Summer's here and the time is right for looking at gadgets to make the summer days and nights go by easier or more fun at least. If you're going outside to enjoy the sun, hitting the road for a long road trip to a vacation destination, or just staying at home for the perfect "staycation", here are 40 devices or apps we think you'll like:
Kodak Play Sport HD Waterproof Pocket Video Camera ($149)
You're not going to need this if you're indoors filming your daughter's dance recital. But if you're going outside to record some mountain biking, surfing, or just need a more rugged handheld video camera, you'll need this. The Kodak Play Sport is waterproof up to 10 feet, provides up to 1080p HD video resolution, 5 megapixel digital still images, and includes electronic image stabilization to prevent the "shakies".
Toshiba Camileo S20 ($180)
What fun is going on vacation if you don't have videos and photos of the experience? The pocket-sized Camileo S20 fits in your pocket, includes 4x digital zoom for video and takes 5 megpixel digital still photos. The 3-inch LCD screen lets you instantly watch the videos you've recorded for instant gratification, or you can connect to a PC and quickly upload to YouTube.
Cisco FlipSlide HD digital video camera ($280)
We're big fans of the Flip camera, and how it's allowed users to more easily take digital video of events in their lives, and quickly get them online for sharing with friends and family. The latest Flip video camera features 16GB of storage for your videos, and a slide-up display that lets you share videos of your vacation more easily with others if you don't feel like sharing them online.
ZipShot tripod ($50)
Taking good photos and videos requires a tripod, but a lot of them are heavy, bulky and take some time to set up and pack up. The ZipShot quickly sets up through bungie-like cords that snap the legs into place, and packing up takes seconds. If you need a quick setup and getaway with your tripod (like if you're being chased by a bear), grab a ZipShot.
Elgato Video Capture ($100)
This system lets you capture analog video (such as all of those videos you have on videotape) and digitally convert it for use on a Macintosh, iPhone, iPad or iPod. The system connects to VCRs, a set top box, camcorder, DVD player and other sources. Bundled software records video in H.264 or MPEG4 formats.
TomTom XXL550 ($200)
The latest GPS models from TomTom include an EasyMenu, an easier touch-screen menu providing quick access to search tools. Also included are Lifetime Maps and/or Lifetime Traffic Updates ($30), keeping your system more accurate. The company also just announced the Darth Vader voice (about $13), which should keep you and the kids entertained while the Dark Lord of the Sith directs you to the rotary.
Wilson Electronics' Sleek Universal Cell Phone Signal Booster ($130)
Despite the commercials from AT&T and Verizon, you may find yourself driving through areas in the country where cell phone coverage isn't as good as advertised. This in-car device boosts your cell phone and data network signal so you can get that important call or e-mail out.
Plantronics Explorer 395 ($50)
The latest hands-free headset from Plantronics provides separate buttons for volume, power and call answer/end. The Explorer 395 also features an ergonomically designed swivel earloop and comfort-fitting eartip. The headset uses digital signal processing to reduce wind noise and echo, and features up to 5 hours of talk time and 7 days of standby time.
Jabra Extreme ($55)
If you're going to cruise in that convertible during the summer, you're going to get a lot of wind noise during your cell phone calls. The Jabra Extreme Bluetooth headset includes dual microphones for noise-cancellation, automatic volume control and "Acousting Shock Protection" aimed at users who need a more rugged headset. The headset offers up to 5.5 hours of talk time and up to 10.5 days of standby time.
Novatel Wireless MiFi 2200 ($0.01 with service plan, otherwise $300)
If you or your kids need Internet access while on the road, provide them with a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot that connects to a Verizon Wireless 3G network. The MiFi 2200 acts as that bridge, providing a wireless hub for up to five Wi-Fi-enabled devices. Perfect for letting the kids use the iPad or iPod Touch in the back seat while you drive them to Wally World or other destination, and for mom to access e-mail on her netbook.
GPS Angel V4e ($99 - $129)
This device is a red light and speed camera warning system that protects drivers from dangerous intersections and possibly costly traffic violations. The device includes GPS to determine where your car is, and then checks against a database of fixed speed and red light cameras. It then warns you if you're nearing those locations. The company says it is 100% road legal, and is "designed to warn you of risk areas and to help you observe traffic law."
Samsung N150 netbook ($300)
At 2.7 pounds, the N150 netbook is great for quick trips, letting you do practically everything a computer does, but with less bulk. The N150 includes a 10.1-inch non-glare screen, 3-in-1 memory card reader, 7-hour battery life, three USB ports, and a variety of cool colors (Flamingo Pink Caribbean is our favorite).
