We Blasters tend to raise our electrical bills in November and December as we test out the holiday season’s gifts, games and gadgets. This year is no exception, economy or no economy. But what did surprise us this year were the extraordinarily low prices of some of the gifts — many of which are under $100 this year.

Without further ado:

OCZ Technology 240 GB Vertex 3 Solid State Drive – $400

If you have someone on your gift list that needs a computer upgrade, the odds are this is it. Solid state hard drives are the best thing going right now, the the OCZ Vertex 3 is a great one.

With a transfer rates averaging over 190 MB/sec on HD Tune, it is much faster than a traditional hard drive. Windows 7 is optimized for solid state drives, and they zoom. PC’s aren’t dead yet, so keep upgrading!

First Act Soulo iPad Microphone and Karaoke App – $69-$99

Of all the things your iPad can do, I bet you never thought to add “karaoke machine” to the list. Well keep on thinking, because you haven’t yet found something that your iPad can’t do.

The Soulo iPad Microphone and Karaoke App does both things. It has a full-size mic to jam away, and a functional app that displays lyrics from the songs in your iTunes library. It also has audio effects to improve pitch and make yourself sound halfway decent when you belt out your favs.

It even has a function to record music videos with the iPad 2’s camera.

The Soulo is $69 for a wired mic or $99 for wireless.

Callet Case, Cover and Wallet for iPhone 4 – $19.99

The Callet is just an example of smart thinking. It’s a simple piece of silicone that fits over your iPhone 4 and has slots on the back for your license, credit cards, etc. In the months before app-based payment takes over at every retail store, this looks like a happy medium.

The case is durable and comfortable both to store in your pocket and hold in your hand. It doesn’t obstruct any of the buttons, either.

If you’re looking for an affordable iPhone accessory that they’ll actually use, look here. Comes in pink and black.

Kensington AbsolutePower – $89.99

The Kensington AbsolutePower Laptop, Phone, Tablet Charger is the authority on device charging. Finally, there’s a device with enough juice and enough plugs to charge your laptop and two USB devices (phone, GPS, bluetooth, etc.) AT THE SAME TIME. Plug the AbsolutePower into one outlet, and it does the rest.

The device works with just about all laptops on the market. It has a power plug with a variety of adapters and two built-in USB ports with 2.1 amps of charging power, good enough for tablets and cell phones alike. This is a great dad gift, too.

Ecobee Smart Internet Thermostat – $400 plus installation

This is one of the most expensive items on the list, and it’s not a give-and-go present. The Ecobee Smart Thermostat requires about two hours of professional wiring and installation by an HVAC contractor, so be prepared for a $600 investment between the device and installation. You also need a WIFI network.

That said, this thing is awesome. The Ecobee is the best Internet-enabled home thermostat on the market, and the pros agree. You get a programmable, touchscreen-based thermostat that’s easy to use on the wall. But the reason you buy the Ecobee is that it’s also entirely app-enabled.

Download the free app for your smartphone (or iPad) and you’re good to go. You can access your thermostat from anywhere in the world, including any computer. You can program complex schedules or just turn on your A/C when you’re on the way home from work, so you arrive to a cool house in the afternoon.

The Cdock – $55, $65, $70

The Cdock is a simple as it gets. An iPhone dock, it uses the phone’s display to create a retro-looking clock while charging your iPhone/iPod touch in style. You use whatever clock/alarm app you want, and the Cdock makes it look good on the outside.

It’s a dock-only. No speakers or anything, but the Cdock plugs in via USB or regular electrical outlet to charge your phone.

The reason we’re drawn to the Cdock is simple: style. You can buy it in glossy black, brushed aluminum or natural walnut. This lets you actually match your iPhone dock to your furniture decor, without some black plastic dock standing out in the crowd.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 – $39.99 to $95.99

This is the year of the voice.

With Siri getting things done for iPhone 4S users, this should be the year you finally give your wrists a rest with Dragon NaturallySpeaking. You can have the home edition for under $40 or the premium package for under $100.

Most importantly, the software works. You talk. It types. It’s accurate right out of the box or can be trained with your own style or accent. This makes a great student gift or a present for someone with a small office. Of course, if you’re buying for a doctor or lawyer, they may already have the software, so ask.

AeroPress Coffee Maker — $30

If you have a friend who’s a huge coffee nut, they probably already know about this device, but many still haven’t given it a try yet because they’re hopelessly dependent on a Keurig or even possibly a traditional coffee maker.

But the AeroPress really works. I have it and love it. Special thanks to Useful Things for providing me with one to test out. The video below, by former Maximum PC editor Will Smith, was my first experience seeing the AeroPress in action. Take a look.

Dazzle DVD Recorder HD — $50

For some reason, Avid did not put their brand name on the Dazzle DVD Recorder. That was a dumb move, because Avid is a symbol of video quality. It’s the software used by TV stations to edit news footage.

So for $50, the Dazzle DVD Recorder is a good bet. You can take any video from your old camcorders, new camcorders, digital cameras, smartphones, DVDs, and even your gaming consoles, and put it on your computer, YouTube, etc.

It’s a really poorly named product. It should be called Avid Dazzle HD. It can record DVDs, but that’s not
what your recipient will use it for.

playGo Wireless Media Streamer — $450

This is another one on the expensive list, but if you have someone in your family who loves music and gadgets, the playGo is a great gift.

It works with all computers (PC and Mac) and allows you to send any music or audio wirelessly to anywhere else in your house, including your kickass home theater receiver/surround sound.

The playGo is a way for people to play their home music library on their “good” speakers without needing to put it on an iPod/iPhone and without having to buy a second computer or a home-theater PC. It works great, and sends high-quality, distortion-free sound up to 75 feet away.

Remote Control Helicopter — $40

No matter what, you’re going to end up at T.J. Maxx and/or Marshalls at some point during your gift-buying frenzy.

In doing some research, I found a couple products that I’d be happy with. The first one is their Remote Control Helicopter. It’s a toy. Not much to it. You use the remote; it flies. It’s a great way to break stuff indoors, and I’m sure we could all figure out interesting ways to break IT outside.

More to come in the next few days, right up until Christmas!

About The Author

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston's Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at guilfoil.j@blastmagazine.com. Tweet @johnguilfoil.

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