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Your Ultimate Hi-Tech Gift Guide

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If the techies on your Christmas list already own last year’s trendy gear, don’t fret. A fresh batch of smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other electronic gizmos arrive this holiday season, so you’ll have no problem finding something with an oh-so-high cool quotient.

Microsoft Surface RT

Microsoft Surface RT

Microsoft Surface RT. Photo courtesy Microsoft.

While the Apple iPad is the, um, apple of everyone’s eye, the Microsoft Surface RT may be the best iPad challenger to date. Featuring a tablet version of touch-oriented Windows 8 software and an innovative built-in kickstand and a screen cover that doubles as a keyboard, the Surface RT looks like a winner. As of press time, its release was scheduled for October 26. If you can wait a bit, other hardware manufacturers, including Asus,
Dell, Lenovo, and Samsung, plan to sell Windows RT tablets, too.
Price: Microsoft Surface RT $300-$800.

Nintendo 3DS XL and Wii U

Nindento 3DS XL

Nindento 3DS XL. Photo courtesy Nintendo of America Inc.

Game consoles and games are always welcome gifts, and Nintendo has the novelty edge this season with two new products. Its 3DS XL is a larger version of its 3DS handheld console, and the Wii U console (on sale November 18) has an innovative touch-screen controller called the GamePad that works as a handheld game machine when your TV is off.
Price: 3DS XL $200; Wii U $300 (basic), $350 (deluxe).

Apple MacBook Air

Apple MacBook Air

Apple MacBook Air. Photo courtesy Apple Inc.

The ultra-slim Apple MacBook Air is a top tech pick among well-heeled gift-givers, but a new crop of Windows 8 Ultrabooks merit a closer look. Thin and light like the MacBook Air but with a lower price tag, Ultrabooks are easy to carry and turn on instantly like a smartphone or tablet. One notable and affordable example is the Lenovo IdeaPad U310, which is 0.7-inch thick and weighs 3.7 pounds. Future Ultrabooks will feature touchscreens with the touch-and-swipe capabilities of mobile devices. This may raise the question, are such devices more tablet than laptop? (Fortunately that’s not your problem.)
Price: MacBook Air $1,000-$1,500; Windows 8 Ultrabooks $800 (average price); Lenovo IdeaPad U310 $704.

Barnes & Noble’s Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight

Nook Simple Touch GlowLight

Nook Simple Touch GlowLight. Photo Courtesy Barnes & Noble Inc.

Bookworm on your shopping list? Barnes & Noble’s Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight solves a major shortcoming of non-backlit eReaders: Namely that the screen is very difficult to read in a dimly lit environment. As its name suggests, the product has a backlight that you turn on or off, making reading a whole heck of a lot easier in the sun or in the dark.
Price: $140.

LG Mouse Scanner

LG Mouse Scanner

LG Mouse Scanner. Photo courtesy LG USA.

If you’re shopping for something truly unique, the LG Mouse Scanner is a computer mouse and scanner in one device: Simply click its scan button and roll the mouse across documents, magazine pages, photos, or anything else you’d like to digitize. It converts scanned text into editable Word documents, too.
Price: $130.

Canon EOS M

Canon EOS M

Canon EOS M. Photo courtesy Canon Inc.

As with all things tech, the camera market is changing rapidly. With the improved quality of smartphone cameras, there’s a drop in demand for basic point-and-shoot cameras, notes Yung Trang, president and editor-in-chief of TechBargains.com. But premium SLR cameras are still in high demand. For example, the Canon EOS M offers super high resolution, better lenses, and it allows even amateurs to take professional quality photos and video.
Price: $800.

Google Nexus 7

Google Nexus 7

Google Nexus 7. Photo courtesy Google Inc.

Shopping for a tablet, but trying to stick to a budget? The Google Nexus 7 is an affordable, high-quality product with a bright 7-inch screen; a 1.2-megapixel, front-facing camera; and Android Beam, an NFC feature that’s handy for exchanging information wirelessly with compatible devices. Other 7-inch tablets to check out include new versions of the popular Amazon Kindle Fire
and the Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet.
Price: Google Nexus 7 $200-$250; Amazon Kindle Fire $160-$600; Nook Tablet $180-$200.

Samsung Galaxy S III

Samsung Galaxy S III

Samsung Galaxy S III. Photo courtesy Samsung.

Looking for an Android phone? The Samsung Galaxy S III boasts a gorgeous (and ginormous) 4.8-inch display, yet fits comfortably in one’s hand. Slim and stylish, the handset has a slightly curved shape, supports 4G LTE networks, and includes a great 8-megapixel, rear-facing camera.
Price: $200 with a 2-year contract from multiple carriers.

Apple iPhone 5

Apple iPhone 5

Apple iPhone 5. Photo courtesy Apple Inc.

Naturally the new Apple iPhone 5 will be at the top of many “Dear Santa” letters. Its 4-inch, high-resolution display is slightly longer but not wider than the 3.5-inch screens of previous iPhones. This sleek, aluminum-and-glass handset supports speedy 4G LTE cellular connections, has better front- and rear-facing cameras, and adds a few bells and whistles, such as spoken driving directions with turn-by-turn navigation.
Price: $200 with a 2-year contract from multiple carriers.

Apple iPad

Apple iPad

Apple iPad. Photo courtesy Apple Inc.

Finally, the third-generation Apple iPad and its predecessor the iPad 2 remain at the head of the tablet pack. The latest model has a dazzling high-res screen, a better rear-facing camera, and the Siri voice assistant popularized by those ubiquitous, and, to some, annoying, TV ads. (Look for Apple to debut a smaller iPad very soon.)
Price: Apple iPad $500-$830; iPad 2 $400-$530.

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