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2012 Holiday Gadget Wishlist

This year's must-have tech tools for office and home

You can keep all your lovingly handcrafted and hand-carved and handknit and handmade gifts -- all we want this year for the holidays are sleek tech gadgets, whether for the home or office. Which was why we were happy to see this gadget wishlist, from the very tech-savvy Robert Prusa, a client services manager at Xcentric, a cloud computing and technology consulting services company that serves CPA firms.

Roku Streaming Stick Roku Streaming Stick

This great item comes from Roku and is a new format for their streaming media device. Simply plug in the USB stick to the HDMI port of your Roku-ready TV and the self-powered unit will allow access to numerous services. Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Video (including prime video access) are all available, among hundreds of other apps for streaming movies, music, news content, games and more. For the money, Roku’s products give you more flexibility than the equivalent Apple TV line.

Boxee TV Boxee TV

Another new “cut the cable” addition in the streaming media category is the new version of the Boxee Box, which for the first time offers a DVR function. This “first of its kind” service currently boasts unlimited online storage for recorded media from your antenna or cable. The service fee of $15 (currently discounted at $10) is comparable to other TiVo style services, but the unlimited storage will be a tempting offer for many users who would like to start cataloging their media online. It remains to be seen how this offer holds up and what limitations exist to file access.

Kindle Paperwhite Kindle Paperwhite

The most recent offering from Amazon, the Kindle Paperwhite, is a great upgrade over the previous units. Eliminating one of the few downfalls of their previous e-readers, low-light reading, the new paperwhite technology allows for low- or no-light use. This “front-lit” screen gives the reader the ability to read in the complete dark while maintaining the e-ink-enabled benefit of reading for long periods with limited eye strain. While some users may not be prone to reading over long periods, this is a great product for readers who seek to get lost in a good book.

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iPad Mini iPad Mini

If the Kindle isn't your preference, Apple’s newest toy might suit you for a lower price than their previous tablets. Still not matching the price of the Kindle Fire HD (another new viable option in this category), the iPad mini takes a new shape to Apple’s tablet line. Shrinking the 9.7-inch screen of previous iPads to 7.9 inches, Apple has answered a common request for a smaller version of their market-dominating line. Interestingly, the iPad mini is actually a smaller version of multiple generations of the iPad that combines the display quality and processor of the second generation, with the camera of the third/fourth-gen iteration. As such, the retina display is missing, but the Mini is much lighter and slimmer than previously available versions. Additionally, cellular versions are available, giving flexibility to users on the go.

LG Tone HBS-700 Headset LG Tone HBS-700 Headset

Though not a new product nor a new technology, the LG Tone stereo Bluetooth headset delivers on an idea that many other brands seem unable to. A favorite around the Xcentric office, this would make an excellent gift for anyone looking for wireless flexibility for both calls and music. Seemingly unconventional, the chosen design circumvents common complaints with headsets of this kind. They will fit on anybody, are comfortable, provide the needed control functions, and are more durable than they seem at first glance. The sound quality while listening to music won’t cut it for an audiophile, but is more than adequate for most users. Stereo earbuds for calling give more sound isolation than the standard Bluetooth headset, and the mic quality seems to be on par with other headsets. For portable wireless listening on a larger budget, the Bose Soundlink II was released in September and is an excellent alternative.

Chromebook Chromebook

The newly released Chromebook is another intriguing product available in time for the 2012 holidays. This third-gen lighter/smaller version comes with some great features for a price point just above the Kindle Fire HD and lower than all Apple tablets. It remains to be seen if Google is creating a new category or if this line will fade away. However, the newest release might be worth a look for certain users. Primarily a browser-based system, the newest Chromebook does include HDMI, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, Bluetooth, a webcam, and dual band Wi-Fi, while boasting 6.5 hours of battery, all in a slim, lightweight package. Though primarily based on using Google’s services on the Web, a Citrix plug-in is available to access more complete cloud services. I’d want to try this out to before banking on it, but for the price tag, Google is clearly trying to break into this market.

Worth a Look Worth a Look

Here are a few other great gift ideas:

Mobile Scanner: Wireless scanning even without a computer on hand.

iGo: On-the-go charging for your USB devices

Sitting or standing portable desk: The name says it all.

Lark: Activity-tracking wristbands (in the vein of the fitbit or fuel band).

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