Low End Theory

Have Yourself a Coby Little Christmas


By Brendan I. Koerner

Sorry to bum you right the heck out, but it's time to start your holiday shopping. Remember how you vowed last year that you'd never, ever wait until the last second again, in order to avoid those ghastly lines at Williams-Sonoma? (A pox upon your aunt for wanting that hard-to-get electric egg cooker, by the way.) Well, now's the time to make good on that promise, and start stockpiling gifts for mom, dad, the spouse, and your Secret Santa over in the IT department.

It's that last, least important entry on your holiday list that I want to tackle in this week's column. I'm sure Mr. Highwater Pants would love a copy of The Matrix: Path of Neo, but let's be realistic here: you want to keep things well under $25, and spend the savings on mulled wine. So, in the spirit of prudent savings, I give you the first annual Low End Theory Gift Guide (LETGG). After the jump, great ideas for the almost-stranger in your life—or maybe for an in-law you don't really like all that much.

First off, some LETGG ground rules: No accessories, no carry cases, and nothing used. No matter how much you don't get along with your brother-in-law, it's still sorta gauche to stuff a 12V power adapter in his stocking. Thus, you won't be finding any mention of binocular harnesses in this year's LETGG.

What will you find, then, dear reader? Good stuff, good stuff. Onward:

Baseball Message Camera What better way to encourage the little slugger in your life than with a 35mm photograph emblazoned with the phrase "You're a Winner"? True, $22.23 isn't crazy cheap for a disposable camera from Sam's Club. But the cheesiness factor on this is hard to resist. Weirdest feature: one of the eight messages is "Fly Ball."

GPX 5-inch B&W TV At $21.85, this boxy unit isn't a half-bad deal. As the hype sheet notes, it's got a headphone jack (which my $79 Apex 13-incher lacks) as well as A/V inputs (just in case you wanna hook up your Betamax). But if you want to make this into a truly portable TV, you're gonna have to invest in the optional cigarette lighter adapter, or shell out for ten C batteries.

Low End Theory

Portable USB Computer Lamp Ha! And I bet you thought the Discovery Channel's only goal was to provide you with quality predator/prey documentaries. But they're also in the game of selling "ultra-bright, white LED lights" that are both USB 1.1 and 2.0 compatible. Not bad for $14.95, but is it really over 2.2 pounds? Get it under 1.5, and we'll talk.

Low End Theory

Coby CX-CD241RED Portable CD Player What would the holidays be without some sort of sub-$20, CD-playing device from Low End Theory favorite Coby Electronics? Not a season I'd want any part in, that's for damn sure. Coby gets some props for actually molding a semi-attractive player, vaguely reminiscent of an insect's head. (See, the speakers are like the eyes, the track change buttons like the nose. Get it, or does this E&J got my mind flipping?) Still, could someone please parse out what "wide range speaker system" means? Thanks.

Low End Theory

Westclox 1939 Big Ben Clock Radio Longtime readers of this space will know that I have an unhealthy obsession with our friend, the clock radio. This $16.25 unit is sleek and features "front facing speakers," so you know it's all about the quality at Westclox. But, um, why doesn't this thing look at all like Big Ben? Just thought I'd throw that out there.

Low End Theory

Of course, there's still plenty of shopping days left, and that means a couple more pre-holiday Low End Theories to come. Know a great low-end gadget that should wind up in a not-so-close friend's stocking? You know what to do.

Brendan I. Koerner is a contributing editor at Wired and a columnist for both The New York Times and Slate. His Low End Theory column appears every Thursday on Gizmodo.

Read more Low End Theory