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)

Gadling gear review: Ultimate Ears 600vi earphones

Ultimate Ears 600vi headphonesModern technology has obviously had a dramatic impact on how we travel. Thanks to small, lightweight portable devices, we now have the ability to carry our entire music library or a collection of our favorite movies and television shows, with us where ever we go. But one of the key elements for enjoying our music and videos is a good pair of headphones, preferably headphones that are comfortable to wear, isolate outside noise, and offer great sound. I recently found all of those qualities in a new pair of Ultimate Ears 600vi earphones from Logitech.

Before testing the UE 600vi’s I was a bit skeptical as to whether or not I would find them comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. After all, on a long international flight, they could potentially be used for hours on end. For years I’ve traveled with a pair of Bose Triport headphones, which are traditional, over the ear headphones that are super comfortable and provide great sound. The Ultimate Ears on the other hand, are in-ear models that are a bit of a departure for those accostumed to the larger, bulkier models that cover the entire ear.

To get the best performance, and comfort, out of the Ultimate Ears it is important that you get the right fit. Fortunately, Logitech packs in six sets of ear cushions, varying in size from extra-extra-small to large, which are designed to help us find that fit. Those cushions can be mixed and matched as needed, and it took several days of experimenting to find the right combination for my needs. Once I did however, not only did the UE’s fit very well, they also offered a high level of isolated from outside noise as well. That isolation is important when you’re stuck on a plane for 15 hours and you want a little relief from the sound of jet engines.Ultimate Ears 600vi headphonesWhile finding that perfect fit is important for the long term use of the Ultimate Ears, one thing that will strike you right away is the sound quality. Upon taking these earphones out of their package, I immediately hooked them up to my iPod and started listening to a few of my favorite tracks. The sound quality was astounding, and as I worked my way through various genres of music, I discovered that I was picking up elements to the songs that I hadn’t ever heard before. Background vocals and instruments came through clear as a bell and volume levels didn’t need to be cranked high to get the full effect of the music. I also used these headphones to watch videos and play games on my iPad, and came away impressed with their versatility and sound quality with those types of media as well.

This particular model of Ultimate Ears also includes a built in remote control right on the cable. That remote allows you to adjust volume, as well as pause and skip tracks on an iPod and other supported mp3 players. On the iPhone, the remote allows you to answer calls, and a tiny mic lets you chat directly through the earphones themselves. They also work with Siri on the new iPhone 4S, giving you the option to ask her questions and give commands without ever taking the UE’s out of your ears.

Despite their comfort and fantastic sound, the Ultimate Ears aren’t necessarily the best option for everyone. if you’re not already of fan of the in-ear model of headphones, it can take some time to get use to the feel of the cushions resting inside your ear canal. They also aren’t as good at filtering outside noise as over-the-ear headphones either, even when you have found the best fit possible. However, they don’t nearly weigh as much as their bulkier counterparts and they take up almost no room in your bag either. Those are two factors that are very important for travelers looking to travel light.

Logitech includes a nice, hard case with the Ultimate Ears, which protects them nicely when not being used. The case also help to keep the delicate cord from getting tangled, which can cause problems with any headphone. I found the case to be a nice touch in protecting my headphones while on the go.

With an MSRP of $120, the UE 600vi’s are a bit on the pricy side. But Logitech offers several models at a variety of price points, and while I’ve only had the opportunity to test this particular model, I was suitably impressed enough to recommend the rest of the line as well. If you’re looking for a new way to enjoy your music, movies, and other digital media while on the go, then you’ll definitely want to give the Ultimate Ears a listen. I think you’ll find they offer amazing sound and comfort in an incredibly small package.

The Gadling gift guide for the iPhone and iPod

The iPhone and iPod touch are popular. So popular in fact, that they have created an entire universe of accessories and products made to enhance their use. No other gadget in the world has this kind of assortment of great extras.

In this list, you’ll find ten products that will be well received by any iPhone or iPod Touch owner. Best of all, there is something for every budget.

Don’t forget to check out our other gift guides:

Gift guide for the lightweight traveler
Gift guide for famlily travel and kids
The top ten travel products of 2009
Macally PowerLink

The Macally PowerLink made it to the Gadling top ten travel products of 2009, which means it really does offer something special. The small device has two connectors – one for the iPod/iPhone and one USB plug for your computer. The PowerLink replaces your USB cable, but it also incorporates a Lithium-Ion backup battery pack, capable of charging your device. And to top it off, it even includes a 2GB flash drive. With this one product you can charge and sync your device and carry 2GB of your most important files.

Price: $49.99
Product page: Macally PowerLink

In Your Face Viewbase

The In Your Face Viewbase has quickly become one of my personal favorites this year. The product consists of a clamp to hold your device, and a flexible arm that can be attached to most parts of your airplane seat (or bus seat). Simply attach it to your tray table, and enjoy your movie. Of all the gadgets I carry, this is the one that gets the most attention, and every flight attendant that sees it, asks where they can order one for themselves.

Price: $24.95
Product page: In Your Face USA

Otterbox Commuter and Commuter TL case

The Otterbox Commuter and Commuter TL cases provide good looking protection for your iPhone. The Commuter case consists of two parts – one silicone jacket, and a polycarbonate shell to protect the back. The Commuter TL case ups the ante with a special honeycomb structure to cushion drops.

