With the holidays coming up, you might be thinking of throwing a festive party in the next few weeks. Here are a list of five gadgets that will spruce up and make your abode tech-savvy at the same time. Your guests will be more than impressed.
And if not, there might be a gift idea or two in here for a friend or for you.
1. Speaker Dock: You can't have a successful party without music. Speaker docks are generally the simplest way to go when setting up your home DJ system. (Turning the radio on doesn't count; who wants to listen to commercials all night?) Either create a playlist or bravely set your entire music collection to shuffle. Most iPod/iPad/iPhone speaker docks sport 3.5mm audio jacks, so you can easily connect other MP3 and portable music players too.
Some of the ones covered here on ZDNet earlier this year include the Altec Lansing Octiv Stage for iPad (MSRP: $149.95), Audyssey's uber-modern South of Market dock (MSRP: $399) and the JBL On Stage Micro III (MSRP: $119.95).
2. Gaming Console: Whether it be a small or large party, video games can actually be a great activity to get people together. This is particularly true with consoles that use motion-based controllers such as the Nintendo Wii and now the Sony PlayStation 3 thanks to the Move controller released a few months ago. And with the new Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360, you don't even need a controller! The players are the controllers. Even though there aren't many titles yet for Kinect, there is the Dance Central game featured in all of those commercials. Certainly wipes the floor with that old DDR floor pad wasting away in your closet.
3. HDTV: Flat-screen plasma, LCD and LED-LCD panels are the way of the future, and there's no looking back. If you are getting a worthy gaming console and you don't have an HDTV, you might want to upgrade to make the most of your entertainment set-up. Depending on the size of your living room, try to shoot for something at least over 24-inches wide. Additionally, try to find something that maximizes the HDTV experience, like one of Sony's Google TV-enabled sets or Panasonic's Viera Cast-connected collection.
For the best offerings of 2010, check out the HDTV Holiday Gift Guide by ZDNet's Sean Portnoy.
4. Hi-Tech Cleaning: Before and after your swanky party (or even any other day of the year), having a high-powered vacuum is quite useful. It's even more useful when you don't have do anything except set a timer and/or hit the start button. One of iRobot's latest creations, the Roomba 560, works like a dream, cleaning the average living room from wall to wall within 25 minutes. It bumps into things occassionally, but never enough to knock over anything like a lamp even.
Priced at $349, it is definitely a splurge for a household item, but it might be worth it when it comes to time and exhaustion in the long run. Plus, it's entertaining to watch and can be combined with one of the items earlier on this list.
5: Something quirky: All of these other items are great, but if you want a conversation starter, you'll need to think out of the box. Maybe a pillow that doubles as a remote control? A remote control that has a bottle opener on the side? A clock radio in the shape of the head of Darth Vader? Depending on your audience, this could be the place for you to reflect your other interests through technology.
The best retail outlets to find offbeat gadgets are stores like Brookstone or The Sharper Image. These places can get kind of pricey, but maybe you'll find something random at your local Best Buy or Target too.