The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Lifestyles

November 21, 2012

2012 Holiday Tech Gift Guide | Smartphones, tablets & more

It’s that time of year, and many on your list might be asking for some tech goodies this holiday season. Here’s a guide to what’s out there.

VERIZON

Motorola Droid Razr HD — The most compact 4.7-inch smartphone, Droid Razr HD is built withCorning Gorilla Glass and DuPont KEVLAR fiber, plus a protective layer of water-repellant nanocoating. It features an 8-megapixel camera and an HD display. ($199.99 with two-year agreement)

Motorola Razr Maxx HD — Has the same features as the Droid Razr HD, but includes a battery that allows for up to 32 hours of normal use and double the internal storage to 32 GB. ($299.99 with two-year agreement)

Samsung Galaxy Note II — The Galaxy Note II combines the features of a smartphone and tablet, giving users the best of both worlds with its large yet pocketable 5.5-inch HD Super AMOLED screen. Features a built-in S-Pen. The Note II allows users to run two apps simultaneously by dividing the screen in the Multi Window view. ($299.99 with two-year agreement)

Windows Phone 8X by HTC — Available in Blue, Red or Black color models. The new Windows Phone 8 OS brings new features to explore and new ways to further personalize your smartphone. Live Tiles let you create a Start screen that’s exactly right for you by letting you not only pin apps but also people, bookmarks and more all on one screen to view at a glance. ($199.99 with a new two-year contract)

Nokia Lumia 822 — Exclusive to Verizon Wireless and will be available in Black, White and Grey color models. ($99.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate and with a new two-year contract)

LG Spectrum 2 — The 4.7-inch True HD display will make the Spectrum 2 by LG stand out by enhancing the viewing experience when streaming movies, playing games and browsing the Web. The HD display, paired with Corning Gorilla Glass, delivers vivid and accurate colors, crisp, sharp text and clear images. ($99.99 after rebate with new two-year agreement)

Visit www.verizonwireless.com for more details.

AT&T

ZAGGkeys Flex Bluetooth Keyboard — The ZAGGkeys FLEX is a standalone keyboard accessory that delivers convenience and function for smartphones and tablet computers. ZAGGkeys FLEX is an advanced Bluetooth wireless keyboard and stand, for maximizing a smartphone or tablet anytime, anywhere. Both the keyboard and the stand function work with smartphones and tablets in all shapes and sizes. Designed for fast and accurate typing, island-style keys are engineered to provide maximum finger space. ($79.00)

Jawbone Jambox — JAMBOX delivers hi-fi audio in a portable wireless speaker. JAMBOX is powered by a pair of proprietary acoustic drivers able to produce extreme high (tweeter) and low (woofer) frequencies from a single, ultra-small dome speaker. They work in concert with a passive bass radiator and airtight enclosure to deliver shimmering highs and thumping lows that you can feel - the richest sound all in the palm of your hand. ($149.00)

Fitbit zip wireless activity tracker — Turn your everyday life into a fun path to fitness. Much more than a pedometer, Zip tracks your steps, distance, and calories burned -- then automatically syncs the data to your Fitbit account. Whether online or through the Fitbit App, you can set goals and stay motivated to keep on your path to fitness with graphs, badges, and friendly competitions. Check to see how you compare with friends and family, even provide a message to egg them on. Your stats wirelessly uploads via computer or select mobile devices, so you will know in real time when you are close to a goal and when you’ve reached one. ($59.00)

Visit www.att.com for more information.

SPRINT

Samsung Galaxy Victory 4G LTE — Features a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich, 4-inch touchscreen display and dual cameras: 5-megapixel rear-facing with LED flash and video capture and 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera. ($99.99)

LG Mach — One of the thinnest devices with a QWERTY keyboard, it features a 4-inch display, 1.2GHz dual-core processor, and Android™ 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich. ($99.99)

Visit www.sprint.com for more information.

T-MOBILE

Nokia Lumia 810 — A Windows Phone 8 device exclusive to T-Mobile, it offers access to T-Mobile’s 4G network, an enhanced camera with Carl Zeiss optics for crisp photographs, impactful design, integrated wireless charging via swappable back covers, navigation features and high-performance – all in a simple silhouette.

Windows Phone 8X by HTC — A premium Windows Phone 8 device that packs a punch with a beautiful 4.3-inch HD-resolution super LCD 2 screen, a powerful dual-core processor.

