So far I’m doing okay in the tech wars. I have a high definition television and receiver, a pretty solid if inexpensive surround sound system, an Xbox 360, a rapidly aging eMac, a cell phone that came free with 100 minutes at 7-11, and a handful of other gadgets. Bill Gates would laugh at me, but there’s only so much you can do with my kind of budget.
I did recently bite the bullet and buy a portable MP3 player. I was waiting for the right iPod, but with no sign of a model that has a built-in microphone or FM tuner — the two essential features I need for work — I finally broke down and purchased the Creative Zen player (www.creative.com). It was about $99 on sale at Future Shop for the model with 4 GB of storage (you can get up to 32 GB), but it’s easily expandable with a built-in memory card slot. You can also plays movies on its beautiful 2.5-inch screen, as well as pretty much any kind of music format using your own equalizer settings. There is also a photo archive feature which I probably won’t use much, although it’s not a bad way to preview photos from my digital camera or show off the latest shots of my daughter. A few extras, like the day planner, won’t get much use, as it won’t sync with my current iCal calendar. But no real loss there.
So while I’m definitely good for a while in the tech department, there are still a few things I want. Whether I really need them is another story, but Christmas is just 10-and-a-half months away.
Asus Eee PC (http://eeepc.asus.com/global) — Released to rave reviews and huge sales, the Asus EEE PC is the must-own gadget of 2008. It technically falls into the category of ultra mobile PC, but is far cheaper than most other UMPCs on the market at just $430 for the 4 GB model.
Basically it’s a mini laptop, about as wide as a sheet of office paper, with a flash hard drive, seven-inch screen, Linux operating system, and a variety of other features like a built-in webcam, card reader, microphone, and stereo speakers. It has the ability to pretty much do everything you might do on an ordinary laptop, albeit on a much smaller screen.
I would love to have a device that I can easily carry around the house, take to the library, or use while I’m on a bus or plane.
There are a few drawbacks, however. The keyboard is a little on the small size for people with big hands or large fingers, and navigation isn’t perfect. Memory is also limited, if you’re looking to load up with songs and movies. A few reviewers have also reported frustration with the small display. And while it comes with a variety of free software (including games, an email client and Skype), other programs like OpenOffice have been less well received.
Still, there’s nothing in the Eee PC’s price range that comes even close to offering this level of capability. Other UMPCs cost three to four times as much, and don’t offer that much more in terms of capability or performance.
You can get one in Canada by following these links — http://ca.asus.com/wheretobuy.aspx).
Nintendo DS (www.nintendo.com/ds) or Playstation Portable (www.us.playstation.com/PSP) — While on my last vacation to Hawaii, I found myself with more than two hours to kill at the Honolulu airport, surrounded by kids with either the Nintendo DS or Playstation Portable. I wanted one. I wanted one because I hate travelling, and I hate travelling because I hate all the standing around and waiting involved. I’ve also never been able to sleep on trains, planes or buses, and you can only read so many hundreds of pages of a book before you’re ready to gouge your eyes out.
I really have no idea which portable system to buy at this point. Nintendo DS has great games, including strategy games like the re-release of Myst, an innovative two-screen control system, and the ability to network with your friends wirelessly. The battery time is also pretty good; it’s the cheapest option — just $139 at Future Shop. On the other hand, the PSP has a larger screen, better graphics, better speakers, the ability to play music, television shows and movies, and a library of over 350 games including original titles and PS One games. New operating system upgrades also let you listen to Internet radio stations and use Skype. The price is not so far from the Nintendo at $169, or $199 with a bundled game.
The PS3 (www.us.playstation.com/PS3) — I know, I’ve already got an Xbox 360 but a guy can dream, can’t he? Besides, with Blu Ray the winner of the high definition format wars it’s not a bad deal to get the PS3 for the Blu Ray player alone. You can also use it to watch television, surf the web, play games, and do a few other things that the Xbox 360 can’t quite manage. This is definitely not something I’m planning to buy right away, but as the price keeps coming down it’s getting harder to say no.
Other items on the wish list include the Logitech Harmony universal remote (www.logitech.com), and the Garmin Colorado GPS (www.garmin.com).