Cool gifts for geeks, 2011: Miscellaneous tech treasures

Random goodness for the gadget lover on your list

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U*Control Silver Bullet RC Helicopter, by Brookstone

This mini remote control (RC) helicopter has flexible nylon rotor blades, landing gear, and built-in LED strobes for, what else, night flights and landings. Brookstone calls it "easy-to-fly", and I'd agree with that assertion after some practice. My first impression was that the helicopter is delicate, but found that it's more durable than it looks. It took a few tries to get the hang of the remote control whereby I crashed the helicopter into walls, and dropped it onto a tile floor from 10 feet up. The only fix I had to make after these first attempts was to re-attach the stabilizer bar. (Parents might be glad to know that crashing into walls doesn't damage paint or woodwork.) However, if you're worried about breakage, two sets of extra rotors and stabilizers are included. You can also buy a replacement plan for one year ($3.99) or two years ($5.99).

As for ease-of-use, my first attempt had it spinning in one direction, and I couldn't get any height. Following the simple instructions included, I used the stabilizer trim button on the remote control until it stopped spinning in one direction, and I was able to get lift off. Once in the air, the remote control's throttle and right and left turn controls are used to navigate. It took a few attempts to get used to the directional controls, but after that, it was a snap.

Six AA batteries are required (but not included). Charging the batteries takes about 20 minutes, but be warned that the charge holds only about 15 minutes, so you'll need to recharge it fairly often. Visually, while the helicopter takes off, and is in the air, it's really cool to watch. You'll want to take it outside to see how high and fast it can go, but it's labeled for indoor use only. Overall, this gadget is fun, durable, requires no assembly, and is easy to operate after some practice. It says it's for 8 years and up, but I'd recommend for slightly older children because patience is required to get it up and going initially.

Cool Yule rating: 4 stars
Price: $29.95
Reviewed by Jodie Naze

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