Gifts you should have given - 2011 edition
Alright, I started writing up my 2010 list in January but never posted it. So, for the first time in history I'm getting this out before Christmas.
X-mini II Capsule Speaker - Having bought a lot of small speakers to hook up to portable devices, I can say that they usually don't live up to expectations. Not so with the X-mini II Capsule Speaker. Twist the speaker and pop it open, kind of like an accordion. Plug it in to your portable device and you won't believe the sound coming out of this thing. Besides the awesome sound, you can:
- Hook up two X-minis for stereo sound
- Charge up the X-mini via USB (it doesn't have a battery you can replace)
Bose AE2 Headphones - I've used a lot of noise canceling headphones over the years, but I wanted to test out some non-noise canceling headphones to see how they compared. I went for Bose AE2, which weren't cheap at around $135. (Check out the $1500 Sennheiser HD800 if you want expensive.)
What I can say is the Bose AE2s don't disappoint. What impressed me:
- The sound was some of the best I've ever heard from over-the-ear headphones
- I could wear them for hours and they never hurt my ears -- definitely the most comfortable headphones I've ever worn.
- Many of the components are replaceable, like the cord and the headphone cushions
Logitech Harmony One Universal Remote with Color Touchscreen - I've had this remote for about three years, and it's still working great. If you're looking for a universal remote to control your TV, this is definitely the one. What's great is if you buy any new components, you just set them up through the Logitech software.
Kindle Keyboard - I was skeptical about the Kindle until the latest generation came out -- and the price was reduced to around $140. Here's what you need to understand if you're wondering about what's so great about a Kindle:
- It's for reading. Backlit, color screens like those in laptops and the iPad can cause eyestrain. The Kindle uses "E Ink" technology that's the closest thing I've ever seen to paper. It's so close, when I received my Kindle I thought there was a clear sticker on the screen that I needed to pull off.
- Read a sample before you buy. You can send a sample to your Kindle. If you like it, you can buy it right from the Kindle.
- You can store up to 3,500 books.
And while you're at it, pick up Kindle Lighted Cover (Fits Kindle Keyboard), which has a great reading light on it.
Kindle Fire - If you're looking for a $199 color tablet, this is an amazing deal. I bought one for my wife, who loves it. For the people out there comparing the Fire to the iPad, this isn't an apples to apples comparison (so to speak). The Fire is an Amazon content delivery system. If you do a lot of shopping on Amazon, this is a great device. I've used it for:
- Reading books
- Playing games
- Reading Facebook and Twitter
- Shopping on Amazon
- Reading the New York Times
Sodastream Home Soda Machine - Got this last Christmas and use it all the time. This is a pretty economical device (each bottle of syrup makes about 12 liters or 33 cans of soda), and Sodastream has lots of great flavors. My favorites are:
You can get the SodaStream Sodamix Variety 12-Pack to try out a bunch of them.
Xbox 360 250GB Holiday Value Bundle - The Xbox 360 has become the entertainment hub in our living room. With this one device, you can:
- Play games, including ones you can download from the Marketplace, either solo or with your friends on Live.
- Watch HD video (through many different video services)
- Watch HD Netflix video (with a Gold account)
- Stream music
- Connect the Xbox with your PC's media
- Use Apps like Facebook and Twitter (best used with a keypad attachment for the Xbox controller).
Xbox recently just launched a bunch of new content "channels", including:
- Verizon FiOS
- UFC videos
The only downside to the Xbox 360 is that it can't play Blu-ray movies (like the Sony PlayStation).
Tovolo Perfect Cube Red Silicone Ice Cube Trays, Set of 2 - There's nothing better than perfect ice cubes! After a year of using these, these work great.
Wabash Valley Farms Whirley-Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper - I'm a popcorn connoisseur. I've had every kind of popper, from the Stir Crazy to air poppers. The Whirley-Pop is the best popcorn popper I've ever used. Here's why:
- It uses a manual hand crank to stir the popcorn, so you the popcorn is less likely to burn -- and you pop more of the kernels.
- The vents on top of the popper let the steam escape, which makes for perfect popcorn.
- The popper heats up quickly and only takes about 3 minutes to pop 6 quarts of popcorn.