Black Friday mobile gear shopping guide

Many of us love to get mobile gadgets as gifts and the choices out there are amazing this year. To help you figure out what to buy for someone you can check out some thoughts and experiences with laptops, UMPCs, high end mobile smartphones, portable media players, and other mobile related gear. You can hit the stores on Black Friday or shop from the comfort of your home and let others fight to save a few bucks.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

i have only gone out once on Black Friday to pick up a couple of Nintendo DS units for my girls and personally do 90% of my shopping online. I have reviewed a few products on this blog since I started writing a few months ago and there are a few other pieces of gear now available that I would like to check out and wanted to post some thoughts on a few as you prepare to hit the streets or the online shops for those mobile Christmas gifts.

Fujitsu P1610

Laptops and ultra-mobile PCs

  • Apple MacBook or MacBook Pro: I love the hardware and operating system on my original MacBook Pro, but holiday shoppers this year have even better choices now that the MacBook and MacBook Pro models have Intel Core 2 Duo processors. These laptops scream and also run Windows very well in dual boot mode or in a virtual environment with an application like Parallels Desktop. Windows users may not think a Mac can work for them, but I recommend you read Marc Orchant's recent MacBook experiences to see that Mac OS X can be used for business and not just by the media. The MacBook starts at US$1,099 and the MacBook Pro at US$1,999.
  • Fujitsu P1610 Tablet PC: This new ultra-portable convertible Tablet PC was just released, but a couple of mobile enthusiasts already have some first impressions that have me thinking about a sale of my Q1 for an upgrade to this model. Check out James Kendrick's video and Rob Bushway's InkShow to see why the P1610 is compelling. The P1610 uses an 8.9 inch, 1280 x 768 resolution touch screen display with amazing palm rejection technology and sports a 1.2 GHz Core Solo processor, up to 1GB RAM, up to 80 GB hard drive, SD card slot, 802.11 a/b/g and Bluetooth 2 radios, and integrated fingerprint security sensor. The Fujitsu P1610 starts at US$1,599.
  • Samsung Q1 or ASUS R2H UMPC: I have been using a Samsung Q1 UMPC for several months and am pleased with this UMPC device that allows me to work on the go and carry a light load. The Q1 is optimized for multimedia and if you are looking for an UMPC with more enterprise focused features then I recommend you check out an ASUS R2H device. Make sure to check out Josh Bancroft's 162 detailed photos where you'll see every detail and feel a bit more comfortable buying online. Both of these UMPC devices are available for about US$1,000.

Smartphones (Windows Mobile, S60, BlackBerry and Palm OS)

