Dec. 18, 2012 -- Don't just assume the best gifts this year will be waiting under the tree. You may find some of the coolest gadgets hanging by the mantle. Just keep in mind as you rush to the fireplace, footie pajamas can be slippery. So take your time, but amble quickly. Cause everything in this roundup is something you'll want to play around with way more than but once a year.
3M Projector Sleeve: $229
We're not saying all you iPhone 4/4S users have bad breath or body odor. But rather than having to skooch up so close to see your itty bitty screen, it might just be nicer to project those images in full living color -- up to 5 feet diagonally -- on a wall. The new 3M Projector Sleeve offers that spatial respite, with 35 lumens -- more than twice the brightness of similar existing products. With up to 100 minutes of projecting time, it's great for viewing photos, watching short videos and even streaming feature films. But what's really cool is that you can also use the sleeve to charge your iPhone as well.
Logitech Harmony Touch: $249.99
There's a good chance you'll forget what numbers your favorite channels are. Using an intuitive touch interface, the slick, backlit, rechargeable Logitech Harmony Touch lets you store up to 50 of your favs -- and organize their icons right on its screen. Control up to 15 compatible devices. And swipe to change activities (watch a movie, play a game, etc.). It's designed to integrate with Logitech's panning, tilting and zooming TV Cam HD, so you can Skype with ease. It's simple to set up on a Mac or PC for first time users, or to upgrade with all your previous settings intact from an existing Harmony One.
Smart As: $29.99
Betcha think you're pretty smart, huh? Well, we'll see. Smart As for PS Vita tests your mental prowess every day with a variety of fun and challenging skills assessments. You'll see how good you are at math, logic, language and -- what was that other one? -- oh yeah, observation. Then you can compare yourself to friends, loved ones and other would-be geniuses. The snarky pop-ups, playful graphics and John Cleese's voiceover make for a very entertaining game. Just try not to fold under the intellectual pressure.
Sifteo Cubes: $129.95
We've been big fans of Sifteo Cubes since back in January, but are even more so now that they've improved upon them. Instead of requiring a laptop, a little transmitter does all the work. Once you've loaded a variety of innovative, interactive games -- including such new ones as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Ninja Slide -- onto the transmitter, you're ready to play anywhere. Gameplay consists of tilting, flipping, shaking and connecting these sensor-laden tiles together. In fact, the act of playing the games is as fun as the games themselves!
2GB Sony W Series Walkman MP3 Player: $59.99
Generations later, the rechargeable and water-resistant Sony W Series Walkman can store hundreds of songs right in the earphones -- for a third the price! A full charge can last up to 8 hours; or for you impatient types, just a three-minute zap can get you up to an hour of tunes at the gym, walking the dog, commuting home or wherever you're rushing off to. The included software lets you drag and drop tracks and synch playlists; and you can quickly search and navigate your songs with buttons right on the earphones.
Ah, the app-controlled robotic ball, Sphero. We've been following it all year -- both literally all over the floor (usually chasing a nervous cat and being followed by an enchanted toddler) and figuratively as more and more games have been added to the library. One of the latest apps, Sharky the Beaver, throws augmented reality into the mix. So now, you're not only using your phone or tablet to drive a simple looking but technologically sophisticated little white ball all over the place, but on your screen you see an animated beaver in its place. As opposed to most AR markers that sit still, what's advanced about this is that it's moving around. We look forward to seeing future developments, for both controlling Sphero and using it as a controller, on this way cool platform.
Victorinox Swiss Army 32GB Jetsetter Flash Drive: $99.95
As often as we're called upon to open a can, scale a fish perform an emergency tracheotomy, we're happy to see an even more useful Swiss Army all-in-one tool. This more modern take, the keyring-friendly 32GB Jetsetter Flash Drive, features a scissors, tweezers, nailfile with screwdriver, ballpoint pen, clamshell opener and a detachable USB 2.0 flash drive. It's sold at the Apple store because it comes preloaded with security software for Macs that encrypts files, stores passwords and enables private Web browsing sessions. (PC users can still drag and drop stuff onto it, just without the special security applications.) Best of all, it's TSA-friendly, so you don't have to suffer the embarrasment of being thrown off a flight for carrying a silly little pocket knife.
Gunnar Haus Computer Eyewear: $99.00
Anyone who looks at a screen for solid stretches of time every day -- which pretty much includes everyone outside Lancaster County, PA -- will appreciate Gunnar's new Haus glasses. They're easy on the eyes, not just stylistically, but in the sense that they help combat Computer Vision Syndrome (a.k.a. Digital Eye Fatigue). The frames are designed to be lightweight, flexible and comfortable, so they'll stay in place without pinching pressure points. And the lenses can accommodate a prescription, if necessary. Just to clarify, they're not meant only to protect your eyes, but to sharpen the details of whatever images you're gazing at. So they're especially great for gamers.
Livescribe Sky: $149.95-$249.95
The pen that's a computer just got fancier. The new Livescribe Sky adds Wi-Fi capabilities to its technological acumen. So in addition to recording synchronized written and audio notes (with special dot paper, included with the pen), now you can send them wirelessly right to your Evernote account. This model comes in 2GB, 4GB and 8GB capacities, roughly translating respectively to 200, 400 or 800 hours of recorded audio. As with previous models, it also runs dozens of apps created especially for this platform, including video poker, travel phrases, dictionaries and a variety of musical, trivia and educational programs.
Want to find out what's wrong with your golf swing? Attach the tiny SwingTip device to one of your club shafts and you'll find out soon enough. This Bluetooth-enabled 3D motion sensor captures, analyzes and wirelessly transmits the good, bad and ugly of your mechanics to your Android or Apple device. You'll see an animated depiction of your club face angle, impact zone, club head speed, swing path and tempo. Along with seeing the performance data, the aim is to help you visualize what you're doing wrong, correct it and repeat what you're doing right. Sounds simple enough, yeah? See you on the back nine! In the meantime, each full charge is good for hundreds of swings, so keep practicing.
Vers 1Q: $119.99
The Vers 1Q, a simple yet stylish three-inch cube, not only looks nicer and cleaner than most other Bluetooth speakers its size, but sounds better. Even when it's only pairing, it emits soothing notification sounds, such as a chirping bird, as opposed to the standard booms and robotic dipthongs. When it actually plays music, the 1Q produces an impressive range, clarity and volume. And not for nothing, the available Walnut, Beech and Bamboo colors do almost universally go with any decor. Although it doesn't offer volume controls, it does feature an aux input, along with a 10-hour rechargeable battery. So it's a great little speaker to set on a mantle, shelf or bookcase and crank out the tunes for an extended session or two.
Eton BoostTurbine2000: $60
With the BoostTurbine2000, you won't run out of power until you run out of power. Or to put it another way, for as long as you're willing and able to crank its arm, you can produce the power to squeeze in whatever pressing calls, texts or posts you need to make. To help keep your arm from getting tired sooner, this model comes with a 2000mAh battery. Charged up the lazy man's way (through an outlet), it can double your phone's battery. But again, where it really shines is the ability to produce juice even when you're without electrical power and don't feel like waiting for the wind or sun to be just right.