e-Reader – The latest generation of e-Readers do a lot more than let your ead books. They will let you play music, watch videos, and surf the web. But first and foremost they are readers. That means they have fonts you can blow up, and they automatically bookmark your last page when you close the book. The black and white readers have much longer battery life and are fine if all you want to do is read. If you want to watch movies, or surf the web, the color readers are a lot more fun. We suggest the new Kindle Fire HD from Amazon. It’s priced at $199. We like the 7” form factor, which is still small enough to fit into a purse or small carry bag, and we like the sharp, fast color screen. We also like the Kindle ecosystem that allows to you keep track of all your Kindle books on any Kindle platform device.
Music System – Listening to good music is one of life’s little pleasures. Finding a way to access all the music you like and listening to it throughout the house can be challenging. Sonos has conquered the challenge with its wireless home music systems. We like the smaller Sonos Play:3 system priced at $299 per unit. Each unit can handle a reasonably sized room. Put one in the living room, one in the bedroom, one in the kitchen. It will access your home music library (including iTunes), as well as a host of music services including Sirius XM Radio, Pandora, Spotify, the Amazon Cloud player and many others. The system is easy to setup and the signals run on a separate system from your home wireless network, so they don’t take away any of that valuable bandwidth.
Smartphone – When it comes to picking a smartphone, the main question is one of operating system. Are you wed to Apple’s iOS, Android, or Windows Phone 8? But if you’re making your selection simply on the hardware, we think the Samsung Galaxy Note II is the best phone yet for Boomers. The Note II runs on Android 4.1, also known as Jellybean. It’s the first Android phone we’ve seen that has a mode that enlarges the icons. With a 5 ½“ diagonal screen, it’s big enough to comfortably watch video. It comes with a stylus and Samsung’s “S-Pen” software to take notes and create or markup images. The price on most major carriers is $300 with a two year contract. Without a contract, the price is roughly $650.
Fitness – Heart Rate Monitor – There are lots of gadgets out there to help get into shape and stay there. If your wife is a runner, jogger, or does something else to get exercise, she might be interested in a heart rate monitor that helps keep track of how her exercise regimen is working. The Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor is an entry level device that will do the trick. We’ve seen it priced at anywhere between $62 and $100.
Fitness – Pedometer -Your wife might be surprised at how many steps she takes during the course of the day. And the more steps she takes, the fitter she’ll be. The Omron HJ-323U Pedometer uses what it calls 3D smart sensor technology to measure her steps, then let her communicate the information back to her computer. The device comes with a strap and a clip making it easy to hold onto or attach as she works out or just walks around. It will measure her steps whether strolling around or running the track, and will also keep track of calories burned. The device lists for $50.00
Refreshment – We all know it’s important to stay hydrated. And that’s why wherever you find folks working out you find water bottles. But let’s face it, while water is healthy, and doesn’t contain processed sugars, it is pretty dull. The Aqua Zinger is a device that will let you take fresh fruit and infuse the flavors into your water. You simply take your fruits like berries, oranges, kiwis or whatever, and put them in the bottom cup. As you screw it on, it chops the fruit and infuses the flavor into the water. It sells for about $25 and comes in a choice of colors.
Point & Shoot Camera – There are a lot of great point and shoot digital cameras on the market from makers such as Sony, Samsung, Canon, and Nikon. So making a decision won’t be easy. Among the criteria you might consider are the zoom capability of the lens and the number of megapixels. But one camera that caught our eye is Nikon’s new CoolPix S01. It is one of the smallest cameras we’ve seen, weighing in at 3.4 ounces, and a package that’s just about 3” by 2”. It features a 10 megapixel sensor, a 3X optical zoon lens, and it will shoot HD video (720p). We’ve seen it advertised for anywhere between about $145 and $180.
Windows 8 Computer – The advent of Windows 8 is bringing a flood of new laptops, tablets, convertibles and hybrids into the market. Windows 8 itself offers a touch optimized interface that is a real improvement. But before you buy, understand that the new operating system does come with a fairly steep learning curve. If you do take the plunge, here are three machines we like that each has a very different configuration:
Lenovo – Yoga 13 – This machine runs the full version of Windows 8. It gets its name from its ability to swivel the screen from a laptop position all the way to a tablet position. It is based on Intel’s Ultrabook design, so it is thin, light, and fast. It has most of the things you would want in a laptop plus the added feature of flipping around so you can use it as a touchscreen tablet. Starting price is $999 with configurations up to about $1300
HP Spectre XT TouchSmart – This is HP’s top of the line Ultrabook, with a beautifully designed all aluminum and magnesium case. It also runs the full version of Windows 8 and has a beautiful 15.6” diagonal HD screen. The machine is fast, and you don’t have to wait for a bootup. It has an available 500GB solid state drive (SSD), one of the biggest we’ve seen. The Spectre also features Beats audio. Configurations begin at $999. HP promises the machine will be on store shelves in time for the holidays
Asus – Vivo Tab RT – This is one of the new breed of machines that features a keyboard that detaches. It runs a different version of Windows 8 known as RT. This will recognize a file created on your Microsoft Office programs, but otherwise relies on apps from the Windows Store. And despite its recent launch you’ll find many of your favorites already there. The keyboard detaches from the 10.1” screen, meaning you can use it as a standalone tablet, or as a laptop. The keyboard and the screen each has its own battery to give you about 13 hours of battery life when combined. Pricing begins at $599.
7” Tablet Computers – If you like the smaller tablet form factor, you basically have a choice between an Android tablet or the new Apple iPad Mini. While some of the 7” e-readers have much of the functionality of the comparably sized tablets, the tablets are generally more versatile. We haven’t yet been able to spend much time with the iPad mini, but basically it does everything the full sized iPad does, only smaller. That means the same selection of apps, the same great display, only shrunken to make it fit more easily into a purse. Pricing on the mini begins at $329 for a 32GB WiFi only version, and going as high as $659 for the 64GB version with cell connectivity. On the Android side we like the Google Nexus 7 tablet which costs $249.00 for the 32GB WiFi only version. The Nexus 7 is fast, smooth, thin, and light, and since it’s made under the Google brand, comes with lots of Google apps already built-in.