Tech And Travel Gear For Dads And Grads

June is here and that can mean only one thing. It’s time to go shopping for the latest technology and travel gear for the dads and grads in your life. Here are a few suggestions for some items that are sure to make them happy.

Geneva Model XS travel clock for Dads and GradsGeneva: Model XS Travel Alarm Clock
The Model XS travel clock from Geneva also happens to be a powerful, compact sound system. With a built in FM tuner and integrated Bluetooth technology, it can stream music, podcasts or other audio sources directly from a smartphone or tablet. The device features two tweeters and a woofer for a surprisingly big sound and its included waterproof leather case makes it an excellent travel companion. Better yet, its compact size and solid audio performance means it is also the perfect addition to any dorm room. After all, you wouldn’t want that new grad to miss any early morning classes, right? (Price: $249.95)

Sony NEX-F3 Camera
Compact interchangeable lens digital camera systems are all the rage right now, and Sony’s new NEX-F3 just might be the hottest of them all. The camera takes photos like a DSLR, isn’t much larger than a point and shoot and has the option of adding a host of different lenses to the mix. It features a 16.1 megapixel sensor, a bright, crystal clear LCD screen that rotates 180 degrees and a built-in flash. It will even shoot full HD 1080p video or capture photos at a rate of up to 5.5 fps in burst mode. Its compact size and outstanding feature set are sure to make this a popular camera on campus or on the road. (Price: $599.99 w/ 18-55mm lens)

Western Digital TV Live
Western Digital has made it extremely easy to get your favorite streaming video services onto just about any television thanks to their TV Live media player. This little black box allows you to watch Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube and so much more in the comfort of your living room. It is incredibly easy to set-up, has an intuitive interface and built-in wireless along with a good remote and it supports full 1080p HD streaming. The TV Live connects to more than 25 different Internet content providers for movies, music and games and will even stream your personal collection from a networked source. (Price: $129.99)
V-Moda Vibrato headphonesV-MODA In-Ear Headphones
V-MODA is a company that is well known for making tough, durable headphones that provide excellent audio performance across the full spectrum of sound. Their in-ear models in particular are comfortable to wear and will redefine your expectations of sound from earbuds, without putting too large of a dent in your wallet. The Remix Remote ($79) models are affordable and provide great performance, while the more expensive Vibratos ($129) amp up the bass considerably and feature a more rugged build quality. Both models include an in-line remote and mic that is compatible with the iPhone and iPad, as well as numerous silicone earplugs to ensure you get just the right fit. V-MODA even backs them with a two-year warranty.

GorillaTorch Flashlight
Whether you’re traveling or at home, a good flashlight or lamp is always a handy tool. But when that flashlight is able to stand on its own and provide light exactly where it is needed, it becomes useful on a completely different level. Created by the same company that brought us the GorillaPod, the GorillaTorch sits on a tripod of articulated legs that can be bent and shaped as needed. This allows the light to easily sit on uneven surfaces or wrap itself around pipes, branches or just about anything else that might be close at hand. As a result, the GorillaTorch can shine its light exactly where it is most needed while allowing us to keep our hands free for other purposes. (Price: $29.95)

Nokia Lumia 900 smartphoneNokia Lumia 900 Phone
The latest smartphone from Nokia is not only powerful and sophisticated, but it also happens to be beautiful. The Lumia 900 sports a stunning 4.3-inch AMOLED screen, an 8-megapixel camera and 4G LTE high-speed networking. It is also powered by Windows Phone 7, runs thousands of apps, shoots HD video and comes in three different colors – black, white and cyan. If your dad or grad is looking to stick out in field full of iOS and Android devices, the Lumia 900 can help them do it. (Price: $99.95 with contract from AT&T)

Braven 600 Portable Speaker
Weighing in at just 12 ounces, the Braven 600 portable speaker system is a great option for travelers. Not only does it wirelessly stream audio from a smartphone, tablet or computers, it also doubles as a speakerphone for hands-free calling. The device’s integrated rechargeable battery provides up to 12 hours of use while away from a power outlet and the built-in USB port allows you to charge other devices while on the go. On top of all that, the device looks great and gives off surprisingly clear and loud sound. (Price: $149.99)

