Tech gifts TO BUY this holiday season (Part 2 of 2)

by David Spark on December 5, 2007

This is the second part of my two part series “Tech gifts TO BUY and NOT TO BUY this holiday season.” You can also read part one, “Tech gifts NOT TO BUY this holiday season.”

Listen to the Spark Minute. John Scott and David Spark from Green 960 in San Francisco, CA talk about what tech gifts TO BUY this holiday season (Run time: 7:11).

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I’ve got plenty of advice on gifts to buy from as high as $529 down to as little as NOTHING. Here’s my advice on tech gifts to buy from most expensive to least expensive.

BUY a digital projector for immersive home movies and video games
Digital projectors used to only be for the boardroom and the classroom. But the cost of these items has come down dramatically while the quality has shot up. Sure having a kick ass LCD or DLP monitor at home is great, but if you’ve got a white wall or one of those antiquated projection screens, a digital projector offers a far more immersive experience that the flat panels can’t offer. Some of the items are priced as high as $7000, but why spend that when you get a Dell 1201MP for only $529.

BUY an iPod touch
Yes, the iPhone is really cool, but you have to sign a two-year contract to get one. For the same price ($400 for 16 GB model) or even cheaper ($300 for 8 GB model, same storage as the iPhone) you can get the iPod touch which is like the iPhone but without the phone. It’s also a little skinnier and sexier. If you or someone you know is a commuter, this is a “must have” device.

BUY a digital picture frame (a good one) and load it up with pictures
Last year my sisters and I all pitched in and purchased a Philips 9FF2M4 digital photo frame for our father. But that wasn’t the true gift. The true gift was that I collected photos from my sisters plus my own collection of photos and I purchased an SD card as well to load about 500 photos onto this frame (there was plenty of storage left over for another 500 photos). I had the frame shipped to me and I opened it up, installed the SD card with the photos, and configured the frame to play all the photos in random order at 10 second intervals and to automatically turn on in the morning and shut off at night. When I shipped the frame to my dad, I placed a piece of tape on the back that said, “Press this button.” That’s all the setup he needed to do. The photo frame was a huge hit and it’s a real conversation piece. Last year when I bought the frame it cost $300. Today they’re as cheap as $170. WARNING: these picture frames vary severely in quality and as a result you can get really crappy ones if you purchase the cheap brands at OfficeMax or Staples. These cheap ones are horrible and painful to look at the pixilated displays. I was very happy with the Philips brand. Make sure you check reviews before you buy. Check out the product search engine, Retrevo on their review of digital picture frames.
BUY Flip Video Ultra
I’m always looking for quick, cheap, fun ways to easily shoot and post video. The Flip Video Ultra is a device that can make that possible (lowest price I saw was $150). This model comes with a 2 GB SD card that shoots 60 minutes of video which should be more than enough footage for you to capture before you get to your computer to upload the video. The device is a little larger than a deck of cards so it can easily fit in your pocket. Upload is easy with the flip out USB connector. Upload the video to your PC, edit it with the supplied software and post it to YouTube or any one of 1000 video sharing sites. Make sure to tell all your friends you’ve posted it.

BUY custom made puzzles
For this holiday season, my girlfriend who is an excellent graphic designer, created some custom collages of digital photos of my nieces and my nephew. Then using the site Discount Photo Gifts, I ordered custom puzzles of these custom collages. Each one unique for each niece and my nephew. The puzzles were a huge hit and little kids like doing building projects over and over again. There’s a perfect puzzle for each age and skill level. You can purchase puzzles from as little as 30 pieces up to 551 pieces. Cost is only $10 to $22. They also have much nicer wooden puzzles that can cost up to $50.

BUY FOR FREE video holiday greetings
I have been a strong evangelist of the use of video email and I recommend that everyone send video greetings to friends and family on their birthday using Web-based tools like Springdoo and Tokbox. Now that the holiday season is upon us, why not send a video email out to everyone. It really only takes a minute to do. There’s no storing, encoding, or editing of video needed. Simply go to the sites, hit record, talk to your Web cam, and then hit stop. Check your video and then send. It’s truly that easy. The viewer doesn’t have to sign up for any account. All they need to do is click on the link in their email inbox. If you don’t already have a Web cam, there are plenty of good cheap ones out there. Logitech pretty much has a lock on this market. One of their top rated cameras, the Logitech Quickcam Pro 9000, can be had for as little as $68.

Make sure to also read part one, “Tech gifts NOT TO BUY this holiday season.”

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