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Great Grown-up Gadgets

An open letter to Santa lists the best in electronic gifts for adults
Steve Morgenstern
From the Print Edition:
Antonio Banderas, Nov/Dec 2005

(continued from page 1)

Communication is the key reason for carrying the MDA, of course, and it works very well indeed for both voice and text. Since all your contact info is automatically synchronized between your Windows computer and the MDA, dialing is a simple screen-click operation. For text, the top of the device slides back to reveal a very usable little QWERTY keyboard—the letter spacing and layout is far superior to the Treo and BlackBerry devices. Equally important, the screen display can flip easily from lengthwise to width-wise orientation. When you're typing out an e-mail, working on a spreadsheet or surfing the Web, you can flip the screen display 90 degrees for full-length lines, and when you're perusing to-do lists or browsing your address book, you can flip it back to standard notepad orientation.

Finally, you get three flavors of built-in wireless connectivity: a cell phone (which works for voice and online data, albeit at moderate speed), Wi-Fi networking (it works great at your local Starbucks or other wireless hot spot) and Bluetooth for using wireless headsets or keyboards.

$400, www.tmobile.com or 800-766-2453

Sirius S50
When I wrote about satellite radio here earlier this year, XM had a decided competitive edge when it came to delivering slick, upscale receivers. In the intervening months, however, Sirius has made serious strides in this area, whittling down the size of its radios while improving their features and information display. The flagship product for the new sexy Sirius is its S50 radio, a beautifully crafted piece of equipment boasting a bright color screen and some intriguing capabilities under the hood.

The S50 is a hybrid device. To receive live satellite radio programming it has to sit in a docking cradle—these are available for both in-car and in-home use. As you listen, though, the device records your favorite programs—up to 50 hours worth of audio can be stored in the 1-gigabyte internal memory. That means you can leave the radio on, store a huge selection of audio in the memory buffer, and listen to this recorded content on the small handheld unit on the road. And, at 3.9'' x 1.9" x 0.7", this is a perfectly portable little player to take along. You can also schedule recordings, so if you can't live without your daily dose of Howard Stern (he debuts on Sirius in January), you'll be able to set up automatic daily recording and listen at your leisure.

Another ingenious feature makes built-in recording even better. The S50 automatically creates an on-screen table of contents listing all your stored songs, so you can pick and choose the tunes you want to hear out of that 50-hour trove. But wait, there's more, as they say on TV. If you want to hang onto a particular tune in memory, press a single button and that song will remain on the device until you choose to erase it. With 50 hours of storage available, you can build up a pretty impressive music collection without paying a nickel beyond the standard $12.95 monthly subscription fee.

And just when you think I've run out of kickers, here's one more breakthrough feature from our friends at Sirius—the S50 also plays digital music files (MP3 and WMA formats) you download from your computer.

It slices, it dices, it makes julienne fries—this is one of the most versatile digital devices I've seen this year. I have only two caveats to offer: the estimated battery life is only around six hours, not quite up to industry standards for portable audio players (though the battery is removable, so you can buy and carry a spare). Also, the beautiful shiny finish is practically begging to be scratched, so you'll want to find an appropriate carrying case. Gym socks will work, but that just doesn't seem like the most elegant solution for this beautifully sculpted player.

$360, www.siriusradio.com or 888-539-7474

Steve Morgenstern covers tech issues when he isn't writing to Santa.


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