Toshiba Satellite U500 series ($750)
Sometimes you want more than a netbook, but less than a heavier big notebook. The value-oriented Satellite series fits this need, with features like Windows 7, built-in optical drive, built-in Webcam with facial recognition software and a 13.3-inch display. An Intel Core i3-330M dual core processor and NVIDIA GeForce graphics options allow for further customization. Bundled software from Toshiba (ReelTime, Bulletin Board and Media Controller) add to the value.
HTC Droid Incredible / Verizon ($200 after $100 rebate, plus two-year agreement)
The latest Android smart phone by HTC and available on Verizon's wireless network is the Incredible. Features include a 3.7-inch touch screen, 8 megapixel digital camera, access to the Android App store, 1GHz Snapdragon processor, and Android 2.1 OS. The phone offers up to 5 hours of talk time and up to six days of standby time.
FINIS XtreaMP3 waterproof MP3 player ($110)
Athletic endeavors over the summer tend to produce sweat, or they're around water. The XtreaMP3 player can be completely submerged in water (up to 15 feet) and still work. The shock-resistant player can store up to 240 songs (1GB) with surround sound, and attaches to a neoprene arm strap. Specialized waterproof earbuds secure to your ears tightly.
Altec Lansing inMotion Compact speakers and dock ($80)
The latest small speaker system for your iPod, iPhone or other MP3 player includes a small design (extremely portable), with the option of powering via AA batteries if you're not near a power outlet. Also comes with a unique case that can protect the speakers from the kids and also double as a stand.
iHome IHM79 portable speakers ($50)
These very portable speakers extend and collapse accordion-like, making them perfect for travel. Each speaker includes a built-in amplifier powered by a rechargeable battery, and includes a USB cable for charging. A magnetic base keeps the speakers together if you want as well.
Logitech Squeezebox Touch: ($300)
This Wi-Fi-enabled music player connects to Internet radio stations, several online music services (such as Pandora, Slacker, Live365.com, Last.fm, etc.), as well as any music servers on a home network or other Squeezebox players. The device includes a full-color touch screen with interactive menus and a remote control.
LimbGear iHoodie ($70)
The MP3 generation needs functional and comfortable clothing - enter LimbGear and its iHoodie. This 80/20 cotton polyester blend is designed to integrate your mobile devices into the sweatshirt, freeing the wearer from tangled cords. The Hoodie and touchpad are fully washable. Also comes with a variety of college-licensed logos.
Tunebug Shake ($120)
The Shake connects to a bike, ski or skate helmet and becomes an ultra-portable sound generator. When mounted, it creates a surround sound experience that lets the user listen to music while still being aware of your surroundings. It connects to music players via Bluetooth, and has a lithium-polymer battery with about 5 hours of life.
FAVI Entertainment PJM-1000 Mini Projector ($228)
This tiny pico projector weighs 6.4 ounces, fits into the palm of your hand, and can project movies from your PC or iPod onto a wall (great for vacation hotel rooms or camping cabins). The device comes with a lithium ion battery, RCA adapter, video cable and VGA cable.
Kensington Travel Battery Pack and Charger ($47)
Designed for the iPhone and iPod Touch, this device has no charging cables, everything is built right into the device. While it's charging, the device doubles as a kickstand so you can view movies and videos from your iPhone or iPod Touch without needing your hands.
NovoThink Surge solar charger for iPhone 3G and 3GS ($70)
If your vacation plans include outdoor venues like hiking up a mountain or laying on the beach, there probably won't be a lot of power outlets to recharge your phone. Instead, use the POWER OF THE SUN to recharge. The charger also doubles as a protective case for your phone.
Freeloader Pro Solar Charger ($120)
Using high power solar panels (or USB), the Freeloader Pro can quickly charge its internal battery (7 to 9 hours in sunny conditions), and then provide enough power for a mobile phone to last 70 hours in standby mode, or give a full charge to a digital camera battery. A multi-voltage switch can provide power to 9.5v devices (MP4 players, portable DVD players, SLR camera batteries). A "Power Halo" button lets you know how much juice is left.
Ventev EcoCHARGE Wall Charger ($30)
This eco-friendly travel charger lets you charge two devices at once, and is also power-friendly by providing charging power only when needed. With about 10x more efficiency than other chargers, the EcoCharge includes a hidden USB port, and an onboard LED alerts you when the charger is drawing power from the outlet, and when it's not. A vertical configuration also lets you connect to a power strip without covering the other outlets.
Targus Laptop Charger ($140)
About the size of a BlackBerry, the Targus Laptop Charger is half the size of a regular charger, and includes nine laptop tips, one mini-USB tip (for cell phones or cameras), and an iPod/iPhone tip. The charger can plug directly into the wall, and also can rotate 180 degrees to plug into an outlet or power strip without blocking other outlets. A portable auto adapter is also included for in-car charging.
