Gifts, Gadgets and Tech for the Holidays

From the December 2011 Issue.

Yes, the holidays are nearly upon us.

Over the past six or seven years that I’ve put this feature together, I’ve had the opportunity to see, test and play with a lot of cool devices and technologies; some designed for business purposes, some for purely personal entertainment and others still that bridge the gap in our increasingly connected world. While the increasing “connectedness” of all aspects of our lives (business, family, personal, etc.) has been a long-evolving trend, one of the greater changes in only the past two years has been the advent of the iPad and other tablet devices. The iPhone also certainly helped transform the mobile phone market, but tablet devices, even though they are still in the early adopter stage, are quickly establishing themselves in business and personal settings.

The innovation behind these two major developments (the iPad and iPhone), and certainly their introduction to the market, was the result of the work of many people at Apple. But Steve Jobs, as he’s been rightly eulogized, was the great visionary who helped people see the potential of these devices. As the market he created continues to grow, and as a tribute to him, I’ve added a new section to the gift guide this year focused on tools designed for users of various i-things.

From everyone at CPA & NSA Practice Advisor, we wish you the happiest of holidays and a prosperous New Year.

DOWN TO BUSINESS

Awesome All-In-One
Printing remains an integral part of office productivity, but it’s never been more important to be economical. There’s no need to sacrifice quality, however. The WorkForce Pro 4540 Printer from Epson can cut printing costs by 50%, while also giving you the most advanced full-color printing, scanning, copying and other technologies on the market. This ultimate officejet printer includes built-in wireless networking capabilities and features automatic dual-side printing, copying, scanning and faxing, with a 30-page auto-feeder and a 580-sheet paper capacity. ($399; www.epson.com)


Sleek Portability

When it comes to true data transfer, a couple of gigs of storage just doesn’t cut it, but at the same time, users don’t want to carry bulky external hard drives around. The perfect portable solution just may be the GoFlex Slim 320 GB Performance Drive from Seagate. About the thickness of a #2 pencil and the size of a smartphone, the sleek gadget offers up to 320 gigs of storage, has a lightning-fast 7200 RPM drive with USB 3.0 connectivity, and has backup software that can automatically sync files and makes it easy to restore previous versions. Enhanced encryption technology further makes it a valuable tool, which works interchangeably with PCs and Macs. ($89; www.seagate.com; Also at major retailers.)


Finalize Your Wireless Freedom

So you think you’re a wireless professional. You’ve got your tablet, a laptop and a smartphone. That’s great on the road, but the place modern professionals are most likely to be constrained by wires is in their own offices or homes. The Belkin N 750 B Wireless Router can help you complete your wireless evolution, providing the latest in wireless technology and security to give up to 900 mbps throughput (translation: superfast), which gives awesome performance for large data files, video streaming, online gaming and home theater uses. It also includes high-speed ports for direct connection. ($129; www.belkin.com)


Portable Perfection

When you’re on the road, you still have documents to scan, but it’s not like you’re going to take a scanner with you. So you get back from your trip with piles of receipts and business cards and … what? Oh, you can take a scanner with you! At only 12 ounces and under 11 inches long, the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 is a great companion for the mobile pro, packing in many features found in full-sized scanners, including producing searchable PDFs, Word and Excel files, scanning direct to email, business card and receipt scanning, and support for Macs and PCs. Plus, it gets its power via USB from your computer, so no extra cables. The S1100 retails for $199, but enter our drawing for a chance to win one for free! The odds of winning are better than the lottery (last year, there were approximately 100 entrants). ($199; www.fujitsu.com/ScanSnapS1100)


