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Trim tree with ‘toys’ for tech lover in plenty of price ranges

It’s that time of year again — time to start thinking about holiday gifts.

I’ve been on the lookout for tech gift ideas and have found quite a few for everyone from the budget shopper to the big spender. The good news is that, thanks to falling prices, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get some great gifts.

Up to $50: Apple is offering its iPod shuffle, revamped for this year with buttons, for $49. For less than that, you can get an MP3 player from SanDisk that includes an FM tuner and a screen.

If you’re looking for a portable device that will do more than just play music, you can find an assortment of entry-level smart phones running Google’s Android software for anywhere from free of charge to about $50 — not including the monthly service costs, of course. Among them: Motorola’s Charm and Cliq on T-Mobile and Motorola’s Citrus and LG’s Ally on Verizon.

If you’ve got a gamer in the household, you’ll find nearly all games for the Nintendo Wii and DS, including top titles such as “Donkey Kong Country Returns” in this price range. You’ll find lots of games for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable and Xbox 360, including all of the titles designed for Microsoft’s new Kinect motion-detecting accessory for the Xbox 360.

And don’t forget gift cards. A $50 gift card to Amazon.com or iTunes can buy a lot of digital music, videos and apps.

$50 to $100: On the smart phone front, stepping up to this price range gives you a greater selection of devices that tend to be newer or more capable than the less expensive ones. Apple’s iPhone 3GS — last year’s model, but nearly as capable as this year’s iPhone 4 — is priced at $99. You’ll find a nice collection of Android devices, including the new Motorola Flipout from AT&T, the Motorola Devour on Verizon, the Samsung Behold II on T-Mobile and the Samsung Intercept on Sprint.

For media lovers, you’ll find Apple TV, which allows users to watch videos from iTunes, Netflix and YouTube on their televisions, and Roku’s line of digital media players, which offer a wider variety of video content providers. You can also find some more powerful iPod speaker systems, including JBL’s doughnut-shaped On Stage Micro, in this range.

On the game front, you’ll find recently released or soon-to-be-released hits such as “Halo: Reach” for the Xbox 360, “Gran Turismo 5” for the PlayStation 3 and “Call of Duty: Black Ops” for both game machines. You can also get Sony’s motion-sensing PlayStation Move accessory pack. And you can now find a brand-new game system — OnLive’s MicroConsole — for about $100.

But digital cameras might provide the most bang for the buck in this price range. You’ll find a variety of entry-level cameras from top brands such as Canon, Nikon, Casio and Kodak for $60 to $100. And entry level isn’t what it used to be: These cameras have features formerly found on high-end models, such as 10-megapixel sensors, 3-times optical zoom lenses and even the ability, in some cases, to shoot high-definition videos.

$100 to $250: This price range moves into the sweet spot for tech gadgets. For gamers, you’ll find mainstream systems, including the Nintendo Wii ($200), Nintendo’s line of DS handhelds ($130 to $170), Microsoft’s 4-gigabyte Xbox 360 ($200) and Sony’s PlayStation Portable line, with models ranging from $170 to about $200. You’ll also find Microsoft’s new Kinect accessory for the Xbox 360 ($150), and Apple’s entry-level iPod touch ($229), which has been catching on as a new-style handheld game device.

Most major e-readers are in this price range, thanks to price drops over the past year. For less than $200, you can get the Wi-Fi-only or Wi-Fi plus 3G models of either Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes & Noble’s Nook. And for $250, you can get the Nook Color, which has a color screen and is effectively a low-end tablet computer.

Smart phones in this price range present some great options, including not only the 16-gigabyte iPhone 4 but notable Android models, such as the HTC Incredible on Verizon, the HTC Evo 4G and Samsung Epic 4G on Sprint, and the Samsung Captivate on AT&T. You’ll also find some of the new Windows Phone 7 devices, including the Samsung Focus on AT&T.

For creative types and those looking to record family memories, you’ll find some top-notch point-and-shoot cameras, including some finger-slim models from Sony, and some from Samsung with up to 15-times optical zoom lenses. You’ll also find all models of Cisco Systems’ simple Flip video cameras and Kodak’s rival line of Playtouch and Z-series video cameras.

And there’s more, including entry-level HD televisions up to about 26 inches, entry-level netbook computers and even Sony’s Dash ($200), a wireless Internet device that acts as a photo frame, alarm clock and even as a simple tablet computer.


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