Essential gadget goodies for Christmas

 

Happy Black Friday. The day after Thanksgiving in the United States has been known as Black Friday since the 1970s – either because of the traffic chaos the busiest shopping day of the year causes or because it is the day that retailers go into the black and start making profits for the year. Although on this side of the pond our turkey dinners are some way off, US online retailers generally run sales today to tempt people out of the shops. The trend has spread across the Atlantic, making today one of the biggest Christmas shopping days online. What better day then for our team of technology writers – JOHN COLLINS, KARLIN LILLINGTON, CIARA O'BRIENand MARIE BORANto share their wish lists for what they would like to find under the tree this year.

Amazon Kindle
from $109

amazon.com

Having had a review loan of a Kindle for several weeks, this is a product I would love to see under my Christmas tree. I came to the Kindle a sceptic and turned into an enthusiastic convert - for the easy-to-read screen indoors or out, the fantastic battery life (a single charge should suffice for several book reads), the portability (it is lighter and slimmer than many paperbacks), the fast book downloads on free 3G or wi-fi, and of course the ability to take hundreds of books on holiday. For any enthusiastic reader, the Kindle will pay for itself before long just in e-book discounts - and in knowing you don't have to worry your holiday reading will add luggage surcharges. - KL

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

€479

samsung.com

Apple "fan boys" like nothing better than pointing out the limits of Google's Android operating system, despite the fact the internet giant's open source system massively outsells Apple's iOS. With more than 200,000 apps in the Android Market, many of them optimised for larger tablet displays, the iPad has some serious competition, and the Galaxy Tab is the best of it that I've seen. No wonder Apple has gone legal to prevent its sale. Samsung has also gone to some lengths to customise Android with a number of "hubs" for different activities, such as music or social networking.

The 10.1 screen is crystal clear and, weighing in at just 565g, compares favourably with the 601g of a comparable wi-fi-only iPad. While early release Android tablets made compromises, with the Galaxy Tab 10.1 you won't regret not opting for the iPad. - JC

MacBook Air

from €979

apple.com/ie

I wasn't always a Mac person, but the MacBook Air could convert even the staunchest of Windows fans. Slim and light, it doesn't scrimp on performance - and the envy factor is huge.

The 11-inch version is small enough to fit into a handbag, but unlike other smaller machines, its diminutive size doesn't make it unusable.

Of course, to get so thin, it throws out some of what used to be considered PC essentials: it doesn't have a CD or DVD drive, for example.

One of the best things about the MacBook Air is its speed. It's quick to start up, because it uses flash memory instead of a traditional drive, and the latest Intel Core processors have been included to make sure that whatever it's doing, it's doing it quickly. - CO'B

Jawbone Up

€75 approx

jawbone.com/up

Researchers always say it's better to observe what people do than what they say they do. When it comes to having a healthier and more active lifestyle, Jawbone, known for its speakers and headsets, has introduced Up, which gathers data on your daily life rather than relying on you to log activities.

The system consists of a wrist band (available in a range of colours depending on taste) and an iPhone app that enables you to access the data. It tracks your activity with a motion sensor, lets you keep tabs on what you eat by snapping photos and has a silent alarm that vibrates to wake you when you should be most rested. Online orders can take between two and three weeks but, if your personal Santa is in the US soon, it's available in a number of the large electronics chains. - JC

Totes SmarTouch gloves

€17.50-€29

totes.co.uk

Brrrr! How do you check e-mail on your iPhone or Android device when it's just too cold to remove your gloves? If you've tried then you've probably realised that capacitive touchscreens require a human touch. I resorted to answering a phone call with my nose during the great snowstorm of 2010!

A classier way to keep your hands warm while tweeting is to get a pair of SmarTouch gloves from Totes. These high-tech gloves have conductive material woven into

the thumb and index finger. They come in plenty of different patterns and styles including knitted and leather and would make the perfect stocking filler. The men's charcoal grey woollen pair and ladies Fairisle knit are the best if you're going for geek chic. - MB

iCade

€93

firebox.com

For the retro gamer, the iCade takes your cutting edge technology - the iPad or iPad 2 - and turns it into a mini arcade slot machine.

Your iPad slots into a tabletop arcade cabinet and connects with the iCade via Bluetooth. It's got a joystick and eight full-sized buttons, all of which work wirelessly with your iPad, depending on the game used. It's portable and far cheaper than investing in one of your favourite 1980s machines, and you can change games as often as you like.

