Go-go gadgets!

    It’s getting close to holiday season, and if you grew up with a penchant not for Kris Kringle or Jesus, but for new Game Boys and sweet TVs, then you know that the coldest season of the year is warmed up by cool new gadgets and gear. This year has seen some amazing jumps in technology and consumer electronics, most notably among cell phones and computers. While most of the items here are probably out of a student’s price range, remember that Thanksgiving is just around the corner and it’s never too early to beg and grovel – I mean, make a wish list and hope upon the first snowflake of the season that you get your sweet new gear.

    Windows Vista

    Microsoft is once again going to try and evolve home computing with a new, breakthrough operating system (OS). Early reports about the Vista have touted high-end graphics among a sleek new interface, easier navigation of files and applications, more support for multimedia and a slew of new Windows programs, most notably the Windows DVD Maker. The forthcoming OS is to release five editions in the first quarter of 2007, and the different editions will range in price from $199 ?” $399, with a discount if you’ve recently purchased a Windows XP edition (Vista upgrade drivers will come with your purchase between now and January). Overall, the new OS looks like it will bring on lots of welcome changes, though it’ll be hard to justify buying it now, given Microsoft’s history of launching new operating systems and running into hundreds of customers with system errors, virus issues and overall frustration. It’d be better to wait a while and let the price drop and support grow – unless you’re a diehard computer geek.

    Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD1 digital camcorder

    Digital imaging technology continued its forward march with this sleek, tiny new camcorder. Sanyo is known to have issues with breakage and a somewhat unforgiving customer-service division, but the new model is meant to be both miniscule and durable. Boasting a rate of nine Mbs for video taping and a 5.1 megapixel lens, this tiny machine will catch every color and detail of any episode you record, be they family get-togethers, drunken parties or your personal sex life. While there are variations, the common model described here will cost $699 at list price, though already sites like Amazon and Yahoo! are selling it in the neighborhood of $600. That’s still a bit pricey, but if you have the means (or the loaded parents), this little camcorder will bring plenty of merriment your way.

    Apple MacBook Pro

    After much time of being just a cutesy, middle-school-aged computer, Macintoshes have grown up and begun finding a niche in the professional world. The newest line of laptops is the MacBook Pro and these things are more or less an iMac on the go. The premium Pro offers users a 2.33 GHz Intel dual-core processor and three gigabytes of RAM or, in layman terms, complete overkill. This beast will be the best friend of anyone who’s into digital graphic design or heavy software programming, but otherwise, there’s just no reason to spend a cool $2,000. By all means, beg and plead for one or make friends with Steven Jobs, but otherwise, wait until you’re ready to upgrade your computer and the price drops a little.

    Logitech Wireless DJ

    An innovative little remote that allows for multimedia connections for musical players, the DJ is a handheld remote that offers complete control. It’s sort of like an iPod in its controls, though it comes with all of the hook-ups and auxiliary units needed to connect to both your computer and stereo, thus making for handheld control of your musical library from your computer while it booms through your stereo system. It’s sort of frivolous if you don’t have a big stereo system in your dorm or apartment, but if you live in a home that has a decent stereo and a PC, this little toy will make it hard to leave home. The little “DJ” controls and the mini-screen are a blast to play around with, and being able to operate a music player and hear it in stereo is great. Its current list price is $250, but a good shopper can find it for two Benjamin Franklins.

    Palm Treo 700w

    You will never need another phone again. It’s a complete mind blow how capable the Treo is: it makes calls, it surfs the web, it doubles as a personal device assistant, it has Windows Mobile. Basically, if you’ve ever considered a PDA and are about to upgrade your phone, the Treo is what you want. Be sure that you’re ready for such an intense item, however, because it will set you back $399 if you’re a Sprint customer or $299 through Verizon. Few customers have reported problems with the smartphone and Palm is always great about customer service. Put this one on the wish list and wow your friends with your phone/computer/machine of God.

    Kodak Easyshare v570

    Kodak has always been huge in the photography market, though some of their digital cameras have been lackluster and companies like Canon and Nikon have reigned supreme. This little digital camera is not their usual effort, and besides having five-megapixel mapping and a 5X optical zoom, the v570 is receiving acclaim for its dual lenses. The dual optics of this camera make for some amazing focusing, incredibly wide views and even the ability to take two photos independently, though simultaneously. The list price is $299, but eBay and Buydig.com have it at under $220.

    PlayStation 3

    Sony has been the reigning champion of the video game world for a while now and their forthcoming new system is likely going to keep them on top. The launch date is Nov. 17 and Sony has shipped 4 million units for the first wave. While the $500 price tag for the basic console – $600 for the premium – is daunting, the question won’t be so much about the price, but actually being able to purchase one. Much like the PS2 before it, this system will be a hot item all season long and unless you already have one on reserve, don’t expect to get it until after the holidays and psychotic shopping mothers have subsided.

    Nintendo Wii

    Never mind the childish name (yes, it’s pronounced “whee!”) and the last five years of Nintendo: this system will kick a lot of ass. It will come out on Nov. 19 and cost $250. Nintendo has also slated the American launch before the rest of the world (including Japan – finally, us first!) and will make it readily available throughout the holidays. The little goofy controller will throw some gamers off, but the “Wii Channels” – a sort of navigation system between games, memory card viewing, online access and system options – and the low cost will make it all OK. It shouldn’t be too hard to obtain, so put this on the wish list and you’ll probably have one to keep you entertained all winter long.

    Microsoft Zune

    Everyone and their mother seems to have an iPod. However, Microsoft is going to try and shake up that trend with the Zune, their biggest foray yet into creating a hip, snazzy audio device. The screen and controls look like a direct rip-off of the iPod, though it does carry some different features, most notably the Wi-Fi connectivity to other Zunes. However, the Zune does not allow for music download from the internet via Wi-Fi, and it can’t be used as an external hard drive. Having been released this week, the list price of $250 is what you can expect to pay. If you don’t already have an iPod and are considering the purchase of a portable audio player, pick it up or add it to the wish list.

    nVidia GeForce 8800 video card

    This graphics processor is a powerhouse of computer imagery. The GeForce line is a long-time favorite among computer geeks, and the 8800 doesn’t disappoint. Featuring unified shader architecture – a system of floating point processors – the 8800 is capable of singularly handling operations that would previously be split up among multiple units. If you don’t understand techno-babble, the above means that your computer will make pretty, shiny graphics that rarely ever skip or lag. The video card will cost between $500 and $650, depending on where you shop, and unless you are computer savvy, you’ll need to pay for installation as well. It won’t be worth buying unless you’re into PC gaming or video editing, because otherwise, it’s total overkill.

    Sharp Aquos LCD TV

    The high-definition television market has many contenders, and a few leaders. Sharp has been at the forefront of cutting-edge technology for a while and the new LCD TV really shows their muscle. The Aquos is just beautiful, making other TVs (even HDTVs) seem plain and useless. The resolution and crisp imaging that it shows are in parallel with the finest PC screens out there, and there is a decent range of sizes available. The 20-inch is going to run you around $600, and if you really want to show off to your friends, the 65-inch will be $8,000. OK, so it’s not likely that you can drop that sort of cash or even beg and whine until your throat is sore, hoping to convince your folks to drop a year’s worth of tuition on a TV. Rather than putting it on the wish list, just print out a photo of it and tack it up near your study space, using it as motivation to graduate and get a six-figure income job, whereupon spending that sort of cash is an option.