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To commence seeing, hearing, and playing your way to one truly spectacular gadget-induced high, please turn the page.

Things You Will Learn About
» Gadgets, lots and lots of gadgets
» Vinyls (they’re making a comeback -- again)
1080p, Geotagged, Video-upconverting, Skype, Stylus

Total Number of
 Gadgets included: 19

 

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1. SLING MEDIA SLINGBOX PRO-HD, $300
Road warriors like me already swear by the Slingbox’s effortless ability to remotely transmit shows from TV/cable box to laptop and cell phone. Thankfully for special-effects buffs, this new model offers (sweeeet) high-def wide-screen video streaming throughout the home. www.slingmedia.com

2. HP TOUCHSMART IQ506 PC, $1,499
Talk about going hands-on with tomorrow’s technology -- surfing the web, leaving notes for family members, and browsing documents is as easy as swiping a finger across this all-in-one PC’s dazzling 22-inch touch screen. It’s no powerhouse, but its ergonomic interface and sleek, futuristic design (place it in the kitchen for added impact) can’t help but dazzle. www.hp.com

3. I-LUV I1255, $150
Admit it: Cramming an iPod full of tunes and flicks rules. But sampling them via headache-inducing earphones and a pint-size screen? Not so much. Enter this combo multimedia/DVD player that outputs right to your TV or stereo for instant living-room enjoyment. www.i-luv.com

4. SAMSUNG LN52A650, $2,499
Redecorating your man cave? Samsung’s stylish, red-accented 52-inch, 1080p* LCD HDTV makes an immediate impression, packing killer picture quality, vivid color, and an eye-pleasing decor. Displayable weather updates, stock quotes, and news headlines even help cellar dwellers like yours truly pretend they’ve actually left the basement on occasion. www.samsung.com

5. AIPTEK ACTION HD, $199
This ultra-affordable high-def camcorder (1080p) with SD card expandability lets you view films on its 2.4-inch swivel LCD screen (or on, say, a Samsung HDTV) before submitting your favorite shorts (Man Bites Dog -- take two!) for Sundance consideration. Hey, you never know. www.aiptek.com

 High-Dollar Cameras
With digital photography booming, it’s high time you gave your darkroom a twenty-first-century upgrade. Some of my favorites include Casio’s EXILIM Pro EX-F1 ($1,000), which enables hyper-fast burst shots, and the also-speedy Canon EOS Rebel XSi (camera body, $800; with lens, $900), boasting gorgeous 12.2 MP image caliber. The superluxe dual-format JVC GZ-HD40 digital camcorder ($1,300) stores up to 50 hours of high-def footage on its 120 GB drive, so it’s perfect for those trips when you want to record everything the kiddos are doing. And road warriors shouldn’t forget to pack Eye-Fi’s Explore ($129), a 2 GB memory card that automatically uploads geotagged* photos to your Mac or PC, or to online picture-sharing sites via WiFi hot spots.


[DEF•I•NI•TIONS] 1080p: 1080 refers to a screen resolution of 1,920 horizontal pixels by 1,080 vertical pixels; p stands for progressive scanning, where the horizontal lines are scanned one after another (hence, progressively), 30 times a second, ensuring a smoother picture for the television viewer (i.e., you). Total pixels in all? 2,073,600. » Geotagged: The term given to various media -- including but not limited to pictures, websites, videos, and RSS feeds -- coded with geographical identification data (longitude and latitude coordinates, place names, and altitude), making it easier to find location-specific information online. Data can be entered manually, or, if you use the nifty Eye-Fi Explore memory card, photos are automatically geotagged. »

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1. AERIELLE I2I STREAM TWO PACK, $120
Set yourself free by wirelessly beaming dance-floor-friendly tunes or epic soliloquies from your computer, cell phone, TV, or MP3 player to speakers or headphones via these aural transceivers. Multiple users can share and beam alike to one another as well. Just make sure you’re all on the same wavelength -- Marilyn Manson might not be appreciated. www.i2igear.com

2. SANDISK SANSA FUZE, $80 (2 GB), $100 (4 GB), $130 (8 GB)
Next time your teenager demands you buy him or her an iPod Touch, you can either explain how you had a part-time job at age six or consider this budget-friendly alternative. Though it’s pricier than the iPod Shuffle, it also rocks harder, with its 1.9-inch color video-ready screen, daylong battery life, and subscription-service compatibility. www.sandisk.com

3. SCANDYNA POD SPEAKERS, $199 TO $849
Which to choose: style or volume? Thankfully, these funky speakers split the difference. From the pair shaped like teardrops to the stacked spherical Minipod set, when matched up with the semicircular amp ($699), they offer performance -- and visual charm -- that’s otherworldly. www.podspeakers.com

4. DIGIFI/KLEER OPERA, $98
These comfortable wireless earbuds (complete with iPod adapter) stream audibly crystal clear music for up to 10 hours straight. As many as four can simultaneously tune in to audio streams for mandatory “Free Bird” duets. www.digifi.kr