Nexus 4 — An Android phone and the latest device in the Google Nexus lineup. Nexus 4 puts the best of Google in the palm of a customer’s hand. Nexus 4 comes with a high-performance 8MP camera and takes Photo Sphere images to capture every detail of the world. The all-new camera lets customers quickly view and edit photos with powerful new tools, and share favorite shots in a snap.

Nexus 7 — With a 7-inch display, powerful quad-core processor and all-day battery life, the Nexus 7 tablet was built to bring the best of Google in a slim, portable device. With a 1280x800 high-res display, Nexus 7 brings apps, games, books and movies to life in stunning clarity. Nexus 7 was built by ASUS and comes with a NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor so everything is faster.

Visit www.t-mobile.com for more information.

METROPCS

All Metro PCS phones are available with MetroPCS’ no-contract, 4G LTE plans, that range from $30-$70 a month and come with: Unlimited talk, text and 4G web access; Data access options and unlimited data access at the $70 rate.

Flat monthly fee – all taxes and fees included.

The LG Motion 4G — This mini-multitasker easily fits in a pocket or purse. It’s power-packed with the latest Android operating system, making it easy to pull up family schedules, email and apps in an instant. ($149)

The ZTE Anthem 4G — The Anthem’s 4.3-inch screen is perfect for shooting holiday memories in the making. The HDMI port lets you share HD video with Dolby sound on the big screen. ($199 with a $50 mail-in rebate)

The Coolpad Quattro 4G — This is great starter smartphone with an easy-to-use Android interface. It has front- and rear-facing cameras for video chat, along with WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth capabilities. ($79 with a $50 mail-in rebate)

The Samsung Galaxy S III — The huge 4.8 inch HD screen is among the biggest and best on the market. It has an 8MP camera with zero shutter lag and storage galore. ($499)

Cutting-edge technology lets you share all sorts of content with or without a cell connection.

Visit www.metropcs.com for more information.

DELL

Customers can take advantage of some of the best Black Friday offers this year. Dell will kick off rolling three-hour doorbusters at 12 a.m. EST on Friday, November 23 on popular systems such as:

XPS 13 will be offered for $799

Inspiron 14z laptop is available for $299.99

Inspiron 660s on sale for $249.99

Inspire One 20 all-in-one for $399

For more information on Dell’s Black Friday doorbusters and deals please visit www.dell.com/blackfriday and www.dell.com/cybermonday for the official countdown clocks to holiday savings!

Among items featured by Dell this holiday shopping season:

XPS 10 tablet — 10” tablet, Powered by Windows RT and bundled with MS Office 2013. Dock with full keyboard, battery, stereo speakers and connectivity ports. All-day battery life for maximum productivity. (Begins at $499)

XPS 12 Convertible Ultrabook — Two devices in one ‚ powerful ultrabook plus full featured tablet. Flip hinge design easily transitions from ultrabook to tablet usage. Designed for touch with full HD capacitive panel and Windows 8; 12.5” full HD panel with HD 4000 performance graphics. (Begins at $1,199)

Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook — Dell’s first Ultrabook is razor thin (6-18mm) and light (2.99lbs) form; -- Enjoy more content with a 13.3” display cleverly fit into a footprint similar to an 11” laptop. (Begins at $999)

Dell XPS One 27 — Bright and gorgeous QHD touchscreen display and articulating stand designed to help users get the most from every experience; Render stunning designs and edit multimedia and enjoy HD gaming with high performance NVIDIA® graphics; Intel® 3rd generation processors allow a balance between quad-core processing and efficient power use; deep and rich audio experience with integrated Infinity Premium speakers. (Begins at $1399)

Alienware M14x — Designed for gamers looking for high gaming performance but with more demanding needs in mobility; Intel 3rd generation processors, GDDR5 powered NVIDIA GeForce 600 series graphics. (Begins at $1099)

Visit www.dell.com for more information.

