Honorable mention: At US$2,899, the Celestron CPC 1100 GPS tripod-mounted telescope offers an 11-in. aperture for excellent light-gathering ability, as well as its own fully computerized system to automatically find objects in space. The Celestron has a database of some 40,000 space objects and can be updated via an Internet connection.
Meade 12" LX200R Price: US$4,699-US$4,869
Summary: Amazing backyard star-gazing and exploration is easy and eye-opening with one of the newest and coolest electronic, GPS-enabled telescopes on the market today.
Celestron CPC 1100 GPS tripod-mounted telescope Price: US$2,800-US$2,900
Summary: GPS-enabled telescopes are expensive -- but this model will save you about $2,000 over our top pick. Todd R. Weiss
High-tech car: 2008 BMW 5 Series
Maybe they should call it the "Ultimate Technology Machine." We're talking, of course, about the the 2008 BMW 5 Series, which edged out the Lexus LS for honors as the most technology-laden car for the current model year. Don't take our word for it; the Telematics Research Group, which actually measures these things, says so too.
Of course the 5 Series offers GPS, voice recognition and "iDrive" -- a function control knob widely maligned as too complicated when it appeared several years ago. (BMW has since cleaned up the iDrive's UI.) What makes the 5 Series Beemer hot for '08 are treats like active steering, "night vision," a heads-up display and a couple of new goodies -- Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Active Cruise Control (ACC).
A lot of cars now have variations on these technologies, but BMW is the only one to put them all in one gotta-have-it package. The LDW system is designed to keep you (and your car) in the correct lane. It uses a camera mounted near the rearview mirror, and if it notices you're drifting into someone else's lane -- and you haven't used a turn signal to indicate you're moving over -- it vibrates the steering wheel.
The ACC allows you to use cruise control, even when there's traffic in front of you -- and it'll keep you the same distance back, even if the car ahead slows. Our fav? The night vision, which is available on the pricier models and uses infrared cameras to "see" farther down the road than you can.
The basic 528i starts at US$45,075. With most of the technologies we've already noted, this Beemer would set you back US$56,155. Go full bore and get the 550i with the V8 and a few more options and you're north of US$70k. At least you'll be safe and having fun as you drive off to the poorhouse.
Price: starts at US$45,075
Summary: Luxury meets technology in the sweetest ride for 2008.
Supercomputer: IBM Blue Gene/P
For the computer enthusiast with everything, there is only one true gift: Blue Gene/P. With a lineage that goes back to Deep Blue, the famous IBM parallel processing supercomputer that beat chess master Gary Kasparov back in 1997, the P version may just be the world's fastest supercomputer.
The P is nearly 2½ times faster than its predecessor and current record holder, the Blue Gene/L. (The largest implementation of the L architecture to date, the 104-rack, 212,000-processor behemoth at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, capable of 478.2 trillion floating-point operations per second (TFLOPS), is currently ranked by Top500.org as the world's fastest supercomputer.)
The P, which in its base configuration packs 4,096 processors into a single rack and delivers 13.9 TFLOPS, should be available in time for the holidays, according to Herb Shultz, marketing manager for IBM's High Performance Computing group. But hurry -- initial quantities will be limited, he says.