Having taken a look at some highly desirable items that are highly unlikely to find their way under the tree this year with our 2011 list of things you CAN'T have this Christmas, it's time for a look at some of the gear that might represent more realistic shopping options this festive season. There's definitely some items on the list we wouldn't mind receiving ourselves, while others fall into the category of "for the person who has everything" ... either way, there's sure to be something for every technophile in the household.
1. Mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras
Ensuring those Christmas memories don't fade in an eggnog-induced haze makes a camera a popular gift. This year mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras (MILC) were all the rage with models from Nikon, Olympus, Samsung, Panasonic and updated units from Sony all catching our eye. There are a few systems available, with Samsung's NX-mount, the Alpha NEX from Sony, Pentax Q from Pentax, Nikon 1 from Nikon, while Olympus and Panasonic go with the Micro Four Thirds system. All promise DSLR-like quality in a more compact form factor with plenty of lenses to choose from to suit the occasion.
2010 was the year of the tablet. So was 2011 as it turns out - and 2012 doesn't look like being any different. While Apple's iPad, now in it's second iteration, continues to rule the roost and will be high-on many Christmas wish lists, this year saw greater competition with a slew of Android-based devices hitting the shelves. ASUS got the ball rolling at CES in January with four tablet offerings including the Eee Pad Slider and Eee Pad Transformer that blurred the lines between a tablet and a notebook. The company then upped the desirability level towards the end of the year with the Tegra 3-packing Eee Pad Transformer Prime, while the Motorola Xoom and Xoom 2 running Android Honeycomb also impressed.
But the real news in the budget space was provided by HP, which sparked a stampede when it announced it would discontinue all current hardware devices running webOS, including its newly released TouchPad tablet. The company slashed the price of the TouchPad and the move proved so successful with stock selling out that the company decided to produce one more production run to provide stock for the lead up to Christmas - and at the same discounted prices. However, if you're looking to give one this Christmas and haven't already nabbed one you'll have some hunting to do as HP now reports its "inventory is depleted," but that some retailers may still have limited stock available.
3. 3D printers
2011 was the year when 3D printing technology, which not too long ago was restricted to industry players with deep pockets and plenty of floorspace, landed on the desktop of the home user with compact, affordable units such as the MakerBot Thing-O-Matic and the Printrbot. If you're looking for an item with slightly more "character," then it might be worth tracking down Markus Kayser, whose Solar-Sinter, which uses the power of the Sun to create glass objects from sand, showed just how accessible 3D printing technology is becoming. Meanwhile, anyone looking to just skip all the hassle can go right to the finished product with the "the first completely, 3D-printed, ready-to-wear, item of clothing," - a bra.
4. Solid state drives
We've been waiting for Solid State Drives to become affordable and spacious enough to make it to our Top 10 CAN have list for a couple of years now, but this year is the first time we've looked at them them and not had to say, "maybe next year." Sure, on a megabyte-for-your-buck basis they still can't compete with their platter-spinning HDD counterparts but this year saw the release of SSDs from manufacturers including Intel, Samsung, Micron, Smart and OCZ that offered capacities from 64 GB to 1.6 TB in both 3.5-inch and 2.5-inch form factors at prices within the reach of ordinary consumers. But the most budget-friendly option came in the form of Seagate's latest Momentus XT hybrid drive that combined the performance of an SSD with the storage capacity of a traditional HDD. And things will only get better in 2012.
5. Something for the speed-demon in the family
There was plenty of go fast gear on our top 10 list of things you CAN'T have for Christmas this year, but some high-speed fun doesn't always have to come at the cost of buying a small pacific island. Both the Motocrossboard and Fiik electric skateboard offer some off-pavement, board-based fun, while the YikeBike Fusion and Solowheel provides not only a fun way to zip around town, but a perfect solution for covering the distance from the train to the office. And for some water-based fun our vote goes to the reasonably priced Jetrider XL that adds an air-suspended seat to the original wave-riding PowerKayak.
