Holiday 2012: Gifts for Commuters

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Commuting can be a drag if you let it get the best of you. Most of us have to choose between crowded trains, frustrating traffic jams, cramped buses and long bicycle rides. What you do have control over is how you spend that time. You can stand on the train and stew over the guy bumping into you and stepping on your shiny new sneakers every time the train jerks to the left or right, or you can occupy your time listening to music, reading or even watching television shows and movies. This holiday article is for the urban commuters. It showcases the technology, accessories and innovative gear that will improve your commute and your mood. If you’re one of the road warriors who battles the masses every morning on your way to work, or if you have someone like that on your holiday shopping list, then this article is packed with holiday gift ideas aimed specifically at you and them.


Noise-Isolating and Noise-Canceling Headphones

Tranquility and commuting are not usually associated with each other. However, with today’s technology, this doesn’t have to be the case. There are noise-isolating and noise-canceling headphones available that will eliminate nearly all of the unwanted ambient noise from the hustle and bustle of your daily commute. Noise-isolating headphones create a tight seal in your ear that shuts out unwanted ambient noise. Noise-canceling headphones use battery-powered electronic circuitry to pick up ambient noise and cycle it out of phase with the sounds coming from your tablet, smartphone or MP3 player. For more information on these technologies, please see the B&H InDepth article, How to Buy Headphones and Earphones. With the right headphones, the train, bus and busy streets can be a place of serenity. We’re going to take a look at three pairs of noise-isolating headphones, as well as two pairs of noise-canceling headphones.

First up are two pairs of on-ear headphones that both feature active noise-cancellation technology. The Sony MDR-NC7 and JVC HA-NC80 both eliminate most of the ambient noise when their noise-canceling function is engaged. The MDR-NC7 headphones are foldable for portability and they include an airplane adapter for those extra-long, cross-country business commutes. The noise-canceling technology is powered by a single AAA battery, and you can also turn the function off to enjoy music without noise cancellation in order to save the battery power. Very similar to the MDR-NC7, the JVC HA-NC80 headphones support dual mode (wide and low) noise cancellation. They’re powered by a AAA battery as well, and they also feature a foldable design so you can tuck them into your bag once you arrive at the office.

Moving on to the noise-isolating options, the Klipsch Image S4i rugged in-ear headphones are available in a variety of colors including blue, red, orange and yellow. The Image S4i features a rubberized finish with an all-weather design that resists moisture and can handle exposure to extreme elements. They offer moderate noise isolation and they include four sizes of ear tips for optimal comfort and fit. The headphones are outfitted with 8.5mm full range KG 25A drivers with a dual-magnet design and dynamic moving coil micro speakers. They support a frequency range of 10 Hz – 19 kHz and they’re equipped with a durable, tangle-resistant cable. The soft, flexible ear tips fit naturally in your ear and they will stay put even if you’re the athletic type who might jog to work a few days a week. The S4i also offer iPod, iPhone and iPad owners the added benefit of an inline microphone and three-button remote for controlling volume, music and calling.

The Etymotic Research hf5 In-Ear Stereo Headphones feature high-performance noise isolation that blocks out up to 42 dB of unwanted noise. The hf5 headphones have a 20 Hz – 15 kHz frequency response and a high output sensitivity of 105 dB SPL. They’re equipped with ACCU-Driver balanced and precision matched armature drivers for optimal sound accuracy. The cable is Kevlar-reinforced for added durability and ACCU-Filters are included as well. The ACCU-Filters are user-replaceable filters that protect the armature drivers from ear wax. A handful of noise isolating ACCU-Fit ear tips are also included.

The last option we’re going to look at in this article is the Shure SE215. These sound isolating in-ear stereo earphones are available in clear, black and a limited edition translucent blue. They feature dynamic MicroDrivers that provide rich audio with powerful bass response. They also feature gold-plated MMCX ear-piece connectors that are equipped with a lock-snap connector that affords 360-degree rotation of the ear tips for a perfect fit and optimal noise isolation. They are proven to reduce unwanted ambient noise by as much as 37 dB. Like the hf5 headphones, the SE215s also have a Kevlar-reinforced cable.

Compact Cameras

A compact camera is another, more creative gift for the commuter on your holiday list. You can use a point-and-shoot camera on your commute to capture those little moments of beauty while traveling to and from work or class. One option is the compact 12.1-megapixel Canon PowerShot S110 digital point-and-shoot camera. The S110 features a 12-megapixel 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor, DIGIC 5 Image Processor and Canon HS System, which affords high shutter speeds and a maximum ISO of 12800 for exceptional low-light performance. The camera has a 24-120mm focal length (35mm equivalent) and an f/2.0-5.9 aperture. It also features built-in Wi-Fi, which allows you to wirelessly transfer images to social networking sites via Canon’s iMAGE GATEWAY. If you have an Android or iOS device, you can also use the free Canon CameraWindow app to share images between Wi-Fi enabled PowerShot cameras, and print your images with a Wi-Fi enabled printer. Plus, you can even record GPS data on your mobile device or smartphone and wirelessly add a geographical narrative to the images on your camera.

