Techno Gizmos for the Holidays

Before You Buy, Words of Advice from Xeni Jardin

DVD player

Tech writer Xeni Jardin samples the picture quality on the Panasonic DVD LS5 portable DVD player. Shereen Meraji, NPR News hide caption

itoggle caption Shereen Meraji, NPR News
iRiver portable digitial music player.

The iRiver portable digitial music player. Shereen Meraji, NPR News hide caption

itoggle caption Shereen Meraji, NPR News
Philips Pronto Neo TSU500 universal remote can "learn" about new components.

The Philips Pronto Neo TSU500 universal remote can "learn" about new components. Shereen Meraji, NPR News hide caption

itoggle caption Shereen Meraji, NPR News

Day to Day technology expert Xeni Jardin presents tips about which of this holiday season's crop of electronic gadgets will make great gifts.

Portable DVD Players: Watch movies, view photo slide shows, listen to music CDs... These units are like mobile living rooms.

What to look for in a portable DVD player:

• Battery life — Three or more hours is good, especially when viewing long movies during international flights.

• Screen size — Bigger screen means bigger, better image, but it also means a heavier device.

• Weight — Two devices the same size can be very different in weight, depending on battery and case design.

• Durability — Some models have "ruggedized" cases built for rougher travelers.

• On the horizon — Most DVD players are of the "clamshell" variety, but new European "tablet" models can mount flat on a wall or car seat.

Digital Music Players: Pocket-sized gadgets to store and play digital music, download songs from the Internet or copy songs from CDs and play them on the run. Unlike portable CD players, the digital machines won't skip.

What to look for in a digital music player:

• Size — Is it important that the device be ultra-compact? There are tiny players and larger ones that also include CD players.

• Storage — How much room do you need? A 256 MB unit can hold about eight hours of music. The popular iPod offers 10GB, 20GB, and 40GB versions.

• Format — There are a number of competing file types — MP3, Windows Media, iPod's AAC format. Choose wisely.

• Battery life — Some of the better models can go up to eight hours before needing a recharge.

• Other features — Look for a built-in AM/FM radio or a voice recording function.

Universal Remote Controls: Living rooms are getting more and more crowded with digital sprawl. There are remotes for TVs, stereos, DVD players, VCRs, TiVo units and more. But homes aren't getting any bigger.

Things to consider when looking for universal remotes:

• Budget — Some of the higher-end models can cost hundreds, but can also potentially control any infrared-connected device.

• How many devices? — There are universal remotes available that can handle dozens of separate components.

• Who's using the remote? — There are remotes available that are easier for kids and elderly users to handle.

• Macro buttons — These single-touch commands can turn on and off a number of devices all at once — for example, a home theater system that uses several components.

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