It's a wrap
June is for weddings, graduations, Father's Day, and (not least) our gadget expert's guide to the best new gear.
(FORTUNE Magazine) - Podblasting
Gadgets; $300 or less
Have a ball
TaylorMade's Rossa Monza Corza putter ($180) will make sinking Dad's 12 personalized Titleist Pro V1x golf balls (about $45) a cinch. www.taylormadegolf.com www.titleist.com
Helio offers a phone service designed for hip grads, with cutting-edge phones like the Hero ($275 plus service fees). www.helio.com
New BMW models come with an improved optional dashboard interface ($130) for Apple iPods, putting Dad in the driver's seat for choosing his favorite road music. It makes the BMW Z4 roadster ($42,500 and up) the ultimate iPod accessory. www.bmwusa.com
Fat wallets are good until they become a pain in the, uh, sacrum. Beza's Geneva Money Clamp ($29) solves the problem. www.beza.biz/moneyclamp/
For your littlest grads, Nintendo (Research)'s new DS Lite ($130) is the much-improved update on the company's innovative DS (dual-screen) handheld game device. The DS Lite is a third smaller and lighter--it can hide under a 3-by-5 index card--yet the twin screens (the lower one a touchscreen) are brighter than ever and just as large. Although the game graphics aren't as sharp or colorful as they are on full-sized consoles or even Sony (Research)'s more expensive PSP portable, the touchscreen adds an interesting dimension to game play. Besides, it's backward-compatible with hundreds of favorite Game Boy Advance titles, and the battery is good for a five-hour road trip. Thumbs up! www.nintendo.com
Gadgets; $500 or less
With the new SlingPlayer Mobile software ($30), owners of a Slingbox ($250) can view TV on their Windows-based smartphones. www.slingmedia.com
Logitech's Harmony 890 remote ($400) is the couch potato's ultimate weapon. Simple to use and very smart, it will blast through media cabinet doors. www.logitech.com
Read it and beep
Sony's new Reader electronic book--in stores this summer--is the perfect gift for unemployed English majors (about $399). www.sonystyle.com
Stick it in your ear
Shure's E500 Sound Isolating Earphones ($499) fit in the ear canal and block out airplane noise and crying babies, delivering pure music to the brain. www.shure.com
Swissbit's latest Swiss Army Knife, the s.beat (about $320), includes a two-gigabyte MP3 player. www.swissbit-shop.com
Our favorite smartphone just got better. Palm' (Research)s Treo 700p (available now fromSprint (Research) and Verizon (Research), and eventually from other carriers) delivers voice calling, e-mail, instant messaging, Internet browsing, calendar, contact information, and literally hundreds of other mobile applications in a streamlined handset that runs Palm's elegant mobile operating system. (Its corporate cousin, the 700w, introduced earlier this year, is based on the clunkier mobile version of Microsoft Windows.)
The 700p includes support for EV-DO, the fastest cellular data service for mobile devices in North America. If your graduate doesn't live in an area with EV-DO service, data transfers will occur at slower CDMA 1X speeds. The 700p also offers built-in dial-up networking, which allows the phone to act as a wireless, high-speed laptop modem for, say, checking e-mail while waiting for the plane to take off or filing reports from the park bench.
Who needs Wi-Fi? Other happy improvements include a bright display, a voice recorder, a music player, a better digital camera, and more memory. Use the phone's built-in calculator to figure out the price: Sprint and Verizon charge $550 or $400 depending on the length of the service contract, plus monthly voice and data fees. www.sprint.com, www.verizon.com
Gadgets; $2,000 or less
Avoiding memory loss
Even if Dad forgets to back up his Windows PC data, the Seagate Mirra M-400 Personal Server will do it for him automatically, up to 400 gigs. And he can access his files from any Internet-connected PC. $500, www.mirra.com
Shoots and scores
Nikon's D200 digital camera ($1,700, body only) sets a new standard for advanced amateur or budget-minded professional photographers with its 10.2-megapixel imager and myriad shooting controls. Add a versatile 18-200mm zoom Nikkor lens for $800 more. www.nikon.com
Follows directions well
An improved display screen and integrated speakerphone are just two reasons we'd be lost without Garmin's Street Pilot C550 GPS/MP3 player. $800, www.garmin.com
The big picture
Okay, it's official: Current DVDs are obsolete. Toshiba (Research)'s HD-XA1 HD-DVD player ($800) is the first high-definition, next-generation DVD player to hit the stores (along with its slightly less fancy little brother, the HD-A1, $500), although players based on the rival Blu-ray high-definition DVD format are not far behind.
The selection of prerecorded HD movies based on Toshiba's HD-DVD format is limited for now, but initial titles like The Last Samurai and Unforgiven are dazzling enough in terms of picture and sound quality to guarantee that the shift to high-definition DVD is inevitable. Don't worry: Both the HD-XA1 and HD-A1 are backward-compatible with standard DVD discs. On second thought, worry:
The jury is still out on which rival format will prevail - Dad will remember VHS vs. Betamax - and while Toshiba's HD-DVD has a headstart, the format that delivers the most quality titles the soonest will ultimately win. If Dad already has an HDTV set, the Toshiba HD-XA1 will be its new best friend. www.toshiba.com
Gadgets $5,000 or less
HD to go
Business trips are more fun with high-definition movies to pass the time. Toshiba's Qosmio G35-AV650 Windows laptop has an HD-DVD drive. $3,000 and up, www.toshiba.com
Our favorite Windows-based multimedia desktop computer, the Sony VAIO RC72 comes with a Blu-ray Disc drive that writes as well as plays HD discs. $3,400, www.sonystyle.com
The dark side
Apple has replaced its superb iBook consumer portable Macintosh with a new line of Intel-based MacBooks that run either the iTunes-generation's Mac OS X operating system or Dad's Microsoft Windows, and in doing so it makes applesauce of the myth that Apple computers cost more than comparable Windows machines.
There are three basic MacBook configurations, starting at $1,099, two of them in traditional "iPod white" cases that are little more than an inch thick. Our favorite model, however, is the new, all-black MacBook ($1,499 and up), which no one will ever mistake for the snow-white iBooks used in elementary schools.
It has a two-gigahertz Intel Core Duo processor, a 13.3-inch glossy widescreen display, a SuperDrive that reads and writes DVD and CD discs, an 80-gigabyte hard drive, 512 megabytes of system memory, a built-in video camera, wireless Airport and Bluetooth networking, and a complete suite of Apple software, including iTunes, Spotlight, and video iChat. The new screen technology delivers deeper blacks for viewing movies or photos. www.apple.com