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Holiday Gift Guide 2011: Our 20 favorite tech gifts

What good is it to have the world's most seasoned line-up of product and IT experts if they can’t help you pick out holiday presents? With that in mind, we tapped our crack crew to help us help you find the year’s best tech gift ideas.
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Topic: Hardware
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What good is it to have the world's most seasoned line-up of product and IT experts if they can’t help you pick out holiday presents? With that in mind, we tapped our crack crew to help us help you find the year’s best tech gift ideas.


Violet Blue, Pulp Tech: This slick little camera might look like just another novelty camera, but Lytro does what most people want in a point and shoot nowadays: the ability to just point and shoot, and worry about focusing and brightness later. Read more about it if you want to find out the tech behind what makes this possible (spoiler: it's Lytro's software), but it's my top pick for the grab-and-go camera fanbase. It's ultra-basic, doesn't shoot video and isn't big on megapixels. Think of it like a really slick bite-sized snack for easy-peasy lifeblogging, and you've got your toy.
See: Lytro
Price: Starts at $399
Gift Pick by: Violet Blue, Pulp Tech



Back to ZDNet's Holiday Tech Gift Guide


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James Kendrick, Mobile NewsThe IdeaPad U300s is the perfect gift for the modern family. It is the thinnest, lightest Windows laptop (Ultrabook) ever made, and it handles everything thrown at it with ease. Throw in an 8-hour battery life -- plus the fact the battery can be charged 50% in just 30 minutes -- and the U300s is the best in class.

See: Lenovo
Price: Varies
Gift Pick by: James Kendrick, Mobile News
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Oliver Marks, Collaboration 2.0: GoPro cameras jumped into the vacuum left when the Flip camera was discontinued by Cisco, with the added advantage of being wearable and designed to shoot footage of your sporting escapades whether on land, sea or air in high definition. The just announced GoPro II has an improved lense, higher frame rate, simpler interface, more ports and upcoming WiFi connectivity. These multi purpose cameras are useful for recording everything from your family Thankgiving dinner to your winter surfing safari.

See: GoPro
Price: Varies
Gift Pick by: Oliver Marks, Collaboration 2.0
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David Morgenstern, The Apple Core: What's the point of having an iPhone 4S (or any other flavor of iPhone or iPod for that matter) when you can't really hear the important words in a phone call or the quiet passages of your favorite audio or video? The Etymotic hf3 headset+earphone uses passive noise isolation technology to cut out the rest of the world — airplane engines, traffic noise, crying babies — without any drain on precious battery power. These buds really stay firmly in your ear and produce a clear, clean sound.

See: Etymotic
Price: $179
Gift Pick by: David Morgenstern, The Apple Core
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David Gewirtz, DIY-IT: I call the Bosch Laser Distance Measurer my magical measuring machine because, after buying a fixer-upper home this year, it was the single most useful tool I had in 2011. If you're moving, remodeling, or otherwise dealing with any sort of home or office re-arrangement, nothing beats this tool. Unlike cheaper measuring tools that use sound for taking measurements and a laser only for sighting, this actually uses a laser for extremely accurate measurements. Our bottom line: everything fit on moving day.

See: Bosch Tools
Price: Varies
Gift Pick by: David Gewirtz, DIY-IT
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Jason Perlow, Tech Broiler: Why did I pick the Kindle Fire? It's simple, really. A $200 7" tablet computer that will take up much less space in my travel knapsack than my 10" iPad or Motorola XOOM, and gives me access to all my Kindle books and other Amazon content, not to mention many thousands of Android applications -- likely rivaling Google's own Android market by the middle of 2012. And with Amazon's curated Appstore for Android, you can be assured that all the software submitted to their own version of a "Walled Garden" will run perfectly on the device. There's no doubt in my mind this is going to be the hottest stocking stuffer for 2011. Note: Although the Kindle Fire won't be available until the second week in November, Amazon.com is taking prep-orders now - from U.S. customers only.

See: Amazon.com
Price: $199
Gift Pick by: Jason Perlow, Tech Broiler
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Christopher Jablonski, Emerging Tech: Except for hardcore traditionalists who still tote decks and crates full of vinyl records, most DJs have gone digital. I use the M-Audio X-Session Pro USB MIDI controller with my laptop (via USB) for traditional DJ mixer style control across my MIDI-supported applications, like Ableton Live. A great investment if you want to rock the house at your holiday party.

See: M-Audio
Price: Varies
Gift Pick by: Christopher Jablonski, Emerging Tech
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Stephen Chapman, SEO Whistleblower: The Razer Blade gaming laptop is the first laptop to pack the amount of oomph and pizazz that it does in a form factor less than an inch thick and just under 7 pounds. At $2,800, it's a bit on the pricy side -- and there are much faster gaming laptops you can purchase for the same price. But it's the form factor and Razer's bells and whistles (like the multi-award winning "Switchblade UI" that you see on the right-hand side of the keyboard) that justify the cost. If you're a gamer -- or if you're looking for a holiday gift for one -- the Razer Blade just might be the device you seek.

See: Razor Zone
Price: $2,800
Gift Pick by: Stephen Chapman, SEO Whistleblower
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Janice Chen - Digital Cameras & Camcorders: Though it will be ripe for an upgrade in early 2012, the Canon EOS Rebel T3i is still the entry-level dSLR to get this holiday season. Like its predecessor the T2i (one of my holiday dSLR picks last year), the T3i gets high marks across the board for image quality. But the T3i's flip and swivel articulated LCD and top-notch 1080i HD video recording capabilities make it the budget dSLR of choice, even eight months down the line (an eon in the fast-paced digital camera market).

