Now that it’s the season of both spring break and summer-vacation prep, it’s time for gear that moves you. By Crispin Boyer
Apple • $499 to $829, depending on model
Hype of biblical proportions preceded the February press conference at which Apple CEO Steve Jobs held aloft an iPad tablet and pronounced it “magical.” Turns out the device is little more than an iPod Touch zapped by an anti-shrink ray. It offers the same email, web-browsing, app-playing, and multi media functions, all scaled up for a beautifully crisp ten-inch display. Techies lament the lack of universal storage options, compatibility with Flash-based websites, and a cam era for video chat, but we think it’s a well-rounded road companion. Besides, new apps and games make up for it. When you factor in its access to Apple’s new iBookstore, the iPad is the sexiest e-reader alternative to Amazon’s geeky Kindle.
Activa fitness MP3 player
Philips • $130
If life were a movie, you could go from rotund to ripped in one peppy musical montage. Philips’ sporty Activa audio player offers the closest equivalent, harnessing the motivational power of your music collection to make you move better, stronger, and faster. Once it’s loaded with songs (it can hold about 500) and strapped to your arm, the Activa senses the speed of your jogging, pedaling, rowing, etc. Then its proprietary software chooses a tune that matches your tempo, while a female virtual coach coos encouraging words. (You can also choose a male coach or a drill sergeant.) Sprint into overdrive and you’re rewarded with a “boost” song of your choosing. Just don’t dawdle or you might get Rickrolled.
Improv Electronics • $30
Never scramble for scrap paper again. This ultrathin LCD tablet lets you jot down thoughts and doodles, then wipe the slate clean faster than you can shake a design off an Etch A Sketch. The screen itself—which is about half the size of a sheet of letterhead—is just a no-frills digital chalkboard, but you can whip up monochrome masterpieces with any input device at hand, from a paintbrush to your finger nail. What it lacks in sophistication (you can’t save your work or erase just part of the screen), it makes up for with a marathon battery life and a bargain price.
Killspencer • $375
Talk about packing heat. Los Angeles–based Killspencer makes stylish, hard-to-kill bags from reclaimed military materials—Humvee tarps from Iraq, canvas that saw action in Korea, and new battle-tested twill that not even the A-Team could tear (you specify your fabric of choice when you order). The company’s water-resistant, flame retardant Weekender is roomy enough to stow a laptop and duds for quick stealth missions to Las Vegas, but tough enough for rough landings in Kandahar. Optional accessories include a $15 retractable wall mount that will keep the Weekender accessible and ready for duty.
Garmin • $150
Now you don’t have to be Knight Rider to see what’s on your car’s mind. Plug this into the diagnostics port under your dash to broadcast all manner of data to your Garmin GPS device (sold sepa rately). Monitor miles per gallon, engine load, intake-manifold pressure—we’re talking hot auto-erotica. By team ing up with your GPS device, it promises gas-saving naviga tion while livening up road trips with scores for fuel-efficient acceleration and braking. It even acts as a Rosetta Stone for engine warnings, letting you diagnose issues without a mechanic.
Sony • $200
If going an entire night disconnected from the online world is enough to give you the shakes, Sony has your fix. Dash, its portable “personal internet viewer,” made with your nightstand, office, or kitchen counter in mind, taps into any Wi-Fi connection to provide instant access to more than 1,300 apps. You can access everything from Twitter to traffic updates to far-flung webcams through its seven-inch touch screen; it also supports internet radio stations, Netflix instant streaming, and online video services. Assign the alarm to the YouTube video of your choice and never slap snooze again.
VT25 3-D HDTV
Panasonic • $2,500 and up
TV makers are bet ting big that the titanic success of Avatar will forerun huge demand for 3-D in the living room. Panasonic is first to market with its VT25 series of 3-D plasmas. Each set comes with two pairs of LCD glasses that decode the TV’s supersharp 3-D 1080p display for each eyeball. You’ll need extra pairs to share the experience, and at an estimated $50 a pop, they’re worth their weight in unobtanium. Keep in mind that you’ll need to pair the TV with a 3-D source—a compa tible Blu-ray player and 3-D disc, a game console playing a 3-D game, or a cable box tuned to one of the host of debuting 3-D channels. (Yes, 3-D porn is in the works.) As always, the experience means sacrificing style—the glasses still look dorky.