The PopSci Staff Boom/Bust Holiday Gift Guide

Whether you're living it up this holiday season (we're looking at you, repo man), or hoarding your pennies, there's a gift for you in our guide

Ah winter, when a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of Christmakwanza. This holiday season, we hit up the entire staff of PopSci to see what they're dreaming of, what they're expecting, and what they'd recommend to you and yours. Come for the robot butlers, Teslas and aura-capturing cameras; stay for the eminently affordable headphones, DIY kits and more. Check it out here.

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Really Universal Remote

High: Really Universal Remote

I'll admit it: I own about the oldest home-entertainment equipment in existence. (There is something about my 1987 no-name TV that just tugs at my heartstrings, and I can't possibly get rid of the first stereo I ever purchased that boasts both a five-disc CD changer and a dual tape deck.) This universal remote to end all universal remotes would let me hang on to my antiques a little bit longer, as well as making room for new gadgets (when I'm ready!). As a bonus, the control allows you to watch slideshows of your favorite photos and listen to your MP3s from ye olde boob tube.
- Amy Geppert, Editorial Assistant
RC9800I Pronto Networked Wireless Multimedia Remote Control, Philips, $400
MP3 Karaoke Kit

Low: MP3 Karaoke Kit

PopSci staffers have always been huge karaoke fans. This nifty kit turns any MP3 player into a bone fide karaoke machine, meaning even more impromptu bouts of "Don't Stop Believin'" in the office.
- Amy Geppert, Editorial Assistant
Karaoke System, doPi, $45
Motorcycle

High: Motorcycle

Number One on my wish list this Christmas is the Buell 1125CR. My wife will kill me if Santa brings it, but I will be a superhero to my kids.
- Mike Gallic, Marketing Director
1125CR, Buell, $11,700
Recording Pen

Low: Recording Pen

If I can't have the bike, though, I'd be perfectly happy with a Livescribe. Since I can never read my own notes, maybe my recorded voice will help me recall the idea I had in that last brainstorm. You know, the one that will land the big fish . . .
- Mike Gallic, Marketing Director
Pulse SmartPen, Livescribe, from $150
Limited-Edition Speakers

High: Limited-Edition Speakers

Add these seven-foot-tall, limited-edition speakers designed by Ross Lovegrove to your fantasy shopping list. The shiny outer shells are computer-carved from a hulking block of heated aluminum and precision-molded into a curvaceous sculpture that sounds as good as it looks.
- Nicole Dyer, Articles Editor
Muon Speakers, KEF, $145,000
Period-Tracking App

Low: Period-Tracking App

Show the lady in your life that you care with this mobile menstrual-cycle log. iPeriod is a simple yet ingenious application sold in Apple's App Store that tracks womanly times, letting the user know precisely when company is expected up to 12 months in advance. It even sends out handy warning alerts—handy because you'll know when it's wisest to bow to her demands.
- Nicole Dyer, Articles Editor
iPeriod App, WinkPass, $3
Wacom Tablet

High: Wacom Tablet

Since I do consider myself an artist (oil painter), and it's hard to paint in a poorly ventilated, teeny apartment without dying an early death, I would love to get this (with Corel Painter included, of course). At 21 inches, this LCD tablet dwarfs most monitors and can even be set on your lapa€"all the control of the Old Masters, none of the fume inhalation.
- Jenny Smith, Digital Account Manager
Cintiq 21UX Tablet, Wacom, from $2,000
Sound Isolating Headphones

Low: Sound Isolating Headphones

I really wanted these headphonesa€”similar quality would cost you at least twice as mucha€”but despite throwing a mic on the wire, the dweebs in Cupertino say these aren't compatible with my iPhone. Wha? And yet . . . yeah, I still want them.
- Bjorn Carey, Senior Editor
In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic, Apple, $79
Teslas