The S110 thrives in low-light conditions and works well when you’re using a shallow depth of field for softer backgrounds. It can also capture Full HD 1920 x 1080p video with stereo sound via a dedicated movie button, which supports MOV files. You can zoom while you’re shooting and you can play back video on an HDTV in Full HD via the integrated HDMI port. The camera also features a 3-inch capacitive PureColor System touch screen LCD that makes recording easier and playback more convenient. It supports intuitive control of the camera functions including the Touch Shutter, which provides a more interactive user experience. The camera even features 12-bit multi-aspect RAW+JPEG shooting as well.

The 10.1-megapixel Nikon COOLPIX S01 is an exquisitely compact camera with a touch-screen interface and built-in flash. The S01 is equipped with a 1/2.9” CCD sensor, a 29-87mm focal length (35mm equivalent) and an f/3.3-5.9 aperture. The camera features 3x optical zoom, 720p HD movie recording and 7.3GB of internal memory. It also features automatic scene detection, multiple special effects and creative modes, a 2.5-inch color touch screen LCD and an EXPEED C2 image processing engine. For added convenience, the touch screen is outfitted with four icon-based touch buttons that guide you to all the camera’s menu options for still image and video capture, playback and in-camera editing. There’s also a touch button that leads you to all the camera’s creative functions. For added protection, the Nikon CS-CP4-1 Leather Case is available for the S01 camera as well.

If there’s someone on your list who usually bikes or skateboards to work or class, then consider the Olympus Tough TG-1 iHS Digital Camera. The TG-1 features a 4x optical zoom lens with a 25-100mm focal length (35mm equivalent) and an f/2.0-4.9 aperture. It’s equipped with a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, TruePic VI image processor and a 3-inch OLED screen with a protective surface coating. The TG-1 is waterproof down to 40 feet, shock proof from falls up to 6.6 feet and crush proof up to a weight of 220 pounds. It also features integrated GPS and an E-compass. Besides capturing up to 12-megapixel still images, the TG-1 can also capture Full HD 1920 x 1080p video. Other features include a low-light mode, enhanced Intelligent Auto mode and high-speed sequential shooting.

Bags

Every commuter usually carries some type of bag to work. In fact a bag might me one of the most crucial commuting accessories. You don’t want it too big or too small, and you want it protect all your electronics as well. The Lowepro Passport Sling II is a comfortable, over-the shoulder camera bag that’s available in two colors and has room for a DSLR camera, two lenses and other accessories. The interior features customizable removable dividers so that you can store other essentials like an umbrella, book or tablet, while the exterior fabric is moisture resistant for added protection against the elements. The Passport Sling has a full length zippered opening for easy access and an expandable front compartment. The shoulder strap features a cam lock buckle and detachable shoulder pad.

The STM Velo Small Laptop Shoulder Bag features a fleece-lined compartment that can carry up to a 13-inch laptop. It also has a separate iPad/tablet space, as well as a spacious main compartment for paperwork, and a fleece-lined pocket for your glasses or phone. The Velo is equipped with zippered side pockets for a water bottle or umbrella. It also features a rear slip-in pocket and multiple interior pockets for organization. The bag has a top grab handle / trolley sleeve and a padded, adjustable shoulder strap.

STM also makes the Revolution Medium Laptop Backpack and the Hood Medium Laptop Backpack, which both have room for up to a 15-inch laptop. The Revolution features a brushed Nylex iPad pocket, a main compartment and a zippered organizational accessory panel. It also features side panel water bottle or umbrella pockets, an adjustable harness system with sternum strap, tuck-away waist straps and a convenient phone pouch. The Hood also features an iPad sleeve, as well as a phone pouch on the shoulder strap, an accessory pocket, a private hidden pocket and dual side water bottle / umbrella pockets. The Hood has a sternum strap as well, which transfers some of the weight of your shoulders for added comfort.

The Tamrac 5722 Zuma 2 Camera iPad Netbook Travel Bag offers a more compact design with room for an iPad or a 10-inch netbook. It features a pocket for your Apple Wireless Keyboard, a pocket for the Tamrac ZipShot mini tripod, and a sling-style shoulder strap. The main compartment is completely padded for added protection. It also features three convenient mesh pockets, as well as storage space for cables and adapters. There’s a large back pocket for magazines, a newspaper or a thin book.

Books and Records

The new 5th generation Apple 32GB iPod touch and 7th generation 16GB iPod nano are both feature-rich multimedia players that will keep you entertained during your stressful daily sojourns. The iPod touch features a 4-inch multi-touch Retina display with 1136 x 640 resolution. It has an A5 processor, a rear 5-megapixel iSight camera with Full HD 1080p video capture, and a front FaceTime HD camera. The iPod touch also features Apple’s iOS 6 operating system with Apple Maps, Nike+ and Siri. It’s equipped with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity. The 7th generation iPod nano features a 2.5-inch Retina multi-touch display with 240 x 432 resolution. It features built-in FM radio, Bluetooth wireless connectivity and integrated Nike+ support. Both the nano and touch feature Apple’s new Lightning Dock Connector.

