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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)

Epson Stylus Photo RX700
My wife and I both take digital photos, but our attitudes toward printing them out are radically different. For me, looking at images on my computer screen is just fine for 99.5 percent of the pictures I shoot. When I do want a paper print, I fiddle with the shot until it's just right, cropping and tweaking and Photoshopping out imperfections. My wife is a holdout from the film photography era, when you brought your roll of film to the local drugstore and got back prints (or double prints!) for every single shot, good, bad and ugly.

Epson ensures domestic tranquility, if only in the digital photo arena, with this extraordinary all-in-one device that handles a wide variety of imaging tasks. Equally important, it does it all either with or without a computer. The Stylus Photo RX700 makes copies (color and black-and-white), prints photos and text documents, and scans documents and even photographic negatives and slides. The only missing capability is faxing, which, in the age of e-mail, is a fairly Paleolithic pastime.

The RX700 is the key to liberating your old photos from their shoebox prison. You can scan and print photos, negatives or slides right on the device (using the crystal-clear built-in 2.5-inch screen), or use the computer to scan and store them on your hard drive. Either way, you get the benefit of Epson's impressive photo restoration software, which does a surprisingly good job automatically removing the fading that afflicts old photos.

My CD-burning daughter's favorite feature is the ability to print in full color directly onto blank CDs and DVDs. This is both decorative and practical, since it lets you neatly list stored music tracks or TV programs right on the disc. No more Sharpie-marker-labeled discs at my house—we've gone pro.

All of this would be nearly worthless without up-to-snuff print quality. Happily, this is a full-fledged photo printer, using six colored inks instead of the standard office printer three or four. It reproduces the full gamut of colors with vibrant depth and fine color accuracy. If anything, the RX700 output looks better than drugstore prints and, what's more, they'll last at least as long. Yes, this is a pricey printer, but when you add in its document scanning and copying functions, CD printing capabilities and the ability to bring smiles to both novices and digital photo enthusiasts, I'd say it's a great buy.

$399, or 800-873-7766

For anyone who needs a second TV set in a bedroom, a dorm room, an office or a den, this handsome LCD model is one sleek solution, bundling everything you need into a compact package—even the DVD player is built in. The 23-inch wide-screen LCD panel displays both standard- and high-definition TV content very well, with deeply saturated colors and impressive sharpness. The only visible flaw I found was slightly uneven edge-to-edge illumination—you might notice it during all-black scenes (such as a movie's title crawl), but during normal viewing it's inconsequential. And LG gets high marks for delivering a screen with an unusually wide viewing angle. When you look at a typical LCD panel from the side or high above, you notice colors shift and distort. With this screen, everything looks fine from any practical viewing angle.

The built-in DVD player (it's in the unit's base) makes perfect sense, eliminating an extra box in cramped quarters, unsightly wires and an extra wireless remote. And it's not limited to playing movies: if you burn MP3 or digital photo files onto a CD, you can enjoy both with remote-controlled convenience. There's no built-in tuner for receiving high-definition TV broadcasts, but if you're like most people, you're probably going to hook the set to a cable or satellite tuner anyway.

$1,799, or 800-243-0000

SunRocket Internet Phone Service
If you have high-speed Internet access at home, you've probably already been pitched on switching your phone service to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). It's a tempting proposition—you get low-cost calling plus fancy calling and messaging features at no extra charge. Granted, telephone service might not be the perfect holiday gift, at least as provided by your local cable or telephone company. But SunRocket is different. It delivers a big box full of VoIP: the network adapter plus a Uniden wireless phone with two handsets and a year of prepaid service. With a big box under the tree, you're a holiday hero—and a very frugal hero at that, since that prepaid year includes unlimited calling throughout the United States and Canada plus a host of useful services for less than $17 a month. SunRocket customers get Internet-based voicemail, call blocking, call forwarding and distinctive rings to identify specific callers (so you'll know instantly that it's Mom and not Mom's Friendly Carpet Cleaning Service on the line). The Find Me option automatically dials a series of numbers you choose if you don't pick up right away. You might, for example, have unanswered calls forwarded to your office line and, if you still don't answer, on to your cell phone. It's a great way to make sure you get mission-critical calls ASAP.

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