Thursday, December 13, 2007

Technology Buying Guide

The holidays is one of the times technology really shines. What does he mean your asking yourself. Well with technology you can order presents with out having to leave your house and suffer the terrible traffic that comes with the season. Also with the internet, you can comparison shop, get the scoop on items via reviews, and do everything in your power to get the best deal so you can give more bang for your buck.

Also be careful when giving technical gifts, because its really easy to get the wrong part, and then have to get the part exchanged in the after holiday bustle. Also many hight tech items can be tricky to exchange/return. If the person your are getting the gift for has a wishlist on you might want to ask for it. A surefire way to get a great gift is to ask about any wishlists the recipient might have. If they are like me they have lots of things on their wishlist and you can get the one that fits your budget, and you know he will really like with out spoiling the surprise.

Here are some of the current standards for technology.
Some of the most common gifts:

Mp3 players DVD players Computer/Computer Accessories/Software Digital Cameras

MP3 Players
So lets start with Mp3 players, there is allot to pay attention to here. While most mp3 players will get the job done, the important things to look into are the different features. Built in Equalizers, total space on the model, and if you run out of space can you expand it, or is the size fixed; all are important to consider.

Minimum Recommended settings:

Size: 1GB
Interface: USB (for putting your music onto it)
Music Formats: mp3
LCD: Normal

Recommended settings:
Interface: USB (for putting your music onto it)
Music Formats: mp3, wma, ogg
Equalizer: At least three different settings.
LCD: Backlit

DVD Players
Moving on to DVD players. It's as easy anymore to buy DVD players as it used to be. Some key things to remember to look for are: Does it just play DVD's, and is it compatible with recipients TV. There is a lot more to DVD players than meets the eye. However my advice is that if it's for anything bigger than about 30" you might want to think of a different gift. The reason behind this is because not all DVD players are equal, and the differences really show up the bigger and higher definition the screen has. Most DVD players use 10-bit video digital-to-analog-converters (DAC) and video processing chips that runs at 27 MHz. While some of the more expensive reference models boast a 14-bit DAC and 108 MHz video processing, many good DVD players use 24-bit audio DAC, operating at 96 kHz sampling rate (that's 96,000 times per second). The 24-bit/96kHz DAC ensures that the maximum audio resolution from the DVD's soundtrack has been extracted and reproduced on your speakers. For a more in depth DVD player buying guide feel free to go to Click Here the same place that I have gotten a lot of my information on the subject. If you don't feel like diving into the technology specs, I will outline some things your should look for.

Key Questions
Does it support high definitions?
Does it support DVDs burned by a computer?
Does it support Divx and other formats?

I recommend
getting a portable DVD player instead of getting a regular DVD player. Keeping the same things in mind however, also looking for the following features, you can't go wrong. Can it play off Batteries or A/C; does the A/C adapter come with it? More importantly, check to see if it has a video out option (preferably RCA or Component). I have also found getting a player that can play Divx files is helpful, allowing you to play DVD's with hours of Divx video files on them. The video out option is very helpful when you are in hotels. This allows you (or the recipient) to use the DVD player with a TV. Also most DVD players that support the Divx format have stronger components insides to deal with the data, and give better quality picture.

For a top of the line player, I have researched and came up with two models:

Panasonic DVD-LS80 8.5" Price Range: $187.99 - $199.99 Has all my recommended options but only has a 12bit Video DAC
Toshiba SDP1900 Portable 9" Price Range: $151.99 - $234.99 Has a stronger
14bit Video DAC, however no RCA video out only optical.

There are many things you can get for someone with a computer. Like the DVD player however, it is a highly technical area. If they have a wish list, use it. If they are like me however, most of the wish list items are very expensive. Buying a computer for the holidays is a very nice move, however I recommend you find someone who can help you decide just what you need and how you can get the most bang for your buck. Because there are so many things that go into buying a computer, I will save that for another time. If you do need help you may contact me, but be ready to answer lots of questions.

