Calling All Kids
If you find that your teenagers like to run up cell-phone charges by calling each other while roaming around town, or if you want to stay in touch with the younger children while they're out playing in the neighborhood, consider RadioShack's Family Radio Service (FRS) two-way personal radios. They're said to have a range of about 2 miles in wide open spaces, and I found them to be good for about half a mile or so in denser wooded or urban areas. Lightweight and pocket-size, running on four AAA batteries, the radios are easy to operate. Priced at $40 each, the FRS radios are available in green, blue, or red.
RadioShack - www.radioshack.com, 800-843-7422
Dvd To Go Go Go
If you've never been able to find a good gift for your globetrotting, seen-everything uncle, RCA's RC5400P portable DVD player might be the thing that finally gets you into his good graces. Movie fans have been salivating over portable players like this one for the past couple of years, but they've mostly been in the $1,000-plus range. The RCA comes in at a much more reasonable $549 without sacrificing performance or features. The widescreen (16:9 aspect ratio) active matrix display measures 53/4 inches diagonally. Watched from about 2 feet away, it will fill your visual field as well as a TV watched from across the room. The built-in stereo speakers produce surprisingly decent virtual surround sound (earbuds are also provided), and the 12-ounce battery provides more than enough power to watch a 2-hour movie (there's also a power cord). S-video and coaxial digital audio outputs let you patch the player into your main system.
RCA - www.rca.com, 317-587-4450
Here Comes The Sun
They won't eat meat, so there goes the liverwurst assortment, and they won't wear animal skin, so you can forget about the leather jacket. What to get your eco-friendly relatives? Try the Soltronix HR-1 Headset Radio ($39), which uses solar panels on the headband to recharge a AAA Ni-MH battery. I left the radio playing overnight in the dark, and it was still going strong the next morning. Stay in the sun, and the darn thing would probably play forever.
Iowa Thin Film Technologies - www.iowathinfilm.com, 800-421-1972
CD Gets Small
Teeny tiny MP3 devices can make walking around with a portable CD player seem as archaic as lugging a 1970s boombox. But the rebirth of the 3-inch Mini CD format and the introduction of palm-size players like the Philips Expanium EXP401 ($179) promise to bring the tried-and-true shiny disc up to date. One disc can hold 21 minutes of uncompressed music or 3 hours of MP3 files compressed at 128 kbps. I used my PC's burner to change four 5-inch CDs into one 3-inch disc. The Expanium sounded as good as any portable CD or MP3 player I've heard.
Philips - www.philipsusa.com, 800-531-0039
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