  • BlackBerry Pearl (8100): RIM has been branching out from the enterprise market to try to reach consumers with their mobile phones. The most recent device that appeals to many people is the Pearl. The BlackBerry Pearl sports a cool SureType keyboard, integrated digital camera, MP3 and video capability, and BlackBerry push email support. I had a chance to check one out for a short period and thought the hardware was indeed quite compelling. The software and user interface didn't really impress me though and I wasn't ready to give up my unlimited internet plan to switch to a BlackBerry data plan. T-Mobile sells the BlackBerry Pearl for as low as US$199.99 after rebate.
  • Cingular Samsung BlackJack:Cingular and Samsung just released the BlackJack Windows Mobile 5.0 Smartphone device. I had the opportunity to check out the BlackJack's sister, the Samsung i320, and the BlackJack improves on that device with a 3G wireless data radio and support for the Cingular network. The device is super slim and pocketable and if you are looking for a Smartphone that provides for easy text entry then you may want to consider the BlackJack that is available for as low as US$199.99 after rebate and activation.
  • Cingular 8525/HTC Hermes: Windows Mobile Phone Edition devices have touch screen displays and are usually more powerful than the Windows Mobile Smartphone devices. The Cingular 8525 is the same as the HTC TyTN I reviewed except that the forward facing camera has been removed. This device packs it all in, including high speed wireless data access on HSDPA, and is available from Cingular from US$399.99. If your gift recipient is looking for the most feature packed device this holiday season then the Cingular 8525 is definitely the one to get.
  • Nokia E62/E61: Nokia is just starting to explore the enterprise market with their business smartphones and one of the first to hit wireless carriers in the U.S. is the Nokia E62 from Cingular. I have been using the Nokia E61, same as the E62 but with WiFi, and find the device to have more features than a Windows Mobile Smartphone, but a bit less than a Phone Edition. The device is a steal at only US$99.99 after rebate from Cingular and if you are looking for a rock solid smartphone then take a look at this unit. It is a bit wide for a phone, but the keyboard is a joy to type on and if texting is more important then this device deserves consideration.
  • Nokia E70: The Nokia E70 is another device in the business E class from Nokia and is available directly from Nokia in the U.S. for US$449.99 (SIM unlocked). The E70 has a very unique flip over QWERTY keyboard where half the keyboard is on one side of the display and the other half is on the other side in landscape mode. The display is a high resolution bright display and a 2 megapixel camera is included. This device also sports 802.11 g/e/i and Bluetooth 1.2 radios and runs at 2.5G (EDGE) data speeds with your carrier.
  • Nokia N73: If you are looking for a more multimedia focused compact smartphone and don't mind buying from a U.S. importer then the Nokia N73 is a device to consider. This device follows on the European success N70 with a higher resolution display, better 3.2 megapixel digital camera with Carl Zeiss optics, and fun white and red color scheme. When I am not concerned about sending larger messages with a QWERTY keyboard I like to carry around the N73. You can find it at online retailers in the U.S. for around US$480.
  • Nokia N91: Nokia is good about making devices that focus on certain tasks and their N91 is targeted at those who want to carry their MP3 player and mobile phone in one package. The N91 is rock solid stainless steel and sports a 4GB hard drive. You can use it with the Yahoo! Music unlimited subscription and download podcasts directly to the device using the integrated WiFi radio. The N91 is a bit hefty, but if you use it as your MP3 player then in the end it may lighten your load. Features and phone call quality is high, which is typical of the higher end Nokia devices. The N91 is available online for just under US$600 and is not sold directly by any U.S. carriers.
  • Nokia N93: The Nokia N93 is really more of a digital video camera with integrated phone functionality and packs in just about everything, but the kitchen sink. You will find a 3.2 megapixel digital camera with Carl Zeiss optics and 3x optical zoom that takes video at up to 30 fps, integrated WiFi and Bluetooth 2.0 radios, and high resolution display with unique flip and twist operating modes. I found the video camera to be excellent while taking still shots seemed better with the N73 and N90. The N93 is available for US$699.99 from the Nokia U.S. online store or at one of the Nokia Flagship stores in New York or Chicago. Cingular customers be aware the N93 does not support the 850 MHz band so coverage may be spotty.
  • T-Mobile Dash: My current primary mobile phone is the T-Mobile Dash that I picked up for only US$199.99 after rebate. This QWERTY Windows Mobile Smartphone feels great in your hand and has a form factor that allows you to just pop it in your front shirt pocket without worrying about it. Even though it is small and sports a very usable keyboard, you also get integrated Bluetooth with A2DP support and integrated 802.11 b/g WiFi with a 1.3 megapixel digital camera. This is a great device for those who want a phone with excellent texting capability and you can even try to win one for free.
  • Treo 680 and Treo 700p: I was a Treo 650 user for over a year and loved the device before it started getting a bit buggy on me and I kept running out of available memory. Palm continues to produce Palm OS devices and the latest model that is designed for the entry level consumer is the Treo 680 that is just hitting the stores. The Treo 680 is the upgrade to the Treo 650 with double the available memory and some form factor and software improvements. Cingular will sell the device for US$199 with service activation and US$40/month minimum data plan fees or you can buy an unlocked model from Palm for US$399 in one of 4 available colors. For those on Sprint or Verizon who want a more powerful Palm OS device then the Treo 700p is available starting as low as US$299 with service activation. The Treo 700p runs on the Sprint and Verizon wireless broadband networks (3G) and has a 1.3 megapixel camera.
  • Treo 700wx: If you want a Windows Mobile Treo then the best model is the Treo 700wx from Sprint. Palm has made some special customizations to Windows Mobile that helps set the Treo 700w(x) apart from other Windows Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition devices. The Treo devices have touch screens, unlike most of the other Windows Mobile devices with exposed QWERTY keyboards. Sprint sell the Treo 700wx for as low as US$399 and Verizon has the older Treo 700w model with half the available memory of the 700wx.

