Wireless gadgets make perfect gifts for grads


POSTED: Saturday, June 06, 2009

It's that time of the year again. What to get that grad? Here are some gifts to consider:

Wi-Fi Radio —What youngster doesn't love music? Thousands of radio stations are broadcasting over the Internet that feature music from big band to sub-Saharan African folk. If you're a news junkie you can listen to the BBC (my favorite) or domestic streams such as Hawaii Public Radio.

I can recommend three: If you don't mind dropping $600 on your graduate, Tivoli Audio is easy to set up, very stylish (hardwood cabinets) and has the best-quality sound system I've ever heard on a Wi-Fi system. My main complaint is that the controls are difficult to maneuver, and the menu structure is less intuitive than others. It's for the den—not the bedroom. I've used the Roku (http://www.roku.com) SoundBridge Radio (which costs $299) for several years and really like it as an alarm radio. Sound quality is decent, and control buttons are well placed for a sleepy late-night listener. The least expensive at $209 is the Logitech Squeezebox Boom, which also has good sound, and (like all of the radios) connects wirelessly to a PC to play music files. It has multiple brightness settings for when it's off, playing or idle. Compact size is also a plus.

Kindle 2—If your grad is a serious reader, the Kindle 2 is a serious tool. Available at Amazon.com, it's the size of a standard 250-page paperback. I had a chance to play with a model that belongs to a friend of mine, a former magazine editor, and he and his wife (also a former journalist) love it. I liked it, too. Essentially it's a device for buying, storing and reading books and periodicals. Price is $350, not counting any subscription fees. (There is no monthly fee for Wi-Fi for the device.)

User tips: If you don't turn on the wireless function, the batteries can last two weeks. You also can download thousands of books (free) that are now out of print.

Netbooks —These are best described as “;laptop lites”; whose main functions are e-mail, Web browsing, chat, Skype and word processing. Forget about gaming or heavy-duty apps. They generally cost $350 to $500 and run XP, a very respectable OS. Here are a couple I like:

ASUS EEE PC 1000HE ($375): Nice keyboard with a multitouch-sensitive trackpad, allowing you to magnify or shrink Web pages and scroll by dragging two fingers.

SAMSUNG NC10 ($440): At 93 percent of full size, the keyboard for the Samsung is comparably vast and includes dedicated page-up/page-down keys, which you generally don't get with other netbooks.

HP MINI 1000 ($445): This wins the coolness award. It's drop-dead beautiful. Smaller and lighter than the rest, it has a surprisingly functional keyboard. If you're a traveler, this is the ticket.

Cliff Miyake, general manager in Honolulu for Time Warner Telecom, can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).