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BY HOWARD OWEN
Tuesday's Money Talk$ Web chat was about tech gifts for the holidays.
Our guest was Mike Zitz, the Tech Toys columnist and occasional reporter at The Free Lance-Star, where he worked full time for many years. Zitz is director of media and community relations at Germanna Community College and author of "Giving It All Away: The Doris Buffett Story."
Below are some of the questions and answers from Tuesday's session. The full text of the chat is archived on fredericksburg.com. Zitz also answered any questions he didn't get around to on Tuesday on his blog on fredericksburg.com.
I'm thinking about getting my 80-year-old mom some kind of e-book reader. What's the best thing I can get for someone who is not very tech-savvy?
My stepmother just asked me that question about a gift for my dad, who's 78. Oops! I wasn't supposed to say that. I'd recommend the basic Kindle at $79. Very easy to read and she can adjust the print size to grannynormous, so she doesn't need her reading glasses. The Kindle is pretty easy to use, but you may want to give her a walk-through on Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa morning. Otherwise, it'll probably end up collecting dust on a shelf, next to all the other gifts you've given her since preschool.
Doesn't she know how much that kind of rejection hurts?! My mom used to open my gifts and say "Is this supposed to be funny?" Anyway, since I'm not very tech savvy myself and even I can use a Kindle, I'm fairly confident it's a good choice for your mom. However, if you're jockeying for position with siblings to get the house in the will, I'd advise an iPad 2 and a Chippendale to train her to use it.
My honey is a gadget guy. What's the latest hot gadget under $50 that I can put under the tree for him?
Is this my wife, Lisa, throwing me a softball? My girlfriend??? HA-HA-HA-HA. That's a joke, Lisa. Heh heh. Mmm Heh. Oh, boy. I'd suggest the Roku LT. It streams Web content including Netflix and Amazon Prime movies to your TV. Only $49.99.
What Kindle would you recommend for a 15-year-old boy who loves reading?
I'd suggest the Kindle Fire at $199 because he can use it as an e-reader and it's an affordable tablet he can also use for gaming, watching movies, Facebook and surfing the Internet for research for his homework (yeah, right). Your basic, Wi-Fi iPad 2 goes for $499, so the Fire is reasonably priced in comparison. However, if you also want this to be a life lesson on being frugal, get the basic Kindle reader I mentioned above for granny at $79. Life lessons are usually pretty boring, though, unless they involve stitches or explosions.
What do you think about the Kindle Fire
The Fire is good if you want a 7-inch tablet that's a great e-reader and also can be used for media and searching he Web. However, I believe Verizon Wireless is selling its 7-inch Galaxy tablet for $149 now--$50 cheaper than the already relatively cheap Fire (Amazon is absorbing a $50 loss on each one because the Fire is set up to be a portal for Amazon.com shopping.) It's not quite as good a reader, but the 7-inch Galaxy Tab also shoots good photos and video. The Fire doesn't have a camera.
I'm debating between a Galaxy tablet and iPad. I'm leaning towards the smaller Galaxy because it fits in a purse, is lots less expensive, and has lots of apps. I thought it would be a good idea to invest less at first and see how much I use it, then down the road upgrade. Does that sound like a good strategy?
It's a great strategy, because it sounds like size doesn't matter to you.. Again, the 7-inch Galaxy Tab is one of the best bargains out there now. I used one to take pictures and shoot video at [the International Consumer Electronics Show] in Vegas in January and it was just the right size for that. A 9.7-inch iPad 2 and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 are both great for watching movies and streaming video, but are too big and unwieldy for shooting photos and videos, in my opinion. It really depends on personal taste and what functions are most important to you. But again, it's $149 for the 7-inch Galaxy and $499 for the low-end iPad 2.
What can I get for less than $200 that won't be old news in a couple of months, for a techno-savvy husband?
Unfortunately, most techno-savvy types tend to want to be first-adopters and show off the latest thing to their friends. ("Look I have the new FILL IN THE BLANK and you don't. You still have that old, tired FILL IN THE BLANK.") And, just as you say, two months later, it looks like a Ford Pinto. My guess is that your husband is probably very particular about his gadgets and won't even be happy for two months unless you know for sure he wants something in particular. And when he has iPad 3- or iPhone 5-envy he could even end up blaming you, especially if it's a device that locks him (or you) into a two-year service contract like the iPhone 4S, which is great now, and will still be cool six or seven months from now, but will be awful when the iPhone 5 comes out.
His friends will be mocking him and he'll be lying awake at night gnashing his teeth. It could end in divorce. I know this is horribly boring to you as a gift-giver, but your best bet is to take him out and let him pick out his own present. Unless he's dropping very clear hints that he wants something in particular.
Do you think Microsoft has any chance to gain any momentum in the tablet or mobile market?
No. Absolutely not.
What gaming system would you suggest for my grandkids--Xbox or Wii? Or a different one?
Depends. Do your kids like to shoot people on the battlefield? Then the Xbox 360. Do they like to play video game sports? Wii. Are graphics important? Xbox 360. Not so much? Wii.
I want to get a big-screen TV but am torn between LCD, plasma and LED. Which is the best choice?
Plasma is most durable and delivers a great picture.
Is the iPhone 4S REALLY that big of an advantage over the 4?
Yes it is. Siri, the talking personal assistant, is wonderful. That alone makes it light-years better. Also, the AT&T version is much faster than the 4S.
Howard Owen: 540/374-5539