Gizmo gift guide for dads and grads

Panasonic’s Smart Viera HDTVs have won awards.
Panasonic’s Smart Viera HDTVs have won awards.
Posted: June 12, 2012

THINKING ABOUT getting something cool ’n’ techy for dad or your favorite grad? Gizmo guy has the goods on the best in sights, sounds and ’cessories.

TV done right: A state-of-the art big screen delivers great thanks to a great dad. The new 65-inch Panasonic VT50 series plasma recently took top honors in a reputable best-of-breed "shootout." And Gizmo guy can attest to the many charms of its 55-inch sibling, the TC-P55VT50, which boasts the same inky blacks, finite contrast gradations, accurate colors and improved brightness levels that make both 2-D and 3-D images really pop. The onboard speaker system is better than most. Optional 3-D glasses (about $50) are featherlight and charge superfast. Entertainment apps are plentiful. just discounted this baby to an even $2,000. A close relation, the Panasonic TC-P55GT50 sells for about $1,700 at Best Buy and World Wide Stereo.

SoundBar city: Are they happy with their flat-panel TV — except for the putrid built-in speakers? A Zvox Z-Base Sound Bar Home Theater system offers a fast, neat fix. Built into a slim box that fits under the TV are multiple amps and high-quality drivers, including a down-firing subwoofer. I put a Zvox V420 ($299) under a 32-inch Vizio and I swear it made the TV seem MUCH BIGGER, not just boosting screen height by 3 1/2 inches but also pumping up the explosive drama of action flicks like "Runaway Train."

Backyard buddies: Is dad still listening to the FM radio? Help him step into the now with the Pure One Flow or the Sony RDP-XF300IP.

Selling for $129 (plus $49 for rechargeable battery pack), the Pure is a small, easy-to-use portable radio that pulls in both FM and thousands of Internet radio channels — the latter when you’re near a WiFi hot spot. Sound quality is sweet and favorite streams are easily stored. A well-stocked Pure Music subscription/track purchase service is States-bound soon.

The Sony RDP-XF300IP ($249) delivers awesome, room-filling FM and music streamed wirelessly from a Bluetooth-enabled smart phone, PC or tablet. This metal-clad, slim-line object d’art also has a pop-out dock for iPod play, an auxiliary input and runs on AC or a battery that holds a charge for weeks.

Headphone heaven: Dozens of fashionable new portable headphones are vying for attention this spring. But the super-detailed and tonally well-balanced Sennheiser MM-400-X ($259) is simply the best. Connects wirelessly to highest-quality Bluetooth streaming sources (also plugged-in sound makers) and takes mobile-phone calls with push of a button. While folding up small, the well-padded, on-ear headphones sit comfortably for hours, even if you wear glasses.

Guitar gizmos: Great for practicing in a dorm room, the palm-sized Vox Amplug headphone amplifier ($50) sticks into the cable jack on an electric guitar, then feeds out to connected headphones. The AC1 RhythmVOX Mini Guitar Amplifier ($60) packs lots of features (including 60 rhythmic options) into a battery-powered, one-watt box no bigger than your average hardback novel. (Details at

Gadgets to go: Finally there’s a protective iPad case tough enough for a camping trip. It’s the CampFire iPad2 by X-Doria, an "airbag" for your tablet with a padded, prop-up cushion that reverses to protect the screen. Doesn’t deflate, though. $59.99 at

Even with a (nonpuffy) cover-on, an iPad or Galaxy Tab can be stuffed into a zippered iLuv Music Pac. Thus you get double protection and, as the name suggests, built-in powered speakers that play louder than the tablet’s. About $60.

After cycling through several mobile-phone cases, Gizmo guy is now happy with the Case-Mate Tough — a two-layer protection strategy unto itself available for $20 for Apple, Samsung and HTC phone. Packaging boldly declares: "Think Rambo. Only Pocket Sized."

Also ready to travel is Logitech’s wireless, solar-powered keyboard for iPads and iPhones, the K760, $80. Top off the iPhone/iPad's depleted power with a reliable Griffin car charger, available in a variety of configurations for about $20-$30.

A digital camera that can take a beating and keep on clicking is perfect for that summer whitewater-rafting trip. Rugged and waterproof, the Olympus Tough TG-1 ($399) and Nikon Coolpix AW100 ($270-$296) are worthy sharpshooters.

When in doubt, get ’em software: If Dad’s a "classic rock" aficionado, hit him up with Jethro Tull "Thick as a Brick 2," the better-than-we-dared-expect Beach Boys 50th- anniversary album, "That’s Why God Made the Radio," or the new double-disc Tedeschi Trucks Band concert set "Everybody’s Talkin’ " — the best soul-rocking revue since Eric Clapton friended with Delaney & Bonnie.

Also primed for giving are the 25th-anniversary edition of Paul Simon’s "Graceland," enhanced with a book, video documentary and concert DVD, and the 40th-anniversary deluxe edition of David Bowie’s "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars," boasting a heavyweight vinyl pressing, bonus tracks and a high-resolution multichannel mix on DVD.

For video diversions, how about the action-hero-transformed "Sherlock Holmes — A Game of Shadows" (out Tuesday), "The Three Musketeers" (extra good in 3-D) or the latest rendering of "Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol."

And newly tuned up for Blu-ray are the classic buddy cop "Lethal Weapon Collection" from Warner Bros. and the Universal 100th Anniversary Collector’s Series editions of "The Deer Hunter" and "The Sting."

Buying for a gamer? Top picks include "Xenoblade Chronicles," "Mass Effect 3" "Max Payne 3" and "The Walking Dead Episode 1: A New Day."

And a big day, too.  

Contact Jonathan Takiff at 215-854-5960 or Read his blog at

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