Liteon 5005 DVD Recorder/Player
Affordable DVD recorders have been promised by manufacturers for a couple of years , but they're only now getting into the price range of home electronics consumers. The Liteon LVW 5005 ($400) makes a great addition to any home entertainment center. For one, you can record DVD plus and minus Rs and RWs along with CD-R and RW. It will play regular DVDs, DVD+VR, Video CDs, SVCD, audio CDs holding MP3s, JPEGs and other files. You can record up to six hours of television onto a DVD and it won't fade after repeated playbacks. If you haven't bought a DVD player and you plan to spend money on a slightly higher-end model than you can find on a discount club's floor, this is the one to buy.
Mintek Portable DVD Player MDP 1770
The MDP 1770 player ($269) with a 7-inch screen is easy to use, even for people who are not technologically knowledgeable. All it requires is a read through of the user guide which clearly outlines what goes where. All you need to do is put the DVD into the device and plug it into the wall. You can use headphones to listen to your movie. Images are crystal clear and the sound reminds me of the multiplex - my wife watched The Sound of Music and chirped about hearing the birds in the background. You can even use an adapter for your car's cigarette lighter on those long trips in the car to juice up the lithium battery for the device.
Information: 866-709-9500 or www.mintekdigital.com.
Few ministorage devices can compare with the StealthSurfer. It is one of the tiny hard drives that have become abundant on the market. You can buy them at different sizes, starting with 128 megabytes ($99) up to 512 megabytes ($199) of storage space on a drive with no moving parts. Later-model Windows computers - ME and beyond - will instantly recognize the StealthSurfer as a hard drive as soon as you plug it into either a Universal Serial Bus 2.0 or 1.1 port.sized storage device. Not only that, you can protect the data with a password.
But what makes StealthSurfer so different is that it comes with self-contained version of Netscape 7.0. By using the Netscape 7.0 on the StealthSurfer, all of the material and lingering data left over from your surfing is on the little thumb-sized storage device. Not only that, you can protect the data with a password. Information: 888-742-4747 or www.stealthsurfer.biz.
Daewoo DP-42SM Plasma Television
I hesitate to mention the Daewoo 42-inch DP-42SM Plasma Television ($2,799). Not because it offers superb sound and picture in television and DVD viewing, but because it might encourage quite a few couch potatoes to avoid healthier pursuits like going outside and getting a little exercise. Suffice it to say, at the price of $2,800 and a street price of closer to $2,400, this big screen Plasma television's pricing places it much closer to the realm of the average consumer who wants to get a big picture with good color and solid depth - something most of the big screen televisions of the past just don't offer. Set this up with a Progressive Scan DVD player and you're in television heaven.
Information: 800-323-9668 or www.e-daewoo.com.
For your food
Thane Q BBQ Portable Outdoor Grill
I like to grill outdoors. But the county in which I reside prohibits me from plunking a grill on the grass outside my apartment's patio door and getting the old charcoal going. So the Thane Q BBQ ($99) grill really appealed to me. It's a portable gas grill that takes away all of the intimidation of using a gas grill. You simply plug a regular-size propane tank into the device and turn it on. As a long time user of charcoal, I was pleasantly surprised to see my food ready long before charcoal would get it ready.
The Thane is small enough to take about anywhere. As long as you've remembered to get a propane tank, you're off and running at the drop of a hat. At 13 pounds, and less than 2 feet tall and a foot long, it really does pack away easily into the junkiest of trunks. So I never have to worry about it taking the place of that last fly rod I want to cram in there.
Mr. Coffee Iced Tea Maker
When Mr. Coffee came up with the Cocomotion Hot Cocoa maker, I was tickled to death. But while I enjoy a cup of cocoa from time to time, iced tea is an everyday routine for me. There is no question that putting a few tea bags in a big pot of boiling water is the easy way to make iced tea. But having the device, which makes tea from tea bags and tea leaves, makes iced tea production a much smaller affair. You can make iced coffee as well if you like that. I was impressed with the ability to adjust the strength of the tea as well as the three-quart pitcher that did seem to keep tea colder longer than my regular pitcher.
Microwave Oven Plus Toaster
Countertop space can disappear pretty quickly if you love kitchen gadgets. That's why Daewoo's Microwave Oven Plus Toaster K0G-867T9 ($150) seems like a really solid idea.
This 1,000-watt Microwave oven has a rotating turntable and electronic touch controls. The toaster is tucked away next to the control panel on the right side of the stainless steel finished box. You can get two slices of toast in the toaster, which has extra wide slots for bagels.
You get three auto defrosting modes as well as six one touch cooking modes for the kinds of foods - pizza and popcorn among them - that you would make if you were a college student without much cooking space.
Information: 800-323-9668 or www.e-daewoo.com.
Thane Thunderstick Pro
I've become addicted to the Food Network in recent years. Unfortunately, that means I want every gadget I see every cook using in the kitchen whether I need it or not. The Thunderstick Pro ($40) is one of two hand-mixers that I had the good fortune to play with during this gadget review. With its myriad attachments, I had a blender, chopper, mixer juicer and food processor in a compact package. The shaft is stainless steel, and the device itself is quite solid.
