Gift suggestions for your favorite father.
This Gizmo Guy loves putting together a Father's Day guide, 'cause anything I'm touting, I wouldn't mind getting myself. (Nudge nudge, hint hint.)
STATE OF THE LAPTOP: Traditionally, laptops have been only as strong as their weakest link - the hard-disk drive. Now, a new breed of portables is emerging that eliminates the HDD, substituting a solid-state drive (SSD) comprised strictly of flash memory. These marvels start up faster, consume less power and are far less likely to crash when banged around.
If you can deal with its tight keyboard and 8.9-inch screen (oh, could I), the subcompact, 2.18-pound Asus EEE PC900 is a dreamboat to pack and tote.
It comes in two models, boasting either 12 GB or 20 GB of usable SSD. Actually the storage is the same; the difference is whether you order one loaded with space-hogging Windows XP Home or Linux operating systems. Amazon.com has both, priced at $579 and $549.99, respectively.
More substantial, 64 GB SSD drives from Samsung are showing up in select Dell, Alienware and Lenovo notebooks. In a recent run around the block with a Dell XPS M1330 packaged with this SDD drive (priced at about $2,600), I was shocked, amazed and delighted that the Vista-based machine was up and flying in just 36 seconds, could load a 25MB PDF file in four seconds, and ran for more than 8 hours before the battery died.
FYI: Samsung also has 128 GB and 256 GB SSDs in the works.
Don't want to spend that much on your laptop-lugging dad? Just $39.95 buys the cute Cricket Laptop Stand. It props up a portable for better viewing (the maker suggests you use it with a separate keyboard) and cooling.
And the stand folds into a package about the size of a large toothpaste tube. It's good for laptops and tablet PCs weighing up to 12 pounds. Available at www.lcdarms.com or 800-524-2744.
ANALOG TO DIGITAL: Audio-Technica once made an amazing, battery-operated record turntable about the size of a carton of cigarettes. Now the company has a better way for dad to carry his treasured collection of vinyl music along - by converting it to digital.
The AT-LP2D USB is an automatic turntable that connects directly to a PC or Macintosh computer via USB cable. Feed it favorite LPs and 45s and it converts the discs' analog content to digital MP3, WAV or Windows Media Audio files that can then be played on portable audio players, computers, car audio systems and more.
Supplied software helps eliminate pops and clicks from scratched records and also can be used to adjust the speed and thus the pitch of the recording. But be careful how you use that!
And remember that this conversion process has to be done (yawn) in "real time."
The automatic turntable boasts a long-life diamond stylus and also plugs into a conventional stereo system or boombox via a phono and aux inputs. Discounted to $119.99 at www.jr.com.
A TRAVELER'S BEST FRIENDS: While its tiny screen is fine for viewing brief shows on the fly, an iPod Nano alone is not the ideal seatmate for your favorite long-distance traveler.
But add a MyVu Crystal Personal Video Viewer, and that iPod goes massive.
Resembling a pair of space-age, wrap-around sunglasses but boasting built-in LCD screens and earbuds for listening, the MyVu feeds off a connected video iPod to offer the viewing impression of a 60-inch (4x3) screen looming just in front of your nose.
Contrast, color and picture detail are pretty decent, though those wearing prescription glasses will need clip-in lenses (available from Myvu for $99 extra) to keep things in sharper focus.
The video viewer runs for four hours on a battery charge and sells for $299 with a connector kit customized either for iPod or other video players at www.myvu.com.
Does dad do lots of flying or train commuting? If so, he ought to have a set of noise-reduction headphones to help shut out the world and make listening to music and movies much more comfortable.
Bose wrote the book on these portable pleasure providers. Now, Sony's MDR-NC500D headphones ($399.99 at www.sonystyle.com) offer worthy competition, boasting good fit, digital noise-cancellation technology adjustable for airplane, bus or office, and enough play time (28 hours) to go 'round the world using both an internal rechargeable battery and an external AA pack.
GROUND TRANSPORTATION: Real dads don't ask strangers for directions. They've got a GPS (global positioning system) in the car to get them through a bad patch.
Tom Tom's newest and greatest GO 930 boasts some very cool new features, including Advance Lane Guidance that maps out on the screen (in a contrasting color) the highway lane you should be in to avoid missing a cutoff. And if dad's been griping about the cost of fuel (who hasn't?), he'll love two other GO 930 features: a fuel-price alert (activated for a $15 annual feel) that will steer you to the cheapest fuel in the area; and a mapping alternative called IQ Navigator that gets you there the fastest. Available at Best Buy, Brookstone and Crutchfield.com.
HOBBY HAPPINESS: It might not be all that sporting, but the electronic Norcross Hawkeye Fish Finder ($49.99 at amazon.com) does help locate and bring home a catch worth bragging about.
Eye-Fi is a 2 GB SD memory card. No, it's a Wi-Fi transmitter. Stop, you're both right! It's a smart, high-tech card that automatically moves stored digital pictures onto a computer and the Web as soon as you move into an approved Wi-Fi zone. About $100 at www.jr.com.
Mr. Wine Lover will appreciate the IntelliScanner Wine Collector 250. With the small device's built-in barcode technology and memory storage, he can scan a bottle anywhere, then download information about it later and also keep track of all the bottles aging in the cellar. Sells for $200 at www.intelliscanner.com/products/wine/features.html. *