and access. This slick external drives offers tons of virtual space in a small physical package, enabling anytime, anywhere use, secure automatic backups and a host of customization choices. Your cost will vary with your options, from about $60 for 320 GB / USB 2.0 to $230 for 1.5 TB / USB 3.0.
Got keyboard funk? Get rid of the burrito debris with this nifty device. Plug the mini-vacuum into one of your USB ports, and you'll rescue your QWERTY from yesterday's lunch in no time. You can find a few varieties online, but Buy.com has one for under $5 plus shipping.
Hack your biorhythms! Blaring alarm clocks be gone: A mix of light, soothing sounds and aromatherapy smells rouse you gently from your slumber with gentler way to start the day. It runs $69.95 from Hammacher Schlemmer, and includes 4 types of aromatherapy beads and 10 felt disks for your own custom aromatherapy oils, plus an array of other features.
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The gadget for your green guy or gal. Start composting in your home or office without getting your hands dirty. This eco-friendly machine will process 120 pounds of waste a month, making compost in two weeks. Little user effort, no odors and it can even compost pet waste. The PRO XE is the Cadillac model and runs $399, but if you're willing to forgo the hands-free foot pedal, heavier consumption capability, lifetime filter and a few other features, you can save $100 with the Plus XE model.
A virtual stocking stuffer for the caffeinated crowd: Wire yourself right for the next programming bender with the Barista App. At $2.99, it's cheaper than most drinks on the menu at your coffeehouse these days, and you'll soon be making java like a pro. Only downside: It's currently only available for iPhone and iPad.
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Gain peace of mind -- or indulge your inner James Bond -- with this wireless video security system. Simple out-of-the-box setup includes a smart camera, software and free online viewing online of motion-detected recording. Mobile monitoring, email alerts and Google TV access also featured. The basic system runs just under $300.
The ultimate in laptop design and portability for home, office and travel. The MacBook Air is razor thin, ultra light, featuring all-Flash storage, Multi-Touch track pad and more. This is an indulgent gift, to be sure, but compared with some other Mac computers it's actually quite reasonable. The 11-inch, 64GB edition comes in at $999, and goes up from there.
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Who knew an ear could pack such style and power? It can with the Jawbone Icon ($99), a noise-canceling, music-playing, app-customizable Bluetooth headset. You can manage calls from two different devices simultaneously, all while streaming music from your computer. It comes in six uber-trendy designs -- "The Rogue" is pictured -- and they recently added four new ones with the Earwear collection.
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This takes the meaning of wireless to another level. "But I never go outside!" you might say. No matter: The keyboard's "solar" power draws from indoor light -- lamps, overheads, et cetera - as well, and stays charged for months even in total darkness. At about $80, its energy-- and cost-efficient.
Functional and affordable ($30), Bracketron's patented, adhesive-free grip technology mounts on just about any hard surface (car, home, office) and holds just about any phone or other mobile device. Easy pivot and rotation for multiple viewing angles. A good one for the road traveler in your life.
For $99, you can afford to treat them (or yourself) to this TV toy for whatever downtime they do have -- whatever time that may be. Rent HD movies and TV or watch Netflix instantly, stream files from a laptop or desktop, stream from an iPhone, iPad or iPad Touch and more.
A powerful media player at an affordable price, the 3cam Vision includes all of the key features and functions you'd expect -- touch screen, music, photos, video (and video camera), FM radio and transmitter, 8GB storage -- in an attractive handheld package. But at $100, it's a toy that you can enjoy without worrying too much about what it's doing to your bottom line.
At $299, this Android tablet offers an alternative to the iPad and other more expensive tablets. It can be many things to many users: productivity tool, Wi-Fi hotspot (for up to eight devices), entertainment hub, GPS device or all of the above. It has the sleek style of pricier products but will leave you a few dollars leftover for apps and data plan.
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There are a host of cloud-based storage and backup services out there, but ZumoDrive's scalable pricing plans can accommodate the wide range of SMB or home office needs. From 1GB free to 500GB for $79.99/month, this can make a good virtual gift.
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If the thought of losing your smartphone puts you in a cold sweat of terror, this might be the stocking stuffer for you. WaveSecure enables security and recovery if your device is lost or stolen. In addition to backup and restore features, you can remotely lock down your phone, remotely wipe data, locate your phone on a map, and track calls made and SIM cards inserted. It's available for most major operating systems, with one glaring exception: iPhone. It costs about $20 per year.
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A great, inexpensive gift for the mobile business: QuickOffice enables users to create, edit and view Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint docs from their mobile devices, eliminating the wait to return to the office. Prices vary a bit by device/OS and the functionality that you want, but generally run in the $10-$20. Available for iPhone/iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Symbian and HP.
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This all-in-one unit from HP rolls print, scan, fax and copy functions into a sharp-looking machine good for average use. (HP's specs recommend up to 800 printed pages per month.) Wireless printing feature enables mobile and remote printing, handy for on-the-go users. It runs $150.
Let your voice do what it was intended for: Talking. Dragon NaturallySpeaking speech recognition software from Nuance lets you email, surf, create documents and more by talking. Trading keyboard for voice can be especially appealing for the hunt-and-peck crowd. The Premium version runs about $200, but they have several options depending on user need.
This wallet-friendly GPS ($140) will get you where you need to go without ravaging your budget. It's pretty much ready to go out of the box, and is easily portable between vehicles. True gearheads and power users may prefer some of the higher-shelf GPSs out there, but in terms of bang for buck, this one will suit most normal needs.
Beat the laptop heat! The Logitech Portable Lapdesk provides a tasteful, practical way to set up shop wherever and whenever needed. It includes a retractable mouse pad and is thin enough to fit in most laptop carrying cases or sleeves.
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Small or midsize business doesn't mean easy to organize. In fact, keeping tabs on inventory, assets and other material can be a huge headache for smaller firms that don't have full-time staff dedicated to doing just that. Enter the IntelliScanner SOHO, a handheld device that helps business owners and managers keep track of everything via barcode. Its software integrates with variety of common spreadsheet, database and other applications, and you'll get barcode tags for items that don't already have one. It runs $299.
The digital camera marketplace is teeming with gear, but sometimes you just want to point and shoot. The Powershot A1100's mid-range price tag -- just under $150 -- is more reasonable compared with many of the higher-end models, without sacrificing quality. It might not satisfy a hardcore photog, but it's a solid option for everyday business and personal users.
Sometimes it pays to keep tech simple, especially when it comes to matters as critical as caffeine. When you want (or need) a good cup of coffee (or tea) fast, Cuisinart's Single Serve Brewing System is the feature-rich answer: At $199, it's a bit more than your run-of-the-mill coffee pot, but do the quick math on your coffee bar tab and the ROI should be evident.
A neat, productive and inexpensive ($15) gift, the Video Chat Light plugs into any USB port to brighten the look of any user during videoconferences, chats or YouTube recordings. It also doubles as a keyboard light for working on a darkened airplane, in bed or just a late night in a powered-down office.
Try as you might, the paperless office still seems to require quite a bit of paper. So while the bulk of your security focus is likely digital, you still need to take steps to secure your business in the offline world. A cross-cut shredder is an integral tool. This one will get the job done for most normal uses (though for heavy-duty needs, you may want to upgrade) and is a reasonable investment in your information security: Though suggested retail is over $100, you can easily find it for a lot less online.
Wine does tech, too -- and you might even impress a client, friends or family with this two-temperature, touch-screen wine refrigerator that holds 12 bottles and fits on most countertops. List price is $199, but shop around online for the best deal.