December 2014 News & Tips: Holiday Tech

Holiday Tech From Fantasy To Nearly Free!

geek-santaEach December we try to lighten up and find tech gifts to smile about – or buy depending on your budget.

This year we won’t even talk about Smartphones. The November issue highlighted the most popular, but there’s a plethora of great phones out there at all price points. Much will depend on your cell provider, unless you buy one outright.

A nice overview of all kinds of tech goodies, by the way, can be found at Tech Radar’s Holiday Gift Guide

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ferrariThe Ferrari LaFerrari

For starters, how about the new Ferrari? Car and Driver gives it a thumbs up (why not). Men’s Gear loves the car – hates the name.

It’s the new Ferrari LaFerrari with a heart pumping top speed of 225 mph, a 789hp, 6.3L V12 , 160hp electric motor and a 7-speed DCT gearbox for a total of 949hp, a 0-62 time of under three seconds, and a 0-124 time of under seven seconds.

You’re going to have to marry money, feel exceptionally flush or exceedingly generous. It retails for about $1,350,000.

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Meet The QuadSki: By Land Or By Sea

quadskiJet ski meets ATV in this Vilebrequin Quadski exclusive to Neiman Marcus and offered in the famous NM Christmas Book. Hailed as the world’s best high-speed amphibians, they convert from water cruisers to land lovers in just under five seconds. According to NM, It quickly accelerates up to 45 mph on land or water via a 1300cc BMW engine.

Price includes a trip to the test facility for training and your very own GoPro camera. Too bad NM’s idea of a custom version was to cover it in turtles. Really? Psst: it comes in other colors by Gibbs. From NM: $50,000 each.

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Echo from Amazon: Your New BFF?

Here’s a neat little surprise from Amazon (especially after the disastrous Fire Phone timing). It gets a preliminary 10 out of 10 from several reviewers.

So what is it? Think of it as your personal Siri, or Google Now sitting in your living room (or wherever). Information, music, news, weather, lists and more are instantly controlled by your voice.

Voice recognition hears you from across the room; supposedly in normal tones up to 30 feet or so. It’s always listening, so you simply say, “Alexa,” and it awaits your command. It’s connected to the cloud so it’s always getting smarter, according to Amazon.

The Echo is currently by invitation, so only a few have been able to test it out thoroughly. And, whether or not it will be shipping in time for the holidays is unknown. $199 or $99 to Prime members. A review by ZDNet is here. And a video from Amazon is here.

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Streaming Media Devices

roku_3_w_180If you haven’t yet chopped cable and its onslaught of commercial interruptions and price plays, think streaming. Or maybe you’re not that annoyed, but just want to up your viewing pleasures. It matters not!
These handy, inexpensive devices are the beans – a great holiday gift for all kinds of folks at near stocking stuffer prices for the USB versions!

A compact review of the most popular can be found at Tom’s Hardware. chromecast_w_180For the uninitiated you can select from ROKU, ChromeCast, Roku Streaming Stick and Google Nexus Player. Priced modestly from about $30 (USB versions) to $100.

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Top Tablets

tabletsLike Smartphones, there are a ton of tablets out there in a variety of sizes as the market tries to sift out the keepers in form factors and features. For Christmas, keep in mind there are inexpensive choices for the little ones, not covered here.

Pretty much by consensus, the top three or four tablets right now are the Amazon Fire HDX 8.9, Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 and iPad Air 2 and mini. Some would include the new Nexus 9. All are super for media consumption, as well as everyday needs depending on your size requirement.

Amazon’s tablet is a custom offering, so Google email and other favorites are not available, but it’s highly touted in most reviews. The new iPad Tabs are fast and slick; evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

Full size tabs obviously give you a better streaming experience, while the smaller tabs with high res screens are far more handy to tuck in a pocket or purse. In short, it appears any of these would make a great choice in a size that accommodates your daily use.

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Holiday Travel?

TripItTripIt (Android & iOS) keep you organized, on-time and happy, happy.

Review by CNet: TripIt, gathers all the dates, confirmation numbers and other vital information from your upcoming reservations and turns them into an organized travel itinerary. All you have to do is forward your travel-related emails to TripIt and the service does the rest.