It’s a geek Christmas

He's making a list, he's checking it twice ... Yes, the jolly fat man in the big red suit is coming soon to a chimney near you. The question is, have you been good? Assuming you have, there is a bewildering range of high-tech baubles for you to stuff your stocking with, from cellphones that play games to satellite dishes to a new generation of palmtop computers. Notebooks are more popular than ever, with some models competing directly against desktop PCs. IBM's ThinkPad 770 offers what IBM calls "extreme performance". It has a 5Gb hard drive, runs at 233MHz and comes with a DVD-ROM drive.

He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice ...

Yes, the jolly fat man in the big red suit is coming soon to a chimney near you. The question is, have you been good?

Assuming you have, there is a bewildering range of high-tech baubles for you to stuff your stocking with, from cellphones that play games to satellite dishes to a new generation of palmtop computers.

Notebooks are more popular than ever, with some models competing directly against desktop PCs. IBM’s ThinkPad 770 offers what IBM calls “extreme performance”. It has a 5Gb hard drive, runs at 233MHz and comes with a DVD-ROM drive.

At the other end of the market, Psion’s series 5 palmtops offer more flexibility than before, with expansion cards to boost it from 4Mb to 10Mb, a larger screen and a growing range of software.

New to the market is Microsoft’s upgrade of Windows CE. Version 2.0 supports larger 256-colour screens, more compatibility with other Windows operating systems and internal modems to improve Internet access.

Notebooks and palmtops aren’t the only devices to push the envelope when it comes to size — cellphones now offer an increasing range of features while shrinking in size at an astonishing rate. Nokia’s new 6110 weighs in at just 137g with its slim-line battery, yet offers an astonishing stand-by time of up to 250 hours. Its high-performance battery pack offers 450 hours of stand-by. The phone offers 35 different ring patterns, depending on who is calling, and games to keep you amused during boring meetings.

Also packing a multitude of features into a shrinking package are digital cameras. These new cameras offer telephoto and macro, have LCD displays to show you what you’ve got, allow you to erase photos one by one instead of all or nothing, and come complete with software that offers users a wide range of special effects.

Web-heads should have a look at StarNet from The Internet Group (Ihug). It’s a satellite dish and PC Card which offers surfers the chance to connect to the Net at up to 500Kbit/s, roughly 18 times faster than Ihug’s standard connection. Available only in Auckland at the moment, it is being rolled out around the country.

Next year should be even more overwhelming, with set-top boxes, flat monitors, faster modems, slimmer notebooks, a host of DVD toys of varying degrees of compatibility, Windows 98, faster chips, bigger hard drives, better games, not to mention Apple’s Rhapsody and possibly even the business user’s version of the eMate, Apple’s cool mini-notebook.

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