Digital Santa: Hi Tech, Low Budget

Four tech gifts under $100 (clockwise, from bottom left): Microsoft's Comfort Mouse; SanDisk's Cruzer crush-resistant flash drive; Rayovac's PS3 universal battery charger; and Logitech's QuickCam Fusion webcam. CBS

All this week, tech guru Larry Magid looks at the latest in high-tech gifts for the holiday season.

American love technology gifts but, trouble is, they can be pretty expensive.

Computers typically cost between $300 and $3,000. The newest iPod will set you back $300. Good digital cameras start at about $175 and video game consoles cost between $199 and $399.

Then there are those flat screen TVs that range in price from expensive to absolutely astronomical.

So unless you bought a ton of Google stock at the IPO price or sold Netscape before it plummeted, you're probably trying to think of ways to stuff your friends' and loved ones' stockings without emptying your wallet.

With that in mind, I took a trip to a real brick-and-mortar electronics store as well as a number of e-tail sites to see what type of high-tech gifts I could scrounge up for $100 or less. In some cases a lot less.

Let's start with the obvious. Just about everyone you know has a computer and a wish list of things they want for it. One popular item is those little USB flash drives. They're about the size of your thumb and they store up to two gigabytes of data. You can get a one GB version for under $70 but even a 256 megabyte flash drive, at under $30, can be a welcome present for anyone who wants to move data from one computer to another or carry around important documents or software on their keychain.

For the really geeky, consider the SwissMemory Flight Safe Multitool ($55 for the 256 MB version) that consists of a USB memory stick built into a tool made by Victorinox, the Swiss Army Knife company. It also comes with an LED mini-light, a retractable ballpoint pen and a key ring along with an extension cable for easy access to USB ports. There's no knife or scissors so it's OK to bring on planes.

Speaking of memory, you can never have enough of it. Many people have PCs and Macs that have 128 or 256 megabytes of memory. Unless they plan to get rid of those computers soon, they can enjoy increased performance and reliability by upgrading the memory to 512 MB or even a gigabyte.

It's a very inexpensive way to get a lot more mileage out of their PC. Prices vary depending on your PC and change periodically but last time I checked you could buy 512 megabytes of memory for under $90 (high speed memory required by some computers can be more). You can find 256 MB (often enough to upgrade a system to 512) for as little as $30.

If you have access to the person's PC, visit 4allmemory.com and try out the site's "check my system" command that analyzes the PC and figures out exactly what memory it has and what memory you can buy to upgrade it. It works with Internet Explorer and Firefox on most, but not all, PCs. Even if you don't ending up buying anything from this site, you'll still get a better idea of what you need.

  • Sean Alfano

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