Personal Tech

Digital Delights

From a desktop stereo to a pocket organizer, here are four gadgets for the techno-savvy.

When it comes to gadgets, your days are numbered. That is to say, over the last few holiday seasons, the gizmos with the highest wow! quotient were, more often than not, digital devices. This year is no exception: From DVD recorders to PDAs to MP3 players, it's all about ones and zeros (okay, and a bunch of letters, too). To that end, we found four digital-themed products in a wide range of prices ($12 to $150) and applications (music, Internet, productivity). Looking for an inexpensive way to organize your life? Consider Palm's entry-level PDA. Or how about a webcam for teleconferencing friends and colleagues? Check out Logitech's futuristic Orbit. New speakers from Altec Lansing are perfect for iPod-ers for whom desk space is at a premium, and Verbatim's blank DVDs make great stocking stuffers. Come to think of it, we've heard that you've been well behaved this year...

ALTEC LANSING INMOTION SPEAKERS ($149) Tired of sticking it in your ear? These desktop speakers match perfectly with an iPod (more perfectly with newer, bottom-slot iPods, but all will work). However, almost any MP3 or CD player that has a headphone jack will sound better when played via this ingenious folding rig. About the size of a big paperback book, the speakers resonate surprisingly well, fooling you into thinking that they're bigger than they really are. The system runs on AC power or four AAs. Right now, they're available only from Apple's retail stores and website. (www.apple.com)

PALMONE ZIRE 21 ($100) Last year, Palm introduced the original Zire personal digital assistant (PDA). It was good-looking in an iPod sort of way, but lacked many of the features of fancier handhelds. The new Zire 21 looks and costs the same as the original but has more memory (eight megabytes instead of two) and a much faster processor. The low-res monochrome screen still bites, and there's no expansion slot, but if all you're looking to do is store little-black-book info, this compact PDA should do the trick. (www.palmone.com)

VERBATIM DIGITALMOVIE DVD DISCS ($12/three-pack) Talk about anticipating nostalgia: Movie theaters around the world have only begun switching to digital projectors, and Verbatim is already coming out with DVD+/-R blank discs that look like film reels. (The company also makes blank audio CD-R and CD-RW discs that look like your parents' old vinyl 45s.) What makes these 4X-speed DVD-R or DVD+R blanks so special? Because they're reely cool. You can burn home movies or copy bootleg videos for Grandma, who'll smile even before she loads them into her DVD player. (www.verbatim.com)

LOGITECH QUICKCAM ORBIT ($130) This is one clever webcam for Internet video teleconferencing and video instant messaging -- and not just because of its head-turning good looks. Logitech's QuickCam Orbit is the first consumer webcam to offer pan, tilt, and zoom functions. The camera, which includes a built-in microphone, is smart enough to distinguish and track your face, keeping you in the center of the picture even if your head wanders from side to side or up and down. (Hey! What are you doing down there under the table?) The Orbit not only takes VGA-quality video images but also captures 1.3-megapixel still shots that are suitable for sending via e-mail to friends who might be camera shy. Here's looking at you, kid. (www.logitech.com)

1 2