Kensington PowerBolt Micro Car Charger
For those road trips where your iPad, iPhone and iPod need a quick charge, you can plug this into your car's cigarette adapter (power outlet) and get a quick charge.
Coghlan's Flint Striker ($9)
The next time you find yourself in the woods trying to start a fire (or if you're a contestant on 'Survivor"), break out this waterproof magnesium fire-starting rod and striker, which can start a fire at any altitude in any weather condition. How? It generates a stream of sparks that can light any combustible material. Also makes a worthy sparkler-alternative on the Fourth of July.
American Red Cross ClipRay ($15)
Designed for use outdoors or in emergency situations (think Hurricane season!). This LED flashlight device features a hand crank and a USB port to charge your cell phone – 2 minutes of cranking will give you enough power for a call. It features a carabiner clip to attach to a pack or belt loop.
P&M Products EZ Grill ($5 regular size, $10 for party size)
This portable instant grill comes complete with a foil pan, grill grate, stand and charcoal (all-natural). It's ready to use and recyclable. The grill lights up with one match, and can cook for up to 1.5 hours. It's also approved by the EPA!
ICON Rogue flashlight ($28)
These LED flashlights provide a solid grip, an aluminum body that's rugged for drops on the ground or water (waterproof O-ring seals protect the battery up to 1 meter for 30 minutes). Comes in two options – a 4.5-inch Rogue 1 needs only one AA battery, and the 6.5-inch Rogue 2 requires two AA batteries.
Logitech Harmony 300 Remote ($45)
If you've been putting off getting a universal remote because of the difficulty in configuring your TV, DVD player, cable or satellite set-top box and receiver, fret no more. No pointing remotes at your devices with codes – you can configure the remote by connecting to a PC and downloading the access codes via the Logitech Web site, with more than 225,000 devices supported. A "Watch TV" button can automatically turn on your TV and the set-top box, saving you from some additional steps.
Toshiba Qosmio X505 gaming notebook ($1,199)
If you're going to stay home on vacation and play a bunch of PC games online, you might as well play with some style. The Toshiba Qosmio series of notebooks provide such style and performance for your gaming activities. Features include Intel Core i7 or i5 processors with Intel Turbo Boost, premium NVIDIA graphics cards, harman/kardon speakers and a Blu-Ray disc player to watch movies on an 18.4-inch HD display.
Clickfree C2N Home Backup Drive ($140 to $180)
If you're at home doing projects on your stay-cation, get going on backing up all of the PCs on your home network. Working with your wireless network, the C2N includes BackupLink software that can back up your systems automatically without connecting to each computer. The C2N can also do backup of Windows and Macintosh systems at the same time. Capacities range from 250GB to 1TB.
You may not be able to drive your favorite luxury car, but if you are looking for a nice gadget for your stay-cation, check out the Motormouse, providing a "luxury" wireless mouse (2.4GHz) that looks like your dream car. The Motormouse runs on two AAA batteries, has real rubber tires and a “spare tire” scroll wheel. The "trunk" opens to store the batteries and receiver.
Bigfoot Killer 2100 online gaming network card
Bigfoot calls its newest network card the "fastest ever made for online games", with performance up to 10 times faster than standard connections. The card uses a dedicated networking processor, bypassing the PC CPU and the Windows Networking Stack, accelerating game traffic by reducing stuttering and other lag. The card comes with monitoring tools (visual bandwidth control, application blocking and an online gaming monitor) to optimize your network performance.
If you have young kids in the car for a long road trip, you're going to need some distractions. StoryChimes (ranging from free to $0.99 per story) provide classic children's stories with illustrations, and an easy chime to let them know to turn the page. Stories can be read with or without displaying text, which can help young readers learn the look of words.
If you grew up in the 1970s or 1980s, you probably had a Lite Brite toy, which consisted of placing colored plastic pegs onto a backlit board to create pictures. The iBrite app lets you do the same thing, only on your iPad. You get a blank black canvas on which you place your "pegs" via your finger, allowing you to draw pictures. You can pick from thousands of colors and shades, erase if you make a mistake, save the images when you're done, or zoom in for closer peg placement. Very cool and retro.
Pinball HD ($3)
If you have an iPad and love pinball video games, take advantage of the larger screen and download this pinball app, which provides three tables and excellent pinball machine action. Hold the iPad vertically with both hands, and activate the flippers with each thumb, and it's like you're playing at the arcade. Quality graphics and interesting action make this a hands-down winner, well-worth the $3 price tag.