The iCade doesn't work with all iPad games but it supports Atari's Greatest Hits App, which gives you access to 100 games for less than €18. Pong, Asteroids, Super Breakout, take your pick. You even get a free game - Missile Command - with the app. And there are more coming - a quick scout of the App Store reveals other games that support iCade available for free or just a few euro. - CO'B

Roberts Stream 205 Internet Radio

about €200

Roberts has major kudos when it comes to radio styling. Their radios, whether analogue, digital audio broadcasting (DAB) or internet (and here you get all three rolled into one) typically would not look amiss if sent back to 1970, but behind the dials are excellent contemporary electronics. At about €200 it isn't cheap, but does a lot in a little box. You can stream a Spotify account or use a USB connection to play your PC music collection through it, it can run off batteries or the mains, and can use wi-fi or an ethernet connection. Exploring the world's radio stations via internet radio is a blast; you can pre-set five net stations. - KL

Panasonic Lumix GX1

€729

panasonic.net

If you're looking to upgrade your camera from the "point and shoot" variety to a high-end model, you don't have to go for the traditional DSLR (digital single lens reflex), which is bulky and difficult to master.

The Lumix GX1 strikes a balance between pro features and being small enough to fit in your jacket pocket. It has inter- changeable lenses and ISO (light sensitivity) usually only found in DSLRs. Although compact and lightweight, it looks the part. The GX1 is beautifully designed and incorporates elements of the old school exterior you'd expect on an expensive hobbyist camera. It's got all the high-tech stuff too: touchscreen interface, high definition video with stereo sound and the ability to add on a 3D lens. - MB

Celestron Skymaster space binoculars

from €99 to €339

astronomy.ie

I doubt there's a kid (or grown up) in the country who will not by amazed by the stunning detail of our moon viewed through space binoculars - or astonished to clearly see (as you can in the night sky right now) four of Jupiter's moons suspended like tiny white pearls around the distant gas giant planet.

For less than the cost of a PC, you can get space binoculars (extra large and long compared to normal ones) and a tripod for them (way too heavy to lift and hold these big binoculars steadily without one).

Compared to a similarly priced telescope, you get a much wider field of vision - and also really learn to navigate the night sky, which won't happen with computer-controlled telescopes that find everything for you. - KL

Beats by Dr Dre Solo HD

€199.95

beatsbydre.com

Oversized headphones might look the part for music scenesters but the rest of us struggle to find a balance between sound quality and size. In-ear headphones might be discreet but never seem to deliver the rich bass that makes for immersive music. The Solo HD set is a good compromise because you're getting the superior sound quality that the Beats brand is known for but they're lightweight, slimline and fold up into the accompanying compact carry case. These headphones make for good iPhone or iPod accessories: there are playback controls on the cable to navigate through your iTunes library, and there's a built-in mike so you can take incoming calls hands free.

While the headband is quite thin, it also claims to be pretty durable. In any case these high-end headphones come with a two-year warranty. - MB

Apple TV

€119

apple.com/ie

Sitting around waiting for a TV programme or movie to start at the time allotted by a broadcaster seems rather quaint these days. While the Sky or UPC "box" has made it easy for us all to timeshift the programmes on TV, what about all the content that's only available to buy, rent or view for free online?

Connect the little black box to your TV and PC and you'll be able to watch YouTube, Vimeo and iTunes content on your big screen. It also supports NetFlix, the streaming service launching here in the new year.

Content can be streamed from your PC or Mac over WiFi and, if you install the Apple Remote app for your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, you can control everything from the comfort of your couch.

As with most Apple products the Apple TV doesn't do anything you can't get anywhere else but it does it much more elegantly. But it's also the most overlooked of Apple's current crop of bumper selling products. - JC

I'mWatch

€249-€11,999

Imwatch.it

The I'm Watch is one of the new breed of smartwatches that aim to put some distance between you and your mobile phone. As well as being a pretty stylish watch, the Android device will receive calls, allow you to browse the web, listen to the radio, organise your appointments and view your media gallery.

For some of the features, for example, web browsing, the device tethers to your phone to borrow its internet connection. The good news is that while the device itself is based on Google's operating system, the watch will - in theory - connect to any device that allows tethering, iPhone included.

I'm Watch has its own app store that allows you to download software that works on the 1.5-inch screen. And it's got 4GB of storage space too. The €249 package gets you the entry level watch with colourful silicon band, while at €11,999 you can choose from the bling I'm Jewels line. - CO'B