Gift gadgets straight
from the heart
ROSES ARE NICE, and chocolate is fine, but lovebirds who really want to impress their sweetie this
Valentine’s Day should consider a hot little high-tech
gadget to show how much they care. OK, so they cost
a little more than flowers and candy, but isn’t your
significant other worth it?
Here are a few ideas and tips on what features to
Digital cameras have reached the “sweet spot”: the
point where their prices have dropped considerably,
making them affordable for virtually everyone, yet
they offer incredible quality and convenient features.
Trends include slimmer designs and more colors
to choose from (in other words, there’s no sacrifice in
performance for looks); face-recognition technology
to better focus and light a subject’s face (or more than
one); and dual image stabilization—one to account
for a moving subject and the other for shaky hands.
Don’t get overly caught up in the race for mega-pixels (the little dots that make up the photo). But
look for at least an 8-megapixel digital camera in case
you decide to enlarge a photo into a poster-size print.
Whether it’s to keep your loved one entertained at
the gym, in the car or on long flights, there’s no shortage
of excellent portable music players to choose from.
The key to buying an MP3 player is figuring out
what it’ll be used for primarily. Active types will like a
small, lightweight player that can be clamped onto
clothing while exercising. Flash-memory-based MP3
players have no moving parts, so they won’t skip.
If you’re buying a gift for a traveling executive, on
the other hand, you might opt for a hard-drive-based
MP3 player. While slightly bigger than flash-based
models, these can store many thousands of songs and,
in some cases, show photos and videos. Other desirable features include a built-in FM radio, voice
recorder or integrated Wi-Fi to wirelessly download
music directly from the Internet, offered by the latest
The latest video cameras and camcorders are
ideal for capturing life as it happens, be it a baby’s first
steps, an adventurous outdoor excursion or a child’s
winning goal at a soccer game.
The biggest trends in camcorders are high-defi-
nition quality and new recording formats. With the former, the latest
camcorders can record in up to 1,080
lines of resolution (displayed in 16: 9
wide-screen format), which will
look outstanding on an HDTV.
Many can even record in 5. 1 surround sound, too.
New recording options include
postage-stamp-size flash memory,
which helps keep the camcorders small,
lightweight and durable, and makes it
easy to copy video to a PC for editing. Also
popular are hard-drive-based camcorders that can
store hours of video.
GPS navigation unit
These doohickeys can show—and tell—you
where to turn on the road to reach your destination
safely, and can even get you back on track in case you
take a wrong turn.
Despite popular belief, these units do not require
a monthly subscription (unless you opt for traffic
updates, available on some models). The latest GPS
features to look for include “text to speech” translation
(the GPS will say the name of the street); multimedia
playback (to play MP3 and videos and show photos);
and Bluetooth connectivity to wirelessly connect to
your phone (say, to call a “point of interest,” such as a
restaurant) or to turn your GPS into a speakerphone.
Other great Valentine’s Day gift ideas include a
universal remote (to remove the coffee-table clutter),
satellite radio (for more than 150 CD-quality, com-mercial-free channels) and a game system such as
Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii or Sony PlayStation 3; a flat-panel LCD television that can be mounted on the wall
like a picture frame; a sleek laptop for work or play (or
a bit of both) anywhere in the home or at work; or
accessories for a portable music player, such as a combination docking station–speaker system. C
electronics or computers
you purchased at
Costco? Send them to:
The Costco Connection
P.O. Box 34088
Seattle, WA 98124-1088
Or fax to (425) 313-6718,
or e-mail to
in the subject line. Marc
will answer selected ques-
tions in this column. We
regret that unpublished
questions cannot be
The Costco Connection
Costco carries a variety of electronics from leading manufacturers in the warehouses and online
at costco.com. Many of these products are backed
by Costco’s free tech-support program, Costco
Concierge. See details in the warehouses or on
a leading high-tech
reporter, contributes to
more than three dozen
prominent publications, appears on radio
and TV, and is the
author of 14 books.