Christmas is again upon us and 2010 is coming to a close. It’s been a busy year and now we’re all scrambling to buy presents for family and friends.
Following the success of last year’s list, TechWorld’s funky Christmas gift idea list is back again for 2010.
It’s all about helping you find an ideal gift, so please add any other ideas you think would be of interest to techies (and those surrounded by techies).
Have a happy and safe holiday season and all the best for 2011.
Robotic vacuum cleaner
Is there a more appealing gift than something that will clean your home while you relax over the holidays?
The Roomba 530 vacuum cleaning robot from iRobot promises just to clean the house and never complain about it.
Home Service robots is a futuristic concept that will slowly become mainstream over a generation, but you have to start somewhere.
The Roomba 530 features a soft-touch bumper system, anti-tassel technology to remove itself from tassel and cords, automatic adjustment to carpets and hard floors and it even senses dirtier areas and cleans them more thoroughly.
After a round of cleaning the Roomba returns to its base station for recharging like any good robot.
And, if you don’t want a particular area of the house to be cleaned by the Roomba you can restrict it from going there.
A built-in voice tutorial demonstrates Roomba's features.
What: Roomba 530
How much: $599.95
Wireless game controller
In its quest to take on the physical activity game market so far dominated by Nintendo, Sony has released the PlayStation Move in time for Christmas for the PS3 owners in the family.
The Move “motion controller” allows physical interaction with the game on another level compared with a traditional controller – including hitting a ball, swinging a club, throwing a punch or shooting something.
PS3 games must support the Move and the controller works in conjunction with the PlayStation Eye camera (sold with the Move in the starter pack).
There is also a navigation controller that complements the Move by offering the functionality of a regular controller in the Move form factor.
If the person you want to buy a gift for already has a Move then take a look at the games or the new range of accessories now popping up.
What: PlayStation Move
Who: Sony Computer Entertainment
Where: Electronics retailers
How much: $99.95 (starter pack includes camera)
Portable 3G, Wi-Fi router
Creating a hotspot with a standard wired-to-wireless router is old-hat, but with the rise of mobile broadband, the age of portable Wi-Fi routers is upon us and makes an interesting gift.
The Netcomm MyZone Mobile 3G Wi-Fi router uses the 3G mobile network as the backhaul to connect a number of wireless devices locally.
To use it either insert a mobile broadband SIM card or a 3G USB modem and a local Wi-Fi hotspot will light up.
The MyZone is carrier neutral and supports HSPA. It has built-in rechargeable batteries and security options like VPN pass-through and encryption.
What: MyZone Mobile 3G Wi-Fi router
Where: Computer retailers
How much: $299
Satellite GPS messenger
If you’re thinking of going bush sometime over the holidays, the SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger may come in handy preventing a wrong turn or two.
The SPOT can send and save a person’s location in real time, allowing friends and relatives to track their whereabouts via Google Maps. It can also send custom messages.
In an emergency, the user can send an SOS alert with the push of a button to SPOT’s global emergency response centre which is monitored 24 by 7 and works with local emergency response agencies.
The SPOT can be powered on for more than a year and provide 14 days of continuous tracking. So called “check-ins” can be sent via e-mail or SMS to up to 10 saved contacts.
With location services so prevalent on mobile phones these days, a device like this takes it to a new level of coverage.
What: SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger
How much: $237
This one will appeal to the more nerdy and techy types in the family, but here at TechWorld we think it’s an awesome idea.
The Jetway is a compact Mini-ITX form-factor computer that can be used as a PVR or home server. In fact, since it’s a standard computer it can be used for pretty much anything.
The little black or white box includes a 1.6Ghz N330 dual core Intel Atom processor, a Nvidia MCP7A-ION chipset, 4GB of DDR2 memory, a 500GB 2.5" SATA disk and a slim optical drive.
Gigabit Ethernet and HDMI are also on the motherboard.
At 210 by 258 by 65 millimetres the Jetway is small enough to hide in the entertainment unit, but to use it as a PVR you will need to add a slim PCI or USB TV tuner card.
You can get an operating system pre-installed and configured or do your own thing.