HEWLETT-PACKARD

HP ENVY x2 — The ENVY x 2, weighs just 3.1 pounds, delivers both in one stylish, lightweight device. Easily switch from notebook to tablet and back again. An HD webcam on the front and an 8-megapixel camera on the back capture high-quality photos and video. ($849.99)

HP ENVY 20 TouchSmart AiOs — All-in-one with touch; Equipped with the latest Intel processors, high-definition display, 10-point multitouch technology and beautifully simple design. Offering the latest innovations in entertainment, photo sharing, videos and music for the entire family. Beats Audio and exclusive HP innovations such as the HP TrueVision HD webcam. ($799.99)

HP ENVY TouchSmart Ultrabook 4 — Now with the intuitive power of touch and Windows 8, the HP ENVY TouchSmart Ultrabook 4 takes thin and light to the next level. Measuring just 23mm thin and weighing 4.77 pounds, the HP ENVY Touchsmart Ultrabook delivers powerful performance with the latest Intel processors and solid-state drive options. Equipped with Beats Audio, a booming subwoofer, and an optional AMD graphics card with 2 GB of graphics memory. ($799.99)

Visit www.hp.com for more information.

SONY

X Headphones MDR-X10 — Pump more bump into every bass line with boldly-styled headphones meticulously crafted from the highest quality materials. Turn up the intensity of gripping sound with powerful 50mm driver units and high-energy neodymium magnets. ($299.99)

W-Series Walkman MP3 Player — This quick-charging 2GB all-in-one MP3 player is water-resistant and wire-free. Plug it in for three minutes and you'll have up to 60 minutes of use – it's ready to go in less time than it takes you to change into your workout gear. Enjoy up to 8 hours of uninterrupted play when fully charged. ($59.99)

Sony Action Cam AS10/AS15 — Whether you’re shredding major powder, jumping out of a plane, or kayaking down an epic waterfall, Sony’s Action Cam allows you to capture your adventures to show off to your family and friends. The video camera is tiny and lightweight, plus houses Sony’s hallmark SteadyShot image stabilization technology, Exmor R CMOS image sensor, and an ultra-wide angle Carl Zeiss Tessar lens. The AS15 model even offers Wi-Fi connectivity so you can immediately upload and share your video on the web. ($199.99/$269.99)

Cyber-shot TX20 — The Cyber-shot TX20 camera was built to keep up. It's waterproof, dustproof, shockproof, yet slim and stylish enough to take anywhere—from whitewater rafting, to a girls' night out. With a high-performance 16.2MP Exmor R CMOS sensor and advanced in-camera stabilization. ($299.99)

Sony Duo 11 — The VAIO Duo 11 PC transforms between a power-packed Ultrabook and a multi-media tablet with scratch-resistant glass. With Sony’s high build quality, VAIO Duo 11 features a durable Surf Slider mechanism to switch smoothly between keyboard and tablet for a dual functioning computing experience. Slim and light, VAIO Duo 11 weighs approximately 2.84 lbs. and features an 11.6-inch screen. The VAIO Duo 11 comes with a pressure-sensitive digitizer. ($1099.99)

Sony Tap 20 — The VAIO Tap 20 is a family tabletop PC designed to take advantage of the intuitive ease of Windows 8. Featuring a 20-inch screen, this mobile desktop PC can lay flat on a coffee table for the whole family to play games on the large screen. With a removable battery, users can easily move it around the house. There is a wide variety of apps including Fingertapps Organizer, a calendar app for family members to communicate digitally via posted to-do lists and recorded messages and videos. ($879.99)

Visit www.store.sony.com for more information.

CANON

Canon SELPHY CP900 photo printer — The Canon SELPHY CP900 is a wireless compact photo printer that creates 4x6 photos instantly so memories are no longer trapped on a camera or mobile device. Users can print directly from a memory card or utilize the built-in WiFi to transfer and print photos from mobile devices. Images can be previewed on the 2.7" tilt-up LCD – and pictures can be turned into an art-inspired collage with the image Shuffle feature.

EOS Rebel T4i camera — Canon’s most sophisticated Rebel to-date, the EOS Rebel T4i DSLR is built to make advanced photography simple and fun. The 18.0 Megapixel CMOS Sensor and powerful DIGIC 5 Image Processor deliver phenomenal image quality, high performance, and fast, intuitive operation. The Rebel T4i also features an extended ISO range, improved auto-focus and a 9-point all cross-type AF system. First ever for a Rebel, this camera is equipped with a vari-angle touch screen for ultimate creative performance.

Visit usa.canon.com for more information.