5. POLK AUDIO SURROUNDBAR 360 DVD THEATER, $1,200
This clutter-busting home-theater system combines a 360-degree surround-sound single loudspeaker with a CD/DVD player, an amplifier, an AM/FM radio, and a video-upconverting* console. Translation: It’s truly remarkable, and your wife will certainly approve. www.polkaudio.com

Click and Save
Despite ever-shrinking production costs, shopping for electronics remains an expensive hobby. No sense cutting back to biweekly rations yet, though; huge online savings are often just a click away. Before purchasing, scan search engines like Shopping.com or PriceGrabber.com, which compare prices from dozens of vendors. Coupon sites such as CurrentCodes.com, CouponCabin.com, and RetailMeNot.com feature promotional codes for massive discounts. Savvy shoppers congregate at forums such as BensBargains.net, FatWallet.com, and GottaDeal.com to share hot tips and sneak peeks at retailers’ circulars. The only downside? Seeing how crestfallen your neighbors will be when you explain how you saved $500 on your new HDTV with so little effort.

[FACTS AND FIGURES] Score a victory for vinyl. Despite digital music’s dominating the headlines, the old format -- first introduced in 1930 and then popularized during the 1960s -- is enjoying a surprise comeback. It’s preferred among audiophiles who enjoy the medium’s lush sound and tactile user experience, and manufacturers’ shipments of LPs actually grew 36% last year, while CD shipments dropped 17.5%. And with artists like R.E.M. and Elvis Costello issuing new releases on vinyl, LP purchases are expected to reach nearly 1.6 million in 2008 alone. »
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1. EPIC ACTION SPORTS VIDEO BY STEALTH CAM, $159 TO $199
Call it the extreme-sports addict’s (or voyeur’s) dream. This minuscule, lightweight camcorder easily clips onto helmets and handlebars, letting thrill seekers record 200 minutes of breathless descents or spectacular burnouts for YouTube posterity. Inside tip: What does not kill you makes you cooler. www.epicstealthcam.com

2. NOKIA N96, PRICE TO BE DETERMINED
Being a multimedia junkie, I give high scores to this sleek slider phone. It lets you speedily browse online as well as take 16 GB of tunes, films, or snapshots to go (there’s a built-in five-megapixel camera). And its options to download catchy N-Gage games -- well, let’s just say they’ll prove handy next time you’re faced with a long wait. www.nseries.com

3. VOODOO ENVY, $2,099
MacBook Air is, like, so last month. Today’s digerati are packing this even slimmer (only 0.7 inch thick) lightweight notebook, which includes a wireless access point and touts lightning-fast boot-up options for rapid Internet surfing and Skype* calls. Whip it out and watch as onlookers drool with, yep, envy. www.voodoopc.com

4. GUITAR HERO: ON TOUR, $50
Using a custom pick stylus* and finger-tapping fret-button peripheral, strum the Nintendo DS’s touch screen to play hits like Smash Mouth’s “All Star” and Skid Row’s “Youth Gone Wild.” Take it from me: Pretending it’s a miniature Stratocaster won’t make you look less ridiculous. www.guitarhero.com

5. MEDIASTREET EM-SOL2GIG, $169
It’s not easy being green, unless you’re using this travel-friendly, solar-powered MP3, video, eBook, and game player, which is ideal for starting impromptu sing-alongs and enjoying Tetris while you’re outside getting a tan. www.mediastreet.com

On the Download
Hey, joystick jocks: Tired of paying $60 for overblown epics and cookie-cutter sequels, e.g. Halo 367? Enjoy a breath of fresh air (and instant time/cash savings) with gaming’s hottest trend: digital distribution.Courtesy of online storefronts like Sony’s PlayStation Network, Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade, and Nintendo’s Wii Shop Channel, just $5 to $20 buys first-run originals (N+, Echochrome) or NES/SNES/ Genesis/TurboGrafx-16/ arcade classics (Metroid, F-Zero, Castlevania) in seconds. Indie offerings, major-label debuts, and wallet-friendly expansions are also available. The software downloads straight to PS3, Wii, or Xbox 360 via broadband connection and is yours to enjoy without leaving the couch (hallelujah!).
 

[DEF•I•NI•TIONS] Video-upconverting: Taking a low-resolution video (like standard definition) and increasing the resolution to a high-resolution video (as in high definition). If only upconverting one’s life were so easy. » Skype: A voice-over- Internet-protocol (VoIP) service that allows users to make phone calls over the Internet. On Voodoo’s Envy, you can use Skype without launching Windows Vista; it works independently. Oh, and Skype is owned by eBay. Who knew? » Stylus: A pointed instrument used to make markings in wax, on parchment paper, and on tablets of various materials. However, in this instance, it’s a guitar pick with a point on the end.