Engadget's Holiday Gift Guide: Toys and Neat Stuff

Sean Hollister
S. Hollister|12.02.10

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Engadget's Holiday Gift Guide: Toys and Neat Stuff
Welcome to the Engadget Holiday Gift Guide! The team here is well aware of the heartbreaking difficulties of the seasonal shopping experience, and we want to help you sort through the trash and come up with the treasures this year. Below is today's bevy of hand curated picks, and you can head back to the Gift Guide hub to see the rest of the product guides as they're added throughout the holiday season.
Technically, you can toy with just about anything, so the items that follow aren't necessarily the ones you'll find on the shelves of your average toy store, though there's certainly a few of those too -- mostly, they're items that we thought were simply too awesome to escape your notice this year, but didn't make it into our standard categories. Read on!

Stocking stuffers

Nerf N-Strike Barricade RV-10

Nerf redefined cubicle warfare this year with a series of belt, clip and drum-fed guns, but the Nerf Barricade is the one you really want -- it's a comparatively compact electric revolver that uses a pair of high-speed wheels to kick out ten semi-automatic Nerf darts. No need to pump or cock this foam-firing pistol, so your giftee can even go akimbo on co-workers with one in each paw. Brand new, you may have to trek to a physical store to find one right now, but it should be shipping shortly wherever toys are sold.

: $14-18

Ever wondered what it might be like to drink coffee out of a EF 70-200mm f/4L USM telephoto lens? This is how you do it without wrecking that precious Canon L-glass. Also available in Nikkor varieties, the larger hides a vacuum-insulated thermos, and the smaller features a working zoom function to extend your liquid throw.

Doctor Who Sonic Screwdriver
- $20

The Mario Kart R/C carts that formerly occupied this space are proving impossible to find, but we're sure you'd be able to grab one if only you had a blue box that traveled through space and time. And while we hear those are also difficult to come by, you can certainly pretend with one of these wonderful toys -- the first Sonic Screwdriver that actually drives screws in real life.

Joby Gorillatorch Switchback / Blade - $60

Photographers have traditionally gotten the most out of Joby's flexible tripods, but the mechanics and outdoorsmen in your life will thank you profusely for these -- 130 lumen Cree LED flashlights with some particularly useful gimmicks. The Switchback starts out as a headlamp with an elastic strap for your recipient's noggin, but can also slot into a lantern-style case, whereas the Blade has a rechargeable battery and magnetic feet to keep it firmly affixed to a car while they fish around for dropped bolts.

We'd be hard pressed to call the OnLive MicroConsole a bona fide game machine at this early stage, but it's already a fantastic toy -- just hook it up to a TV and blazing fast internet connection to stream full PC games from the cloud, and record hilarious gameplay videos. At present, your giftee can only pick from around forty titles to extensively demo, rent or buy, but with a new Netflix-style flat-rate plan and 100 games in the pipeline, by this time next year OnLive might even have a spot on our regular Gaming Gift Guide.

Oh, you shouldn't have

Parrot AR.Drone quadricopter

There are any number of reasons to invest in a Parrot AR.Drone on behalf of that special someone. Perhaps they've a budding interest in augmented reality gaming, or perhaps they need to scare the bejeezus out of a late night TV host. Maybe they just want to casually fly the remote control auto-stabilizing four-propeller aircraft from the comfort of their touchscreen smartphone. But the best reason to purchase an AR.Drone is to convince your significant other to let you buy one for yourself. You'll need two, after all.

Price: $300

Audiophiles may balk at putting on a wireless headset, but trust us when we say Logitech has outdone itself with these circumaural mic-equipped cans, which boast stellar stereo, superb isolation and comfort in a cord-free package with ten hours of rechargeable battery life. The G930's meant for PC gamers with a USB dongle, three programmable buttons and virtualized 7.1 surround, but there's also an analog version.

Come Christmas morning, the last thing Dad wants to do is run another 50 foot Ethernet drop or set up another wireless access point to accommodate all the brand-new connected gadgets in the house. Thankfully, the Innoband 210P-I1 takes care of both by transmitting data through existing power lines. Plug one box into a wall socket near your wired router, the other box into an outlet in your target room, and you'll deliver 802.11n WiFi and an up-to-200Mbps wired LAN jack without drilling a single hole.

We can't afford the rent now, can we?

MakerBot Thing-O-Matic 3D Printer

Buying toys is all well and good, but why not build them yourself? MakerBot's got everything you need to build a miniature computer numerical controlled (CNC) 3D printer that extrudes little dots of ABS plastic goop to form whatever shapes you'd like -- even another MakerBot, if you choose -- and comes with its own conveyor belt to automatically print object after object in a row. Connect over USB to a computer (or pop in an SD card) with a ready design, and it'll keep printing till it runs out of plastic filament. Truly, the gift that keeps on giving. Sadly, you'll have to print out an IOU for this one -- it ships after seven weeks of lead time.

Price: $1,225

Toying with technology is certainly our favorite pasttime, but toying with audio has a distinct draw... and if your giftee is a would-be disc jockey, the Traktor Kontrol S4 will help them harness the artform. It's an all-in-one DJ controller with a four-channel digital mixer that lets them sample tracks from their connected laptop library in real time, and scratch on a pair of virtual decks (you can swap between four on the fly). All in all, it's a mean machine with a relatively shallow learning curve and at a reasonable price.

There are more buttons, switches and dials on this instrument than some video game controllers, but none of them are for show -- the Gibson Firebird X embraces the idea that you shouldn't need to pause your jam session to fine-tune its sound. To that end, it's got a robo-tuning head for each of its six electric strings, six color-coded effect sliders up top to morph your tunes on the fly, and a pair of Bluetooth footpedals. All your riffs get recorded to an SD card reader embedded in the breakout box, and an eight-pack of rechargeable batteries keep everything juiced while you rock out. Just remember to get in line at Gibson's website on December 11th if you want one, as the company's only grinding 1,800 axes this time around.
All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. All prices are correct at the time of publishing.