Along with Christmas and back-to-school, the Fatherís Day-commencement season is prime time for gadget shopping. Here are a few suggestions that may appeal to the dad or grad on your list:
Great sound from a television is just the beginning of what the $699 Sonos Playbar can do. With the TV off, it will stream music from your computer, mobile devices and cloud-based services such as Spotify and Pandora. Plus, the Playbar integrates with Sonosís other wireless multi-room speakers.
That allows users to do tricks like playing different things in different rooms at the same time, or projecting TV sound from the den into the kitchen. At last, the TV becomes a full member of the home-audio team.
There are also times when Dad may not want to listen to the TV out loud ó like, when Mom is trying to sleep. Sounds like a job for Brookstoneís wireless, $130 SoftSound Pillow. Stereo speakers, volume controls and a sleep timer are all encased in memory foam; an RF transmitter plugged into the TV lets him listen in more or less self-contained bliss.
Itís still loud enough that Mom may be a bit annoyed ó but it definitely beats having the TV speakers blaring.
HTCís One ($200 and up, depending on carrier) has just about everything your gift-getter would want in an Android smartphone: a beautiful design, 4G LTE speed, a vivid 4.7-inch screen, excellent stereo speakers and an advanced-technology camera.
About the only thing missing is a version for Verizon, the largest U.S. carrier. But AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile users can forget about Samsungís over-hyped, underperforming Samsung Galaxy S4. The One is the state of the art in Android.
Store shelves are bulging these days with small, nice-sounding Bluetooth speakers such as Jawboneís Jambox and the Pill from Beats Audio. But Native Unionís lesser-known Switch is also worth a listen.
The Switch, which costs $150, has an active subwoofer that gives music a deeper bottom than many competitors. It also doubles as a full-duplex squawk box for making and taking phone calls. A bonus: A USB port uses the speakerís battery to recharge a phone in a pinch.
For a more personal listening experience, consider the $250 Revo wireless stereo headphones from Jabra, a company better known for its boring telephone headsets.
The Revos are packed with loads of technology, including easy Bluetooth pairing, the ability to adjust the volume and skip tracks by touching the earcups, Dolby Digital Plus sound processing and a microphone for taking calls. Theyíre reminiscent of Parrotís Zik headphones, but lighter weight and considerably cheaper.
The single most-commented-upon piece of tech equipment I carry contains no electronics. Itís the DODOcase cover for Appleís iPad, Googleís Nexus 7 and Amazonís Kindle Fire. Made in a converted San Francisco bookbindery, the DODOcase ó which costs from $60 to $90, depending on model and materials ó gives your tablet the feel of one of those Moleskine notebooks.
A bamboo tray holds the tablet securely, while a hard cover protects it from the assaults of everyday use. Itís especially welcome if you use your tablet as an e-reader but miss the feel of holding a traditional book.
Fitbitís new Flex wristband stands out among the flood of wearable activity sensors. It counts steps, tracks sleep patterns and even gives credit for some physical activities that donít involve walking or running. (Think: stationary cycle.)
The Flex wirelessly syncs with a free app on iPhones and compatible Android phones. At $100, itís cheaper than Jawboneís UP or Nikeís Fuelband, and does more.
Finally, thereís the Launchport from Strut, a company best known for its finely crafted luxury-car accessories. The Launchport is a wireless iPad charging system that, at $1,500, costs far more than any actual iPad.
The charger and pedestal are chromed, buffed stainless steel, and the iPad is held securely as it charges in its ó alas, plastic! ó sleeve.
Who actually needs this? Letís face it, no one. But itís handsome enough to adorn a dukeís desk, and itís certain your intended recipient wonít already have one.