If you're looking for high-tech gifts, it's hard to imagine a better holiday season than this one.
From electronic kittens to music players that store your entire record collection to cell phones that send e-mail and take pictures, you'll find an amazing selection of gadgets, gizmos, toys, games and programs for everyone on your techno-shopping list.
We've assembled a list of some of this year's coolest gifts, organized by category.
But before you rush out to a store or start surfing the online malls, consider a stop at a charity Web site to make a gift to those who might not get one otherwise. NetworkForGood .org, charitywave.com, and JustGive.org are good places to start.
Computers and accessories
If your favorite computer user looks at a PC the way a hot rodder looks at a race car, he'll go nuts over a Systemax Double-X. No bargain basement gear here. The turbocharged dragsters of the company's "U" and "A" series are designed for gamers and multimedia freaks who want to wring every bit of performance out of their computers. They sport the hottest CPUs from Intel and Athlon, which is why they're water-cooled. With a cutaway window in the case and blue neon interior light that shows off all that horsepower, the Double-X also looks incredibly cool (or incredibly geeky). From $2,150.
Information: www.globalcomputer.com/go/doublex/ or 888-845-6225
Altec Lansing's 2100 2.1 Speaker System ($100) has a couple of spiffy satellite speakers and a woofer that sits on the floor with a wired remote control (for your desktop) that has a power switch and volume control. Deep, rich sound emanates from this ensemble, and though it's not as good as a five-speaker setup, it blows away most other basic computer speakers.
Information: 800-258-3288 or www.alteclansing.com
The NEC Mitsubishi MultiSync LCD 1880SX monitor ($1,100) takes up remarkably little space on your desktop but provides a sharp image on a roomy, 18-inch diagonal viewing area. Equally important is NEC's excellent raise-and-tilt adjustability, which is critical for delivering the brightest display on LCD monitors, but something that many flat-panel screen makers haven't figured out. The 1880SX has both analog and digital ports for connection to your computer.
Information: 877-273-5328 or www.necmitsubishi.com
Mice don't create much excitement unless they have four legs and are eating the corn in your grain silo. But Logitech's MX-series of optical mice are worth a little enthusiasm because they track better than most other mice on the market. The top of the line, the $80 MX700 Cordless, has rechargeable batteries. If you can remember to prop the mouse in the charger when you're finished, you'll have more than enough juice to get through a full day of computing. If you forget, you can use a couple of regular AA batteries.
Information: 800-231-7717 or www.logitech.com
Is your favorite computer user a slob? Do your kids leave the PC a sticky mess? You can stop worrying about coffee and soda spills, crumbs and other detritus with GrandTec's Virtually Indestructible Keyboard. Made from a flexible silicon-based material that can roll up and fit in a drawer when you're not using it, the VIK is immune to almost anything you're likely to pour over it. It's also virtually noiseless. In various sizes and colors for PCs, Macs and handheld computers, VIKs are priced from $40 to $60.
Information: www.grandtec.com or 214-366-3496
Printers Super photo prints
This year's best ink jet printer costs a pretty penny, but the Epson Stylus Photo 2200 ($699) makes the best home-produced photographs we've seen. It also accepts oversized paper prints up to 13 inches wide and 4 inches long (or longer if you're creating banners), while a roll paper feeder and cutter make it easy to churn out batches of 4-by-6-inch images.
Seven pigment-based UltraChrome inks deliver prints that will last 75 years without fading, according to Epson. The 2200 also supports Print Image Matching, which uses information from a similarly equipped digital camera to accurately reproduce color, sharpness, contrast, brightness and shadow points. Just don't expect racehorse speed at the highest quality: It took nearly 20 minutes to print out a gorgeous 8-by-10-inch photo in 2,880-by-1,440-dot-per- inch resolution.
Information: 1-800-463-7766 or www .epson.com