Holiday Shopping for Tech Gifts? Read the Buyer's Gadget Guide

Photo: New tech gadgets that are available nowPlayCourtesy
WATCH Holiday Buyer's Guide to New Technology

It's the holidays, and many are out buying gifts for friends and family.

But if you have a gadget lover on your gift list, would you know what to buy?

Here's a guide to some of the newest tech products on the market now, and what you should know about them in order to make a smart choice.

Flat-Screen TVs

Flat-screen TVs are huge sellers around the holidays, but how do you know which one to buy? LCD? LED? "GMA" checked out one LCD TV and one LED TV and the difference of one little letter was $600!

There are plain old LCDs and then there are backlit LCDs. The LEDs are fancier versions of the standard LCDs.

What does an LED backlit monitor get you for that extra chunk of change?

It's thinner, lighter and uses less energy, but here's the big difference: it's brighter. So if you have a really bright living room with lots of windows, an LED backlit TV is a good upgrade if you can afford it. If you have a darker room with less ambient light, LCD will do just fine, especially if you want to save a few bucks.

When you are shopping for a TV you see 120 or 240 hertz, but which is a better investment?

This number refers to the number of times the picture is painted on an LCD screen every second. More should be better, right? I say not exactly. Early LCDs suffered from something called motion blur where you saw artifacting or blockiness around fast-moving scenes, especially sports.

The increase in the refresh or hertz rate is supposed to fix that. I have talked to a lot of people about this and done side-by-side comparisons and here's my assessment: You can visibly tell the difference between 60 Hz and 120 Hz: 120 is better. But I can barely see the difference between 120 and 240. I need a new TV, and I'll save a few bucks and get 120 Hz.

Watching the Internet on TV

Now that so many of the DVD rental chains have gone out of business, people are turning to the Internet for their Friday night movies at home. To avoid gathering around the laptop and so they can watch on the big screen, some people are turning to a Roku box.

This is a little box that connects to your Internet connection and then hooks into your TV. There are several brands -- Roku, Boxee, Apple TV, Orb. You usually subscribe to a service like Netflix or use iTunes through the box and you can instantly watch TV shows, documentaries and movies.

Then there's the Slingbox.

The Slingbox lets you watch the stuff you've got on your home DVR or TV on a laptop, smartphone or iPad from anywhere you have access to the Internet. It's great for road warriors or even a geeky way to use your laptop or iPad like a spare TV set somewhere else in the house if you have Wi-Fi.


Tethering lets you use your smartphone as a modem to go online. Some new phones, such as the Sprint EVO, use cell phone networks to create mini-WiFi hotspots. You can fire up the tethering and then your laptop can use that connection to get online. There are also little stand-alone devices like the Mi-Fi that will do the same thing. This is a lifesaver if you are on the road a lot.

The Powermat

The Powermat is a great gift for the techie who has a huge tangle of cords to charge all their gadgets, and it seems to work like magic.

It uses magnetic induction to wirelessly charge your phone just by placing it on the plugged-in mat. You replace the battery in most phones with the power mat battery, although in some phones where the battery doesn't come out (like the iPhone) you use a case, but it's great for by the bed. Lay it down when you go to sleep and it charges wirelessly overnight -- no plugging in required.

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