BOSE

Bose Solo TV sound system — The Bose Solo TV sound system is an unobtrusive, single speaker designed specifically for watching television. The Bose Solo system dramatically improves the dialogue, music, action and sound effects from everyday programming, takes just one connection to the TV, and fits neatly under many TVs. The Bose Solo TV sound system measures just 2.8” high x 20.7” wide and just over 12” deep. Owners will hear program audio clearly and naturally, even at lower volumes. The Bose Solo system is available on Bose.com and from Bose retail stores. ($399.95)

Bose SIE2 and SIE2i sport headphones — Bose SIE2 and SIE2i sport headphones are the first Bose in-ear headphones specifically engineered for exercise. Both deliver unmatched performance for sport headphones, combining high-quality audio, stability, sweat- and water-resistance and durability — all in a sport-inspired design that complements any athlete’s workout, from casual gym-goers to cross-trainers and avid runners. The new SIE2 headphones are available from Bose in green for $119.95, and the new SIE2i headphones are available in green or orange for $149.95 each.

• Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Mobile speaker II & SoundLink Air digital music system — Whether streaming music via a home wireless network to the SoundLink® Air system, or streaming from a mobile device using Bluetooth technology to the SoundLink® Mobile speaker II, clear and powerful sound is delivered from Bose — wirelessly. The SoundLink Air digital music system is available for $349.95 and the SoundLink Mobile speaker II comes in a standard, black trim package with a dark gray nylon bi-fold cover for $299.95 or in a premium, chrome trim package with a dark brown leather bi-fold cover for $349.95.

Visit www.bose.com for more information.

LOGITECH

Washable Keyboard — A keyboard that can handle sticky fingers, soda spills, ketchup and more. Simply rinse the keyboard under running water or submerge it in the sink for an easy clean. Perfect for moms with little kids or those researching for recipes while cooking in the kitchen. ($39.99)

Logitech TV Cam HD for Skype — Skype through your TV in your living room; Perfect for grandparents that want to watch their grandkids open gifts on xmas morning, long distance families, or for when parents are away on business trips. ($199.99)

Logitech UE Mobile Boombox — This compact yet lightweight boombox is surprisingly powerful and is perfect for trips to the gym, beach, or park. It also connects to mobile devices — like smartphones and tablets — using Bluetooth wireless technology. ($99.99)

Visit www.logitech.com for more information.

SAMSUNG

Samsung NX1000 Compact System Camera with Wi-Fi — Part of Samsung’s popular NX series of compact system cameras, the NX1000 is the most approachable camera in the line touting an interchangeable lens with a portable, great for on-the-go form factor. With a 20.3-megapixel CMOS sensor and fast shutter speeds of up 1/4000 seconds, the NX1000 ensures no moment is missed. ($599.99)

Samsung QF20 Switch Grip SMART Camcorder — Samsung’s newest SMART camcorder captures video in full HD with 20x optical zoom; The camcorder features Samsung’s Switch Grip 2.0 handle design for comfortable control when shooting with either hand, in any direction; The QF20 also touts user-friendly features like the 2.7-inch LCD with an intuitive touch screen interface that make it an ideal choice for the connected user who wants to seamlessly share videos to social networking sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Picasa. ($249.99)

Samsung GALAXY Note 10.1 — The GALAXY Note 10.1 redefines tablets with the unique ability to run two apps side by side with its Multiscreen feature. The S Pen adds the precision of pen and paper, while integrated stereo speakers, bundled Photoshop Touch and home theater control round out the package; Runs on Android 4.0. Ice Cream Sandwich with 1.9 Megapixel front-facing and 5.0 Megapixel rear-facing cameras. ($499.99 – 16 GB; $549.99 – 32GB)

Samsung Series 7 All-In-One PC — The Samsung Series 7 All-In-One PC is a premium home PC with powerful performance packed in sleek minimalistic design. In addition to 10-finger touch capabilities, the display also recognizes hand gestures for maximum usability. ($1,099 – $1,699 (23” & 27”))

Samsung Series 5 All-In-One PC — Also a powerful All-In-One PC, the Series 5 was designed to serve as an ideal kitchen PC, with a keyboard and mouse that fit neatly in between the legs of the base to open up counter space and a slightly smaller screen size that users look for in that room. ($749)

Samsung Series 5 Ultra — The Samsung Series 5 Ultrabook is ultra-light, ultra-thin, ultra-sleek, amazingly portable and perfectly designed for a mobile life. Because it's remarkably thin and light, it's easy to take it with you anytime and anywhere during the hectic holiday season. With blazing fast performance (Intel Core i5 -3317U Processor), Fast Start technology, and a razor-sharp high-definition LCD screen, this ultrabook is a must have gift. ($949.99)

Samsung LED EH5300 Smart TV — The EH5300 is Samsung’s most affordable Smart LED TV and includes: Samsung Smart Hub with a full web browser and variety of Samsung Apps to choose from including ESPN ScoreCenter, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora, and much more. (Under $1,000)

For more information, visit www.samsung.com.

