The list of nifty devices for technophiles is endless, but you have to start somewhere. So, why not start in the halfway affordable range? These 20 coveted devices from the consumer realm can transport you to new dimensions in the world of audio, video, even edible delights. Whether at home in your loungewear, braving the outdoors, or cruising the interstate, it will feel good to have at least one of these devices handy. A word about price: Most were suggested by the manufacturer and a few are firm, but don’t rule out finding a bargain online.
Video and Home Theater
Belkin TuneCommand AV for iPod
This dock makes it a snap to connect your iPod to your home theater system. In addition to passing music through to your stereo, the TuneCommand AV will allow you to view all of your iPod videos and photos on your TV. The gadget even comes with a remote control for controlling playback, although, as with other iPod docks, you must use the iPod itself to switch to a different video.
Canon Elura 100
If low-end video cameras seem too basic but a “prosumer” model seems like overkill, Canon’s Elura 100 could be just the ticket. In addition to being easy to use, the camera produces rich footage, and can even shoot in widescreen mode (but not in high-definition mode at this price). The Elura 100 records to Mini DV, but also contains an SD memory card slot for storing still photos.
Logitech Harmony 890 Advanced Universal Remote
Logitech’s Harmony series of remote controls has probably saved more relationships than Dr. Phil. After an easy initial set-up which involves connecting the remote to your PC or Mac, you’ll have one-touch access to your most popular activities -- “Watch PVR” or “Listen to CD,” for example. Your significant other won’t need to worry about turning on the TV, ensuring it’s on Video 1, then making sure the receiver is on Video 2, etc. The 890 can even beam signals through doors (thus the hefty price tag). If price is a concern, consider the more-affordable Harmony 550, which you should be able to find for closer to $100.
If you wanted an Xbox 360, you would have bought it a year ago. If you want a PS3, you’re probably out of luck for the next three months or so. So what’s a fun-loving geek to do? Pick up a Wii. At $249, it doesn’t require the same investment financially or emotionally as the competition. And the Wii’s controllers, which allow you to swing your arms around in the air to control the games, almost make it worth the price of admission. A Nintendo Wii: $249. A case of beer: $20. Seeing your friends make fools of themselves in your living room: priceless.
It’s hard to call anything costing more than a 1,500 bucks an impulse buy (last year’s model would have cost nearly double), but it may be time to think about an HD plasma TV. Panasonic continues to produce plasma sets that offer a pretty remarkable blend of price and performance. If you think 42 inches isn’t going to cut it, you can get yourself a 50-incher for another grand. Building a larger living room, however, will add substantially to your bottom line.
The Slingbox PRO is the latest version of one of our favorite gadgets of the past five years. After attaching the Slingbox to your home network and video source (cable, satellite, TiVo), you can watch whatever you would at home from anywhere in the world via PC. With the optional HD Connect adapter ($49.99), the Pro even supports HD programming although not of the quality you see on your TV.