A vintage year for gadgets

THE BALTIMORE SUN

A bumper crop of technological goodies flooded the market in 2005. We have harvested the best and brightest for our favorites of the year. Remember now, this is a wish list, so don't be put off by the sticker shock you might experience when you see some of the price tags. There's still something for everyone.

1. X-UFO remote-controlled flying toy: The X-UFO was named the 2005 Toy Innovation Winner in the technology category, and once you fly it, you'll see why. Made with carbon fiber, this lightweight gyro can fly up to 300 feet, indoors or out. And it's propelled by four individual engines. Four AA batteries are required for liftoff. (Available for $189.99 at thinkgeek.com.)

2. Mac Mini: Apple lovers might balk at us labeling this little guy a gadget. But the diminutive size (12.2-by-9-by-12.5 inches and 6.5 pounds) and sleek profile fall comfortably within the parameters of a gadget. Armed with a 1.25 GHz G4 processor, the Mini also has all of the functionality of a full-sized PC. And with its tiny price tag, you'll be hard-pressed to find a comparable computer for the same amount of money. (Starting at $499 at apple.com.)

3. iHome iH5 Clock Radio: This clock radio works with iPods or other MP3 devices, so you can wake to your own playlist of favorites. If you prefer, use the AM/FM radio instead or wake to a buzzer. But chances are that you'll use the MP3 functionality as often as you check the time on it - the speakers sound great, and it's a snap to use. The iHome, $94.99 at amazon.com, is available in white or black.

4. Motorola ROKR: A "best of" gadget list wouldn't be complete without a cool, trendy cell phone. The ROKR works with iTunes, and the phone's built-in memory lets you store up to 100 songs. Its built-in speakers sound better than you'd expect, and there's a stereo jack for headphones or ear buds. (Available for $149.99 with two-year service agreement from Cingular.)

5. BlackBerry 8700C: Finally, BlackBerry has developed a sexy-smart phone/PDA that's loaded with features. For such a small device, the 8700C's built-in qwerty keyboard is roomy enough to accommodate some quick thumb typing. Also, the screen has received a serious face-lift, placing it on par with other high-resolution LCDs in the PDA category. The Cingular phone costs $299.99 after a $50 rebate with a two-year service agreement.

6. Guitar Hero with Guitar for PlayStation 2: This is just too much fun to pass up. You start the game as an up-and-coming rocker and use the miniature Gibson SG guitar controller to play along with a musical soundtrack of tunes that range from Black Sabbath to Franz Ferdinand. As you progress, the songs get harder; you'll even be playing solos. For added fun, plop down the extra 40 bucks for a guitar controller so you and a friend can split the workload. (Available for $79.99 at Game Stop locations.)

7. LP-to-CD recorder system: This gadget is a must-have for any music lover who wants to painlessly transfer vinyl to CDs. Simply insert your record - 33s, 45s or 78s - and load up a CD. Then press Record, and you're all set. An added bonus: You can pause the CD mid-recording to switch sides, songs or even albums. (Available for $399.95 at hammacher.com: Item No. 71860.)

8. Sony PSP: This gaming hand-held is probably on the short list of every gadget lover who doesn't already own it. If not, it should be. Not only does it have a pretty decent library of great games, the proprietary Universal Media Disc format has a wide selection of full-length movies as well. With all of the accessories available, chances are it will be your new favorite traveling companion. Besides, how else are you going to play the latest Grand Theft Auto game in the middle of a flight? (Available for $249.99 at Best Buy stores and bestbuy.com.)

9. Audi Cabrio gas-powered Ride-on Car: For the child who has everything - and parents with enough dough to spoil them - this little Audi has a three-speed transmission, gasoline engine and passenger seat. Don't worry: It only tops off at 13 mph, so your kid won't be caught flying through any speed traps. Sure it's over the top, but you're never too young to learn the virtues of rack-and-pinion steering. (Available for $16,000 at fao.com.)

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