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The Hottest Gizmos for Gadget Freaks
Fun techno toys for every taste

By Henri Blech

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Being the self-proclaimed "gadget guru" in the office keeps me quite busy with people always asking me for advice on new technology and devices. I’m very excited to be able to share some of this advice with our newsletter readers. The products I discuss here will make great gifts or a perfect addition to your personal collection.

Let’s start with one of the hottest products this holiday season, the Sling Media Slingbox Pro Internet TV Broadcaster. This nifty device lets you stream video content (from your cable/satellite box or DVR for example) over a broadband internet connection. This means that you can watch your favorite TV shows live while you’re away from home on your internet-connected laptop or even on some cell phones. The new PRO model offers new features over the standard Slingbox model like the ability to stream high-definition content, and view over-the air TV or unencrypted analog cable without needing an external dedicated tuner. This lets you use your Slingbox even when someone else at home is viewing a different channel on TV.


Sling Media's Slingbox Pro Internet TV Broadcaster

I have a “road-warrior” friend who is an avid sports fan. He invested in a "season sport pass" with his satellite provider and hated missing games when he was on the road. He picked up the Slingbox on my recommendation and hasn’t stopped thanking me yet. Another friend is attending college out of the country for the next two years. She was upset that she would have to miss her favorite shows from back home. Thanks to the Slingbox, she now watches these shows LIVE as they air on her laptop.

The next item on my gadget “must have list” is the Archos 604 portable media player with WIFI. Archos always seems to be years ahead of the competition in terms of the features they offer - this model is no exception. The 604, which comes equipped with a 30 GB hard drive and a 4.3 inch color screen, plays just about any popular audio or video format you can throw at it: MP3, WMA, WAV, and protected WMA/WMV (including PlaysForSure content from online subscription services), AVI, MPEG-2, H.264, VOB, JPEG, BMP, and PNG – it even reads PDF files. When bigger screen viewing is in order the 604 easily connects to a TV or home entertainment system (and it even outputs 5.1 channel audio).


The ARCHOS 604 - the ultimate media player

The model features a touch screen and built in 802.11g WIFI connectivity which lets you share media files wirelessly with your computer or other Archos devices. Browse the web using touch screen navigation and the included web browser, access e-mail and even purchase, download and play new content (all wirelessly). There’s even a built-in microphone for recording voice notes or lectures. One feature that really sets the Archos models apart is the ability to name and re-name files on the machine itself without having to first send it to your computer. I can’t tell you how many times this feature has helped me not misplace or miscategorize a file recorded on the device.

Archos also offers an additional DVR station to record your favorite TV shows. I commute an hour to work each way. I actually transfer all of my favorite shows off my DVR onto the Archos and take them along to watch on the train ride home. Even though this particular model only has a 30GB capacity, it can hold approximately 25 full length movies on it. Archos also makes a less expensive non WIFI version of the 604.

Now that you are armed with good audio device, the next step is upgrading those wimpy factory earphones. I suggest the amazing Shure E4C In-Ear Stereo Portable Audio Earphones. These earphones actually go inside your ear canal. They’re very good at keeping out outside noise and reproduce sound very accurately (some audiophiles actually suggest you lick them before putting them on to get a better seal – your call). Once you do put them on, you will immediately notice the improved low end definition and high frequency detailing. The earphone cables go discreetly over your ears which minimizes tugging. Those on a tighter budget should check out Shure's similar E3C Earphones or Etymotic's excellent line of sound-isolating earphones.


Sound-isolating, audiophile earphones

Keeping on the topic of sound reproduction, the next item on my list is the Anchor-Audio Beacon. I recently tried out one of these onboard the Long Island Rail Road. We chose it because we needed a powerful and portable PA system for an event involving voice and music. This baby comes self-contained in what looks like a fairly compact rolling suitcase. Don’t let the compact size fool you though. The top clips off and you flip it over revealing a high and midrange speaker that then snaps back on the top - the base contains a powerful low range speaker. You can see an animation of how it sets up at the manufacturer’s web site.


Powerful sound wherever you need it

The Beacon comes in several configurations. The one I tried had a built-in wireless microphone system as well as a 12 VDC power socket, backup batteries and more audio input ports than most folks could ever need. The unit pumps out 300W while plugged in to an AC source and 60W on DC and sounds great.

Rounding our gadgets picks this time is the NexStar 80GTL SkyAlign 3.1"/80mm Achromatic Refractor Telescope. I happen to dabble a bit in astronomy and one of the most annoying and time consuming tasks is locating objects to view in the night sky. The NexStar does all of the hard work for you, leaving more time to enjoy your star gazing.

An affordable star-finding telescope from Celestron

We also finally received the long-delayed and highly anticipated Celestron SkyScout. Look at the nighttime sky through this amazing handheld gizmo and it identifies and describes stars, planets and other objects using GPS technology. This incredibly cool unit should be a big hit this holiday season.

In case you have any comments or questions about any of the products mentioned in this article please feel free to contact me (in English or Spanish).


Still not sure? Try these related gift categories:

- MP3 Players
- Portable DVD Players
- Portable Televisions
- Universal Remote Controls
- Flash Drives & Storage Devices
- Nightvision Binoculars & Scopes

Please email feedback on this article, or suggestions for future topics, to emailfeedback@bhphotovideo.com.