For the friend or relative who already has every other tech gadget out there, here's an idea: the Myvu personal video viewing glasses. The user plugs in a portable video device and then kicks back for an experience akin to watching a 27-inch TV in a living room.
I usually flip through the SkyMall catalog on the plane in about five minutes, most of what's in there seeming like more crap to fill our already overstuffed houses. I've always stopped and checked out these myvu glasses though, so when someone got in touch offering to send me a sample to check out, I jumped on it. What could be cooler than "big-screen viewing on-the-go"? That's the promise anyway. Reality is a little less exciting.
For this to work, you have to willfully trick your brain into believing you are watching a big screen, not a little postage stamp screen that's right in front of your eyes. This would be easier if the glasses didn't also let you see what is above and below them at the same time. It would also be easier if the resolution were on par with a computer monitor (or better), not the 320 X 240 this puts out. Still, if I tried, I could momentarily imagine myself in a theater, watching a screen nowhere close to my face.
I only tested this out with an iPod as their "universal edition" version is only compatible with iPod, Zune, Archos, and certain portable DVD players. I wanted to try out the widescreen mode by hooking it to my Sony PSP, but no go. In my tests, the brightness and contrast controls on the pendant were just for show--they had no effect whatsoever during the three iTunes downloaded shows I watched. Maybe with the other players it's a different story. The display was a little washed out, though it did look better when I tried it in darkness. The sound quality, on the other hand, was quite good and definitely better than the basic ear buds that come with most music players.
The Myvu universal edition comes with a variety of plugs, the charge/power pendant (which will run up to four hours), different nose bridge pieces to make it fit best, and a pouch to keep it all in. There are maddeningly few instructions--just two pages of mostly pictures--and no place to turn to for more on the website. The battery charges via a USB cable unless you have some kind of additional charger (like the Naztech 3-in-1) that works with a mini USB hub.
This item debuted in 2006 at close to $400 and only worked with the iPod. Now it's $199 and works with a variety of players, so it's a far better value. Until someone invents something that truly makes you feel like you're in an IMAX theater, this is the best option for giving your tiny handheld screen an upgrade. If you don't mind looking like a geek from the future, this would be worth taking along for those inevitable airport delays--or to give as a gift to your frequent flyer friend. I was distracted by the fact I could still see what was going on around me, but I suppose that's a good thing if you're watching to see when your flight starts boarding, or when you have arrived at the right bus or subway stop.
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MyVu MA0483 Universal Edition Personal Media Viewer
Get the Myvu at Amazon