High: Teslas

The Tesla Roadster is the climate-conscious geek's Ferrari. And even if you've got the $110,000, they're extremely difficult to get. Fewer than 100 have been delivered so far. Let me assure you, though, they are well worth waiting for.
- Seth Fletcher, Senior Associate Editor Note, Seth's not the only PopSci_-er begging for a Tesla this season: "The wish-list gets a little longer. Even if you're George Clooney and can afford Tesla's "economical" follow-up to its all-electric $100,000 sports car, the Roadster, you'll have to wait until at least 2011 to buy this 225-mile-per-charge, zero-emissions, made-in-America beauty."
- Nicole Dyer, Articles Editor_
The Tesla Model S and Roadster, Tesla Motors, From $65,00
Video Game

Low: Video Game

Ideal for recessionary winter evenings spent at home, keeping warm and not spending money. Its epic violence is just icing on the cake.
- Seth Fletcher, Senior Associate Editor
Gears of War 2,_ Xbox, $60_
Aluminum Welder

High: Aluminum Welder

Dear Santa,
I've been a very good boy this year—I deserve to weld aluminum. I know it costs a bunch of money, but I could help you out! Maybe weld you a lighter sled? Please-Please-Please?
- John B. Carnett, Staff Photographer
350P MIG Welder, Millermatic, $3,800
Saw Blade

Low: Saw Blade

OK times are hard, so here is something a bit cheaper. See, Santa, I've had to run the wood through my table saw multiple times to get the right size slot. Come on, I work for PopSci! You know you want me to look sharp, so please, Santa, at least get me the Dado blade!
- John B. Carnett, Staff Photographer
8" Stack Dado Saw Blade, Freud, $100
Robot Butler

High: Robot Butler

As an apartment dweller, the high point of my life was getting my own washing machine. Next up: getting a robot to put my clothes in that washing machine, so I don't even have to move from my couch, much less trudge to a laundromat. Looks like my dirty laundry will be piling up for 10 to 20 years before this prototype robot becomes a reality, though.
- Lauren Aaronson, Associate Editor
Assistant Robot, Tokyo University's Information and Robot Technology, Priceless
Books

Low: Books

Science. Adversity. Tiny talking animals. What more could you ask for in a book? Alex & Me is the story of Alex, an African grey parrot, and Irene Pepperberg, the researcher who battled against the bird-belittling establishment to show that our feathered friends can actually learn, reason, and say adorable things like "You be good. I love you."
- Lauren Aaronson, Associate Editor
Alex & Me, Harper Collins, $24
High-Def Mini Cam

Low(ish): High-Def Mini Cam

Fine, it's hardly cheap, but this video camera is at the tippy-top of my wish list, and damned if I won't put it out there. It's tiny, super-easy to use, and did I mention it shoots in HD? You can e-mail videos or post them to YouTube without installing any software. It takes still photos, as well. Amazing performance packed into a very simple package without any useless bells and whistles. My husband is getting one under the tree so that I can "borrow" it. Oh, and if you order the Mino online, you can customize the exterior shell. You can even post your own design for it and collect "royalties" if any other customers use it. How cool is that?
- Dawn Stover, Editor at Large
MinoHD, Flip Video, $229
Electric Scooter

High: Electric Scooter

I'm also craving a Vectrix VX-1 electric maxi scooter, but that's definitely out of my price range. And maybe my electric range too. It has all the power (and price tag) of a motorcycle but without all those nasty hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide emissions. In green, please.
- Dawn Stover, Editor at Large
VX-1, Vectrix, $10,500
Sander

Low: Sander

I just got a new shop space, where I'll attempt to build things to remedy the Ikea invasion that is my living room. So my dreams are filled with visions of the Craftsman Vibrafree sander, which, shockingly, does exactly as it advertises and reduces the hand-numbing shaking associated with creating a smooth finish.
- Mike Haney, Executive Editor
Craftsman Vibrafree Sander, sears.com, $100
Laser Cutting Table

High: Laser Cutting Table

If Santa's feeling particularly generous, well, then I'll take a Kern Dual-Head CNC Laser Cutting table, which can whip out complex shapes with perfectly clean edges in wood, metal, plastic—probably beef, if you were so inclined. And if I had a $10,000+ system like that, I'd think nothing of carving my name in porterhouses.
- Mike Haney, Executive Editor
Dual-Head CNC Laser Cutting Table, Kern, From $10,000
In-Ear Headphones

