Dads, Grads and Summer Fun Tech Gift Guide 2008
June 2008, written by Keith Benicek for the Tech Lab staff

June is the second best season for the Tech market after Christmas. Why? Because it’s the beginning of summer, it has Fathers Day, and the day that your technology hunger kid graduates is in June; break out the checkbook folks. This year Fathers Day is June 15th and graduations run from the very beginning of the month until late in the month.

With so many new gadgets on the market that easily appeal to any dad and kids of both sexes graduating from Jr. High to College, we thought that a little help was in order giving you some ideas for a great tech gift which we’re soundly tested with our Tech Lab - Review Panel. Short of that new BMW that your daughter wants, the Honda CBR motorcycles your son wants, or the 30 foot fishing boat your dad wants, we think we can help you with some modest to moderately price tech gifts.

Cell phones - have become a necessity these days, nearly everyone needs one or wants one usually with all the very neat features that make it more than just a mobile phone. While there really isn’t that much appreciable difference
between the companies that offer the service and the prices they charge, the phones themselves are greatly different.

For those that need to have a phone for business purposes, the new Palm Centro™ Smartphone is a scene stealer, even topping the new Blackberry and making the Apple iPhone look pretty pathetic in comparison.

Starting at a price of $99 with a contract with Sprint or AT&T, it’s hard to pass up. You can IM Chat, Text, Browse and get Maps and Directions; of course it has the Palm PIM, it takes Pictures / Video and plays Songs and Video, and a lot more features. Best of all its small, not a brick like the iPhone. Prepare to spend a few days reading and learning all that the Palm Centro can do. Perfect for Dad and your grads. Palm Centro™ Smartphone

Accessories – with many states passing new hands free Cell Phone use laws, if you don’t already have a Bluetooth based hands free phone device, then here is a great gift idea. Bluetooth “Headsets” can be big, heavy, dorky looking and many have horrible reputations for poor sound quality and short battery life.

I needed to buy my wife a very lightweight and stylish headset for her new Motorola Z3 phone (great phone by the way). I knew she would love this one for sure for two reasons.
The Motorola Bluetooth Headset H500™ offers up to 8 hours of talk time or 200 hours of standby time from a single full charge, and comes with a travel charger (she never shuts up). Two, it was ultra-light and I found her a Motorola Headset H500 in Pink – how cool she said. They are available in a few colors, including black, red and teal. Sound quality is exceptional on both ends of the conversations, which is also important. List price is $49.99, but had them for $24.95
A very cool alternative for the car, office or kids dormitory room is the Parrot MINIKIT™ Bluetooth hands free device, which clips to your visor or lays flat on your desktop. It’s about the size of a box of playing cards, has an excellent built-in speaker and microphone and rechargeable battery, which will deliver about 10 hours of talk time or
10 days in standby mode. The Parrot MINIKIT has it’s own onboard processor and memory for programming one word voice commands, and you can send your contact list from your cell phone via the Bluetooth connection.





If you speak other than English (or just want to pretend to be a foreign tourist), the Parrot MINIKIT can be set to work with Spanish, German, French and more, via the Menu function. The volume knob on the front of the Parrot MINIKIT accesses the built-in programming setup menu. It can be a little confusing, so have the house geek (son, daughter or dad … hey, could be mom) help with the programming as the manual and menu operation is not the easiest to understand. click image for more
Never the less, the Parrot MINIKIT gets our full endorsement as a very cool tech gift buy. Retail price is $89.95, but we found them online at Amazon for $ $64.63 with free shipping. Want more details on the Parrott MINIKIT? Watch for our full review of the MINIKIT later in the month.

MP3 Players and things - Ya, ya we know that the kids will say they want an iPod, but there are better choices when it comes to versatility, battery life and little big things like wireless sharing, on and PRICE.
We like the Microsoft Zune 80GB model best, which Stores up to 20,000 songs, 25,000 pictures or 250 hours of video recorded at 128 Kps.
    The Zune has built-in 802.11b/g wireless interface to share tracks, homemade recordings, playlists and pictures with other Zune users; syncs with USB 2.0; has a built-in FM tuner with 30 station presets; supports MP3, WMA and ACC audio formats, plus it displays JPEG image formats and WMV, MPEG-4 and H.264 video formats and the rechargeable lithium-ion
battery plays up to 20 hour of music on a single charge, video for 5 hours; and, it’s a bit smaller than the iPod Classic or Video. We found the Zune 80GB everywhere, but Wal-Mart had them for just $238.54, another steal compared to the same size glossy black high-end iPud (MA450LL/A) at $599.00 street price (Apple does retail price fixing, BTW).
Okay, so say your dad or kids already have a newer iPod and a nifty new Bluetooth enabled cell phone and they love to drive that new car on long trips. Think they want to listen to their iPod while on the long drive?
You bet. Here’s the perfect car accessory – Macally BTCup dock. No it’s not an advanced Pepsi beverage can holder … it’s the perfect iPod FM Dock and Bluetooth cell phone interface. I loved a Macally FMCup I had for a couple years till a parking lot valet left my car door unlocked and someone stole it (probably the valet).

The BTCup wireless dock does a lot for you in your car and it’s easy to start using, just park it in an available cup holder and plug it into the cigarette lighter socket. All you need to do is tune the BTCup via the illuminated LCD display to an empty channel on your car FM stereo and you will be wirelessly playing your iPod through your car’s radio in minutes.

While parked in the Macally BTCup dock, it will also charge your iPod while you listen to music or podcasts. Link your Bluetooth enabled cell phone and you have a hands free phone speaker system via the built-in microphone and the speakers in your car. The Macally BTCup stops playing the iPod automatically while you make or receive calls. It also comes with an earphone with volume control, for calls when you need privacy. Once the BTCup have linked to your cell phone, it will store that information for the next use.

Instructions are not bad, although like many products made in China, you may be a little stifled and even chuckle a bit at some of the “Chin-glish” feature explanations. Never the less, the little manual
is clear enough to easily get the Macally BTCup working in just minutes. Our entire review panel liked the BTCup for its complete versatility, making it a good Dad or Grads Tech Gift idea. Retail is $119.00, but we found it at Amazon for just $71.25 and free shipping.

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