Here at this link is the 2011 version of our technology holiday gift guide, Cool Yule Tools. Once again I think we've outdone ourselves. We've got somewhere between 150 and 170 reviews of different products for the technology and gadget-lover on your holiday gift list. Or you might just like to peruse the pages and online reviews yourself if you are looking for ideas to make your own wish list.
MORE SEASONAL FUN: Geekiest holiday cards
Since all of my energy goes into producing the guide, the column this week will not present any reviews, but rather my "Lessons Learned" from preparing the guide and other trends I've noticed. Here goes:
Why Indiana Jones? Some may wonder what Indiana Jones has to do with the holidays and gift giving. To be honest, I don't know either. But in looking at the products we tested for the guide, we went beyond the obvious choices. So many other magazines and websites look for the popular items -- if you're looking for a comparison of smartphones or tablets or 25 different digital cameras, this isn't the guide for you (I'm sure PC World does a great job of giving those reviews). I wanted to showcase the "hidden gems," the "tech treasures" that you may not have heard about or read about or seen dozens of times. Hey, I love the iPad 2, but I don't think you need to see yet another review of it.
So in thinking about "gems" and "treasures" and "digging deeper," I thought of Indiana Jones, and coincidentally this year is the 30th anniversary of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." I suppose I could have chosen paleontologist instead of archeologist -- maybe in 2013 I'll do a "Jurassic Park"-themed guide (the 20th anniversary of that film).
Tablets are hot: I know, tell you something you don't know. Last year the iPad hit the market, but we didn't see a whole lot of accessories geared toward it. This year, we have a whole category of different iPad accessories, including speaker docks, cases, viewing stands, keyboards, etc. When you get a pitch for a fake paintbrush that can help you paint pictures better on your iPad (the Nomadbrush), you know there's a brand new market category out there.
Pre-built trumps build-it-yourself: Maybe this is a generational thing (I'm Gen X), but if offered two products, one that's pre-built versus one that I have to construct, I'm going with the pre-built one. Such was the case with the iCade from ThinkGeek. The iCade is an arcade cabinet that you can attach your iPad to and reproduce the feeling of playing video games from the '80s. Only issue? You have to build it yourself. Then along came the Atari Arcade from Discovery Games, already pre-built with a joystick and buttons and everything else. Sure, the iCade looks better, but it was a lot easier to test the Atari Arcade product.
Final thoughts: Enjoy the guide, and please go online and read the longer write-ups: A lot of hard work goes into producing the guide each year, and I couldn't do it without the awesome assistance of my "Cool Yule Elves." See you next year!
Shaw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @shawkeith.
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