Rugged Reliability

Meet the Rocky Balboa of portable hard drives. Where most tech gadgets are fragile and users are rightly fearful of the pains of breaking them (not just the painful cost to replace but also the potential for lost data), the 500GB Rugged Portable Hard Drive from ioSafe is in the ring for the duration. About the size of a paperback novel, the PC- and Mac-friendly drive offers crush protection of up to 5,000 pounds, can be dropped from 20 feet and can even survive submersion in up to 30 feet of water for three days. It features USB 2.0, 3.0 and FireWire 800, works with Macs and PCs and includes a data recovery service. ($249; www.iosafe.com)


Organize Your Paperless Office

Paperless this, optimized that … but if you don’t get your office organized, you’re simply moving toward digital disarray. The NeatDesk Desktop Scanner from NeatCo wants to be your new office manager and has a powerful resume. The high-speed desktop scanner features automatic document feeding of up to 50 pages, has “intelligent text recognition” technology that can pull important data from scanned items, saves files to searchable PDF and Word, and can export data to Excel, Quicken, QuickBooks and TurboTax. As an extra boost, the scanner comes with a digital filing system that automatically organizes files, helping users be more efficient. ($399; www.NeatCo.com; www.OfficeDepot.com)


Hot Laptop? Think Cool!

Whether or not you’ve got the latest Netbook or laptop, if the device literally gets hot, you could be in trouble. The excess heat isn’t just uncomfortable on your lap, but can also damage the computer. Don’t worry, though, just think cool and check out the HeatShift Netbook Cooler from ThermaPAK. The stylish solutions are a pad made from eco-friendly cooling crystals that absorb and dissipate the heat from the device, lowering temperatures by more than 10 degrees. Even better, this essential tech accessory fits easily in cases, doesn’t need power and doesn’t make any noise. Available in various colors and styles for laptops and Netbooks. ($25-$28; www.thermapak.com)


Rest Assured, Your Data is Safe
Hard drive crashes can happen to workstations, servers and even backup drives, but the Drobo S can keep all of your sensitive firm and client data from disappearing even if that happens. With multiple hard drives in the single Drobo unit, users can constantly keep a mirrored copy of all of their backed up data. With the ability to hold up to five hot-swappable hard drives that you can add when you need more space, the powerful and superfast Drobo S offers up to 32 terabytes of storage, automatically performs backup and configuration, and has USB 3.0, eSATA and FireWire 800 connections. If your data is important and you have a lot of it, nothing can keep it protected like Drobo. ($799; www.Drobo.com)

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FOR WORK OR PLAY

Keep a Watchful Eye
What’s happening at your office when you’re at home? What’s happening at home when you’re at the office? The bad guys can quickly figure out personal schedules and target your property when you’re not there, but the new Logitech Alert 750i Video Security system makes it easy for you to set up your own security system with multiple wireless video cameras. The system syncs with your PC to offer viewing of the live video feed from any computer or smartphone, and can be set to automatically record video with motion-triggered sensors. Alarms can be set to alert users to activity. Even better, the wireless connectivity and HomePlug technology makes the Alert simple for anyone to set up. ($399; www.logitech.com)


Smarter Mobility

Tired of spending $100 per month or more for your smartphone plan, plus having to be locked into it for two years? Maybe it’s time to “right-size” your wireless with H2O Wireless. With no-contract text, talk and web plans starting at $40 per month (or the option to go minute-by-minute) and a variety of 3G and 4G devices from which to choose, users can finally breathe a little wireless freedom. They also have an Unlimited Everything plan for $60 per month that includes talk, text, picture messaging, unlimited Internet and free international calls. Plus, the $10 SIM Card Starter Pack is a perfect stocking stuffer, allowing anyone to transform any existing phone into a no-contract H2O phone, including unlocked Droids and iPhones. (From $40; www.H2OWirelessNow.com)