See: Canon
Price: $899
Gift Pick by: Janice Chen - Digital Cameras & Camcorders

Also:
My favorite Point and shoot: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3
My favorite pocket camcorder: Kodak Playsport Zx5
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Zack Whittaker, London Calling: Apple's iPod touch, unlike its cellular-connected iPhone counterpart, is free from data charges, but performs all of the same functionality you get in the iPhone. Running the latest iOS 5 operating system, it is smooth, capable and expandable, like any smart device on the market should be. Just when you think an all-in-one smartphone will do everything you think it can, the iPod touch goes above and beyond the price tag bestowed upon it. The beefiest of all the iPods, it will last and outlast your other gadgets, as it is strong, built for what it's used for, and is a wide investment without the hassle of yet another data contract.

See: Apple
Price:$199
Gift Pick by: Zack Whittaker, London Calling
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Ken Hess, Virtually Speaking: My Acer Aspire One is my favorite computer, by a wide margin. Its small size and significant capacity is sufficient to run Windows XP/Vista/7 or Linux without performance issues. I've done everything with this netbook: podcasting, recording, Skyping, and writing. I even run a QEMU virtual machine (Debian 5) on it. And, because it can boot from a USB thumbdrive, the "One" makes a very handy BackTrack Linux security testing unit. New models cost approximately $300. My model (ZG5) can be found on ebay for less than $100. I recommend purchasing an extended life battery pack (~$30), but be aware that it adds extra weight and size to your netbook. I think the additional 4-6 hours of battery life is worth it.

See: Acer
Price: Varies
Gift Pick by: Ken Hess, Virtually Speaking
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Matthew Miller, Smartphones and Cell Phones: Apple iPhone 4S: This holiday season how would you like to enjoy talking to your phone rather than talking through your phone? With the Apple iPhone 4S you can interact with Siri and discover a taste of the future of mobile phone interaction. The iPhone 4S has the highest resolution display in a smartphone, is extremely fast with its dual core processor and can replace your point and shoot with the responsive high quality 8 megapixel camera.

See: Apple
Price: Varies
Gift Pick by: Matthew Miller, Smartphones and Cell Phones
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Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Hardware 2.0: When a PC doesn’t start, or a component isn’t behaving itself correctly, my first port of call is to test the Power Supply Unit. The Coolmax PS-228 PSU tester has saved me literally hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of diagnostic time that would otherwise have been spent tearing my hair out. Not only does the Coolmax PS-228 allow me to test the motherboard supply (20 and 24 pin) but it also all lets me test 4-pin Molex supply, 6/8 pin PCIe supply, 4/8 pin CPU supply, 15-pin SATA supply and finally floppy disk supply -- handy when you’re working on an ancient system!

See: Coolmax
Price: $20
Gift Pick by: Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Hardware 2.0
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Emil Protalinski, Friending Facebook: If you want a smartphone with a physical keyboard, there really isn’t anything better than the BlackBerry Bold 9900. This is a productivity machine first: It will make sure you get your work done, as opposed to just being a toy for browsing and playing games.

See: Blackberry.com
Price: Varies
Gift Pick by: Emil Protalinski, Friending Facebook
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Gloria Sin, The ToyBox: Why the N9? Forget the mass-released iPhone 4S: Impress your special someone by bringing a Nokia N9 to America this year, arguably the most coveted smartphone that won't be landing in a Best Buy near you. From the curved Gorilla glass display, built-in NFC chip, to the 8-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss lens, this MeeGo-running phone won't disappoint even the most discerning mobile geek.

See: Nokia
Price: Varies
Gift Pick by: Gloria Sin, The ToyBox
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The Contour+ PoV camera is the perfect gadget for the outdoor enthusiast in your life. The Contour+ records beautiful, crisp Dion Hinchcliffe, Enterprise Web 2.0: 1080p HD video in ultra-wide angle from a tiny, rugged package. It's great for capturing those memorable moments on the trail. Mountable on handlebars, helmets, or just about anywhere else, it's packed with features like GPS, an iPhone app for controlling it, and HDMI-out. I've been using this for a couple of months for rock climbing, mountain biking, and other activities and have been truly impressed with the features and video quality.

See: Contour
Price: Varies
Gift Pick by: Dion Hinchcliffe, Enterprise Web 2.0
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Denise Amrich, ZDNet Health: Way too many people aren't getting enough sleep, which can hurt everything from job effectiveness to happiness, to safety on the road. The new Zeo Sleep Manager Mobile Sleep Management System interfaces with your smartphone to help you learn more about your sleep stages, which helps you manage and improve your sleep habits in order to achieve better sleep.

See: Zeo
Price: $99
Gift Pick by: Denise Amrich, ZDNet Health
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Matt Weinberger, Googling Google: So maybe its stereoscopic display hasn't exactly set the sales charts on fire the same way its predecessors have, but the Nintendo 3DS is a device worthy of a wider audience come Christmastime. Right out of the box, it has a Netflix client, a 3D camera, a web browser, and an app store chock full of nostalgia-fortified NES goodness. Oh, and it'll play Super Mario 3D Land, the new hotness hitting stores on November 13.

See: Nintendo
Price: $169
Gift Pick by: Matt Weinberger, Googling Google
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Violet Blue, Pulp Tech: When I saw the Throwable Panoramic Ball Camera I knew that it would be the perfect toy gift for all the office-bound geeks in my life. The ball is a robust rubber sphere that takes a great, spherical panoramic photo when you toss it in the air above your smiling friends, your angry boss or into the next room at the party. It relies on 36 fixed-focus mobile phone cameras, and more on the hardware and software specs are on the Ball Camera info page.
This product isn't for sale yet. But we love it so much we just had to include it.
See: Jonas Pfeil
Price: Not Yet Available
Gift Pick by: Violet Blue, Pulp Tech
Back to ZDNet's Holiday Tech Gift Guide

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