Portable media players

  • Apple iPod Nano: The 2nd generation iPod nano takes care of the 1st generation scratching issue by enclosing the nano in an aluminum shell. You also have choices of 2GB, 4GB, or 8GB models. The 4GB US$199 model comes in five colors. The 2GB model comes in silver and is priced at US$149 while the 8GB model is available in black for US$249. There are also special edition Red models in 4GB and 8GB capacities. The nano does sport a small color display that shows all your song information as well as serving as a photo viewer and album art display.
  • Apple iPod shuffle: I think the 2nd generation Apple iPod shuffle will be one of the hottest sellers this holiday season priced at US$79 for 1GB of storage capacity. This new shuffle is very small and clips onto just about anything, making it ultra portable and handy to have with you at all times. There is no display on this iPod, but it is a way for people to get an iPod at a low cost. Apple states you can carry up to 240 songs, which is plenty for hours of listening.
  • Apple iPod: The latest hard drive-based iPods are labeled 5.5 generation and come in 30GB and 80GB drive capacities. These iPods have the ability to play video with TV shows and movies available to download from the iTunes store. The 30GB model is priced at US$249 and the 80GB model is at US$349. The display is brighter than before and the software has been improved as well.
  • Microsoft Zune: Microsoft is now getting into the mobile media player action with their new Zune device. Right now the device comes in 30GB capacity with three available colors; white, black, and brown. There has been lots of chatter about the device and there are both pros and cons to this first generation model. You can find Zune devices in lots of retailers, like Target and Wal-Mart, so you can get your hands on them and try them out before buying one. They retail for US$249 and are distinguished from comparable iPods by the larger display for watching video content, the WiFi radio to share music, and the unlimited music subscription service offering.
  • SanDisk Sansa e200: Speaking of unlimited music subscriptions, you can use various services labeled PlaysForSure with the SanDisk Sansa e200 MP3 player. The Sansa e200 Flash drive device is available in 2, 4, 6, and 8GB models ranging from US$139.99 to US$249.99. The SanDisk Sansa e200 is a bit unique with its integrated microSD card slot so you can expand the memory capacity with current microSD cards of up to 2GB. The device has a 1.8 inch color display and can show photos and small videos. The casing is also metal and if you are looking for a good flash based MP3 player and don't have a large personal music collection then you may want to consider the Sansa e200.

Misc. mobile gear

  • SeV Performance T-shirt: I generally put on a few pounds during the holidays and need to try to get some good exercise to get back in shape. I tried out a SeV Performance T-shirt this summer and liked the way it carried my MP3 player while providing a comfortable workout shirt. ScotteVest now has a huge selection of jackets, vests, t-shirts, sweat pants, shorts, and hats that help you carry your mobile gear when you are out and about. They have free ground shipping on orders over US$75 until Sunday, 26 November so if you are looking for some high quality garments for your mobile enthusiast then you may save some money shopping from home. If you get someone a Nintendo Wii they may like one of these Performance T-shirts since they will be getting lots of exercise playing games.
  • Neuros MPEG Recorder 2 Plus: With all of these mobile phones and multimedia players you may be wondering how in the world are you going to get video content onto the devices. Neuros Technology has a very simple solution for you with their Neuros MPEG4 Recorder 2 Plus available for US$139.99. The Recorder 2 Plus has Compact Flash and SD/MS/MMC slots where you pop in the external storage card from your mobile device and record content playing on your TV or other video input device (camcorder, gaming console, DVD player, etc.). After recording you then place the storage media in your device or transfer the media to the device (in the case of an iPod or other hard drive based device) and then watch it on the go. The Recorder 2 Plus can be thought of as a VCR that records to storage media and is just as simple to use. For the more geeky person, Neuros Technology has "gamma" versions of their new OSD available for US$229.99. The OSD is a Linux-based media center device that takes the Recorder 2 Plus idea up to the next level.
What type of electronic gadgetry do you plan to purchase for yourself or someone else this holiday season?
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