Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Holiday Gift Guide 2011: Gifts for gadget girls

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Summary: What gadgets would a girl want this holiday? You can’t go wrong with these stylish picks that pack a technical punch.

ZDNet 2011 Holiday Gift GuideWhether you’re shopping for the gadget obsessed lady in your life or just want to impress her with your tech wisdom, you can’t go wrong with something chic and easy to use that she won’t want to leave home without. Here are 10 gadgets (plus two honorable mentions) that have caught my eye this year for both their wow factor and technical punch. While these gift ideas may not be the most economical or are exclusive to women by any means, they certainly make this gadget girl swoon. Hopefully they will have a similar effect on your lucky lady.

Nokia N9
I know, I know. The Nokia N9 runs the almost dead OS MeeGo and is not available at your local Best Buy, but a lady who knows her phones would want one of these polycarbonate beauties with curved glass in her hand this year. Unlike its almost identical twin the Windows Phone 7 Lumia 800, the N9 has a front-facing camera for video chats, NFC (works with some slick accessories), and is an unlocked world phone with pentaband support so your recipient will be able to use local (micro) SIM cards when traveling to save on roaming charges. Not sure she could manage with minimal apps? MeeGo is designed to minimize the need for apps so it features centralized messages, emails and contacts between email and IM accounts and SMS, and offers Nokia Maps and Nokia Music out-of-box. The biggest hurdle will be bringing one of these N9s to America as they are only released in select countries worldwide. Available in Magenta, Cyan or Black, the 16 GB model retails for approximately $658 US and $776 US for the 64 GB. [Review]

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Gold Remote Bundle (Nintendo Wii)
It’s the 25th anniversary of the Zelda franchise for Nintendo this year and the company is celebrating in grand style. Not only has Nintendo just wrapped two symphonic performances of the Zelda score in London and Los Angeles last month, it will be launching the new The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for the Wii on November 20. But why get just the stand-alone game plus a music CD featuring some of the iconic pieces performed at the concerts (available in only the first production run of the game), when you can get the game in a limited edition bundle that comes with a gold, Triforce-powered Wii-Mote?  This is a must-have bundle for the life-long gamer girl who would cherish a piece of Nintendo history this holiday. The bundle is available for pre-orders from mass retailers now and will retail for $69.99. [More]

Phosphor Appear
Don’t underestimate the technology that powers these Swarovski crystal-covered Phosphor Appear watches. Beneath their sparkly faces are a number of miniature rotors and magnets that rotate each individual crystal to display the correct time and date in digital format, using the company’s proprietary Micro-Magnetic Mechanical Digital (M3D) technology. This is simply a gorgeous gadget that your lady will be proud to wear on her wrist. Available with (glossy and matte) black, white, red and pink leather straps, the model with the crystal-adorned rim will set you back $249, while the more understated stainless steel rim design is $199.

Nintendo 3DS
With the Sony PlayStation Vita delayed until 2012, this holiday is all about the Nintendo 3DS. Available in the festive Flame Red color (as well as the original turquoise and black), the 3DS packs a lot of technology into a DS Lite-like package. It boasts an adjustable 3D display for comfort, a camera for 3D photos and videos (via a November update), support for Netflix and Hulu Plus (coming soon), Augmented Reality games, and most importantly — access to 3D games. Some of the most anticipated titles that Nintendo is rolling out for 2011 include: the multiplayer Pokemon Rumble Blast, the multiplayer Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land , and Cooking Mama 4: Kitchen Magic that uses the 3DS’ gyroscope sensor as part of its gameplay. The system is also backwards compatible with all the DS titles and offers new downloadable content every week, so your gadget girl will hardly be bored. The 3DS and games are sold separately at mass retailers; $169.99 for the console and the games range in price.

Juicy Couture Faux Fur Ear Muffs Headphones
Ear muffs are an essential part of a woman’s winter wardrobe, especially if she hates getting hat hair from static-inducing beanies. But it’s not comfortable wearing ear muffs on top of earphones, and the earphones embedded into ear muffs are almost always of poor quality. Luckily, Juicy Couture’s Faux Fur Ear Muffs solves this very conundrum by allowing the user to insert her own earphones into the ear muffs so she can use her preferred audio equipment while extending the life of her furry accessory. Available from Juicy Couture stores in Angel (picture left), Black or in a knit pattern, each pair costs $98.