The Ultimate Hands-Free Headset

Whether you work in a traditional office or a home office, you aren’t always at your desk. A wireless hands-free headset can give you the freedom to move around, while still being connected, and the new Plantronics Voyager Pro HD is taking this convenience several steps further. With Smart Sensor technology, the phone knows when to send calls to your headset or your mobile device, plus it has the very cool Vocalyst service that lets you manage email, voicemail, text, check the weather and even update Facebook. (TV voice: But wait, there’s more!) The Voyager also offers voice alerts, brilliant HD music and podcast streaming, and multipoint technology for managing two phone devices at the same time. ($99; www.plantronics.com)


Backed Up, Even On-the-Go

Even when you’re on the road or working from multiple computers, it’s critical to make sure that your work is secure, protected and backed up to a reliable location. The Echo 8GB Backup Drive from Lexar offers added assurance, providing a high-performance flash drive that easily plugs into a USB port and can automatically back up and store your important files, sporting 128-bit AES encryption. Users can also restore previous versions of files, and the handy gadget can work with PCs and Macs. ($29.99; www.lexar.com)


Give the Brush-Off with Dust-Off

What is it with gadgets and home electronics that attracts dust and grime? Whatever the cause, keeping them clean can be important not only for visual quality, but also to help extend the life of your devices. Don’t clean them with window cleaners or other solvents, though, since different devices use different materials that can be harmed by those harsh detergents. Be safe and use one of the Dust-Off solutions from Falcon, which include cleaners and microfiber wipes specifically designed for cleaning smartphone screens, computer monitors, tablet screens, and LCD, LED and Plasma televisions. ($2.99-$9.99; www.falconsafety.com)


Keep an Eye On Things

You can’t be everywhere at the same time, and when you’re mobile, you leave your home and office unattended. You can keep an eye on things, though, with iZON Remote Room Monitor, an elegant, “app-controlled” video camera that connects via Wi-FI, allowing you to view live or recorded encrypted video and audio from an iPad, iPhone or iPod. The camera can also alert you when it senses motion or sound. Great for the home, office, baby’s room or even aimed at the front door. ($129; www.steminnovation.com)

 

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JUST FOR FUN

The Future’s So Cool, You Gotta Wear 3D Shades
The latest big development in home entertainment is 3D, and prices are coming quickly into the realm of mainstream consumers. While that’s great news, even better is that you don’t need those old blue and red paper glasses that were staples of 3D movies from the 1950s through the 1990s. Better yet, the new Perfect Vision 3D Glasses from Polaroid are truly cool. With custom women’s and men’s models tailored to the latest design trends, they may not look like 3D shades. But they really deliver and are RealD certified to give you the highest quality experience. And if you want to wear the fashionable specs outdoors, they also offer full UV protection. Polaroid also offers slip-over shades for eyeglass wearers. (From $45; www.polaroid-eyewearstore.com)


Add Some Culture to Your Holidays

Have you considered adding a Vincent van Gogh to your living room? Or perhaps one of Cézanne’s works? Now you can, and without robbing a bank or “borrowing” them from a gallery. With the Museum of Modern Art (DVD and Blu-ray) from Screen Dreams, you can enjoy 50 masterworks from New York’s MOMA, including paintings by modern and contemporary artists … accompanied by classical musical performances. This is an excellent addition when hosting friends and family, or for relaxing when the rush of the season has passed. ($15; www.screendreamsdvd.com)


Hydrate!

With all of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to forget one of the keys to healthy living: Hydrate! Instead of carrying around plastic disposable water bottles, add some style to your fluid intake with one of Contigo’s BPA-free AutoSeal Bottles and Insulated Mugs. They come in several sleek designs and sizes from 16 to 32 ounces, such as the Blue Addision, which features a push button AutoSpout, or the West Loop Stainless Steel vacuum insulated travel mug, which can keep cold things cold for up to 16 hours, and hot things hot for up to six hours. (From $13; www.gocontigo.com)