Accessories on the other hand aren't as hard to buy without knowing everything about the persons computer. External Hard Drives/Flash Drives, Uninterrupted Power Supplies, Surge Protectors are some of the cheaper items and are good stocking stuffers.
External Hard Drives/Flash Drives
There are a lot of options. Small flash drives for ultra portability, the Portable 2.5" HDD's, and 3.5" HDD's that require a power supply. Each of these have their own advantages and disadvantages. Once you make your choice on the size and portability that you need, then below is a guide to a few sizes that you might want to consider. Last of all, remember to read reviews on the products you buy. It can save you a lot of anguish and wasted time.

Super small flash/HDDs
Minimum 4 Gb
Recommended 16 Gb
Portable 2.5" HDD
Minimum 80 Gb
Recommended >100 Gb
Portable 3.5 HDD (usually requiring an external power supply)
Minimum 500 Gb
Recommended >750 Gb

Uninterruptable Power Supplies (UPS)
For more in-detail information feel free to Click Here
I have found that there are allot of solutions out there here are my Recommendations.

Minimum 500 VA rating
Recommended 600-700 VA as much as you can get with your budget however much more than 800 is probably overkill.
An LCD screen and usb connectivity are also a big plus (I wouldn't buy one without an LCD because it gives you vital information about its status.)
Surge Protectors
As with many of the other items, there is too much information for me to explain so if you want more information than I have space to give you may Click here. To cut to the chase there are different ratings in surge protectors that indicate what they are capable of protecting against. Here are my recommendations in each area.

There should be some LEDs showing the status of the surge protector don't buy any surge protector that doesn't have a led showing that you are protected most reputable companies also will cover any surge damage to things plugged into their protector should their product fail. More importantly here are the important components and ratings to look for.

UL 1449 Suppressed Voltage rating (Clamping Voltage)
Minimum 400V
Stages of Protection/Surge Current Rating
2 stages Recommended 3 stages
Clamping Response Time.
Nanosecond (billionths of a second)
Recommended Picosecond (trillionths of a second)

Incoming Lines Protected
2 lines (Hot to Neutral, Hot to Ground)

3 lines (Hot to Neutral, Hot to Ground, Neutral to Ground)

Digital Cameras
With digital photography technology moving so fast, the value is absolutely amazing when it comes to digital cameras. Make sure you do your homework though, because digital cameras have a lot of features. Its easy to be overwhelmed when at the store. Also make sure to test the camera or read the consumer or professional reviews on it. Sometimes a camera may have more
megapixels, however, the quality of the picture is lacking. Also don't forget to test the speed and response of the camera. (How quickly does it take the shot or navigate through menu's?) Make sure that the camera is comfortable and that you would be able to learn most of its features in one day of shooting. Many good cameras are not 100% user friendly however but give you much better control and quality. This is a trade off that you have to judge for yourself. Some general digital camera guidelines are:

Minimum 4MP
Recommended as many as you can afford however remember this may mean that you have to get bigger flash cards to hold the pictures
Bright Enough to see in broad daylight

Media Format (what the pictures are stored on) Really personal preference however it is smart to get a format that you can transfer pictures to your computer or printer without using the camera if you need to.
Recommended Secure Digital or Compact Flash (I personally try to stay away from proprietary formats)

This is one of my favorite categories, and are often a very useful gifts.(Not to mention usually easy on the wallet). Some of my favorite gadgets are for the g33k (geek) in your life.

LED Binary Watch LED Binary Watch
LED Dot Matrix Display Watch LED Dot Matrix Display Watch
Staple Free StaplerStaple Free Stapler
Mandylion Password Manager Mandylion Password Manager
Touchless IR Thermometer Touchless IR Thermometer
Dynaflex Powerball Gyroscope Dynaflex Powerball Gyroscope
Mathmos Thaw Mathmos Thaw
Outdoor LCD Window Thermometer Outdoor LCD Window Thermometer
Titanium Spork Titanium Spork
MicroJet Lighter Torch MicroJet Lighter Torch
T1 Loopback and Crossover Adapters T1 Loopback and Crossover Adapters
Static Electricity Eliminator Static Electricity Eliminator

click here to buy any of those gadget or others.

I know you may not understand all the terms here when you go shopping for some of these items. A good look at the label should point you in the right direction. I hope that this guide was helpful for you. Whether buying for the holidays or just buying for yourself, tech gifts are great gifts to get. Like any other purchase however, "let the buyer beware." Do your homework and reap the rewards of well thought out gifts. (Especially if they were for yourself.)

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