Even after the mega-hyped and ever-earlier Black Friday has come and gone, holiday shoppers are out in force.
Tech gifts are still a big part of wish lists, judging by the traffic at Best Buy Tulsa Hills last week and the frequent sales-related interruptions during an interview with Rodney Watson, general manager of the store.
"It's been very busy for us so far -- excuse me, I've got to go help a customer," he said.
Every year brings new devices and new upgrades to store shelves. If you're hoping to pick out some of the most popular and most interesting devices this season, check out our suggestions:
Sony PlayStation 4/Microsoft Xbox One
It's taken seven and eight years, respectively, but Sony and Microsoft's new game consoles are here and selling strongly. Brian Dausses, store team leader for Target at Tulsa Hills, said his store sold all of its shipment, received more and sold out again. Both systems are heavily connected online with media streaming capabilities, downloadable content and the ability to stream or upload video of your accomplishments. The Xbox One is $100 more, but the extra money gets you the motion-sensing capabilities and voice commands of the Kinect system. "Knack" and "Killzone: Shadow Fall" are unique to the PlayStation 4; "Forza 5," "Ryse: Son of Rome" and "Dead Rising 3" are unique to the One, and plenty of games are available for both, including "Call of Duty: Ghosts" and "Assassin's Creed 4."
iPad Mini with retina display
$399 and up
Watson said "tablets are one of the hottest things going," and between Kindles, Samsung Galaxy Notes, kid-friendly LeapPads and Navis and others, customers are spoiled for choice. But the single biggest model seems to be Apple's iPad Mini. Although a smaller, 7.9-inch version of the iPad has been available for some time, the new Mini evens the playing field with the same processor speed and the same ultra-sharp retina display of its bigger brother with a smaller price.
Sony 50W Bluetooth Micro Music System
Pumping out sound around the house doesn't require huge speakers anymore, but it needs access to the tablets and smartphones that have replaced our old music players. Sony's setup compresses the stereo into just two speakers and a receiver but doesn't sacrifice sound. Music can be streamed via Bluetooth, USB cable or even NFC, though it includes a CD player if you're feeling retro.
Flat-panel Samsung 60-inch LED 120Hz HDTV
For the most part, bigger is still better, at least when it comes to customer attitudes toward HDTVs, said Brian Dausses, store team leader for Target at Tulsa Hills. But raw size is no longer the determining factor. Buyers can also choose from features such as thin flat panels, higher refresh rates to reduce motion blur -- 120Hz refers to how many frames are shown per second -- and Wi-Fi capabilities that allow for media streaming out of the box. Samsung has done a great job of blending all these features at a reasonable price with its model UN60FH6200FXZA.
Small, wearable fitness gadgets keep getting higher profile, and Fitbit is one of the leaders of the curve. The Flex is a discreet wristband that measures steps taken, calories burned and even the quality of your sleep. It's easy to sync it with PCs, smartphones and more to keep track of your progress and set goals.
We're still years away from robot maids, but the Roomba brings us one step closer to a Jetsons-style future. Schedule a time to clean, and the Roomba will suck up wayward dirt and return to its charging port when it's done. The model 760 sports dual HEPA filters to help clean up the air as well as the floor.
If you've got media streaming capabilities through your TV, Blu-ray player, game console or toaster and are looking for more, Chromecast takes a different path than other streaming devices. Chromecast plugs into an HDTV via a USB port and allows you to throw anything you're looking at from a Chrome web browser and other apps on a smartphone, tablet or laptop onto the television. It's a great workaround for the non-plus version of Hulu or anything else that isn't supported by your other devices.
Holiday spending forecast
The National Retail Federation is expecting overall holiday spending to increase by 3.9 percent, with total sales reaching $602.1 billion. Tech should be a large portion of that, especially because increasing numbers of children are asking for advanced gadgets like iPads and new video game systems.
Robert Evatt 918-581-8447
(c)2013 Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.)
Visit Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.) at www.tulsaworld.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
Original headline: 2013 tech gift guide: iPad Mini still hot, with Chromecast a great low-cost option
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