Low: In-Ear Headphones (Round II)

After waiting until my old iPod only ran for 20 minutes per battery charge, I finally just bought a shiny new one. Now I need a pair of earphones that are worthy of my 32 gigabytes of rockin' tunes. I'm holding out for the ones from Bose, long the standard-bearer for high-quality audio.
- Doug Cantor, Senior Associate Editor
Triport In-Ear Headphones, Bose, $90
LCD Keg Topper

High: LCD Keg Topper

It never occurred to me that beer and TV could be enjoyed at the same time. Fortunately, it occurred to some genius. The result is the v–POD, a stainless-steel drink dispenser with a 10-inch LCD television in it. It costs a pretty penny and takes several weeks for delivery—too late for college-bowl season, but I'm hoping they'll do a rush job in time for the Super Bowl.
- Doug Cantor, Senior Associate Editor
v-POD, Micro Matic, $3,050
Malaria Prevention Kit

Low: Malaria Prevention Kit

Malaria is one of the biggest killers worldwide; it's also one of the most preventable diseases. And the easiest way to vanquish it is decidedly low-tech. Fifty bucks buys enough treated mosquito netting to outfit a dorm for orphaned high-schoolers in Tanzania, one of those places where the number-one cause of death for kids is, indeed, malaria.
- Abby Seiff, Associate Web Editor
Malaria Prevention Kit, jiamini.org, $50
Midrange Compact

High: Midrange Compact

I've been lusting over this camera for exactly one week now; ever since our creative director showed me the review unit he'll be featuring in a video later this month [Ed note: keep an eye on popsci.com/lx for Sam's upcoming review]. I won't lie, at least a third of the attraction is due to the styling: it's sleek and old-school and looks like something Weegee would have been proud to cart around town. But the rest is all substance. The LX's lens clocks in at 24mm, making it one of the widest compact digitals on the market. Fully manual controls class it with popular midrange contenders like the Canon G10. And the extras (like an aspect-ratio control switch on the body, a setting that mimics pinhole photography, and its coat-pocket size) give it an edge in my book. - Abby Seiff, Associate Web EditorLumix LX-3, Panasonic,$500
DIY Netbook

Low: DIY Netbook

I've had my eye on this OMAP3 platform, which "delivers laptop-like performance and expansion" and fits in the palm of your hand, for quite some time now. At $150, the Beagle Board would be a great foundation for building a DIY netbook computer. Hmm. Check back in 2009 and see what I mean.
- Dave Prochnow, Contributing Editor
Beagle Board, beagleboard.org, $150
Concept Car

High: Concept Car

In a more robust economy, I might set my gift-wish bar a little higher. The "Geometry and Functions In "N" Adaptations" (GINA) Light Visionary Model concept vehicle from BMW Group Design is all about making the highway my way again. Priced just north of reality, the GINA isn't wrapped in sexy sheet metal. Rather this classy chassis is lovingly embraced with a moveable, form-shapable, seamless fabric skin. Just watching the hood open to reveal the potent V8 engine suggests a surgical prep step prior to open-heart surgery. Scalpel, suture, oilcan.
- Dave Prochnow, Contributing Editor
Geometry and Functions In "N" Adaptations Light Visionary Model, BMW, Priceless
Self-Portrait

Low: (Inner) Self-Portrait

Think Warhol, but less obvious. Send the fine folks at dna11 some spit on a stick, an inkblot of your fingerprint, or even a kiss on a paper and they'll turn it into a large-scale print.
- Kristine LaManna, Photo Editor
DNA, Fingerprint and Kiss Portraits, dna11, From $170
Aura-Capturing Camera

High: Aura-Capturing Camera

I couldn't claim that this camera, which translates biofeedback readings into a colored "aura," actually works, but who cares? The concept is fascinating, and whether the recorded auras have any correspondence to reality is almost beside the point; the pictures are uniquely beautiful.
- Kristine LaManna, Photo Editor
Aura Camera 6000, auraphoto.com, Approx $7,000