Zoom Q3HD Video Camera
Compact video cameras are fun to use and great for travel, but they often lack features and can suffer from less than stellar performance. That isn’t the case with the Zoom Q3HD, however, as the diminutive device records in crystal clear 720p and 1080p HD widescreen formats. The camera is fast, easy to use and even maintains solid image quality in low light conditions. But where the Q3HD really shines is in its ability to record high quality audio. With two finely tuned mics built in and several onscreen tools to help fine tune input, there has never been a compact video camera that has offered this kind of control over audio. The result is great video and superior sound that makes sharing your travel movies better than ever. (Price: $299.99)

Lenovo Ultrabooks and Touchscreen Multimedia PCLenovo IdeaCentre A720
Every dad and grad needs a good computer and Lenovo has plenty of models to choose from. For those heading off to college the new IdeaPad U410 and U310 Ultrabooks are fantastic choices. These incredibly slim and lightweight laptops have beautiful high-def screens, plenty of memory and a battery life of up to nine hours. That makes them perfect for those long study sessions at the campus library. They’ll be available later this month starting at $749.

For something completely different, check out the new IdeaCentre A720, which features a unique 27-inch, 1080p touchscreen display. Built from the ground up to be a multimedia powerhouse, this PC comes equipped with a built-in TV tuner, integrated Dolby home theater system and a Blue-ray disc player. It also comes standard with dual hard drives (1TB hard disk and 64GB solid state), HDMI in and out and a high definition webcam for video chatting. The IdeaCentre runs $1849 and makes for a great addition to any home entertainment system.

Gerber Steady ToolGerber Steady Multi-tool
A handy multi-tool is another one of those items that is useful both while travleing and at home. The latest creation from Gerber demonstrates this very well as it not only includes the usual array of blades, screwdrivers and can openers, it also has a built-in mount for smartphones and cameras. Gerber says the tripod is rated to hold up to 340 grams, which means the device you attach has to be relatively small. Still, this is a handy option to have when it comes time to take those impromptu self-portraits while on the go. (Price: $64)

Cellphone Accessories For Our Mobile Overlords

iPhone Case from G-FormThere’s no device I love to hate as much as I hate to love my iPhone. (You read that right.) Your mileage may vary; you may not feel like both a chump and a devotee while caressing your mobile whatever. Until I attain your Zen-like state, I feel annoyed whenever I find myself buying presents for my phone, even if they are practical and make using my phone a better experience. Here’s the drill on three extras I’ve been using lately.

G-Form Extreme Grid iPhone Case
: Drop your phone one time ONLY on the bus and you’ll wish you’d shelled out for a case. It’s like Apple is intentionally propping up the case market by using that slippery exterior. I used an Otter Box on my iPhone 3, but I’ve come to prefer the weird grippy exterior of the G-Form on my iPhone 4. People keep making fun of the almost tire tread like bumpy black box I wrap my phone in, but the fact is, it stays put in my hand and has enough padding and bounce that my phone didn’t shatter into tiny expensive bits when I dropped it on the 54. There was an audible gasp from the people around me, but I just picked up my phone and went back to listening to vintage sci-fi radio theater and posting pictures to Instagram.

The case comes in black or black and yellow. I kind of wish I’d got the yellow just because it would make the phone easier to find when it’s lost in my backpack. Cost: about $40. That might seem expensive, but it’s going to cost you more than that to buy a new phone.

Mophie Juice Pack PlusMophie Juice Pack Plus: With great addiction comes the endless search for outlets and places to recharge the phone, right? You can buy yourself a lot more time with a spare battery. Mophie builds theirs into an attractive case that allows you to double the use time of your phone. I think this case/battery combo is pretty freaking great. It serves to protect your phone, and gives you all that extra use time, and it comes in a bunch of happy colors. I dropped my phone in this case, too, because apparently, that’s how I roll. The case is a little scratched up, but it still works just fine and my phone is still totally intact. It’s charged via a mini-USB cable. You leave it off until you need the extra juice, then it charges your phone while you use it. It’s great for long-haul flights, especially if, like me, you spend your airtime with audio entertainment.

The Juice Pack is pricey – it’s about $100. Here’s the truth: I like this thing and bring it everywhere.