TIVO

TiVo Premiere 4 Offers four tuners, allowing you to record four shows at once while viewing a fifth recorded program. It can record 75 hours of HD content, which is approximately two times more than a generic DVR. ($249.99; monthly service fee of $14.99 with a one year commitment)

TiVo Stream — TiVo Stream enables you to seamlessly deliver content stored on any TiVo Premiere box to mobile screens such as iPads and iPhones. You can stream up to four shows at once to four devices connected to a home network. It also allows for wireless transfer of recorded content to a supported mobile device so you can take your favorite TV shows with you. ($129.99; no monthly service fee)

iHOME

FOR YOUR STOCKING UNDER $50:

iHM62 Rechargeable Color Changing Mini Speakers — These mini speakers offer size-defying sound with cool color changing LED lights. The iHM62 is perfect for laptops, cell phones, iPad, iPhone, iPod and other MP3 players, and are the ideal pint-sized gift this year. ($49.99)

• This Christmas, adults and children alike will fall in love with iHome’s new line of Disney-themed products. From headphones to portable speaker systems to alarm clock docks, the iHome Disney line has something for everyone, and features beloved Disney favorites, including Minnie Mouse, Phineas & Ferb, Jack Skellington and Kermit the Frog. All products are priced at $49.99 and under, and are available at www.ekids.com.

FOR THE NOMAD; $50+

iDM11 Rechargeable Portable Bluetooth Speaker — Ring in the new year tangle-free with iHome’s wireless rechargeable Bluetooth mini speaker, the iDM11. Designed to deliver great sound for music, games, apps, videos and phone calls, the iDM11 accomplishes big things with a small footprint. The built-in lithium-ion battery is rechargeable, and voice echo cancellation technology and answer/end controls make speakerphone use a breeze. ($69.99)

iB50 Active Noise Canceling Headphones — Adorn your music lover with noise-cancelling headphones this holiday season with the iB50. These headphones contain active noise-cancelling technology that eliminates background noise for uninterrupted listening. Padded ear cushions add comfort, and the padded and adjustable headband ensures a perfect fit. The ear cups rotate to fit into the included pouch for travel. ($59.99)

FOR THE PARTY HOST

iP76 Color-Changing Tower Stereo Speaker System — Red and green aren’t the only colors in town this holiday with these speakers. A functional piece of art, the iP76 streams music from Bluetooth-enabled devices, charges docked iPhone and iPods, and sends video content from your device to your television via the built-in video outputs. Standing three-feet high, the unit can be personalized to feature your favorite color, while a host of options such as color fade, pulse to music and strobe effect create the ultimate light show. ($199.99)

HANDEBAND

The HANDeBand — A new accessory for any smart phone, tablet, e-reader or other portable device that attaches the device to your finger to simplify its ease of use and overall makes using the device more fun, comfortable and enjoyable. With its patent-pending design, 360 degree rotation, and universal base fastener, there are thousands of wearing options that suit practically any activity and with HANDeBand’s quick-detach feature, it can quickly slide off the base for pocket placement when needed. Everyday tasks like taking photos, texting, managing email, surfing the internet, and even watching videos become easier because your hand does not have to grasp the device, freeing up your thumb for a wider range of mobility and usability with a full 360 degree rotation. The new HANDeBand bundle includes (1) Single-ring HANDeBand, (1) Double-ring HANDeBand, and (2) Universal Base Fasteners allowing you to equip two of your favorite handheld devices. ($28.95)

For more information, visit www.HANDeBand.com.

SYLVANIA

SYLVANIA SilverStar ULTRAs — Up to 50 percent brighter compared to worn standard halogen headlights, allow you to see 40 percent further down the road and up to 50 percent wider on the side. They are available at major auto parts stores. ($49.99)

————

Here are some other gift ideas that might make someone you know enjoy the holiday season a little bit more.