The stats on people traveling for the holidays suggests that a large percentage of the population is making at least a minor trip to see family or friends. Staving off boredom on these trips is a necessity that shouldn’t be dismissed without some thought and preparation. If you’re making a quick flight with only a carry-on bag, then you don’t want to carry a few books and magazines on the plane with you. Why not take Sony’s new PRS-T2 Reader instead? It’s even available with a free Harry Potter Book. The PRS-T2 is a truly clever and intuitive little eReader with built-in Wi-Fi. At only 5.9 ounces, it is two and half times lighter than the 14.6-ounce Kindle Fire. It has a six-inch E Ink Pearl V220 anti-glare display with Clear Touch Infrared technology and 800 x 600 resolution.

It also features two integrated English Language dictionaries, so you can simply tap and hold on a word and the definition will pop up. There are six foreign language dictionaries onboard as well, which you can use to look up or translate a word. The new Sony Reader includes a useful stylus, and you can use it (or your finger) to highlight important text and scribble notes. It has 2GB of internal storage capacity (approximately 1.3GB after initial settings are made) and you can expand the memory by up to 32GB using the microSD card slot. Plus, the battery supports up to two months of reading on a single charge and it features a quick library function for downloading books from your public library with ease and efficiency.

Tablets and Accessories

A long commute doesn’t have to be boring. In fact with tablet technology today, you can do almost all the same things you can do at home. You can use a tablet while you commute to watch a movie, surf the Web, pay bills, read a book or newspaper, listen to music, talk to friends and relatives, practice piano, write a song, edit photos and more. So, if you want to liven up your commutes with multimedia entertainment, consider one of these tablets for yourself or your favorite commuter this holiday season.

The ASUS Nexus 7 is available in a 32GB Wi-Fi model and a 32GB 4G model. Both feature the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean OS, a multi-touch 7" backlit IPS display with 1280 x 800 resolution and an nVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor. The Nexus also features 1GB of RAM memory, 32GB of storage capacity and a 1.2-megapixel webcam. For wireless connectivity, both models feature 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless technology. The 4G model also features ultra-fast 4G mobile broadband connectivity for accessing the Internet from anywhere. Other features include a durable scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass screen, a micro-USB port, a docking port, a G-sensor, a gyroscope, stereo speakers and dual mics for video conferencing. The tablet even has an ambient light sensor, and integrated GPS to help you find alternative routes to work when there’s an accident or construction. Check out the Xuma Rotating Folio Case if you want a little more protection for your Nexus Tablet.

Another compact commuter tablet is the Apple iPad mini. It’s available with 16-, 32- or 64GB of storage capacity. And, it’s also available in a Wi-Fi only model or a Wi-Fi and 4G LTE model. The iPad mini features a 7.9-inch LED multi-touch IPS display with 1024 x 768 resolution. It’s equipped with a dual-core Apple A5 processor, 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless connectivity. The 4G model supports 4G LTE mobile broadband connectivity as well. Both models also have the iOS operating system with iCloud functionality. The iPad mini is equipped with a rear 5-megapixel iSight camera and a front-facing 720p FaceTime HD camera. Other features include a gyroscope, an accelerometer, an ambient light sensor, a Lightning port connector and AirPlay mirroring. If you’re worried about damaging your iPad mini while commuting, check out the Otter Box iPad mini Defender Case.

Other Accessories

If you already have a tablet, smartphone, iPad or iPhone, then consider one of these accessories to add extra power or extra protection to your mobile device of choice during your daily commute. For an added power boost, check out the Mophie Juice Pack Powerstation Duo. The Powerstation Duo features USB connectivity for charging most USB-powered mobile devices including iPad, iPhone, iPod and most other smartphones and tablets. It has enough power to fully charge your mobile device. Plus, it’s small enough to slip into your pocket or bag. If you have an iPhone 4 or 4S and you want a little power boost for your commute, then the Mophie Juice Pack Plus is the perfect accessory. This form-fitting case snaps onto your iPhone 4/4S. It offers protection and it features an integrated power source that virtually doubles your iPhone battery life.

For protection only, there are dozens of cases and covers. Otter Box makes the Commuter Case for iPhone 5, the durable Defender Case for iPhone 5, the Commuter Case for iPhone 4/4S and the Defender Case for iPhone 4/4S. Otter Box also makes a series of iPad cases that provide protection against bumps and scratches that are inevitable during a busy rush-hour commute. One last tablet accessory worth considering is a privacy screen. There are dozens of different privacy screens for different tablets, but of most of them have a few features in common. All privacy screens make it impossible to view your tablet screen from any angle other than straight on. Plus, they usually prevent scratches and resist fingerprints and smudges.

Hopefully, one of the products in this article will be the perfect holiday gift for the commuter on your list. If you’re not sure or want more information on any of these devices or accessories, you can check out their full product descriptions and specifications on the B&H website. If you didn’t see the perfect gift in this article or you want to keep shopping, you can check out the rest of our holiday articles on the B&H InDepth website or commute on over to the SuperStore in Manhattan.