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Plugged-In Plunder

Wire your gift list to the 21st century with these high-tech holiday ideas
Steve Morgenstern
From the Print Edition:
Rudy Giuliani, Nov/Dec 01

(continued from page 1)

Nothing is friendly about shaking hands when you're trying to hold a pair of binoculars steady. The answer: an optical image stabilization system. This is sophisticated stuff: sensors read the tiny horizontal and vertical movements from your hands, then a microprocessor takes over and quickly tilts an internal mechanism to adjust the light path and counteract the shake. But you don't need to know any of that -- what matters is, you press a button and the bird, ballplayer or babe you're ogling stops bobbling in your field of view.

Canon isn't the only company making image-stabilized binoculars, but it does make the smallest, most convenient model, the 8x25 IS. The eight times magnification is just right for sporting events and wildlife watching. The image is edge-to-edge crisp and respectably bright. The size (just over a pound and 4.7 x 5.4 x 2.4 inches) makes the binoculars a comfortable companion slung around your neck or tossed into your backpack. Canon, $460, www.usa.canon.com, 800-652-2666

Tissot T-Touch Wristwatch

On this watch not only are the tricks cool, but so is the unique way you put the timepiece through its paces. Tissot has outfitted this rugged model with a touch-sensitive crystal: by simply tapping the appropriate label on the watch face, you can choose between thermometer, barometer, altimeter, chronometer, compass and alarm functions. Granted, some of these capabilities are, shall we say, a trifle obscure. The thermometer, for example, measures air temperature, not your body temperature, and to get an accurate reading you have to take the watch off and wait about half an hour. On the other hand, the barometer measures the trend in barometric pressure over an eight-hour period, so you can predict the weather, and the altimeter is probably insanely useful for someone more outdoors-oriented than myself. As for me, I've found the most important features are the digital compass and the gee-whiz reaction I get from bystanders intrigued by the strange guy happily tapping away on his wristwatch. Tissot, $550 to $595, www.t-touch.com, 800-456-5354

Hewlett-Packard PhotoSmart 7550 Printer

This printer may save my marriage. My move from traditional film photography to shooting nearly everything with a digital camera elicited one complaint from my computerphobic wife: "Where are the prints?" Every time I developed a roll of 35mm film, I came home with a fistful of photos -- most not worth the paper they were printed on, but always a few keepers destined for passing around, mailing to grandma and prominent placement in my wife's burgeoning album collection. With digital, I get complete online albums to peruse on my computer. She gets the occasional printout and a grumpy look on her face.

That's why I'm so pleased with HP's PhotoSmart 7550 -- it not only produces beautiful prints, it keeps the divorce lawyers at bay. The 7550 prints exceptionally when connected to my computer, but it also features slots to accept all four types of removable memory cards used to store pictures in digital cameras. What's more, the printer has its own LCD screen so you can see what you've shot, choose your favorites and print them out, without ever touching the computer -- honey, are you listening?

You can make borderless prints, just like your neighborhood photo lab -- without a magnifying glass; nobody will know they weren't professionally printed. The advanced printing mechanism uses seven ink colors (most printers squeak by with three or four) to create truly realistic flesh tones and lifelike colors across the board. And if you spring for HP's Premium Plus Photo paper, there's a surprising bonus: your prints will resist fading for more than 70 years, roughly double the life of a conventional photo-processed print. Hewlett-Packard, $399.99, www.hp.com, 888-999-4747

Samsung HLM507W TV

The brilliant, razor-sharp pictures on this 50-inch wide-screen projection set and its 43-inch cousin were enough to stop me in my tracks in a convention hall full of competing sets. The key enhancement in these high-definition sets is the latest generation of DLP technology from Texas Instruments. Remember the buzz about movie theaters using digital projectors for optimal quality when the latest Star Wars movie was released? Those projectors are based on DLP chips, and while they're not identical, the DLP system in Samsung's set delivers a picture that makes conventional projection sets look washed out by comparison. These sets rival the quality of flat-screen plasma displays, at roughly half the price. While they're not as space-saving as an inches-thin plasma set, the 50-inch HLM507W weighs 80.5 pounds and measures only 17 5/8 inches front to back -- quite a svelte figure for a TV with this large screen size. Samsung, $4,499, www.samsungusa.com, 800-726-7864


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