A Man Cave Must-Have

It’s the big game, you’re in “your chair,” kickoff is in 5, 4, 3 … wait! Where’s that bottle opener? Relax, if you’ve got The Clicker, it’s already in your hand. The masterminds at The Clicker Company have achieved one of the greatest fusions known to modern man: The combination of a universal remote control and a bottle opener. The device allows users to control up to nine devices: TV, DVD, VCR, cable, satellite, CD, stereos, amplifiers and bottle caps. ($25; www.myclicker.com)


Put "Spot" in the Light

Walking your dog at night can be risky, especially on dimly lit streets. But when your best friend has business to attend to or you’re just out for a night in the park, you can make it safer and more fun for you and your buddy with the Pup Crawl. Available in several bright colors, they may look, feel and have the strength of a traditional leash, but they have tons of embedded LED lights that can be seen from up to a quarter mile away. Part of their proceeds also go to animal rescue organizations. ($25; www.thepupcrawl.com)


An Awesome Audio Accessory for the Active

Music isn’t just something you listen to in the car or at home anymore. We take it with us. And for those with active lifestyles, such as running, climbing or other sports, finding gadgets that can keep up with you can be a challenge. The audio innovators at Pioneer have the solution: Active Style Earbuds (Model SE-CL331) specifically designed for outdoor enthusiasts, including water-resistant features that allow users to wash away sweat and grime. The buds come with multiple ear pieces and produce the high-quality audio for which Pioneer is respected. Colors include yellow, blue, pink and white. ($59; www.pioneerelectronics.com)


Indulge in Audio Opulence
Whether you've been naughty or nice this year, you still deserve a little musical indulgence. Fanny Wang’s premium headphones are the perfect combination of high-fashion and superior sound quality that will impress even the most discerning fashionistas and music fans. Friends, family or neighbors telling you to turn the music down? Bah humbug! You can rock out your Wang headphones for your own private concert. Whether your tastes are Foo Fighters to Frosty the Snowman or Jay-Z to Jingle Bells, Fanny Wang lets you crank the bass to 11 without losing sound clarity. With the unique Integrated Duo Jack, you can get in the holiday spirit and also share your favorite tunes with friends.The headphones can be accessorized ina variety of chic colors that fit your personality or even go festive with a hot red pair!  ($169.95; www.fannywang.com)


Turn Your iPhone into a Universal Remote
For those getting new TVs, Blu-Rays and other tech devices this year, the SURC might be the perfect addition. It's an iPhone case that turns the iPhone into a universal learning remote control. SURC, is an easy-to-use universal learning remote control that connects with most InfraRed (IR)-enabled electronic devices and appliances, turning your ordinary iPhone into a customizable remote control. SURC's revolutionary InfraRed (IR) connector, which duals as a protective case, paired with a free companion mobile app (available from the iTunes App Store) converts any iPhone 4 into a true, user-friendly universal remote control. SURC doesn’t require WiFi or multiple receivers. Plus, the built-in Micro USB connection and cable allows users to charge and sync their iPhone without having to remove SURC’s sleek, protective case. SURC’s extensive database makes programming remotes quick and simple. ($89.99; www.getsurc.com)


The new Soundfreaq Sound Step Recharge is the perfect accessory to any of your favorite tech toys this year. Soundfreaq’s Sound Step Recharge allow users to dock, charge and stream music wirelessly from multiple devices including the iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Android and Blackberry and offers a built-in rechargeable battery, making it simple to take from room to room or from your holiday party to your New Year’s celebration. The Sound Step Recharge plays music from any Bluetooth device and fills a room with incredible sound while allowing you to keep the device in your hand, rather than stuck in the dock. In additional to having a dock for Apple iPhone and iPod devices and the Sound Step offer the ability to dock and charge an iPad, even if it’s in a case. (From $100; Target, Amazon.com and other retailers)

 

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The iGADGETS HAVE IT
Accessories for iPads, iPhones and iPods


