Not into the Amazon ecosystem? The rival 7-inch Barnes & Noble Tablet offers useful upgrades for $50 more.
ET, phone home
Wanna save someone a bundle? The Ooma Telo is an Internet-based phone system with unlimited free domestic calling (just $3-$4 a month in taxes) and international calling for pennies (free to other Oomas). It sounds superb and doesn't require you to leave a computer on. Use your current phone number, too. The Ooma base station works well with any phone, though the brand's 6.O DECT cordless model has enhanced features. A new dongle accessory ($29.95) funnels in cellphone calls. JR.com has the Ooma Telo with dongle for $199.99 through Monday. Amazon.com sells Ooma phones for $34.43.
If someone on your gift list has good over-the-air TV reception and mostly watches broadcast networks, Channel Master TV will do the cool things a cable tuner/DVR can but without that monthly bill. Such as: recording two shows simultaneously while watching a third, previously recorded in pristine high definition. Connected to the Internet, this box delivers pay movies in HD, free video podcasts and specialized channels from Vudu. $400 at channelmasterstore.com.
Roku Internet TV boxes can't record but pull in an amazing array of content from 350 Web sources, including Netflix and Hulu Plus. The new Roku LT is a mere $49.95 at http://www.roku.com.
Internet radio to go
My favorite Paris-based jazz and West-Coast alt-rockin' stations have been beaming nicely through my car stereo system thanks to the Livio Bluetooth Internet Radio Car Kit. This gooseneck-mounted device plugs into a car power socket, grabs a Bluetooth stream from a smartphone and converts it to an FM signal that plays through the car's radio.
Other nifty functions? A hands-free speaker phone and USB power port. There's occasional signal dropout with Internet radio stations - no problem with music stored on your device. $101.97 at Amazon.com.
Headphones are now fashion statements, with the new, eco-minded House of Marley line a perfect case in point. Endorsed by the late reggae singer Bob Marley's kin, the comfortable Positive Vibrations series includes the fabric-wrapped Rasta (red, green, yellow and black) and coral-hued Sun, available with or without mobile phone controls/microphone ($79 to $59).
Colorful Marley earbuds crafted with environmentally-friendly materials and braided cables start at just $29.99. Irie! www.thehouseofmarley.com.
The cable running from earphones to sound source is a major drag for exercising music listeners. For them, I'd recommend the Jabra Sport Stereo Bluetooth Headset - all-weather and sweat-resistant components that wrap securely around each ear and connect wirelessly to a Bluetooth-enabled phone for up to four hours (between charges) of music and calling. Kinda magical, and looks cool, too. $85-$100 at Apple Store, MacMall, BeachAudio.com.
Audio connoisseurs will relish the B&W C5, high-end ($179) buds with a unique, ear-securing design. The sound is terrific (a Bowers & Wilkins tradition). $179.95 at World Wide Stereo, Apple Store, Magnolia.
There's a "best of both worlds" theme to the Samsung SH100, a compact, touch screen point-and-shoot camera with onboard Wi-Fi, selling for $149-$199. The SH100 takes much better pictures than the camera in your phone. But, like the latter, it has wireless uploading (in a home Wi-Fi environment) to Facebook, Picassa, email, an enabled printer or your PC. Geeks will love controlling the camera remotely from Samsung phones and beaming images to Samsung tablets and TVs.
Duplicating some of the same features is the latest Eye-Fi Mobile X2, an 8GB memory card that works with any digital camera boasting an SD slot. $71 at bhphotovideo.com.
Take a stand
Anyone with a tablet computer would appreciate The Stump. This sturdy, slotted rubber puck holds a tablet up for easier reading and typing at your desk or kitchen counter. Available in multiple colors for $24.95 (a sixpack is $90) at stumpstore.com.
The Atari Arcade doesn't just prop up an iPad or iPad 2. It turns that tablet into a mini arcade game machine, playing 100 of "Atari's Greatest Hits." Sturdy joystick and action buttons lend a true arcade feel. The multi-pin port connection guarantees fast response and shares iPad power. Plus, this Arcade travels light. $59.99 at Apple and Toys "R" Us.
Friends don't let friends leave home without a backup power plan for times when their mobile communicator or computer runs out of juice. To the rescue comes Powerbag, a new collection of backpacks, wheelies, slings and more that integrate a lightweight, high-power rechargeable battery and pre-routed, hideaway USB/Apple connectors. Our pick to click: the Cross Body Messenger, $139.99 at Best Buy, OfficeMax, Wireless Zone and myPowerbag.com.
Half protective case, half booster battery, the Mophie Juice Pack Plus for the iPhone 4 and 4S is an amazing piece of engineering. While barely bulking up the phone, it increases call time by several hours. And enhances audio performance! $99.95 at www.mophie.
com. The $119.95 outdoor edition adds GPS functions.
There's also a version for the iPod Touch - but Apple's the only flavor these juice packs come in.
For the guy who has everything, the RCA USB Wall Plate Charger makes a great gift. Fitting over a standard double plug AC outlet, it offers two USB ports plus one conventional AC outlet. $19.95 at PC Richard & Son, Amazon.com.
The world's best mini-sized, maxi-sounding Bluetooth travel speaker/speakerphone, the FoxL V2, just got better. The Platinum edition doubles battery time to 20 hours, throws in a high-grade Audioquest connector cable and improves wireless signals with AptX technology with the optional, $50 Jaybird iSport Bluetooth Adaptor. $229 at soundmatters.com or musicdirect.com.
Any Mac computer user would go gaga for a high-performance, port-loaded Iomega Mac Companion backup hard drive. Runs quietly and fits perfectly under an iMac screen. The 2TB version is $239 at bhphotovideo.com.
Tickle me, Elmer
Even Gizmo Guy admits it: Many gadgets are redunkulous. Underscoring the point are the almost real products on Prank Gift Boxes.
Dreamed up by the guys who started The Onion, this year's prank boxes (fill them as you will) include the Wake & Bake Dream Griddle Alarm Clock, the iArm Forearm Mount for multitaskers, and Toe Tunes Slipper Speakers. $8 a pop, or three for $20 (plus shipping) at www.prankpack.