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Holiday Mac Gift Guide

December 13, 2010
By Dave Hecei,

It's time to go shopping. For some of you, you might already be done with your holiday shopping. For the guys out there, don't worry, the 23rd is a long ways away. This year is very big on gadgets and there is nothing a Mac addict loves more than new gadgets. Let's take a look at some cool Apple gadgets and maybe get and idea or two for any empty spots on your gift-giving list.

Most everyone knows that the iPod is the most popular music player out there. If there is someone on your list who doesn't own or has an old iPod badly in need of an update, then there are essentially two iPods to choose from (three if they really want an iPod Shuffle).

If the person on your list wants just a music player then the iPod Nano is ideal. This newly updated iPod is smaller, lighter, and is now equipped with a color touch-screen. It measures a mere 1.48 by 1.61 inches and weighs only .74 ounces. It also has a built-in FM radio with a pause-and-resume feature (15 minute buffer). The Nano is a great music player, but unfortunately it no longer plays back video files. If you need video playback then look at the Touch. The Nano comes in 7 different colors with either 8GB or 16GB of storage and is priced at $149 and $179.

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The ultimate iPod is the Touch. Think of the iPod Touch as an iPhone without the phone (and GPS). While the Touch is easily the best iPod ever, it's actually a mobile computer too. With over 300,000 Apps in the iTunes Store, there is something for everyone. Plus, gaming is huge on the Touch and getting bigger every day.

The new Touch has many of the same features as the new iPhone 4. The latest operating system, iOS4, has added many new features to the Touch. Inside, the Touch has the same super high resolution Retina color display and the new Apple A4 processor. The A4 is what makes the new iPhone 4 and the iPad fast. With built-in WiFi networking, the Touch can easily access the Internet using a full web browser, Safari. Add to this Email, calendars, to-dos, iBooks, and a whole list of other included Apps.

The Touch now has two built-in cameras. One on the back that shoots basic stills (960 x 720 pixels) but more importantly is can shoot 720p HD video at up to 30 frames per second. The front facing camera is more like an iSight web cam and is used with a new App called FaceTime. This is Apple's new video conferencing system. You can FaceTime with anyone with an iPod Touch, iPhone 4, or camera equipped Mac Desktop running the latest Mac OS.

Another cool new Apple product is the updated Apple TV, or Apple TV 2.0. This new little device is much smaller than the original, and much less expensive. The new Apple TV is now a streaming device. The original had an internal hard drive that made it work much like an iPod for your TV. Instead of having to download and store files locally, Apple has decided to do away with any storage and go with a streaming only format.

Most typical Apple TV users won't even miss not having the hard drive. You can still purchase TV shows and movies on your computer (through iTunes) and the new Apple TV can play them from there. Renting TV shows start at only 99 cents. Movies start at $2.99, for standard definition, and $3.99 for HD. Along with content from your computer or renting from Apple, you can stream content from Netflix (requires an account - starting at $7.99/month), YouTube, MobileMe, and Flickr. With the latest iOS updates you can even stream content from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch using AirPlay.

There are plenty of cool gadgets to use with your Mac. Video is definitely a big one. For great HD video in a compact size I like the Kodak Zi8 pocket camcorder. This little recorder looks and works similar to the very popular Flip series, but this one features an external microphone jack. While this might not be a big deal for some, but if you would like to create your own video podcast the ability to use an external mic is crucial. Street price is around $125.

Maybe you don't need a dedicated camcorder. Canon has a truly amazing pocket sized camera called the PowerShot S95. At just under $400 this isn't cheap. For the money it can do things that professionals would die for. There are plenty of manual modes for much more control of the exposure. It can also shoot in RAW mode. RAW is just like it sounds, it's saves the 'raw' version of the photo you shot without any extra processing or compression that other compact cameras perform, usually called jpeg-mode. It has a big sharp LCD display on the back and a 3.8x optical zoom lens. Along with great stills, the S95 can also shoot beautiful 720p HD video.

Now for something a bit boring but still important - BACKUPS. For some, an Apple Time Capsule makes perfect sense. This is Apple's version of external network storage. It is used in conjunction with OS X Leopard/Snow Leopard's Time Machine auto backup system. It is easy to set up and easy to use. The problem is that the 1TB Time Capsule is $300. I prefer a more general-purpose device like the Buffalo Technology LinkStation Live. They have a 1TB network storage drive, with gigabit networking, priced around $125. It is Mac and Time Machine compatible. Of course, it doesn't have built-in WiFi networking, but with the $175 I saved I can buy a great WiFi router and still have money left over.

And lastly, a pair of gloves for someone with an iPhone/iPad/Touch. No, I'm not talking about an ordinary pair of gloves. That would be like the bag of socks you get from your aunt or uncle. I'm talking about high-tech gloves that allow you to keep toasty warm and still be able to use the touch screen on your iOS devices. Agloves come in three sizes. They are black, but said to have small flecks of silver giving it a dark gray appearance. They are available online for about $18.



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