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Gift Yourself!

You've taken care of everyone else -- now treat yourself to a high-tech toy
Steve Morgenstern
From the Print Edition:
Tyson vs. King, Jan/Feb 04

OK, you've stowed the Santa suit in the back of the closet for another year, your family has all the goodies and gewgaws they "subtly" hinted for, and you have more new ties, socks and old-movie DVDs than any three men should own. What about the cool digital delights you were lusting after? Sorry, my friend, if you want cutting-edge gear, there's no use relying on the relative generosity of family and friends -- it's time to take the tech plunge and make nice to yourself, with one of these guaranteed-to-please groundbreaking products. We've searched out the market for the best and coolest of the tech world. Along with the most recent developments on some of the usual suspects -- the PDA that's packing the most features into the least space, the latest greatest TV remote, a camcorder that redefines crystal clear recording -- we've uncovered some gadgets that perform entirely new functions: an the electronic jukebox that stores not only audio but video, a watch that brings Dick Tracy to life, TVs and stereos that aren't tethered to the wires in your wall, and much more.

Bose: QuietComfort 2 Headphones

When Bose introduced the original QuietComfort model three years ago, it set new standards for noise reduction technology in consumer headphones. Slip them on aboard an airplane and the background drone that so effectively sandpapers your nerves virtually disappears, leaving the movie soundtrack or music you're listening to clear, rich and satisfying. I've been known to use the Bose phones on a plane with no audio playing at all, just to enjoy the silence they provide. The effect is welcome in other situations: noise reduction makes a big difference on my local commuter rail trip, and even walking down a city street.

On the other hand, the original QuietComforts were big, honking headphones -- much too large to fit easily in a standard briefcase. Another matter was the separate little box dangling from the cord that held the electronics and battery, a less than elegant solution. Ultimately I had a love-em-and-leave-em relationship with the product -- love the sound, but leave 'em home rather than haul them around.

Now, Bose reclaims its place of honor in my traveling gear with the QuietComfort 2, which delivers the same noise-canceling technology in a far more portable package. The earcups have been slimmed down substantially and, equally important, they now swivel to fold flat for easy packing. The battery and electronics are incorporated right into one of the earcups, eliminating the dangling device dilemma. Comfort and fit are excellent, with nice plush cushioning on the earcups and headphone band. And the sound? It's excellent -- perfect for everyday listening, even if you're not eating honey-roasted nuts at 30,000 feet.

$299, or 800-999-2673

Kameleon 8: Home Theater Universal Remote Control

Looking as if it belongs on the Jetsons' coffee table, the face of the Kameleon 8 appears entirely blank when it rests unused. As soon as you lift it, however, it illuminates with a spacey blue glow, revealing "virtual" buttons -- labeled areas to press on the touch-sensitive screen to make your audio and video gear obey your commands. This light-up technology is great in a darkened room (assuming you can find the remote in the first place), but where it earns its name is in its ability to completely customize the display to handle the task at hand.

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