In the sea of tech toys and gadgets that hit the shelves every holiday season, a few stand out as the year’s sure-to-sell-out favorites. With the first new console gaming system in six years and a mini-tablet war, this year is no exception. Here are the hottest trending tech goodies of the 2012 holiday season.
Nintendo’s Wii U (http://www.nintendo.com/wiiu, $299.99 for an 8GB “basic”, $349.99 for a 32GB “deluxe”) is the first new console gaming system released since the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 first debuted in 2006. In addition to the standard game controls, the GamePad incorporates a 6.2-inch LCD touch screen (which they’ve dubbed a “Personal Second Screen”) with motion control. Additional game content is beamed to the controller screen so you can see maps, complete challenges with the stylus or your finger, or use it to move your character or vehicle on the big screen. It can be used for handheld gaming, even when the TV is unavailable.
It’s the must have item this season, and it’s sure to sell out fast. If you want one, don’t wait for a sale. The best you can hope for is a bundle deal where retailers may package in an extra game, but you’ll risk losing out to resellers that snatch them up in bulk to mark up $100 or more and sell to the desperate on EBay.
Despite the much heralded release of Apple’s new iPad mini, my pick for the best 7” mini tablet is Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008GGCAVM/ref=kindle_dp_comp), starting at $199. An entry-level iPad mini will set you back $329, making the Fire’s price a big draw. Unless you are already married to Apple’s iTunes store, rest assured that the Kindle gives you access to just about all of the most popular apps, as well as the huge library of books, videos, TV shows and music housed in Amazon’s massive library. With an HD display, dual antenna for stronger WiFi reception and both a USB and Micro-HDMI port (for connecting it to your home theater), anyone on your list looking for an ultra-portable mini-tablet is sure to be pleased with the Kindle Fire HD.
If 7” seems just too small to accommodate your handheld web surfing, video watching and game playing needs, Amazon is releasing an 8.9” version of the Kindle Fire HD in time for the holidays starting at $299.99 (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008GFRE5A). Pre-order now – they expect to sell out.
Call of Duty (http://www.callofduty.com/blackops2, $60 for XBox 360, Playstation 3, Nintento Wii U and PC) is going to be the hottest video game of the season. This first-person shooter game has developed a huge fan base since the series first launched in 2003, making it the biggest-selling title on Microsoft’s Xbox gaming system. Holiday sales of their annual game releases have outpaced all other games for the last four years and this season will be no exception.
Players battle it out online over a variety of “maps” and game styles. New “map packs” are released regularly to keep game play fresh. Just keep in mind that content is mature so it’s best saved for the older gamers on your holiday shopping list.
Trendy music lovers are clamoring for the pricey but oh-so-fashionable Beats by Dr. Dre headphones. The colorful can-style headphones are about style even more than sound, though many swear by the quality and durability. With many versions available, the entry level Beats Solo HD (www.beatsbydre.com/headphones/beats-solohd-black/900-00011-01,default,pd.html) will set you back about $200, though many retailers are offering them on sale for the holiday shopping season.
With eight colors to choose from, they sport an in-line control and microphone to easily switch from your tunes to an incoming call. Reviews are mixed with users seeming to love or hate them, but they’re unquestionably popular.