Gifts you should have given - 2008
Even though I'm late (as usual), here are a few gifts to consider for that special someone (who could be you!).
Xbox 360 - I've had my Xbox 360 Elite for a year (this version includes an HDMI connector for HD TVs), and it still surprises me every day. The thing you need to realize about this system is it's much, much more than a game system. With an Xbox 360 you can:
- Play Netflix "instant" movies from the Xbox interface with a "Gold membership" (about $50 per year) - Now the Xbox hooks up automatically to your Netflix "instant" queue. The quality is good, including HD versions of many movies and TV shows.
- Rent movies right from your Xbox -- including HD versions.
- Buy and play TV shows.
- Turn the Xbox into a Windows Media Center, where you can access your videos and pictures from your PC.
- Use Xbox Live to play against other Xbox players across the web (requires an Xbox Gold membership).
- Future feature: Play Blu-ray movies. While rumors of an Xbox 360 Blu-ray drive have been rampant since the demise of HD-DVD, it appears this will soon be a reality. If this report is true, you should be able to buy an external Blu-ray drive for around $150, which is much less than most of the Blu-ray players out there.
Netflix - Rent movies from the Netflix website, and they arrive by envelope in your mailbox in about 2-3 days. But the real selling point with this service is the ability to stream movies on your computer on demand. In addition, as mentioned in my Xbox 360 recommendation, Netflix instant movies also play in the Xbox interface (requires an Xbox "Gold" membership) as well as many other Netflix enabled players.
Zune - While Apple iPod lovers will diss the Zune, there are many reasons why you should consider buying one of these devices:
- The Zune Pass subscription music service allows you to download all the music you want. Why buy CDs when you can download and listen to everything you want for around $15.00 per month? Plus, you can use one Zune Pass with three Zune devices and three computers. Finally, you get to keep 10 songs per month with this subscription. What a deal.
- Wireless sync - Set up your Zune to sync with a host computer, and all you need to do is turn on your Zune and it syncs automatically. This is especially great for Podcast subscriptions.
- Audiobook support - Fire up that Audible account and start listening to books on your commute.
- Video store - Buy and download TV shows and other available videos. These will also play through a Windows Media Center.
- Podcasts - This has become one of my favorite features, as it's like a TiVo for radio. The NPR shows are especially great.
- Games - While the games are a little difficult to play on the Zune, this is a nice feature to have for those times you're stuck in traffic or if the kids need something to do on a long drive.
- Much improved Zune 3.0 software and solid Zune device hardware.
Logitech Harmony One Universal Remote - I've had several Logitech universal remotes, and this one seems to be the best so far. The touch screen is easy to use, and the design is much more ergonomic than any of the others I've used.
R2-D2 Fish Tank - I saw this at the local Petco with my kids, and they wanted one right away.
Star Trek Phaser II - I just bought one of these, and while it's no Master Replicas Lightsaber, it's a nice replica of my favorite Star Trek prop. Plus, the Phaser I (also known as a "hand phaser") detaches from the Phaser II body. I just noticed that this is "out of stock," and it probably will be for a while. If you see one of these available to buy, don't hesitate.
Bose Companion 2 multimedia speaker system - Want some great stereo speakers for your home computer? These sound great, and there's no subwoofer needed to produce an amazing range of sound.
Bubble Calendar - Know someone who likes to pop bubble wrap? Get them one of these.
Bacon Salt - Over Thanksgiving this year, my brother-in-law Brian and I were talking obsessively about how great this product sounded. If I don't get some for Christmas, I'm ordering a package myself!
PowerSquid Surge 3000 Surge Protector, Black - This looks a little weird, but the idea is simple: Flexible outlets can handle more transformers than the usual powerstrips.