Take, please, the Samsung DualView ultracompact series, boasting a second LCD screen on the front that displays whatever is being captured by the lens. In effect, that second screen serves as a mirror for the subject - great for attracting a baby's attention. A front screen's also good for getting a glum teen or grown-up to perk up, after noting, "Eew, I look awful!" Or to help the shooter get properly framed in an arms-length self-portrait.
The latest Samsung ST700 Dual View ($199 after savings at Best Buy) also boasts a super-high-resolution 16 megapixel image-capturing chip, five-power optical zoom (far better than the digital zooms in phones), image stabilization, special effects and intuitive touch-screen control.
THE "NO-BRAINER" BACKUP: For all those who do use an iPhone (3G, 3Gs, 4) or current (fifth) generation iPod touch as their preferred digital shooter, there's a handy-dandy item to back up your images and contact list. It's the Iomega SuperHero Backup & Charger ($69.99 at Target and www.iomega.com). Download the free Iomega SuperHero app to the Apple. Whenever you dock the product in the spiffy Iomega base, your contacts and still photos (not videos) are automatically saved to a 4GB SD card while the device recharges.
Of course, these same (and more) backup burdens can be achieved by connecting to a computer. But Iomega's solution requires zero thought or effort.
KINDLE WITH BENEFITS: What's the difference between a conventional Kindle eReader tablet with Wi-Fi and the new Kindle with Special Offers? The latter costs $25 less (a mere $114) but is "ad-supported." Instead of delivering an opening screen image of a famous author, you might see a monochrome advertisement for a new car, bank card or skin cream. And there's a small banner ad across the bottom of the Kindle home menu.
While many appreciate how thin, light, sharp-screened and energy-efficient this latest Kindle is in naked form, those who tote it here 'n' there and read under bad (or no) lighting will appreciate the Kindle leather cover with a built-in slim line LED booklight that Amazon accessorizes (in a variety of feminine or masculine colors) for $59.99.
COFFEE, TEA OR ME: Consumer Reports needs to revisit the automatic coffeemaker product category. I've just put CR's top-rated Cuisinart DCC-1200 up against the new, 10-cup, thermal-carafe equipped Cuisinart Extreme Brew DCC-2750 ($129.99 at Macy's). The latter shaved two minutes (a 25 percent saving) off the prep time for a six-cup batch, and also offered a "bold" brew option that can really grow some hair on yer tongue.
Those who prefer tea or French-press coffee might like the Cuisinart Cordless Programmable Kettle (CPK-17, $99 at www.abt.com), which can hold the water at just the right temperature - boiling for black tea, 175 degrees for green tea, 200 degrees for French press coffee, etc.
RADIO WAVES: Decor-minded moms (and dads) will admire the sleek, minimalist, cube design of the Tivoli Audio Networks radio as much as they appreciate the excellent sound and ability to tune in 15,000-plus stations from around the world via Ethernet or Wi-Fi wireless connection to a home Internet service. Oh, and gift givers will relish Networks' newly slashed $299 price - a 50 percent discount - purchased from the manufacturer at www.tivoliaudio.com. Networks is expandable with an optional stereo speaker, subwoofer, CD player or iPhone/iPod dock.
CALM, COOL, COLLECTED: Most battery-powered, active noise-reduction earphones that do a good job claim a lot of tote-bag space and can cost upward of $300. Phiaton PS20-NC earbuds are small, cute things that cleverly hook halfway into the ear canal, take commands from an in-line, clip-on switch and go for $105.99 (in white at amazon.com). Also different, the Phiatons deliver sweet sound even when the battery is dead. Not adept in all noisy environments (no help on the train), these little guys performed well in reducing the roar of airplane engines and taming a noisy vacuum cleaner, making household chores much more bearable with a groovy soundtrack.
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