Nothing reminds one of the relentless march of time like an annual tech gift guide. As we move ever closer to being led to our graves by the Ghost of Christmas Future, technology advances and makes yesteryear’s gifts look as outdated as Furby and Teddy Ruxpin. Worry not: if we all have to go sometime, we might as well own a tiny picture-taking robot when we do. You heard right—robot.
Canon PowerShot S90
($529.99; Best Buy, Future Shop, Kerrisdale Cameras)
Small and sexy, the Canon 10-megapixel PowerShot S90 packs a lot of punch. It’s great for taking places where pulling out a full-size digital single-lens reflex camera would be socially inappropriate. The S90 has a great wide-angle lens and works well in low-light situations, allowing you to leave the flash unused—and your pictures unruined—far more often than most point-and-shoots. This is the perfect camera for someone who wants to take their hobby to the next level without buying a costly DSLR. It’s also perfect for weaning someone who’s caught the photo bug off their bulky DSLR, so that you can go to a dinner party without having a foot-long lens shoved in your face.
Sony IPTDS1 Party-shot
($199.99; Sony Style)
You were promised robots, and who does robots better than Sony? George Lucas, maybe, but his are typically people in metallic suits. As cute as R2-D2 is, you wouldn’t want to set him down on the dinner table at your next family meal. Coupled with any one of a number of Sony’s Cyber-shot cameras, the IPTDS1 Party-shot acts as a paparazzo droid, shuffling back and forth and using face-detection technology to ensure that the faces of your friends and family are all in perfect focus. Since it’s less noticeable than a human holding a camera, the IPTDS1 is ironically able to capture more natural shots. It’s the perfect party guest, at least until it tries to kill Tom Selleck and Kirstie Alley.
Nikon Coolpix S1000PJ
($499.88; Kerrisdale Cameras)
Have you ever tried to show off the photos you’ve snapped of an event and spent a great deal of time fumbling around plugging cables into a television, then trying to figure out what setting the TV needs to be on to pick up the signal from the camera—as your assembled audience watches, then slowly loses interest and goes back to drinking in the kitchen? You’ll be glad to know there’s a better way. The Nikon Coolpix S1000PJ is a 12.1-megapixel camera with a built-in projector. All you need is a bit of blank wall, and your photos, slide shows, and movie clips can be ready within seconds.
Computers and Accessories
($1,299 to $2,099, depending on screen size and memory; Apple Store, Best Buy, Future Shop, The Mac Market, Simply Computing, WestWorld Computers)
With enough computing power to run a small country, or at least a moderately sized home business, Apple’s new iMac desktop computers combine sleek industrial design with a great screen and hardware heft. The iMac now packs enough memory punch to meet nearly everyone’s needs, and makes a pretty good jukebox and a sweet movie player. Like all of Apple’s recently introduced computers, it’s capable of starting up into Mac OS X or, using Boot Camp, a Windows environment, just in case you’re eager to use Windows 7.
($499; Best Buy)
Over the past few years, the netbook category of computers has grown quickly, with nearly every manufacturer releasing its own take on the stripped-down, lightweight, ultra-portable computers. While Samsung’s N310 might be slightly more expensive than other entries in this category, it’s certainly one worth looking at. At 250 gigabytes, the hard drive is large for a netbook, and one gigabyte of RAM makes this computer quick for its class. The N310 is also a stylish little computer, in a category where design is often overlooked.
Apple Magic Mouse
($69; Apple Store, Best Buy, Future Shop, The Mac Market, Simply Computing, WestWorld Computers)
File this one under beautiful and ridiculously cool. The Magic Mouse is the latest from the company that, while it may not have invented it, at least stole the mouse first. Using the same multitouch gesture technology Apple has been putting into its MacBooks, iPhones, and iPod Touches, the Magic Mouse offers an incredible amount of control through an easy-to-learn series of gestures. With Bluetooth, there are no wires to get tangled up, and the mouse is easy to pack away if you want to use it on the go with your MacBook.
Finally, Amazon’s breakthrough electronic-book reader is shipping to Canada without buyers having to jump through hoops. Now we can wirelessly purchase and download any of the more than 300,000 e-books available to Canadians. With digital versions of daily newspapers also available, the Kindle can handle all of your reading needs and still fit inside your jacket pocket. The E Ink screen makes reading on the device as easy as reading off paper, with none of the eyestrain that comes with staring at a backlit computer screen for prolonged periods. This type of screen also means the Kindle has a remarkably long battery life, going days without needing a charge.
($199 for 16 gigabytes, $299 for 32 gigabytes, with three-year contract; Apple Store, Bell, Fido, Rogers, Telus)
Now that all of Canada’s big-three wireless carriers are offering Apple’s smartphone, it’s the perfect time to look at getting one. Still arguably the most advanced mobile phone on the market, the iPhone is backed by a very active community of application developers. Their work has expanded the functionality of the phone, making it the Swiss Army knife of digital devices. A camera, a portable computer, a picture viewer, an e-book reader, a music and video player, and more, the iPhone does it all and does it well. Oh yeah—it’s also a pretty good cellphone. If you’re not sure that the recipient is going to be happy paying for a three-year contract that starts at $50 a month, the iPod Touch has almost all of the same features and requires Wi-Fi but not a cellphone contract.
Motorola Motorokr T505
($129.99; Rogers, Telus)
With holding a cellphone to your head while driving illegal as of January 1, getting a good Bluetooth kit for your car is a must. The Motorokr T505 will work with almost any Bluetooth-enabled phone, whether it’s a Motorola, a BlackBerry, or an iPhone. The T505 offers the nice combination of a reasonable price, compact size, and good call quality, and it stands up well when compared to more expensive options.