Electronic gadgets are a favorite of holiday shoppers, but separating the sure-fire hits from the sure-fire returns isn't easy. To help out, The Dallas Morning News' technology...

Share story

Electronic gadgets are a favorite of holiday shoppers, but separating the sure-fire hits from the sure-fire returns isn’t easy.

To help out, The Dallas Morning News’ technology writers sifted through tech items they had a chance to play with this year and selected their favorites.

So if you’re one of the 76 percent of consumers who, according to the Consumer Electronics Association, plan to buy at least one electronics item as a holiday gift, read on.

iPod Photo

Price: $499 for 40 gigabytes; $599 for 60 GB

What’s cool about it: This is the first iPod with a color screen. It can carry up to 15,000 songs or 25,000 pictures by syncing with a new version of iTunes. Display slide shows with music on the iPod’s screen or on your TV. Battery life improves to 15 hours.

Perfect gift for: The early adopter. Not everyone will want to carry pictures on their iPod, but if you want 60 gigabytes of storage, you have no other choice.

Potential drawbacks: Price. This is the most expensive iPod. Also, there is no way to directly load photos from a digital camera.

Where to find it: Apple retail stores and online at store.apple.com.

— Jim Rossman

The Nintendo DS has a playable demo of “Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt.”

Nintendo DS

Price: $149

What’s cool about it: It’s Nintendo’s new handheld video-game system, and it’s a dramatic technological improvement over the Game Boy Advance. The DS has a dual screen, hence the name. The bottom screen is a touch screen that you can use for games or for the DS’ built-in instant-messaging software, PictoChat. The IM function works via the DS’ internal Wi-Fi system, which also enables multiplayer gaming.

Perfect gift for: Gamers of all ages. Nintendo is marketing the DS as a high-tech device that older gamers won’t be embarrassed to be seen with but one that has plenty of the classics for younger fans. If you’ve accumulated a stash of Game Boy Advance titles, don’t worry — the DS can play them.

Potential drawbacks: The DS can’t play Game Boy and Game Boy Color games. The system is configured so that your fingers feel stiff after a while, and the stylus/touch screen controls can be difficult to get used to. But setting the DS on a table while you play alleviates finger stress, and many games let you readjust the controls so you don’t have to use the stylus.

Where to find it: Any retailer that carries video games should have the DS, although it may be in tight supply until after Christmas. Online retailers such as Gamestop.com and eBay might be your best bet.

— Victor Godinez

The PalmOne Treo 650 smartphone has built-in Bluetooth for connecting wirelessly to headsets and laptops.

Treo 650

Price: $599; $449 for new Sprint customers

What’s cool about it: The latest version of palmOne’s popular Treo smart-phone is sleeker and more powerful than its predecessor, the 600. The 650 sports a much better camera that can also take video images. And it has built-in Bluetooth for connecting wirelessly to headsets, laptops, etc.

Perfect gift for: Personal-digital-assistant users who want a smarter phone.

Potential drawbacks: It’s expensive and still bulky to carry in a pants pocket. It may lead to an excessive attachment to e-mail.

Where to find it: www.palmone.com/us.

— Vikas Bajaj

Motorola RAZR V3 cellphone

Price: $599.99 retail, $499.99 ordered online with a two-year Cingular Wireless service contract

What’s cool about it: Its small size, its range of features and its trendy look. Closed, it’s as narrow as a credit card, though slightly longer, and only a half-inch thick. The case is a low-luster silver, with color screens on the outside and inside. And it has all the neat features — camera, big address book with photo ID on incoming calls, a variety of messaging options, video download and playback, speakerphone, Bluetooth wireless and Internet access.

Perfect gift for: The person who considers a cellphone a statement, not an appliance.

Potential drawbacks: It costs a lot. It’s not the type of cellphone you want to bounce off the pavement once a week. And it could be easy to lose — don’t throw it on a messy desk.

Where to find it: Only at Cingular Wireless.

— Terry Maxon