Keurig Vue Brewer — Nowadays, most of us are always in a hurry, but we still like to have our coffee in the morning. One of the solutions that has come up in recent years to this dilemma is the single-cup coffee brewer. Among the leaders in this area has been Kuerig, whose machines started popping up a few years back and have continued to grow in popularity -- both for office and home use.

I recently tried out one of their newer models, the Kuerig Vue Brewing system, and found it to be a very positive experience overall. The way the system works is you get small packages of coffee, filter included, and place one into the machine. Hit the Brew button, and boom, you have an 8 ounce cup of coffee. (or tea, or hot cocoa, whichever you prefer).

As far as convenience and easy of use, you can’t really beat a machine like this. There are, of course, competing machines on the market, but the Kuerig models have the advantage of their name being out there for some time now.

The bottom line on whether something like this works you comes down to price.

The machine itself costs a little over $200, and the way the math works, you’ll spend about 75 cents per cup of coffee with this Vue machine when you buy the Keurig “V cups” that fit the machine, which are available in a wide variety of flavors. (Note, “K cups” from previous Kuerig machines won’t fit this one.)

If you are dropping $4 a day at Starbucks and want a less expensive alternative for your morning drink, the Vue system will probably be worth it to you. Even if you double up and make two in the morning, it’s much less than coffee chains are charging these days.

But if you’re used to buying a big tub of coffee and making a big old pot, the 75 cents per cup will be a bit of a price increase for your coffee use. Of course, this is aimed at people who just want a cup, not a pot, so the heavy coffee drinkers might not even consider something like this.

And as far as work use, it’s a nice thing to have out for customers waiting in the lobby, for example. (the first time I used one of these machines was at my dentist’s office, actually, while waiting for my wife.) That way you don’t have to brew a whole pot for your guests.

Not everyone needs this kind of speed and one-shot convenience in their coffee maker, but if you know someone in your family who does, the Kuerig Vue system could come in very handy for them this holiday season and beyond. (~$200)

For more information, visit www.kuerig.com.

GOgroove Pal Bot — If you’re looking for a fun gift for the music fan, there’s something called the GOgroove Pal Bot.

What’s that, you ask?

Well, it’s a little speaker whose design is inspired by the green Android robot logo. It has a retractable cord in its back that you can pull out and plug into any device that plays music, such as your smartphone or tablet, or computer or mp3 player.

The sound isn’t huge and won’t fill up big areas, but it’ll do if you’re just listening at your desk or in a room in your house, for example.

It offers six hours of music play per charge, though the battery life is longer if music is played as lower volumes.

The eyes of the Pal Bot will let you know if it’s running low on battery life by turning red, signalling the need to charge it.

In the back of the Pal Bot, there is a volume dial, as well as an on/off (or rather, awake/asleep) switch.

The Pal Bot price varies depending where you buy it, but at Amazon.com it was as low as $19.99. To learn more about the GOgroove Pal Bot, visit www.accessorypower.com.

TOYS

Of course, toys are a big part of holiday shopping, and I recently tried out a couple of them with my 1-year-old to see if they met her standards.

VTech Alphabet Activity Cube — This is what I would call a great educational tool that your child will also have lots of fun with. There are 13 blocks with a letter on each side, so the whole alphabet is represented. A very cool feature is that on one side of the cube, you can place the letter blocks in a little slot and it will say the letter out loud, helping your child learn the alphabet.

There is also a row of pegs on top of the cube, where kids can insert the blocks and then remove them when the want to play with them again. The blocks can also be stacked on top of each other.

There is also a storage area where you can place the cubes when not in use so they don’t get lost (my daughter was kind enough to take to placing them back there herself at times).

Other features on the cube teach about cause and effect -- such as a pin maze, a shape sorter that leads to the storage area, sliders, turning gears, a mirror and more.

And In addition to the blocks, you get piano keys, a little telephone, and the usual array of buttons and keys that play all kind of musics, animal sounds, numbers and more. There is quite a bit for kids to experience here, and it will help them learn a lot over time.

Target age of the toy is 9 to 36 months, and cost is about $50, though you can find it online for closer to $40.

Visit www.vtechkids.com for more information.