Able Planet Clear Harmony Sound Isolation EarphonesAble Planet Clear Harmony Sound Isolation Earphones: I’ve gone through half a dozen pairs of iPhone compatible earbuds. On my last trip I lost my isolation Sennheisers. The sound was top notch, but I was on my third pair because they kept breaking (while still under warranty, thankfully). I replaced them with a really cheap pair of JVC iPhone compatible headphones, and they broke too.

I like the isolation earbuds because they don’t take up the space of headphones, but I’ve yet to find a pair that reduces external noise the way active cancelling headphones do. I like the Able Planet brand just fine; they’re far superior to the standard Apple earbuds and they stay put, but I’m not totally sold. They sound great, don’t get me wrong, and they do help with noise reduction on the plane or the bus, but that crying baby still found his way into my head while I was trying to doze on the plane. Even with the white noise app I use, ambient sound leaked in through everywhere. Able Planet makes active noise cancelling headsets too, I own a pair, and I wish I’d packed them instead. I await perfect, affordable, noise blocking earbuds.

Able Planet Earbuds run about $170. They’re fine for daily use, but if you’re really looking for noise reduction and you’re going to spend that kind of money, go with active noise cancelling instead.

Gadling gear review: V-Moda Crossfade M-80 headphones

V-Moda Crossfade M-80 headphonesIn the age of MP3 players, smartphones and iPads we now travel with more technology than ever before. Those gadgets can come in very handy when we’re trying to pass the time on a long flight or when spending hours waiting at the airport. But one piece of gear that is often an afterthought is the headphones we use. Many of us are content to simply use the stock earbuds that come with our devices, but for better sound quality and enjoyment of our music, videos and other media, it is often worth investing in a better set of headphones such as the Crossfade M-80 from V-Moda.

When purchasing a pair of headphones there are two things that are of the utmost importance to me – sound quality and comfort. In the case of the Crossfade M-80, you get both of those wrapped up in a very nice, durable package that is perfect for travel. In terms of comfort, these on-ear headphones are great for extended use, although I did have to adjust to the feel, which is very different from over-the-ear or in-ear models. The memory-foam cushioning is soft and molds itself well to our ears over multiple uses. Better yet, it is great at isolating outside noises, which comes in very handy when you want to listen to your music over the engine noise of a plane.

Similarly, the M-80 headphones offer excellent sound across a broad audio range. The two speakers are surprisingly small but still manage to pump out high quality sound that includes solid basses and great high and low end tones as well. In fact, these headphones were so good I was actually picking up new elements in music that I had listened to many times in the past. That same excellent sound also carried over to videos and games on my iPad, which confirmed the M-80′s usefulness across a range of different media types.Unlike most other headphones, V-Moda has built the Crossfade out of metal instead of plastic. The company claims that this gives them “military-level” durability and it is hard to argue with that assertion. Designers have put the M-80 through a series of tests to help ensure that they are rugged enough to take the rigors of travel and continue operating at the high level that we expect. As a result we get a product that is head and shoulders above the competition in terms of durability. Whether we’re using these headphones on our daily commute or a round-the-world adventure, that is something we can all appreciate.

V-Moda has included a few extras that help make an already high quality package even better. A specially molded hard case helps protect the headphones even further and two different, interchangeable, audio cables provide compatibility with a variety of devices. One of those cables is specifically designed for use with Apple’s iOS devices while the other is more universal and works with Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry devices. Both cables provide an inline remote and microphone as well. These additions, which some competitors would charge extra for, are impressive and maintain the same level of quality that you find in the headphones themselves.

These headphones are on the higher end of the consumer spectrum and so is their price tag. With an MSRP of $230 they certainly aren’t for everyone. But if you appreciate great sound quality and want a set of headphones that can withstand the rigors of travel then V-Moda has you covered. The Crossfade M-80′s provide all of that and more in one compact package that is sure to impress. The company even offers a full two-year warranty as well as a 50% lifetime replacement option that helps protect your investment for years to come.

If you’re in the market for a new pair of headphones, or you’re finally ready to upgrade from the cheap pack-in earbuds that came with your device, the V-Moda Crossfade M-80 may be just what you’re looking for. The sound quality is fantastic and the build quality is even better. For travelers looking to extend the enjoyment of their other gadgets, I can’t think of a better complimentary addition than a pair of these headphones.

