East End Tech: What to Buy Now Part II

If you missed last week’s column fear not, you can read it on danshamptons.com.

I’m focusing my 2012 Gift-A-Palooza on great gadgets that stand a decent chance of being relevant and useful one year from now.

Last week I focused on gifts for the ladies; now it’s time for the guys.

Nintendo Wii U

I know, I know, 3D hardware always carries a serious risk of becoming obsolete in six weeks, let alone one year.

Example: I wrote an entire column in 2011 comparing different models of 3D glasses for HDTVs. Now it’s almost 2013 and the TV manufacturers are putting out 3-D TVs that don’t even need glasses.

I can’t win.

Still, I’m going out on a limb here and predicting that the Wii U will be around—and thriving—this time next year.

Why? Because 3D games are the most incredibly awesome, occasionally frightening, always reliable entertainment experiences you can find.

The Wii U has plenty of warts. It costs about $380, pricey compared to the Xbox and PS3. Its software is clunky and takes forever to load. Its TV channels and viewing experience are very limited, and fanboys are ripping the control pad’s pitiful battery life. Still, as a pure video game console, there’s a lot to like.

For starters, the Wii U is social; up to five people can play the same game at once—and from remote locations. Nerds of the world, unite!

Even more impressive: the Wii U is compatible with all of the old-generation games, which is not always the case with other models. This saves a ton of money because you don’t need to go out and re-purchase all the old titles in your library.

For these reasons, I recommend taking a long look at the Wii U, as long as you’re not relying on it as a TV system.

AutoNet Mobile

Finally, we are goin’ mobile with WiFi…in our cars. The AutoNet is a wireless router that connects to cell service and kicks out decent WiFi coverage for everyone in your vehicle—except the driver, of course. Safety first.

The unit mounts in your trunk, or anywhere you want to put it. AutoNet features its own Internet service, and relatively easy connection for portable devices.

At $350 on Amazon, it’s expensive. But the monthly service is pretty cheap, and the silence of having three kids engrossed with the Internet is almost priceless.

The main issue is this: both iPhones and Android phones can already be used to create wireless hotspots for those around you. However, the WiFi on these hotspots is only as good as your cellular service. Good luck with that if you have AT&T.

As tech prices drop and service levels improve, I think the AutoNet has a decent shot to stick around.

Apple TV

Ahoy, it’s the Great White Whale of gadgets! Apple has been chasing its own web-to-TV streaming system for ages. Is 2013 the year it finally arrives?

Here’s the history. The first generation Apple TV was released in 2007. It failed, at least by Apple’s lofty standards. Why? Probably had something to do with the fact that only iTunes content was available. The 2010 version tried to remedy this, but Netflix was just coming into its own, and Apple couldn’t work out a deal to stream content from Amazon, which is building its own web TV service.

I’m guessing Apple won’t swing and miss a third time—if and when it decides to release the re-booted Apple TV. Apple has been promising this gadget for well over a year. No one knows what features it will include. No one even knows if it will hit the market in 2013.

All I know is this: If the Apple TV does land in stores this year, it will definitely be a product that stays on the market for a long, long time. Like I said, Apple rarely makes three mistakes with the same gadget.

Happy shopping—and see you in 2013!

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