Price: From $29.95
Product page: Otterbox Commuter cases

Ultimate Ears MetroFi 700

The headphones included with your iPhone may be better than most standard headphones, but if you love your music, you may want to consider investing in something with a little more “oopmh”. The Ultimate Ears 700 come from the same brand that provides earphones for many of the world’s best musicians.

Yes – at just under $200, they may so be ludicrously priced, but one listen to them will show why they deserve such a pricetag.

Price: $199.99
Product page: Ultimate Ears

idox Traveler Series iPhone case/view dock

The idox hard case is as brilliant as it is simplistic. When closed, it is a really sturdy hard case for your device, and when you open it, it turns into an angled viewing base. This is of course perfect for watching a movie, or using your iPhone as an alarm clock. It provides the kind of protection you need for your iPhone or iPod touch when you pop it in your bag.

Price: From $24.95
Product page: idox traveler series cases

PowerMat

2009 was the year that finally made wireless charging available to the masses. PowerMat combines an inductive charging pad with special device cases. The iPhone and iPod Touch versions slide onto your device, and allow you to charge your device by simply placing them on top of the charging pad. Sadly, the combination of a PowerMat and iPhone/iPod Touch case will cost just under $150, which is quite steep for wireless charging. Their travel mat folds into a compact device, and packs easily.

Price: $99.95 for basic PowerMat kit
Product page: PowerMat

Kensington travel battery pack and charger for iPhone and iPod Touch

This is another of those super simple yet brilliant products. The Kensington travel battery pack and charger is a battery booster for the iPhone and iPod Touch, but the cap on this thing doubles as a stand. Plug it into your device, and sit back to watch a movie. The product features a folding USB plug for easy recharging and 5 LED lights show the charge level.

Price: $69.99
Product page: Kensington

Altec Lansing inMotion CLASSIC

Altec Lansing was one of the first companies to produce a battery powered portable speaker for the iPhone. Their original inMotion was a huge success, and they are revisiting that success with the new inMotion CLASSIC. This speaker features a cool retro look, full remote control and internal battery pack. As can be expected from Altec Lansing, the sound from this speaker is just plain fantastic. Highly recommended for some quiet entertainment in your hotel room, or massive audio at a beach party.

Price: $149.95
Product page: Altec Lansing inMotion CLASSIC.

Altec Lansing Orbit MP3

If the previous speaker doesn’t fit your bag, or you’d like something in a lower price range, then check out the Altec Lansing Orbit MP3. This small speaker is powered off three AAA batteries, and produces some mindblowing volume. Best of all, it sounds really good. Sure, you lose the bass and stereo of the larger speakers, but this is perfect for in your hotel room or anywhere else you’d like some tunes.

Price: $39.95
Product page: Altec Lansing Orbit MP3

iTunes gift card

You don’t need to go overboard when trying to find a great gift for an iPhone owner. The Apple iTunes gift card allows people to shop for music, movies and apps. And really, anyone with an iPhone will probably be buying at least one app or song a week, so a decent value gift card can go a long way. It pays to research the best deals on these cards – your local grocery store or warehouse club often sells them at a modest discount.

Price: From $15
Where to buy: Gift card retailers, Apple.com and Apple stores

Gadling gear review – Ultimate Ears LoudEnough volume limiting earphones

In this Gadling gear review, we’ll take a quick look at one of the newest earphones from headphone maker Ultimate Ears. The LoudEnough earphones have been specifically designed for kids, and feature small silicone ear gels, 3 vibrant colors and integrated volume reduction.

They are suitable for kids 6 and up, and the package includes silicone ear gels in 3 different sizes (extra small, small and medium). As with all products from Ultimate Ears, the LoudEnough earphones produce great sounding audio, while at the same time keeping the volume to a safe level.

When plugged into my desktop PC, I was able to turn the volume to 100%, without the earphones getting anywhere near a dangerous sound level. With regular earphones, the 100% level sounds unbelievably loud, and would most likely cause hearing damage if listened to for any length of time.

The headphones feature a regular 3.5mm jack which is compatible with the iPod, iPod Touch, iPhone (including the first generation) and most other MP3 players, game devices and portable DVD players.

A good example of an audio source with unpredictable volume is the in-flight entertainment system in many airlines. Often when the system is reset (which also happens a lot), the volume settings return to “default”, and can produce some extremely loud static. With the Ultimate Ears LoudEnough earphones, this noise is reduced by as much as 25%, bringing things back down to a much safer level.

Another upside to these headphones is that you no longer need to keep an eye on the volume level your kids set their device to – even when set to “max”, the headphones reduce enough noise to keep their ears safe.

The Ultimate Ears LoudEnough earphones are not just for kids – the medium size ear gels fit most adults, and obviously, kids are not the only people that need to keep the volume to a safe level. A chart showing noise reduction, and the technology used to reduce the volume can be found here.

The LoudEnough earphones retail for just $39.95 (or as low as $34.95 through Amazon). The earphones come in three colors (plum, mint and blueberry) and a matching carrying box is included along with the ear gels and a user guide.

I’m very impressed with the LoudEnough earphones – volume is efficiently reduced, without sounding too modified. Bass is reduced significantly, but not to the point where music sounds “wrong”. The purchase price is also very reasonable. The LoudEnough earphones come with a one year limited warranty.