Ten technology products that changed the way I traveled in 2011

2011 was a great year for Gadget lovers – the tech industry pushed out new products at an insane pace. As usual, a vast majority of said gadgets were borderline useless, but especially for the traveler, the year proved to be quite rewarding.

Like most years, I went through a huge amount of new gizmos, but some of them really stood their ground – and made it into my bag for more than one trip. Here are the ten products I deemed worthy of claiming they actually changed how I traveled in 2011.
Fitbit Ultra

In the early weeks of 2011, I realized this was to be the year I would take better care of myself. As any self respecting nerd would do, I did not start with “diet and exercise”, but went shopping for gadgets that would make the job easier. As the year comes to an end, one product has stuck with me through thick and thin – the Fitbit Ultra (I upgraded from the original Fitbit to the ultra).

This compact clip-on gadget measures your steps, calculates how many calories you burn and can even determine how many floors you climbed in a day. I have a goal of 10,000 steps a day, and rarely let myself end the day without hitting the goal. The $99 investment in the product has definitely paid off, and I can end the year feeling much better than I did going into it. The unit wirelessly sends your steps to its base, and the (mobile) web site lets you track food, exercise and progress.

Price $99.99
Product page: www.fitbit.com

Verizon LTE

Rarely has there been a product that has worked from day one and never let me down. Verizon’s real 4G service launched in 2010, but expanded almost everywhere I went in 2011. LTE is not the same 4G as you’ll find on some other carriers (I’m looking at you T-Mobile with your Faux-G), this is the real thing. Speeds on the road are faster than what I get on my residential 20mbit cable connection. Finally, I can sit in a hotel room and actually get some work done, instead of work on trying to get a reliable connection.

I’m hooked on LTE – I have an LTE phone, LTE hotspot, LTE tablet and backup LTE USB modem. 2012 should bring even more LTE covered cities to Verizon, and AT&T recently started their own (albeit sluggish) rollout of the service. The largest downside – LTE is not even close to being a global standard, and given how pricey international data roaming can be, it is probably for the best.

Price: Hardware:from free, service: from $40/month
Product page: www.verizonwireless.com

Samsung Galaxy Nexus

It took till the middle of the final month of 2011 to get me the Samsung Galaxy Nexus – the best phone ever made (until the next best phone ever made is announced). The Galaxy Nexus is spectacular – speedy, 4G service, gorgeous looks and the newest flavor of Android.

Sadly, as a T-Mobile user (for phone service), the only way to get one is to fork over $700 to a vendor selling the unlocked version and accept the risk of an imported version with no warranty. Alternatively, you can pick one up for Verizon (with LTE) for around $220.

Price: $220 (Verizon on 2 year agreement), $700 (Unlocked GSM/HSDPA)
Product page: www.verizonwireless.com

Motorola Xoom

Life as someone who tries to avoid Apple products was tough earlier this year – the iPad was the killer tablet to get, and Android lovers were stuck with second class options. Then in February, Google and Motorola released the Xoom – the first device outfitted with a tablet version of Android. It is by no means the best looking tablet, and with the arrival of the new Asus Transformer Prime, it isn’t even the fastest. But now I have 4G in it, it does everything I could ever ask for. Best of all, the insane launch price of $899 has come down to a much more reasonable sub $500 mark.

Price: from $499 (Wi-Fi only)
Product page: Motorola.com

Spotify

For years, Europeans were able to enjoy music service Spotify. Sure, unlike them, we had Google Music, Netflix and Hulu, but the holy grail of streaming music services remained out of our reach until earlier this year.

Spotify is in my opinion as close to perfect as you can get – a massive music selection, mobile apps with offline caching and an easy to use interface. Free versions are relatively limited, but the $9.99/month option gets all you can eat music and mobile listening.

Price: from free
Product page: www.spotify.com

Sony Vaio SE13FX laptop + slice battery

The Sony Vaio SE13FX is the exact opposite of what you’d expect from a travel friendly laptop – it is relatively large (15″) and weighs 4.4lbs – but unlike other computers, this powerhouse keeps on running for well over 14 (real) hours.

