PLAY: Video game and other tech toy gift suggestions

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Plantronics GameCom Commander gaming headset


OK, let's cut to the chase - this is a serious gaming headset for serious gamers. If you're looking for a headset just so you can listen to your tunes, there's lots of other options. If you're gaming more than 20 hours a week, though, you're going to want a headset that adapts to your special gaming needs.

Things like comfortable earpads that don't make your ears ache after a few hours of wearing them. Or a great noise-cancelng microphone that adapts to your head and also lets your teammates hear you just fine. This headset has this, and more.

The closed-ear design wraps around your ears just fine, and provides 7.1 Dolby stereo surround sound thanks to its 40mm drivers. My favorite feature is the unit's QuickDisconnect adapters - these let you switch the headset to fit your computer or mobile device. For example, you can have the headset operate off the USB port, or you can switch it to provide cables for a standard headphone and microphone port. Or you can eliminate the microphone cable and just plug in a headphone cable, if you don't want to use the microphone or if you just want to listen to music on an iPhone/iPod/iPad etc. A ruggedized carrying case completes the package, protecting the headset for gamers that need to leave their house to go play somewhere else.

The GameCom Commander offers customization features, such as a laser-etched, limited edition serial number, and a Velcro strap on the top that you can replace with your own custom patch.

At $300, this is the definite high end for gaming headsets, but it's well worth it if you or your gift recipient is a serious gamer.

- Keith Shaw

GameStop Wireless Game Controller for Android Tablets


Retail video game chain GameStop doesn't want to be the store where you buy new video games, they are now selling tablets and other mobile devices as well.

The Wireless Game Controller for Android Tablets looks a lot like a controller that you'd see for either the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 - it's got dual sticks for navigation, a D-pad and four buttons for firing guns or menu options, as well as two trigger buttons and two shoulder buttons.

The controller connects to your Android tablet via Bluetooth, allowing the user to play game apps with better controls than having to use a touch-based interface or other device. The best use for this are for arcade-like games - you don't need one of these for Angry Birds or Words With Friends.

Pairing the device is quite simple, just like you would with a Bluetooth headset. When using the controller in a game, the movement is smooth, and much preferred vs. using a touch-based control system.

Unfortunately, it's unclear which games are compatible with this controller - GameStop says there's a list on its website, but I couldn't track it down. In all likelihood, your luck with this controller will depend a lot on whether the game you want to play it on or not supports the control system.

- Keith Shaw

Black Swann RC Stealth helicopter

$78 (Amazon)

If you're someone who's always wanted a remote control helicopter with a little bit of tech edge, the Black Swann RC Stealth is for you. The reason? Not only can you have it zipping around the office (after a moderate learning curve on the controls), but it has a tiny on-board camera that allows you to record VGA-quality videos.

The included 1GB micro-USB card slides into the back of the helicopter and you turn the camera on and off with a button on the remote control. Don't expect drone-like quality, especially if you're recording while the Black Swann is in flight; motion blur is an issue. But if you can maneuver the helicopter so that it's hovering in one spot, you can record what's below -- potentially useful for stealth in-office espionage missions.

But there's a hitch: The learning curve on the controls can be a bit steep unless you're someone who has really good eye-hand coordination. The controller uses two joysticks -- the left one controls the main rotors and speed while the right joystick controls whether you're flying forward/back or left/right. I found that it's pretty easy to get the Black Swann airborne; the hard part is steering it once it's in the air. My advice: be judicious using the steering joystick; if you move it too fast, the helicopter will respond by zipping into the nearest cabinet or (if you're outside) tree or porch railing. Until you get the hang of it, you'll want to practice flying in a wide-open area, preferably away from furniture or obstacles. And if you're outside, make sure there's no wind blowing. Anything above a gentle breeze makes maneuvering the Black Swann even harder.

On the positive side, the helicopter comes with replacement blades in case you crash, and it comes with its own micro-USB card. And if you're a fan of blinking lights, it has several red and blue LED lights -- and a "searchlight" LED -- that gives it a real stealth appearance during low-light missions. Best of all, it's made of durable plastic. I've crashed the Black Swann numerous times and haven't needed to replace a rotor yet!

- Ken Mingis

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