Hot Stuff for Summer 2010
It's nearly summer: Time to start singing that piña colada song, slip on your sandals and figure out how many vacation days you have left this year.
These 10 gadgets and gizmos will help you enjoy the sun and step away from the computer for a much-needed respite. They're particularly well suited to IT gurus who appreciate a few high-tech features on their summer gear.
First: Shots from the surf.
Kodak Playsport Waterproof Digital Camera
You can deep-dive about 10 feet underwater with this light, ruggedized, waterproof digital camera. The Kodak Playsport waterproof digital camera's 16:9 aspect-ratio antiglare 2-in. screen helps you snap quick 5-megapixel HD photos and record 1080p video at 30 frames per second onto a removable SD card (up to 32GB capacity). An HDMI port lets you connect the $150 cam to your HDTV at home.
The really impressive feature? The electronic image stabilization on the Playsport actually works, so you can snap pics from the back of a speedboat and they'll still turn out. The Playsport also lets you easily upload shots to an online portal.
Next: Geocaching for everyone.
Apisphere Geomate.jr Handheld GPS Geocacher
Ideal for the kids but fun for techies of all ages, Apisphere's $70 Apisphere Geomate.jr helps you find geocaches -- cleverly hidden treasure containers scattered all over the globe. Most geocaches contain a log book and swappable trinkets or toys, but a few have coins and other loot. Players use GPS devices to find geocaches, getting exercise and enjoying the scenery along the way.
Geomate.jr comes preloaded with 250,000 geocache coordinates across the U.S. The 1 lb. device doesn't add any advanced GPS features to make treasure hunting too complex -- just a monochrome screen, directions to the next geocache and info about each cache, such as difficulty level and terrain to expect on the way.
Next: A solar-powered watch
Casio PAW5000-1 Pathfinder Watch
This rugged, $450 timepiece has an old-school analog display that hides its high-tech underpinnings. Press a dedicated button on the watch, and the second hand becomes a compass needle to help you find your way. Since the watch syncs with atomic time stations in the U.S. and several other countries, you'll never need to set the time zone for the Casio PAW5000-1 Pathfinder.
The Pathfinder never needs to be recharged; its built-in solar sensor charges it in either sunlight or indoor lighting. There's a barometer, an altimeter and a button that shines an ambient white light that looks like a halogen lamp.
Sony W-Series Walkman MP3 Player
This water-resistant Sony W-Series MP3 player keeps your hands free by hiding all its components in the earphones, which are connected by a cord that wraps behind your neck. The whole thing weighs just 1.6 oz. and can withstand light water sprays, so it's perfect for workouts or trips to the beach -- as long as you don't actually plunge under the waves.
The $60 player has jog-dial controls for selecting a playlist and controlling volume, lasts about 11 hours on a charge and holds 1.68GB of music.
Nike Free Run+ Running Shoes
Nike's lightweight Free line of running shoes simulates what it's like to run barefoot, but with extra protection against shells on the beach or divots on a country road. According to Nike, the company's own research conducted at the University of Cologne showed that the Free shoes reduce stress on the base of the runner's toes by 15% to 20%, help reduce injuries and improve muscle tone.
The newest model in the Free line, the $85 Nike Free Run+, is slightly more cushioned and flexible than earlier Frees. Available for both women and men, it includes a Nike+ sensor, which wirelessly transmits to an Apple iPhone 3GS or iPod Touch so you can play songs that match your run, track your distance and workout averages, and see calorie-burning stats.
Next: A leg up on the links
Garmin Approach G3 GPS-enabled Golf Handheld
The Garmin Approach G3 is a major boon for golfers -- a GPS device that's preloaded with maps for 12,000 courses all over the U.S. You can check the exact distance to the next hole or view accurate tree-line renderings in real time. The device also keeps score and displays stats such as your average drive distance.
The $350 G3, with a 2.6-in. screen and weighing just over 5 oz., is a bit more portable than Garmin's original G5 model and lasts about 15 hours on a charge.
Next: Pro-level pics
Nikon D3S Digital SLR Camera
For serious shutterbugs who don't mind plunking down $5,200 for a top-of-the-line product, the Nikon D3S, a 12-megapixel digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera adds some interesting perks. For capturing sports action or kids running across the lawn, you can shoot nine frames per second when you hold down the shutter. In low-light settings (say, a dimly lit cave), you can crank up the ISO setting to 12,800.
There's a 51-point autofocus that helps you focus on one specific item in your field of view. You can also record 720p high-definition video at 24 frames per second, even in that low-light cave.
Brando Tiny USB Rechargeable RC Helicopter
Remote-control toys are great for a lazy afternoon in the backyard. But RC airplanes are fun for about five minutes -- right up until they hit your neighbor's fence.
This $40 RC Brando RC Helicopter, on the other hand, uses an onboard gyroscope to keep the toy level and flying straight even if you're not a seasoned RC pilot. Adjustable trim controls help you make precise movements, including up and down, left and right, and forward and back.
The heli uses a rechargeable lithium battery -- you can charge it from your computer via USB. As a bit of insurance in case you attempt some crazy stunts indoors or out, the helicopter is made of a lightweight metal that proved durable in my tests.
Next: Music for safe cycling
Tunebug Shake Helmet Speaker
This innovative 2.4 oz. gizmo, the Tunebug Shake helmet speaker, uses NXT's SurfaceSound technology to turn a bike or skateboard helmet into a speaker. Just stick it onto your helmet with one of the included mounts, connect it to your music player via Bluetooth or the 3.5mm jack, and head on out.
That way, you can focus on your summer ride instead of trying to avoid wrapping earbud cords around your handlebars. Using the $120 device is also a little safer than wearing headphones, because you can still hear background noises.
There's a touch-sensitive on/off control and buttons for adjusting volume. It's also water-resistant and made of a durable rubber. The Shake lasts about five hours on a charge.
Next: The techie's getaway vehicle.
2011 Volvo C30
OK, a car isn't exactly an impulse buy, and maybe it's stretching a point to call it a gadget. What's more, this car is not the most technically advanced vehicle on the road -- you'll pay $80,000 or more for that privilege. However, the Volvo C30 offers a nice array of tech features in a slick and sporty design for summer, and with a starting price of $24,600, it's much easier on the wallet than its high-end competitors.
The C30 is outfitted with niceties such as blind-spot detection, which warns you about approaching cars using sensors that snap 30 pics per second; a powerful 650-watt stereo system; and funky gas-discharge headlights that track around a curve as you drive. It also offers more-standard tech features, including a flip-up navigation screen, fog lights on the front and rear (and even on the side mirrors), a tire-pressure monitoring system, HD radio and a Bluetooth hands-free system for your phone.
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