See, I learned that a laptop is just not always the best solution for using on a plane – and a small laptop is not always suitable for being productive in your hotel room. So, for this, I carry the Vaio. When I fly, I use my tablet, and when I’m at my destination, I use a computer that doesn’t make me cut corners. I never have to worry about battery life when I’m at a trade show or other event, and if I need to do some last minute processor intensive work, I don’t have to find anyone with a “real” computer. The optional slice battery on the Vaio doubles its battery life, and switchable graphics mean I can make it sip power instead of slurp it. Best of all, the Vaio comes with an insanely sharp HD display.

Price: From $999 (custom configuration)
Product page: Sonystyle.com

Keyport Slide

I hate carrying keys, but after one long summer afternoon waiting outside my house with a dead garage door opener waiting for a locksmith, I decided to never leave my keys at home. Since then, I’ve scratched three different gadgets because of keys in my luggage. Of course, the simple solution would be putting my keys in a pouch, but as a true gadgethound, I prefer to look for the nerdier solution – which lead me to Keyport Slide.

Keyport is a unique gadget designed to hold up to six of your keys. The product can also hold automotive transponders, USB memory drives, a flashlight, or even a bottle opener. Ordering is simple – tell Keyport which blank keys you need, and have your local locksmith cut them. End result is a compact unit which holds all the keys you need. Brilliant.

Price: from $39
Product page: www.mykeyport.com

Canon S95

I am a horrible photographer – the kind that takes 20 photos of each object in the hope that at least one of them turns out alright. Sadly, I’m also a geek, so the more complicated (or the more buttons), the better. In 2011, I threw that lack of logic out the window and settled for a camera that just seems to understand me – the Canon PowerShot S95. I don’t know enough about F-stops or ISO to explain why this camera is so good, all I know is that I can point it at an object, click the shutter, and the photo will look great. Even though the S95 upgraded in 2011 (to the S100), I prefer the reliability of my trusty S95.

Price: $328 (Amazon price)
Product page: Canon.com

Joby Gorillapod Micro 250

One of the smallest products on my list – the Micro 250 is a tiny folding tripod that allows me to place my camera on any flat(ish) object, and take some great photos. Along with the self-timer, it also lets me finally take more photos of myself. When attached to my camera, it still provides access to the battery/card compartment, and infolded, offers a pretty stable platform and ball-joint for getting close to that perfect shot.

Price: $19.95
Product page: Joby.com

Etymotic Research hf3 headset

My quest for the perfect travel noise isolating headphones came to an end in 2011 when I started using the Etymotic Research hf3 headset. I can go on and on about how well they isolate outside noise, or how awesome they sound, but since music is such a personal thing, all I can say is that these are the best (and only) headphones I’ll carry. They include a three button audio control mic, a variety of earpieces (including some freaky powerful rigid foam isolators) and best of all – in its case, the whole thing weighs just 1.5oz. If there was ever a reason to dump the bland white headphones that came with your iPhone, this is it.

Price: $179.99
Product page: Etymotic.com

Gadling Gift Guide: Tech for Travel

Tech Gift Guide: Samsung 9 laptopTravel has certainly changed in the last decade and most of us would probably agree that those changes haven’t always been for the best. Fortunately, technology has been one of the bright spots over the past few years however, and we now have a plethora of options for entertainment, staying connected, and getting work done while on the go. Here are a few great gift ideas for the techie traveler on your list this holiday season.

Laptops
More and more of us are traveling with computers these days, even if we don’t always need them to do work. A laptop keeps us connected while on the go, allows to play games, watch movies, upload photos, and so much more. With that in mind, here are three great options for travel.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1
This powerful and rugged laptop is perfect for adventure travelers heading to remote destinations. Built on a carbon fiber frame and packing a water resistant keyboard, the X1 is designed to take a beating and still keep working. It also happens to be one of the thinnest ThinkPad’s ever built and weighs in at just 3.7 pounds, which is amazingly light for a ruggedized laptop. The battery lasts a solid 5.5 hours and can be recharged to 80% of its power in just 30 minutes. ($1467)