Thane Flavorwave Oven
Late-night television grazers have seen this little wonder at 2 a.m. as they've tried to count sheep. While being on television is no guarantee that something will work, much less work well, the Flavorwave Oven Deluxe ($99), This oven, which looks like a minigrill that sits on the counter, is big enough to cook a chicken (the manufacturers claim it will cook a 12-pound turkey, but I haven't tried that yet). But this oven is small enough to leave room for a microwave and other cooking appliances on your counter. The makers say it uses conduction "like a regular oven," convection, which is the circulation of hot air, and an infrared halogen light that heats things from the inside out.
Moreover, you can take frozen food and stick it in the Flavorwave to thaw, then set it to cook like some of the microwave ovens on the market. The cooking chart and recipe book that come with the appliance are absolutely essential to get things working properly. Don't lose them. I like the fact that it doesn't heat up the kitchen - especially with 80-degree weather taxing the air conditioner.
Sonicare Electric Toothbrush
When you turn on the Sonicare toothbrush ($140) and stick it in your mouth, you know you're working with an electric toothbrush that is different from the rest. Instead of a spinning head, you've got a vibrating one that does much of the hard work of moving the toothbrush head up and down. The vibration is such that you pretty much have a tingling sensation in your mouth when you've spent two minutes with this appliance brushing your teeth. Also, it has a two-minute timer. As parents know, kids sometimes won't brush for more than 30 or 40 seconds. Some of us bigger kids will carry that habit into old age, minus our teeth. So the timer really did keep me from cheating on tooth brushing time - and that's a step forward in my oral hygiene.
Information: 888-766-4227 or www.sonicare.com.
Coleman Hot Water Heater
The Coleman Hot Water On Demand unit ($180) will deliver hot water for showers, coffee and about any use you can think of on the trail. It is an outdoor device because it uses a small propane tank to heat up to 40 gallons of water. You can connect a five-gallon water container to the hose and have hot water in a matter of minutes for whatever you need. A spray adapter, carrying case and other accessories are sold separately.
Information: 800-835-3278 or www.coleman.com.
Nextel has been doing the walkie-talkie thing, called push-to-talk, with cellular telephones for years now. And they've reached the point where you can push-to-talk with people across the country or in other countries. The Nextel I730 ($150 without specials or plans; it's cheaper with a plan) has a couple of other tricks besides allowing users to chat as if they were secret agents or cops without putting the telephone up to one's ears. My favorite is the Global Positioning System device inside. You can get a reading on your current position, and you can allow someone to track you on the Internet as you get a new position. And there is a service restricting airplane mode so that you can play games and do all of the extras that a cell phone will allow you to do while you're flying.
Information: 800-639-8359 or http://nextelonline.nextel.com.
Motorola T7100 Talkabou
When I was growing up, the kids in my neighborhood would tell you that a high tech communication device involved two cans and a string. But had my twin brother and I had the Motorola T7100 Talkabout Two-Way Radio package ($109), with two walkie-talkies and chargers, things might have been different. For example, we wouldn't have had a string wrapping around the trees in the woods. And we might have been able to get out of line of sight of each other. Today, it's fair to say that rugged walkie-talkies like the T7100s would be excellent for pairs of hikers and campers who want to stay in touch when they wander away from each other - up to seven miles distant.
Software and games
The boys of summer have more incarnations in the elec tronic world than even the big gest baseball fans will be able to take advantage of this summer. My picks for one of the best baseball games available this summer is 989 Sports MLB 2005 ($50 for PlayStation and PlayStation 2), whose dismal track record on the games I've reviewed from them stands alone. But MLB 2005 should make the folks over at 989 Sports proud. Player animations finally look like they're part of a dynamic game of baseball and the controller set up is solid enough for anyone to learn to play with skill. You also get some online play here that was a lot of fun.
Resumes & Cover Letters for Dummies]
Dummies offerings in books and software are the best ways to get information about any thing you know little about. The Resumes & Cover Letters for Dummies ($19.99) makes a really good choice as a gradua tion gift. College and high school graduates can learn some critical skills for getting a job from the 144-page book and the interactive software. The program sets out different for mats for writing cover letters and resumes through wizards. The program works on PCs run ning Windows 98 or later with 32 megabytes of RAM and 10 megabytes of free hard drive space.
Information: www.dummies- software.com.
"Fight Night 2004"
EA Sports reputation is held up rather well by Fight Night 2004 ($50 for Xbox and PlaySta tion 2) which sports all manner of continuous play from a 20-year-career mode to four minigames inside. I especially enjoyed the way I could control punches with the right analog stick in this all new fighting game. This doesn't mean you aren't using the other buttons, it just makes them do more for the skilled player.
Information: www.ea.sports.com/games/ fightnight2004/home.jsp.