6. Holiday survival gear
Given that the world is going to end in 2012 (unless the Mayans forgot to carry the 1), we thought that some of the latest post-apocalyptic survival gear might be an appropriate addition to this year's list. If you're likely to be working when the apocalypse strikes then the IMPACT Ballistic Clipboard will provide some defense as you make your way to your underground bunker. Stocking the bunker with food that won't go bad before the zombie apocalypse has run its course will obviously be a priority for those sitting the devastation out ensconced in concrete. With a claimed shelf life of over two years and coming in Pepperoni or BBQ Beef, the Tactical Sammich could fit the bill. Meanwhile, for those adventurous enough to head out to find something fresher for the menu, the Pack-Rifle could be a welcome addition under the tree. And if the recipient is the kind that likes to keep score in the gift-giving season, since the Pack-Rifle combines a fishing rod and a takedown rifle in one device, you could argue it actually counts as two gifts.
7. Festive food
Food is always a big part of holiday gatherings but if you're really looking to serve up a dish that no one will soon forget then it's hard to go past the Food Finish coloring spray from The Deli Garage. Available in red, blue, silver or gold, the food varnish sprays will add a touch of class - or tawdriness -to proceedings. While a couple of coats might cover up things if you accidentally leave the turkey in the oven too long, because they're supposedly tasteless they won't make the meal any more palatable. And if you want to ensure everyone doesn't fall into a tryptophan-induced coma after the big meal before the cleaning up is taken care of, might we suggest an aerosol caffeine hit courtesy of an AeroShot for dessert.
8. Health monitors
"What you don't know can't hurt you," or so the old adage goes. This is, of course, utter hogwash as there are plenty of things that will hurt you regardless of whether you know about them or not - particularly when it comes to your health. This is why we've decided to include some health monitors on our list this year. If you're looking to provide some extra incentive for a loved one who hasn't realized they're not a teenager anymore and they need to start looking after themselves, or maybe you're hoping to shut up the family hypochondriac, 2011 saw a dizzying array of health monitoring technology aimed at identifying a variety of potential health problems before they become too serious.
The award for most versatile and accessible monitor of 2011 has to go to the iPhone, which can be used - sometimes with additional hardware - to monitor everything from heart rate (Pulse Phone), potential skin cancers (Handyscope and MelApp) and blood pressure and weight (iHealth). An iPhone is also integral to the wrist-worn UP from Jawbone that provides a simple, unobtrusive way to track a user's daily activity, sleep and nutrition and provides challenges and encouragement to keep the fitness regime on track.
9. Air Swimmers
While people of all ages look forward to this time of year, Christmas is really a time for children. So it would be remiss of us to not include at least one or two items from our Childsplay section aimed at the younger demographic. For something that won't break the bank and should help alleviate the boredom for young ones forced indoors due to poor weather over the holidays our vote goes to Air Swimmers. Sure, they might just look like giant fish-shaped mylar balloons, but a look at the video below - overacting notwithstanding - will show just how cool these remote-controlled floating fish look in motion. Keep in mind though, the Air Swimmers need to be filed with helium so keeping them airborne will require regular trips to the local party store.
10. World's fastest RC car
Radio-controlled cars are a perennial inclusion on the wish lists of youngsters the world over but the Traxxas XO-1 RC car is definitely one for the big kid of the family. With a claimed top speed of over 100 mph (161 km/h) and ability to go from zero to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 2.3 seconds, Traxxas says its one-seventh scale, all-wheel-drive electric vehicles is, "the world's fastest ready-to-race radio-controlled supercar." The XO-1 is steeper than your regular RC car, coming in at US$1,100, and won't be available until December 30, but we're betting any recipient of this pint-sized speed demon will be willing to wait a few more days.
Naturally, any list of this kind will be highly subjective, so we'd love to hear your suggestions for gifts that tech-fans would enjoy unwrapping come December 25. Let us know in the comments section below ... and we hope all our readers have a great Christmas and an even better 2012!