Samsung Series 9
If you’re looking for something a bit more stylish than the ThinkPad X1, without compromising durability, then look no further than the Series 9 from Samsung. It’s Duralumin case is built from the same materials as modern aircraft, which makes it strong, yet light and flexible. This ultra-thin notebook is just .6 inches thick and weighs in at a mere 2.9 pounds, which makes it a lightweight and powerful travel companion for those extended trips abroad. The 7 hour battery life will be appreciated on long flights as well. ($1550)

Asus Zenbook UX21
One of the first of a new line of laptops dubbed “ultrabooks,” the Zenbook UX21 from Asus is a great option for individuals who like to travel light. This diminutive notebook weighs just 2.4 pounds and is razor thin, allowing it to slip inside your carry-on with ease. The Zenbook offers 5 hours of battery life, features a 128GB solid state drive, and premium sound for listening to music and movies while on the go. It also packs a pleasant price tag, with Amazon offering it up for just $966.

Logitech Ultimate Ears 600vi headset
MP3 players have made possible to take our entire collection of music with us when we travel, but you’ll need a great pair of headphones to get the best sound possible. We were suitably impressed with the Ultimate Ears 600vi ear buds when we reviewed them a few weeks back, awarding them high marks for both comfort and sound quality. The integrated microphone, volume, and track controls work great as well, and the included hard carrying is more than appreciated when throwing them in your pack before you go. ($95)

Travelers looking for a more traditional set of headphones that are both super-comfortable and noise isolating, will want to investigate the Bose QuietComfort 15. While pricier than the Ultimate Ears, they also set the standard for sound quality on a mobile device. ($300)

Want to share your music with friends? Then check-out the iHome iHM79 portable speakers. They feature rechargeable batteries and great sound, in a tiny package. ($42)Amazon Kindle E-Reader
Sure, the Amazon Fire is the new hotness (pun intended!), but it is tough to beat the original Kindle, especially at it’s new $79 price point. The device’s e-ink display is perfect for reading in nearly all conditions and the device has outstanding battery life that is measured in days, not hours. The Kindle has done for books what MP3 players did for music – allow us to bring our entire library with us when we go, and it is still a great gift for the tech obsessed traveler on your list. ($79)

Tech Gift Guide: Nikon 1 J1 CameraNikon 1 V1 Camera
Digital cameras have revolutionized the way we capture photos and video from our travels, and Nikon has one of the best new options for travelers this year. The Nikon 1 is the company’s first foray into the micro 4/3 category, which offers up a compact and lightweight body, as well as a line of interchangeable lenses. Smaller than a DSLR, but more powerful than a point and shoot, the Nikon 1 takes amazing photos and video, without taking up too much room in your bag. ($599)

For those looking for simpler and more affordable option, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FP1 is tough to beat. It is a compact point and shoot camera with great image quality, fast focus, and outstanding battery life. ($120)

iPhone 4S
While the iPhone 4S is rightfully getting lots of attention for its new digital assistant, Siri, and it’s outstanding camera, that isn’t why we’re putting it on our holiday list. The newest version of Apple’s iconic device is also a World Phone, which means you can now use it in over 200 countries. That alone makes it easy to recommend for travelers looking to stay connected while visiting foreign lands and previous iPhone users will rejoice that they will no longer need a separate phone when traveling abroad. ($200)

Outlets To Go Powerstrip
Keeping our gadgets powered and charged while traveling can be a real challenge, especially in hotel rooms, which seem to always lack convenient places to plug-in. A simple travel powerstrip, like the Outlets To Go from Monster, can help solve that problem. The tiny device packs three AC outlets and an integrated USB port, which is fantastic for keeping your phone, iPod, or other small electronics charged. ($12)

International travelers may want to pair the powerstrip with the Kensington All-in-One Plug Adapter as well. I take one with me whenever I leave the country, and have found it useful on many occasions. ($15)

Roku 2 HD
While not specifically a gift for travelers, who doesn’t enjoy returning home from a long vacation and curling up on their own couch? The Roku 2 HD streams all kinds of Internet content to any TV, including Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, YouTube, and so much more. It is also a great way to share photos from your latest adventure with friends and family, on your big-screen, high defnition television. Best of all, it costs just $70, which isn’t much for a tiny wireless device that offers so much entertainment. ($70)