IT'S IN THE CARDS: What's our new definition of a gift that keeps on giving? A subscription to an on-demand music or video entertainment service that streams over the Internet to a personal computer, Internet-ready TV or specialty set-top box.
Best Buy is the place to find Napster music service gift cards, available in $5 (per month) to $60 (a year) increments. Napster plays through PCs and Macs, plus Squeezebox- and Sonos-streaming audio players. Parent company Best Buy is currently giving away a month's subscription to Napster with every CD it sells. May be the last disc you ever buy.
Usable on more devices, Rhapsody also offers a $5 a month all-you-can-listen-to music plan, but at www.Rhapsody.com pushes the $9.99 Premier version, also enabling music play and storage on a mobile phone.
With Netflix's new, $7.99 streaming-only (no mailed disc) option, you can buy someone a year's worth of on-demand movies and hit TV shows for less than $100 at www.netflix.com. Up to six Netflix-enabled devices (and what isn't these days?) can be linked to one account.
Clearly, there's a whole lot more to satellite radio than Howard Stern. But for devotees, the big story is the shock jock's recent re-signing for another five years. A $55 Sirius gift card will keep a Sternoid on cruise control for three months.
PHONE JUICE: For the occasional/emergency user (say a grade-schooler or senior), a basic, bargain mobile phone ($20 and up) with pay-as-you-go service makes a great gift. Best deal going is the $100 card for AT&T phones that keeps available minutes alive for an entire year. Lesser cards expire 90 days after activation.
CABLE NEWS: The dirty little secret of high-definition TVs is that sound emanating from flat-panel sets is pretty low-def. That's why manufacturers ALWAYS include audio output jacks (both digital and analog) to funnel the stereo/surround soundtrack to a better-quality receiver and speakers (or all-in-one soundbar).
One good way to make the connection is with a Belkin Digital Optical Audio Cable, spotted at Target in a 6-foot length priced reasonably at $14.69.
GAME PATROL: Wanna please a Wii gamer? Nintendo has a new-generation controller, Wii Remote Plus, that builds in the fine-tuning previously requiring an add-on component and case (Wii Motion Plus). The new WRP remote alone sells for $40. Or for just $5 more you can get one bundled with "Fling Smash," a swinging, swatting, knock-stuff-over romp ideal for casual players.
Got a portable gamer who's rough on stuff? The Nintendo DS Mini Backpack (about $10) has cute looks and reduces wear and tear.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN: An Energi To Go Portable Power Travel Kit from Energizer ($59.99 at discount/hardware stores) can charge up an assortment of devices. It comes with a 2000 MAh lithium polymer battery, AC plug, DC (car) plug and cord with four tips - Micro and Mini-USB, iPhone/iPod and Nokia connector. All pack into a well-designed carry case.
Less yet more, the ZAGGsparq 2.0 portable charger ($99 at www.zagg.com) boasts a 6000 MAh rechargeable battery and flip-out AC plug. It can rejuvenate two USB-connected devices simultaneously.
THEY'LL FLIP: You know a product has arrived when accessory makers start offering add-ons. Bower has just introduced the .45x Wide Angle Magnetic Lens ($39.99 from beachcamera.com), first to carry an official "Designed for Flip Video" logo.
Easy to install, the lens captures more people or scenery, without diminishing picture clarity. Works with Flip Ultra, Mino, UltraHD, Mino HD and SlideHD cameras.
BLU-CHRISTMAS: Gotta throw in some worthy Blu-ray library builders for anyone getting a Blu-ray high-definition videodisc player this holiday.
"Sherlock - Season One" (BBC) mods up the crime-solving Holmes with weird and amusing effect. The even stranger, repeat-when-necessary thriller "Inception" (Warner Bros.) proves an apt match for Blu-ray's added detailing.
For family fun, jump on the Shanghai, China-set remake of "The Karate Kid" (Sony) with movie star offspring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan, the touching and technically remarkable "Toy Story 3" (Walt Disney), the joyous documentary "Babies" (Universal), and French-flaired animation charmer "Despicable Me" (Universal), even more of a roller-coaster ride in 3-D.
Ditto the totally in-your-face, break-dancing celebration "Step Up 3D" (Touchstone).
And newly freshened/enhanced for Blu-ray are "Collectors Editions" of "The Bridge on the River Kwai," (Sony) and "The Exorcist" (Warner Bros.), and the "25th Anniversary Trilogy" boxing of "Back to The Future" (Universal), which takes us all the way to 2015!
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