|

CHRISTMAS ROUNDUP

Five crackers for your seasonal techno-stocking

by Daniel Robson

With Christmas just around the corner, most Japan Times readers will doubtless have their shopping lists all but completed, with bountiful stockings prepared for all their kith and kin.

But what about the rest of us? The lazy ones, the forgetful, the busy or the scrooges? It’s not too late to get those last-minute gifts in, so here’s a quick look at some that are bound to elicit a “Ho, ho, ho,” from someone close to you.

Ipod Touch

¥36,800 (8GB)/¥48,800 (16GB)

While it may not yet pack the boundless storage of the classic iPod players, the Touch still boasts a reasonable 8- or 16-gigabyte capacity, with the added bonus of allowing users to smear the screen with fingerprints as they search through their media collection. By now, you already know what this thing does: It plays music, videos and pictures on a sexy 3.5-inch screen. We also all know that the Cowon iAudio series of MP3 players sound better. But for those with busy fingers, this is the portable media player to buy. And as a gift, nothing says “iLove you” like an iPod.

Sony Cybershot T2

Around ¥43,000

Sony’s new super-slim, super-gorgeous T2 camera comes fitted with a Carl Zeiss 3X optical zoom lens, a 2.7-inch touch screen and a whopping 4 gigabytes of internal memory. It’s also stuffed with features, such as effective face detection and enhanced antiblur software that allows you to take crisper shots in low light — handy for capturing a sneaky Santa as he empties his sack down your chimney. It even has a high-definition output allowing you to connect the camera to an HDTV, so your loved ones, having unwrapped and used their shiny new toy, can bore their friends to death with big-screen slide-shows of Christmas hijinks.

Wii Fit

Nintendo Wii, ¥8,800

What with the gluttony and excess that tends to characterize Christmas for many of us, Nintendo’s latest innovation seems like the ideal gift. Featuring a “Balance Board” that is able to calculate a player’s weight and body mass, the “game” is actually a program of exercise routines such as yoga, push-ups, step aerobics, skiing, football headers and dancing, shot through with the winning charm that has characterized Nintendo’s recent output. The board is able to measure the user’s balance, so the likes of hula-hooping become fun for even the clumsiest family member. Who said video games are for couch potatoes only?

Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard upgrade

¥14,800

The sixth iteration of Apple’s Mac OS X system, Leopard offers a bundle of new features, and this upgrade package will allow its lucky recipient to enjoy them all. A lot of the new features are really just tweaks — for example, iTunes’ “Cover Flow” visual navigation is now part of the finder, which makes browsing files easier on the eye (much like the “filmstrip” view in Microsoft’s Windows Explorer), and many of the iLife packages have been sprinkled with cool new features. But there are some bigger additions too, including the all-conquering “Time Machine” backup software and the handy “Stacks” grouping function. Remember, this is an upgrade, so it’s only suitable for someone who already has Mac OS X — unless you want to fork out for a brand new Mac for those computerless friends. After all, it is Christmas . . .

“Silent Hill Zero”

Sony PSP, around ¥5,300

The fifth installment in the “Silent Hill” game series is another eerie outing, this time optimized for Sony’s hand-held PSP console with a more natural set of 3-D controls. Popping in and out of the “Otherworld” via a series of mirrors within the game, our protagonist, trucker Travis Grady, learns that those nightmares he’s been suffering are more than mere dreams. Despite an upgraded fighting system and a set of breakable weapons, the game retains the exploration focus of previous titles and the goose-bump factor remains high. It may not be the silent night your loved ones are expecting this Christmas, but it’ll give them a bloody good surprise.