Sony Alpha Nex 5N
Sony’s new and improved Alpha Nex 5N is arguably the best-in-class interchangeable lens camera to get this year. With a DSLR-sized Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor, the Nex 5N captures images at 16.1-megapixel resolution, with a shutter release lag that is just 20 milliseconds (like the NEX 7) capable of 10 fps in burst mode, it actually offers a higher maximum ISO than the more expensive NEX 7 at 25600, which makes this model a great choice in low-light situations. Its tiltable touchscreen display and larger grip than the Nex C3 means this model is comfortable to use even if your gadget girl has small hands or is vertically challenged. There is an external OLED electronic viewfinder, flash and of course other lenses to augment the Nex 5N’s compact body. Word on the street is that stores are selling out this model as soon as they receive more stock from Sony, so if you have your sights set on the Nex 5N this year, you need to act fast. The Nex 5N is available with a 18-55 mm kit lens for $700, or $600 for just the body in silver or black. [Review]

Mimobot USB Drives
If your gadget girl has a favorite comic or pop culture character, chances are Mimobot already makes a USB thumb drive of it. Not only do Mimobot drives mimic the physical shape of characters, they also come preloaded with corresponding sound effects, desktop icons and wallpaper art that appeal to serious fans. The company goes so far as to sell ProtoHoodies keychain accessories for Mimobot drives which are mini “suits” that protect the device from dings and scratches. A 2 GB Hello Kitty USB drive starts at $15.95 (pictured above) and can increase to $119.95 for a 64 GB of a popular character like Star War’s Darth Vadar Unmasked; ProtoHoodies are priced at $5.95 each.

Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse
Any user-friendly device that makes traveling with a computer less cumbersome will definitely impress, especially for women who tend to overpack. This award-winning wireless mouse from Microsoft powers off automatically when flattened, and powers up when it is arched. It offers a soft rubber back for your gadget girl to rest her hand, and touch-to-tap rather than button clicks to control the computer. Although the suggested retail price is $69.99, if you shop around you can probably find it for less (Amazon is offering the mouse at just $34.85). [Review]

Asus Zenbook UX31 (UX31E-­-DH52)
Ultra light, thin and powerful laptops with impeccable designs are finally coming to Windows users, thanks to the introduction of the Ultrabook category earlier this year. The most compelling model so far has to be the Asus’ Zenbook UX31, which is powered by the second-gen Intel Core i5 2557M chip, with a 128 GB SSD, a 13-inch display that is higher resolution than the MacBook Air’s, and has many built-in ports like a SD Card slot, 2 USB ports, a mini-VGA and a mini-HDMI connector. At just over 3-pounds, the UX31 would be easy to slip into your gadget girl’s bag to tote from the office to the coffee shop. Its high-end, spun metal finish particularly on the lid is a show-stopper and unlike any other gadgets on the market right now. This entry variant of the UX31 retails for only $1099, which is $200 less than the MBA with comparable specs and is therefore the Ultrabook with the best value — for now. [Review]

HP TouchPad
Now that the last of Best Buy’s $150 32 GB HP TouchPads are back in stock, I feel it deserves a spot on this gift guide. The TouchPad was my first tablet and found it intuitive to use thanks in large part to the webOS’ multitasking abilities. For a gadget girl looking for a basic slate to surf the web, Skype, check her email, watch YouTube videos (yay Flash) in bed, the TouchPad won’t disappoint. I just found the device a bit sluggish when browsing through photos and the lack of a built-in SD Card slot rather inconvenient, but neither are deal-breakers, especially considering its firesale price tag. Unfortunately, to score one of these 32 GB TouchPads from Best Buy, you need to also purchase a HP or Compaq computer (laptop, desktop/all-in-one) plus pay an extra $150 for the TouchPad. Otherwise, the retailer is selling just the TouchPad for a whopping $599.99, at which point it may make more sense to buy a couple from eBay for the same price. [Review]

Logitech Wireless Bluetooth Headset
Although the Logitech Wireless Headset is marketed for iOS products, the fact that it is a Bluetooth device means it should be interoperable with other gear — and it is. I’ve been inseparable from my Logitech headset ever since I received my review unit: I’m able to use the same accessory between my laptop, TouchPad and Samsung Infuse, plus I can walk around my room while my video continues to run on my device. Other gadget girls will love that the headset is not as heavy as the large cans that are typical of gaming headsets, as this Logitech pair is subtle in color (pale blue and off-white plastic band, grey foamy ear pads) and has a microphone that tucks neatly under the plastic band. Unfortunately, the entire headset does not flatten like the Arc Touch Mouse, but is somewhat foldable so your gadget girl may not be able to leave home without this headset. Available from Logitech for $69.99, though its website seems to suggest it’s only available for pre-orders at the moment.Kate Spade Pocomo Gwen “Leica M9? bag
Photography connoisseurs will appreciate Kate Spade’s Pocomo Gwen leather bag, which pays homage to the iconic Leica M9 rangefinder with its flap design. This shoulder bag is by no means a proper camera bag but it looks to be large enough to fit an actual rangefinder inside. The Gwen was part of the fashion label’s Summer collection so it is now in limited supply. Zappos is one of the few retailers that still have the bag in stock for $202.99, which is high for a small bag stamped with a famous camera, but still just a fraction of the cost of the real thing.


Gloria Sin is a freelance journalist based in New York City.

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