The Xconomy 2010 Gadget Gift Guide

12/3/10Follow @wroush

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Canon Vixia HF R100Canon Vixia HF R100 Flash Memory Camcorder — $279 at Amazon

I got a Vixia last summer to document my drive across the country to San Francisco. While the Flip Ultra is great for casual, spur-of-the-moment shooting, Canon’s Vixia line of camcorders are aimed at the “serious amateur” videographer who’s planning more elaborate projects and wants features like full HD resolution (1080p), a 20x zoom lens, auto-focus, and more storage (on removable SD cards). The device is compact, light, rugged, and easy to operate. I initially left an unhappy review at Amazon after discovering that the video editing software that comes with the Vixia is Windows-only, but Mac owners can easily transfer and edit video files using programs like Final Cut Pro.

Accessories/add-ons: Owners of flash-memory-based camcorders can never have enough SD cards. Get your Vixia owner an 8- or 16-gigabyte SDHC card from a maker like Kingston, Sandisk, or Transcend. It should cost $12 to $40.

Vizit Digital Photo FrameVizit Digital Photo Frame — $279.99 at Amazon

If you’re thinking about giving someone a dedicated digital photo frame, consider the Vizit, made by Concord, MA-based Isabella Products. Its screen is larger (10.4 inches diagonally) with higher resolution (800×600) than most competing digital frames, and it’s a touchscreen, which means all the controls are right on the screen, rather than on some hard-to-use remote control. But its best feature is its built-in 3G cellular modem, which means it doesn’t have to be plugged into a phone line or a home network—you can send photos to the Vizit via MMS message, e-mail, or RSS feed. It can also grab photos from online photo sharing services like Photobucket and Flickr. The Vizit is more expensive than most digital frames today, especially when you add in the cost of the wireless plan—$72 to $80 per year. But the device is so much smarter than the competition that gadget lovers will appreciate the extra money you spent.

Accessories/add-ons: Optional SD cards will greatly expand the Vizit’s internal memory, which can only hold about 150 photos.

Galaxy TabSamsung Galaxy Tab — $599.99 at Amazon

I couldn’t make a holiday gadget list without including the two hottest computing products on the market today, the Apple iPad (next on the list) and its closest competitor, the new Galaxy Tab from Samsung. I was initially skeptical about whether a 7-inch tablet—a screen size that’s about halfway between a smartphone and an iPad—would have many practical uses. But having played around with the Galaxy Tab, I now believe there’s a real role for these intermediate-sized tablets. The main advantage is that the device can easily be held in one hand and operated with the other, as you surf the Web, search maps, play games, read e-books, and the like. The Galaxy Tab’s Android operating system works surprisingly well, considering that it was designed for smartphones rather than tablets, and the device comes with at least two great features—a front-facing camera for video conferencing, and a rear-facing camera for shooting video and stills—that the iPad doesn’t have. I still think the iPad is a better overall device, and for the same money as the Galaxy Tab, you can get a 16-gigabyte Wi-Fi iPad. But the Galaxy tab is a far more credible competitor for the iPad than I expected it to be; if it had come out before the Apple device, gadget hounds would be snapping it up by the millions.

Accessories/add-ons: Most Galaxy Tab owners will want a protective case of some kind, and there’s already a wide selection. Some act as stands, and others have lots of pockets and look like old-fashioned File-o-faxes. Search Amazon; products range from $18 to $60.

Apple iPadApple iPad — $499 to $829 at Apple.com or Apple Stores

Needless to say, the Galaxy Tab and the iPad are only for gift-givers who are feeling extremely generous, given price tags that put them in the same range with netbooks and low-end laptops. But I expect that Apple, which has already sold more than 7.5 million iPads since the device’s April debut, will sell a couple million more this month, its first holiday season on the market. I won’t drone on about the iPad’s merits—I did that in my April product review. Suffice it to say that the iPad is a magical, portable window on almost any type of media you can think of, from photos and maps to TV shows, movies, games, books, and productivity apps. I’m hoping that the next version of the iPad will include front- and rear-facing cameras, which would make it into a media creation tool rather than simply a media consumption tool. Still, it’s a game-changing invention that no serious gadget lover will want to be without.

Accessories/add-ons: As with the Apple TV, the most useful add-on gift for an iPad owner would be an iTunes gift card, the better to scarf up more content.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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