Baby Einstein Discovering Music Activity Table — Another toy my daughter got to enjoy was the Baby Einstein Discovering Music Activity Table, which also costs about $40.

Aimed at children 6 months to 3 years, it’s a pretty basic machine at first glance, but upon further viewing it has a lot inside to offer.

The basic setup is that it’s a piano that kids can play, but also has other features like a drum station, and buttons to hear sounds from several other instruments. This type of toy exposes young kids to music at an early age, and that’s a good thing in m book. The piano keys light up, and a voice will count out numbers -- in either English, Spanish or French, giving you the opportunity to start your child on the road to knowing more than one language. My only concern with this toy is that it’s pretty light and easy to tip over. If you kid starts to do that, you can always remove it from the legs and make it a floor toy.

Visit babyeinstein.com for more information

Dropcam HD — There are many reasons to keep the next item on this list.

  • Maybe you’re a business owner who wants to see what’s going on when you’re not there.
  • Maybe you want to make sure your child care giver is doing their job properly.
  • Maybe you just want to have video calls with your family without ever making a phone call.

What product does this?

I’m talking about the Dropcam HD.

I recently tested one out, and it was very impressive.

Basically, this is a small camera, which works with your home’s wireless network to upload its feed to the Internet.

That means that on any computer or your iPhone or Android smartphone, you can open up an app or the website at dropcam.com , and see what’s going on wherever your camera is. It’s a live streaming feed of your home, business or anywhere else you’ve left the camera.

You can even record video, and view it whenever you like (though there are some monthly fees for this DVR feature).

Setup was a breeze, literally taking a few minutes. You just connect the camera to Wifi, create a Dropcam acccount, and then your camera is viewable whenever you want to see it, as long as it’s on of course. Even those folks who are terrible with technology won’t have an issue setting this camera up.

Images from the Dropcam are very clear, sound is impressive too, and the bottom line is that if you want your eyes on any place for any reason, the Dropcam will do that for you without a problem. You can keep an eye on your pets, your nanny, or anything else.

You can talk through your phone or computer and the voice will come through the Dropcam, which I tested out when I contacted my house through the Dropcam. I was able to see my family as I spoke to them, just as you would through something like a video call, straight from the Dropcam website or a phone app. You can also watch on your iPad.

If you leave your Dropcam HD on, it can also alert you when it detects motion. So you’ll know if someone’s in your house when they shouldn’t be. If you have some video shot on the Dropcam HD that you want to share with family, you can make the camera public and let them view it online. ($149)

See www.dropcam.com for more information.

Matt Myftiu can be reached at matt.myftiu@oakpress.com. Read his tech blog at realtechtime.blogspot.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattMyftiu, and become a fan of the Facebook page OPTechTime.

 

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    August 1, 2013 1 Photo

  • Film-Speedy Zombies_Denn.jpg Penn State prof lends zombie expertise to World War Z

    In a scene of the movie "World War Z," hundreds — maybe thousands — of virus-infected people swarm at the base of a wall in Jerusalem to find more humans to bite and infect. These zombies then form a human ladder to charge over the wall, which Israel's government had put up in the hope of sparing the city the wrath of the creatures.

    A professor at Penn State had something to do with that part of the movie.

    June 28, 2013 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX People Paula _Denn.jpg Paula Deen's 'Today' appearance ends in tears

    Paula Deen dissolved into tears during a "Today" show interview Wednesday about her admission that she used a racial slur in the past, saying anyone in the audience who's never said anything they've regretted should pick up a rock and throw it at her head.

    June 26, 2013 1 Photo

  • NY Premiere White Hou_Denn.jpg Movie Review | 'White House Down' doesn't live up to expectations

    "Independence Day", The Day After Tomorrow" and "2012" were guilty pleasures — excessive in every way, from their frenetic Wile E. Coyote action sequences down to their impressive A-list casts. And they worked. But while Emmerich's "White House Down" mostly sticks to the same formula, this latest cinematic assault on the Oval Office fails to deliver on the campaign promise that it will be as fun as the original "Die Hard."

    June 26, 2013 1 Photo

  • gtr-tatpastor01-06081_Denn.jpg For pastors, tattoos as symbols of faith

    As the spiritual leader for two United Church of Christ congregations, the Rev. Richard Lindsay-Bignell found a way to combine his love of the ministry and his passion for art.

    June 10, 2013 1 Photo

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Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

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