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Gadgets & Gizmos

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Gift guide 2012 for gadget lovers: mobile TV, tablet stands, waterproof smartphone case, more



Christmas is just a few days away. Are you still in search for the perfect gift for your loved ones? Here are some suggestions for the gadget lovers on your list: 

For the TV junkie

bl_slingbox121412_1.jpgbl_slingplayer121312.jpgTake your TV with you wherever you go with the Slingbox. You can watch programs you get on your cable or satellite box or DVR on your mobile devices or laptop wherever you go. Best of all, there are no monthly charges to use this device. Download the SlingPlayer app ($14.99 for iOS, Android and Windows Phone) to connect to your Slingbox, which is hooked up to your home set-top box. You can watch what you want wherever you are, assuming you have Wi-Fi or cellular service (beware of going over on data usage). There were a few small download lags — this will depend on the available signal from your carrier or strength of Wi-Fi — but not  enough to be annoying. There are two versions of the Slingbox: 350 ($180) which connects to your Internet  by ethernet, and the Wi-Fi-enabled 500 ($300).

For the outdoors lover

bl_goalzero121412.jpgMany devices rely on batteries including phones, cameras and flashlights. To keep your gadgets charged up, tap into the power of the sun with a GoalZero ís Guide 10 Plus Adventure Kit portable solar battery charger. It can charge AA or AAA rechargeable batteries  (it comes with four AA). A USB port lets you charge smartphones, tablets or readers from these batteries or using the solar panel. A phone can charge in 2 to 4 hours. Batteries charge in 6 to 8 hours. And it weighs just a tick over a pound for the battery pack and the solar panels combined, and it takes up little space in your backpack or draped over it to charge as you go. $160.

dricat_neck_it.jpgIf the gift recipient is into watersports, waterproof protection for smartphones is a must. Try the Dri Cat  Neck It cellphone case for the iPhone 4 and 4S by EKUSA. Setting it up is easy: Just place the phone in the shell,, twist the top closed, and snap down the clamps for a tight fit. You can operate the touchscreen through the silicone shield.  You can also take photos or videos, make calls or listen to music while the phone is in the case. Even under water, the touchscreen is functional, though sensitivity is compromise. (Note: In our test, we found that the touchscreen didn't work in the water if there's a protective film on the screen surface of the phone.) One drawback is that you can't access volume controls, sleep button, charging port or headphone jack with the case on, so you'll have to remove the case to get to those functions. There are six available colors, and comes in either a lanyard (Neck It) or a carabiner (Hang It). $60,


For the office cubicle

gloves.jpgDo you feel as if you're working in the North Pole? For those suffering in over-air-conditioned offices, the USB G-Gloves will keep your fingers from getting numb. The gloves have a warming pad inside that will heat up when plugged into a USB port. The fingertips stay exposed so you still can type on the keyboard or touchscreens. $26,

wedge.jpgIf you use your smartphone to watch videos, or if you like having it propped up so you can see incoming calls and texts, try the Wedge Premium Mobile Device Stand by Toddy Gear. This triangular bean bag-like stand has a ledge to rest a smartphone ir a small reader or tablet. It's made of microfiber for cleaning smudges off of screens: a plush side for cleaning and smooth side for polishing. The antimicrobial coating helps prevent mold and mildew, and it's machine washable.Non-holiday designs are also available. $15

gorilla.jpgFor an iPad, the Gorillamobile Yogi tablet case by Joby has attachable legs that can prop up the tablet like a stand. These legs can be bend and rotated in many directions, so you can set the tablet to a perfect angle — portrait or landcape orientation — wherever you are. Rubber bumbers help reduce shock. $40,

monkeydo.jpgAnother tablet stand is a cute little guy. MonkeyDo from Felix is a lightweight polycarbonate stand for your tablet or reader. Its hands grasp the tablet in portrait or landscape mode (up to 10.5 inches across), and the feet act as an anchor. Rubber padding protect the tablet and the surface it sits on. $15,


For the audio buffs

ma350.jpgGood earphones don't have to be expensive. RHA's MA-350 aluminum noise-isolating earphones sound natural with crisp sounds with depth. Even readers on audiobooks, who frequently sound muffled, sound crystal clear. The cone for the earpieces — which is in the shape of a trumpet cone — are machined out of solid aluminum to maximize on the aerophonics (how sound is created and amplified through natural vibrations in air). The shiny cones also instantly give them a classy appearance. But they sure can be cold when you're first inserting them in your ears. And don't leave think about using them right after they were sitting in a hot car!) The earphones are only slightly heavier than plastic ones, but the fit is snug (with three sizes for silicone tips), yet comfortable even for long periods. Because of the fit, sound isolation is good, even on an airplane. The braided fabric reinforces the cable and reduces tangling. The best part is the price: $40.

[Last modified: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 10:28am]


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