Giving the Gift of Technology

Recent innovation and increasing competition are bringing down prices on the gamut of gadgets for technophiles this year

Technophile wish lists are bound to be long this year, thanks to a gaggle of gadgets unveiled just in time for the holidays. While that's good news for techies who just love trying out the latest gear, it may give cash-strapped Santas reason to groan. After all, new technology has a tendency to demand top dollar. And, let's face it, few of us have an endless supply of green.

Luckily, many of the hottest items this year are under $300. Take digital cameras, for example. Prices have declined, and there are now many palm-sized models in the $150 to $250 range that offer similar features to the more expensive single lens reflex, or SLR, models. Canon's (CAJ) PowerShot A540, for example, has a full 6 megapixels, enabling it to make prints larger than 4 by 6 inches without sacrificing image quality. SLR cameras for consumers, not professionals, typically have 6 to 10.1 megapixels. The PowerShot is under $200 at stores such as CompUSA.

Competitively priced choices abound for the music lover too. There's the new 30GB iPod video from Apple (AAPL) and Microsoft's (MSFT) new Zune (see, 11/21/06, "Zune Can Carry—and Share—a Tune"). Both are about $249 and play music, video, and podcasts. Comparable players from less well-known brands such as SanDisk (SNDK) are roughly the same price. Of course, the lower the price, the fewer files it can store: Apple's new iPod Shuffle, about the size of a money clip, costs $79, but it only holds 240 songs (see, 9/13/06, "Apple's Latest Fruits").

For Those with More to Spend…

Here's a gift for the accident prone: a rugged notebook. These machines typically cost more than the average laptop—$1,000 to $5,000, compared to $500 and up for an ordinary laptop—but they are resistant to spills, drops, and a variety of other computer-killing mishaps.

For those willing to shell out a bit more, big-screen televisions are within reach. Competition between LCD, plasma, and digital light processing, or DLP, TV manufacturers, as well as innovations in technology that make it more cost-effective to producer larger screens, have prices hitting new lows. This season, it is possible to get a 50-inch screen for less than $2,000. Plus, the high-end models have a host of ports that let techies hook up their favorite gadgets, such as the newly released Nintendo Wii (see, 10/4/06, "Big-TV Battle: LCD vs. Plasma").

And if money's no object (and you haven't already dispatched a personal shopper) Nokia's (NOK) got a handset that makes even the Motorola (MOT) RAZR look clunky. The Vertu Ascent is made from a metallic alloy said to be stronger than the sides of an airplane. Yet it weighs only 6 ounces. There's also the AMX MAX media server system that will hold all of your CDs and DVDs and let you access them from anywhere in the house. The cost? Just a skosh over $50,000.

Click here see a slide show of these and other gifts for the techie in your life.

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