Sometimes it's tough to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to the latest, greatest tech gadgets. And since market surveys show that gays tend to be early adopters of new technology, it can be even harder to wow the techie in your life with something stunning this holiday season.
Luckily for you, we've toiled for hours investigating this season's cool tech toys. So go ahead and grab the latest gadget at the links below, and be the hero of the holiday when your loved ones unwrap what they (or you) were really hoping for this year.
Gaming On the Go
I don’t care how old you are, the must-have gift this year is the new all-in-one entertainment system that brings all of your live cable TV, movies, games, music, and apps together in one simple, elegant system: the Xbox One.
Forget what you know about gaming consoles; this isn’t one. This is a modern living room media center that does everything you need in one device — hell, you can even do video conference calls via Skype. And after you’ve tried it, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. Used with the new Kinect (which now has a 1080p HD camera and much better motion tracking than earlier generations), you can turn on both the Xbox and your TV with the sound of your voice. Xbox One will remember your face and automatically sign you in to your personalized home screen with all of your favorite media ready to go. You don’t use a remote — you just tell Xbox what you want to do (you do have to be precise, though) or motion with your hands. You can switch from a game, to TV, to music, to an app, and back in a matter of seconds — and you can keep watching TV while you play your game on the side of the same screen.
And yes, if you’re a gamer, you can still play games — offline or online — using discs or the instant downloads from Xbox Live. The Xbox One games have won numerous awards already this year. But I’m betting a good number of people who will fall in love with Xbox One won’t even be playing games on them. Yes, it’s that good. Now the challenge will be finding one; many stores are already sold out. $499, Xbox.com
Cha-Ching Meets Oink
Cute and useful, let’s call Porkfolio the world’s smartest piggy bank. The bank wirelessly connects to an app on your smartphone or tablet so you can track your balance from anywhere. You can also set up financial goals, but more importantly, the piggy’s nose lights up in celebration every time a U.S. coin is inserted — and it holds up to $100 in quarters. $69.99, Quirky.com
The Future is Now
Remember on the classic sitcom Get Smart, when the undercover agents had watches that they talked to, or got information from, as if they were computers or TV sets on their wrists? We’re there, baby boomers!
With Samsung’s Galaxy Gear Smart Watch, you sync up with your smart phone (right now, it has to be a Samsung) and surreptitiously check your email during staff meetings, and get notifications for texts, emails and phone calls — all on your wrist. You can use it to help find your phone, auto-lock the phone, organize apps, change the camera setting, and make hands-free calls. And don’t worry about losing Siri. Galaxy has S Voice, which lets you use simple voice commands to make calls, compose messages, turn on alarms, add things to your calendar, check the weather, and pretty much anything that Agent 99 could do on Get Smart. $299, BestBuy.com
Achey Breaky Back?
Usually the word “massager” is code in lesbian households, but this product is not. Wahl’s new Hot Cold Therapeutic Massager is great for chronic pain relief, because it combines massage with temperature therapy to offer a more holistic approach to muscle aches. It heats up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit, and cools down to 48 degrees Fahrenheit, comes with four interchangeable attachments, and moves in two speeds. And if you don’t have pain? Well, remember that code? It works for that too. $59.99, Amazon.com
The Smallest Screen Gets a Boost
You know how hard it is to show off pictures of your four cats to a group of people and make them understand just how adorable they are on your tiny, four-inch phone screen? Yeah you do. Well, the Wireless iPhone to TV Converter is basically a wireless receiver that turns any television into a large-scale monitor for your mobile device. It gives you real-time, high-def mirroring of video and audio on any HDMI-enabled TV, monitor, or projector, and translates all output on your phone (including games, phone calls, videos, pictures, music, etc.) to the TV. Who needs a cable box now? $99.95. Hammacher.com
Fits Like a Glove
Finally, the world’s first leather touchscreen gloves for women have arrived (no, we cannot just wear men’s gloves; they don’t fit). The science is simple: combine lambskin leather and crochet cotton with nanotechnology that mimics the conductive properties of human skin. OK, all I really understand is that these Mujjo gloves are sexy, warm, and let us use our damn cell phones. (And yes, there’s a dude version too.) Prices vary, but visit Mujjo.com, and for the male model, click here.
Good Morning, Sunshine
Hate the jarring alarms of traditional clocks? The Peaceful Progression Wake Up Clock makes those — so much more — a thing of the past. It uses gradually increasing light, stimulating aromas, and peaceful nature sounds to wake you. It starts with a soft glow 30 minutes before you’re supposed to be awake, then gets brighter and brighter until it’s time to rise. It simultaneously releases aromatherapy scents (my preference is lavender, but there are others, and you can use your own essential oils, too). Then come the nature sounds (you pick between ocean surf, thunderstorm, white noise, spring rain, mountain stream, and forest stream). And if that doesn’t wake you up, at the set time it sets off a more traditional chime — that gets louder if you don’t hit the Off switch. You can also set it to fall asleep to these natural sounds, with ocean breeze pumping out into the air. It's like a spa indulgence in a clock. $79.95, Hammacher.com
My new favorite camping toy, the LuminAID light, is an easily portable and waterproof solar light that's perfect for other types of outdoor recreation: travel, nighttime gardening (seriously, I have a friend who does this), and at other times and places (like during a hurricane when the lights go out), that I can’t even imagine. It’s basically a tiny little solar-powered light inside a plastic pillow that’ll last up to 16 hours when charged. It's better than normal lanterns because it’s super light, and is both sustainable (PVC-free) and socially-conscious (LuminAID's “Get Light, Give Light” program has donated lights to people in need in more than 15 countries). $19.95, LuminAID.com
I say this without shame: I am in love with my new Fitbit Flex Wireless Activity and Sleep Wristband. It’s a tiny wristband (that’s cool-looking, not like those clunky black heart monitors) that’s actually an amazing health device that syncs to your computer or phone. Until the new Fitbit Force hits stores later this month, it’s the best wearable monitoring device on the market. During the day, it tracks your activity — calories burned, distance walked, whatever your fitness goal is — and at night it tracks your sleep — how often you wake up, how long you sleep — and then wakes you up in the morning. It’s like the perfect one-night stand, except if you love it as much as I do, you’ll want to marry it. $99.95, Fitbit.com
For Your Snow Bunny
Sure, he’d rather you buy him the sleek new Audi RS 7, but that tops out at more than $100,000. But this cute Audi Striped Beanie with Headphones is like a hip little consolation prize. Perfect for snowboarders or winter sports fanatics (or anyone with a cold head), the sport-knit beanie features removable headphones that are crystal clear and work with any media player. $39.00, Audi-Collection.com
This One Is For the Gamers
Want to save the world of Vana’diel from the brink of war in Final Fantasy XI from several different rooms in your house? PeerAir, the wireless HD multimedia system from Peerless-AV, can wirelessly distribute HD content to TVs or video game consoles in different rooms, without the need for cables. It’s got an easy plug-and-play setup, can stream Full HD and 3D content formats, and lets you play games in different locations in your house without moving the console. And since it’s got an uncompressed signal (zero-latency, no-ghosting) and has no delay between processing and controls, you can even play Major League Gaming. It has a bunch of other great features too, but you’ll have to look them up yourself. I have to get back to Vana’diel. $269, Amazon.com