Peter's gift guide for the holidays

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ripcurl.pngWe’re not too keen on gift guides here at CrunchGear and it’s probably more painful and tedious than writing up the latest Hello Kitty contraption. Alas, we don’t have much of a choice so here’s my gift guide where I’ll cover the be all and end all of gear bags, a variety of phones from all the major carriers, a few gaming recommendations and my choice of DSLRs. Keep your fingers crossed, folks. It’s gonna be a wild and crazy ride.

I’m constantly looking for a laptop bag or backpack that will do everything I need it to do and store all the gadgets I find myself stuffing into my current bag. I have A LOT of gear, which I will exclude for fear of John or Nicholas mugging me on some random occasion. My Ogio laptop bag has done a great job, but I think it’s time to put her out to pasture. The seams are giving way and I don’t blame it since I have about 20 or 25 pounds worth of gear.

I’d much rather carry around a backpack, truth be told. Messenger/laptop bags put too much strain on one side of my body. But I don’t want just any backpack because most of them look dorky as far as traditional laptop/gear bags go. I want something that I can pack around the city or on a three month backpacking trip through South America. So I present to you Rip Curl’s Ultimate Searchpack. I’m drooling all over my keyboard as I write this.

The Ultimate features a Tech Safe pouch for for your camera, phone, iPod, headphones or just about anything that needs a little extra padding. Your precious laptop has an ‘ultra secure pocket’ that’s theft proof and has extra padding. Not sure how it’s theft proof, but I’ll take your word for it, Rip Curl. There’s even a fleece lined pocket for your shades and a wax stash pocket that’s meant for fins and wax, but I’m sure you can find an alternative use for the insulated and removable pockets. But the fun doesn’t stop there.

There’s a removable wetsack that’s meant for a wetsuit, but, again, I’m sure you can find an alternative use for the waterproof pouch. You may encounter a rain storm so you can probably throw your gadgets inside. I’m keen on the board caddy attachment strap but hang whatever you want from it. There’s a slew of loops to attach extra gear and the stretch neo gusset ensure you’ll have enough room for all your crap while keeping it nice and dry. The Ultimate has so much room that if it doesn’t fit then you probably don’t need it.

You needn’t fret about getting sweaty or having a stank backpack, either, because the shoulder straps are ventilated and there’s a full air channel back system. What gear bag would be complete without a pocket for your cell phone on the shoulder strap, an integrated mp3 player pocket and headphone storage system? Yeah, the Ultimate Searchpack has everything covered.

Speaking of cell phones, here are a few picks from each major that I think will cover the basics, like making calls and getting e-mails. If you’re looking for the basic necessities such as a camera, stereo Bluetooth and an music player then grab the Nokia 6263 for T-Mobile, that mysterious 3G network they’re working on should roll out at some point, and this handset is set for it. You might as well be prepared.

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Let’s say you need something with a few more features then check out the BlackBerry Curve or HTC Shadow. They should get the job done, and if they don’t, then may the tech lords help you and you’re even more jaded than we are.

I can’t in good conscience recommend the iPhone so I won’t. You have Biggs doing that every other day. For AT&T customers, I’ll throw down and say you should pick up the Sony Ericsson W580i or a BlackJack II. The BlackBerry Pearl isn’t a bad choice either.

flip1.pngIf you’re with Verizon then leave now! Just kidding. Heh. The Samsung FlipShot is well packed with features and comes with a 180-degree rotating display. That’s a pretty unique feature if you ask me. The BlackBerry 8830 can go anywhere you want it to on Earth. Almost anywhere so long as you have reception. The LG Venus, despite its feminine moniker, is a great device and features a fancy touch screen UI.

7910-5086-167-175-250x275.jpgAnd bringing up the rear is Sprint. I like Sprint’s lineup at the moment and they’ve certainly come a long ways in the last couple of years. The Palm Centro is a smartphone that’s small and is full of possibilities thanks to all the third party apps available for Palm OS devices. The Samsung M510 is your basic flip, but its reverse hinge and soft touch casing make it stand out among the basic flip phones on the market today. And last but not least is the Motorazr V9M. It’s shiny, has touch-sensitive external controls and it’s GPS enabled.

Now for something a little more fun. I feel it in my heart that we’re all gamers in some form or another. I rock the PS2, PSP, DS, 360, Wii and on occasion find myself playing someone else’s PS3. But not everyone is privy to such things so let me make a few suggestions if I may. Let’s begin with portables. The PSP is the ultimate mobile entertainment device for games and its recent redesign was much needed and greatly appreciated. The selection of games is vast and the variety of UMD movies make this the ultimate time waster. I personally dig the white Darth Vader edition.

I think the DS is better for educational purposes. Sure the games that utilize the dual touch screens are fun, but a teacher once told me that learning is fun. Take My Word Coach for example, what better way to expand your or your child’s vocabulary with fun interactive games? If you’re looking for a game then try out Death Jr.. Game play isn’t anything extraordinary, but you do get yourself a sweet sickle stylus. That in and of itself is worth it.

I made my recommendation for the 360 with Assassin’s Creed, but I’d be foolish not to include BioShock. It’s an exciting and thrilling FPS that takes full advantage of the 360 platform. I still have nightmares from the opening sequence. Forza 2 rocks if you’re looking for a Gran Turismo fix. I’m told Mass Effect is good so let’s throw that in there too.

As far as the PS3 is concerned, you should just get one. It has more features than the Xbox 360 and if it’s shelf life is anything like the PS2 then it’s capable of great things down the road. With time, it may just triumph but until then watch your Blu-ray discs and play the best PS3 game according to the VGAs, Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction.

The best game for 360 is BioShock and the best game for PS3 is Ratchet and Clank? Yikes. But hey, at least you have Gran Turismo and Street Fighter to look forward to and those two titles kickass. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare should also be snatched up though, the Wii is left out of this party, but you can play Medal of Honor 2 instead.

Does it really matter what game you get for the Wii? It all seems to be the same, flailing your arms around like a fool. My suggestion would be to stick with classic NES titles like Metroid and Mario. Of course, My Word Coach is great, too.

And to wrap things up, I’ll throw out a few suggestions for DLSRs. You already know which one I use, Pentax K100D Super and I think it’s a great entry-level camera because of its UI. I’ve tried Nikon and Canon’s entry-level DLSRs and they’re not as easy to use. For something a little more advanced may I suggest the Canon EOS 40D or Nikon D40X though, the Pentax K10D is on par with these. I wasn’t going to include any point and shoots, but the Fuji FinePix F40fd or F31fd are great choices. The F31fd is bigger while the F40fd is slimmer and sexier. The 31 has superb battery life and and ISO up to 3200 while the 40 is average and only musters up 2000. The 40 does more megapixels and is just better looking.

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Well, that just about wraps it up, folks. I, along with the rest of the CG staff, will continue to make recommendations throughout the coming weeks until the holiday shopping is over, but you should keep all of them in mind regardless because you have birthdays, anniversaries and all that to worry about, too.

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