Protect Your Pad

iPads are cool, but they aren’t cheap. So be careful and protect yours with the Belkin SnapShield iPad 2 Case. Designed to keep your tablet clean, scratch-free and safe from everyday impacts, the SnapShield appropriately “snaps” onto the device, and has a hard plastic shell with a soft-touch finish. It includes openings for all buttons and ports, and doesn’t block the built-in speaker. ($30; www.belkin.com)


Deny Prying Eyes

Whether you’re in a crowded airplane or at the local café, there are some things on your laptop, tablet or smartphone that you’d rather not share with the person behind or next to you. Such as client data? The business experts at 3M have been offering their Privacy Screens for several years, and now offer them in designs for tablets from Apple, BlackBerry, Motorola and Samsung, as well as the leading smartphones. With the tablet privacy screen in place, wandering eyes around you won’t be able to see your screen, unless you want to share, then all you have to do is change the tablet orientation. ($40; www.3M.com)


Function Meets Sleek Design

Want to make your iPad2 a little more travel friendly? The Folio360 II from The Joy Factory looks like an ordinary folio-style case, but quickly converts into an adjustable slip-free stand that can rotate 360 degrees in both portrait and landscape modes. This makes it great for using the rear-facing camera. Other features include a magnetic closure snap that wakes your iPad up or puts it into sleep mode when you open or close the case. ($60; www.thejoyfactory.com)


Zip, Charge & Go

We all have multiple devices and keeping them charged can be a challenge, especially when you’re mobile. Well, take a look at the Zip USB Touch-n-go Multi-Charging Station from The Joy Factory. A must for active road warriors, the Zip’s “ziptails” make charging multiple devices simple, with ports for simultaneously charging up to 16 devices, including smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. ($80; www.thejoyfactory.com)


Go Hands-Free with Your Pad

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The iPad is awesome. It could be better, though, especially if you use the Tournez C-Clamp Mount for iPad2 from The Joy Factory. The Tournez lets you turn your iPad2 into a portable workstation that can be mounted anywhere you go, whether on your desk, in the kitchen, a garage, bedroom or conference room. With the ability to adjust it to any angle and a retractable arm, it lets users quickly position it to a comfortable and productive position, without having to hold it or prop it up. Made from carbon fiber, it’s strong, secure and stylish. ($90; www.thejoyfactory.com)


Super iCharger

Backing up photos, contacts and app data can take time … and so can charging your iPhone. If you could just do them at the same time. Actually, with the Iomega SuperHero Backup and Charger for iPhone, you can. The combined charger-backup device automatically does both anytime the phone is docked, and if your phone goes AWOL, you can quickly restore all that data from the 4GB SD card in the SuperHero. ($70; www.iomega.com)


Slick Skins

You’re unique. So why carry around a gadget that looks like everybody else’s? StickySkins offers hundreds of phone, laptop and tablet skin designs tailored for virtually all phone types, as well as for laptops, tablets, iPods and gaming devices. Whether you’re going for abstract art, nature images, cartoons, tech or just plain cute, there’s a design to help express yourself, and if there isn’t, you can create your own design using photos or images. Wouldn’t mom just love a family picture on her phone? A company logo skin on work laptops? Or perhaps a picture of your last vacation to help you get through the workday. (From $9.99; www.stickyskins.com)


Lighter than Air

Are you looking to keep your iPad clean and safe during everyday use and travel? The Just Air iPad Cases from Emson offer tough yet super lightweight construction, plus have a convenient easy-open flip stand that holds your device at a user-friendly angle. The cases are available in black, gray and pink, and in sizes for iPads, Netbooks and laptops.


Grip It!

If you’ve ever dropped and broken a smartphone, I feel your pain. But you don’t have to go through it again if you use the Ribbz iPhone Case from Emson. The flexible case fits snugly around all sides of the phone, and has anti-shock technology and a high impact resistance that absorbs the brunt of the force, no matter what angle the device lands on. The textured grip also offers great hands-on control for gamers. Available in seven colors. (Two for $30; www.emsoninc.com)

 

 

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