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2011 Holiday Gift Guide

2011 Holiday Gadget Guide

2011 Holiday Gadget Guide

It’s that time of year when companies start thinking about what shwag they will bestow on employees, colleagues and clients. ‘Tis the gift that keeps on tweeting? If you’re like many executives, you have a list of who will get a card, a list of who will get a box of Fairytale Brownies (please add me to this list) and a list of who will get something extra special.

Here are some suggestions — your holiday gadget guide — to make the most special on your list the most happy, all under $250:

Kindle Fire

It’s tablet mania out there, and the Kindle Fire, in my book, is one of the coolest tablets you can give for the price. Blazing fast browsing, access to just as much content as any other tablet including movies, magazines and tons of free videos and books for Amazon Prime members. Kindle is giving Nook a run for its money with this tablet. And with access to the endlessly growing Android Market, it’s also a pretty good productivity tool. This 7-inch tablet, as well as the price tag, are extremely lightweight. At $199, it’s my top recommendation for a holiday gadget gift.

Kodak PlaySport Zx5

If a Flip Video is out of your price range, the Kodak PlaySport Zx5 is a great choice. This mini-camcorder captures great video on the go as it’s small enough to tote in a pocket or purse. The camera itself is fairly durable, as the company says it’s shockproof and waterproof (though I don’t know if I’d take it in the pool “just to be sure”). It does have a built-in USB connector like the Flip, but rumors are the battery life isn’t too shabby. Starts at $108 on the company’s website.

Roku XDS

It may not come in handy during meetings; in fact, it may even hinder productivity for the work-at-home types. But whoever receives this little streaming media hockey puck will love it. The Roku XDS gives you a gateway to hundreds of online channels through your TV, including Netflix, Hulu, HBO and Pandora Radio. It also has a growing selection of games, such as Angry Birds, which is free. The small remote also serves as a gaming tool. It’s listed on the site for $99, but I found it as low as $79 on some sites like Amazon boasting holiday specials. Bonus: Roku just released the Roku LT for $50. Doesn’t have as much content, like Angry Birds, but it does the job.

DodoCase

I wrote about the DodoCase earlier this year, and it’s still my top pick for a iPad case. If someone on your list uses an iPad (first generation or iPad 2) and suffers from boring-case-syndrome, you can give them this fix. The DodoCase is a throwback to the elegance of classic book-binding, as the cases are actually handmade in an old book-binding factory in San Francisco. It’s made out of eco-friendly bamboo on the inside to protect the tablet and makes you really feel like you’re opening up a book when you use it. It’s sophisticated in design and now comes in a variety of cool color and design choices. Starts at $59. www.dodocase.com

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W570

A really nice point-and-shoot is a great gift as many people rely on their smartphones for cameras, and sometimes those just don’t cut it. The Sony Cyber-shot is a relatively inexpensive camera with some great little features. The W570 is easy to pocket and has a decent flash — a solid wide-angle lens and a 5x zoom. Starting at $139, this is a great deal.

Dodo Case

Cases That Do More Than Protect Your iPhone And iPad

Three. That’s the number of times I’ve damaged my iPhone from dropping it. Twice it suffered a shattered screen, and the last time the back cracked. Due to my apparent clumsiness you can imagine the care I use in handling my iPad. For someone like me, a sturdy case is in order. But even the coolest of cases, I’ve learned, can do little in the way of actually protecting the device inside. And they don’t add much in the way of functionality. I decided it was high time to go in search of some cases that could not only keep my devices safe from damage, but also serve a functional purpose.

For the iPhone

LifeProof recently launched an iPhone 4 case that the company says stands up to the most active user, both in the office and out. As you can see in these videos, the LifeProof is designed to stand up to just about anything, including iPhone4 with LifeProof Casea robust workout in the park, a shower, and various food items (not necessarily in that order). The thin design rivals other cases that could be categorized as “sleek” and has a thin film that covers the screen. This full enclosure renders the phone inside waterproof, shockproof, dust-proof, and goo-proof. The case still allows for full access to all of the devices’ functions, so there’s no need to remove the case to plug in. LifeProof’s developers allegedly spent more than $1 million to develop the uber-rugged case to ensure it would stand up to the worst abuse you can dish. At the moment, the company only has a case available for the iPhone 4 at $69, which is about equal to the cost to replace the screen on the device should it shatter. The company says on its website that cases for the 3G, 3GS, and iPad are coming soon.

If you prefer a flexible gel skin and would like a little extra power boost, then the Powerskin is worth checking out. This skin is durable and non-obtrusive while acting as both a protective case and a battery pack, giving your phone an additional four to Powerskineight hours (depending on usage). Even just a couple of extra hours can be a life-saver for some executives who find themselves low on juice before lunch. The Powerskin is made of lightweight, impact-resistant silicone rubber. Inside is XPAL Powered patented battery technology. And the skin is made of 100 percent recycled materials, except for the battery and internal components. All cases come standard with a micro-USB re-charge port, on/off button and LED battery status lights. Not an iPhone user? Fear not, Powerskin has cases for a bevy of other smart phones including Samsung Galaxy, Samsung Vibrant, HTC HD7, HTC Evo, and myTouch 4G. The iPhone 4 case will be available this month at Powerskin’s website for $49.99.

For the iPad

One of the greatest benefits of the iPad is that users love it for work and for fun. Between presentations, email, reading and playing games, you may find yourself holding your iPad up a lot of the day. This can cause aching in the wrists and hands after extended use. The HandStand aims to alleviate that pain, and totally free up your navigation hand with an ergonomic design. The case has a handle HandStandon the back and a comfortable shape that naturally contours, enabling the user to essentially cradle the iPad with one hand. The company that developed the HandStand, Hub International, claims that this platform positions the device as an extension of the user’s hand, reducing fatigue and totally freeing up the navigation hand. The handle also sits in a rotating platform that lets you maneuver the iPad 360 degrees, allowing the iPad to move around and adjust as you do. If you’re looking for a more executive-looking leather case, you’ll be disappointed. The HandStand is made of silicone and comes in just three colors — pink, white and black. While it doesn’t quite measure up on the pretty scale, it does provide a level of durability that many would find comforting. Plus, it would likely be difficult to embed the 360-revolving disk on the back of a leather or soft-material case. On the plus side, this case is made from recycled materials. The HandStand is available at the company’s website for $49.95

Looking for something a little more elegant? Even custom? Try the DodoCase, a throwback to the elegance of classic book-binding. Function and style come together really nicely (and at a fair price) with this case. On the outside, it’s made of leather and latches like an Old World notebook with a black strap. On the inside, the iPad is protected by durable, hand-crafted Dodo casebook binding casing that’s made of eco-friendly bamboo. The DodoCase is made to order, and the company appears to put great care into every case it creates at its headquarters in San Francisco. You’ll wait up to six weeks for this $59 case, but chances are you’ll not only love it, you’ll use it as long as you use your iPad.