What: Jetway Mini-ITX system
How much: $650
Tablet and netbook carry case
With 2010 being the year tablet PCs finally became mainstream thanks to the iPad, we thought we’d take a look at what’s out there to carry one such device around.
As it happens there are plenty of iPad-only carry cases, but the Crave Netbook Bag from Targus is an ideal gift because it will fit most portable tablets and netbooks (up to 10.2 inches wide).
Unlike many tablet-only cases, the Crave is padded which may come in handy if your beloved device accidentally goes for a spill – or your coffee goes for a spill on the device.
Another feature is a front zip pocket for a power cable and other accessories. Available colours are “jet black” and “deep blue”.
What: Crave Netbook Case
Where: Computer retailers
How much: $49.95
Safety power board
Australian power management company Thor Technologies has engineered an integrated power board for protecting a number of electronic devices.
With eight power outlets, the Smart Board features a power conditioning filter, three in one isolation, protection of TV antenna signals and support for fibre optic and broadband connections.
The Smart Board has 38 separate components working in both series and parallel to provide a barrier against most types of electrical disturbances with support for 208,000 Amps and maximum spike tolerance of 6080 Joules.
The product comes with a six-year replacement warranty and free connected equipment warranty of up to $300,000
These types of power boards are more expensive than basic power decks, but if they prevent damage to home computer and entertainment equipment they are worth the investment.
What: Smart Board
Who: Thor Technologies
How much: $299
Parrot MKi9200 Bluetooth Car Kit
If you’re loved one is still driving a car without integrated Bluetooth (they seem to be a marketing fad these days) take a look at the Parrot MKi9200 hands-free kit.
The MKi9200 is installed in the car and integrates with the sound system and speakers.
It provides Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free calling and three connectors – USB, iPod and audio auxiliary – for playing music. Music can also be played wirelessly over Bluetooth.
The two main components are a small LCD screen and wireless controller for music and call control. The screen of the MKi9200 also features a SD connector to access up to 32GB of music and it visualises the playlist.
Standard Bluetooth should make the MKi9200 compatible with most phones, as the device, once paired, will see it as an ordinary headset.
Other features include address book synchronisation and voice control. When you cycle through the options the MKi9200 also “says” them out loud so as to minimise distraction.
On a slightly different note, Parrot recently released its Wi-Fi controlled drone in Australia last month – check it out for sheer geek value: http://ardrone.parrot.com/parrot-ar-drone/uk/
What: MKi9200 Bluetooth Car Kit
Where: Electronics and Phone retailers
How much: $498.99
External backup disk
The festive season is all about fun, but what about boring backups? What better way to show someone you care about them than giving them a portable hard drive for their precious content.
The Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra Portable is one such device. It’s as small as a notebook drive but packs in 1.5TB (1500 gigs) of storage capacity.
You can choose how you transfer to and from the FreeAgent as it has swappable Firewire800, eSATA, USB2.0 and USB3.0 cables.
The 1.5TB model is the highest capacity in this rage, but if that’s way too much for your loved one’s photos, then there are smaller capacities (down to 320GB) available for less.
The 500GB model is on special for Christmas for $99.
What: FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra Portable
Where: Computer retailers
How much: $299 (1.5TB)
With all the hype surrounding tablet PCs this year we almost felt obliged to include one in our Christmas gift list. And they happen to make pretty cool presents!
Sure there are the big names like the iPad and Galaxy, but what’s interesting about Android-based tablets is they will facilitate a new era in commodity handheld devices, just like what is happening with smartphones.
One such product is the Millennius SmartQ Tablet from Melbourne-based outfit Millennius Technologies.
With a seven-inch screen the SmartQ weighs 480 grams and dual-boots Android 2.1 and Ubuntu Linux (very geek) and has all the media and connectivity specs typical of an android device.
One notable absence is 3G connectivity, but at $199 (reduced from $299) it can be forgiven for just being a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth device.
Millennius goes out of its way to state the SmartQ does support USB 3G modems, however.
Expect to see a lot more Android devices like the SmartQ pop up next year.
What: Millennius SmartQ Tablet
Who: Millennius Technologies
How much: $199