Part Three of the Most Exhilerating Computer Accessories Gift Guide Ever!

Yep. They just keep on coming. And I’ve got to say, these R-O-C-K!

Oh, and I’ve got a few more coming at you next week. Because there’s still time to get someone something they’re going to love. Just be sure to keep checking back or subscribe in the sidebar on your right – they’ll just show up and you won’t have to do a thing.

Just think – one less thing to do and that leaves a little more time for you!

Warmest wishes,

Stephanie Dickison
Publisher & Editor of the knack


Creative has really got some innovative stuff out there.

I am loooooving my Creative AURVANA X-Fi Noise-Canceling Headphones!

It has always been my dream to have noise-canceling headphones because I love the immerse myself in complete quiet every once in awhile. I mean, I work at home as does my fella. Sometimes one of us has to be on the phone or record something. A little getaway from the everyday is sometimes nice.

And the great feature of these headphones is that you can cancel out the outside noise (great for transit or air travel!) but you can also listen to your music in unbelievable surround sound.

X-Fi stands for Xtreme Fidelity and technology “ananlyzes sound and restores the highs and lows lost during mp3 or other file compression.” So basically the music becomes completely alive like never before and surrounds you, enveloping you in your music, movies and television – whatever you’re listening to.

The headphones have a cushiony top and the actual earphones are like soft leather and fitted with memory foam so they not only form a seal around your ear to block out all outside noise, they are extremely comfortable.

And you can just turn on the NC button and let the world around you disappear. In fact, sometimes I just wear them when I’m writing and trying to concentrate. They are like focus flaps, like on a horse! Ha ha.

And you can choose to push the X-Fi Crystalizer Button or the X-Fi CMSS-3D button (Mmm! I like this one for my very favourite songs like Jully Black’s “DJ Play My Song” or for deep hip-hop beats) for optimized listening. They will light with a beautiful, soft blue when they are pressed.

There is also a volume control on the right earpiece as well, which is a little thing, but a nice touch, nonetheless.

I also appreciate that they include the batteries and the way you put them is quite elegant – you just push up on the left earphone where it says open and it unfolds to allow you to place 2 AA batteries inside. Nice!

The phones also have oxygen-free copper cables (I admit – I have no idea what that means, but it sounds like it’s a good thing) and gold-plated plugs (now I know that’s a good thing!). And it comes with a hard, don’t-worry-about-‘em-getting-knocked-around travel case, an in-flight audio adapter so that you don’t have to use those one they give you on the plane, an incredible 5 foot extension cable (now that’s just thoughtful!) and a ¼” audio adapter for your home theatre system or Hi-Fi (do they still call them that?).

I’m telling you, I barely take them off.

There are only two problems:

1. My fella often startles me now when he comes to my desk to say hello because it’s sooo quiet, and

2. When I’m singing my heart out to Keyshia Cole’s “Shoulda Let You Go,” according my guy, and uh, the neighbours, it’s quite the thing. And can you imagine what it would it sound like if I could hear myself? Uh huh. I’m thinking American Idol bad…

And I have to say, the Creative Zen 4GB Player is fantastic.

I have a little mp3 story for you.

Many Christmases ago, my in-laws were sweet enough to give me a first generation Shuffle. I was thrilled as I wanted to listen to music to and from work.

Well, it allowed me to do that, but I came to dislike it when I saw what else was on the market – on other players you could actually see the title of the song being played. What a difference that would make to me! And you could store than more than a few songs (I had a one GB player).

But by the time my frustration built, I had left my job and was writing full-time from home and didn’t need a player as much, so I put it in a drawer and mostly forgot about it.

Fast forward a couple of years and I wanted to get a player that would hold a heckuva lot of songs, videos and not have to worry about space.

Since my experience with the Shuffle, I wasn’t about to get an iPod. Plus, I don’t like how massive they are now. I realize that they are good, but I wanted something different.

That’s when I looked into the Zen. I looked at the 30GB players and liked what they had to offer. And they just happened to be on sale. Fantastic!

Well, it turns out that there were a lot of problems with them and mine never worked. The four that were left in the store were not available because they didn’t work either.


Where did that leave me?

I returned it and felt like I would never find something I’d like.

And when I had the opportunity to try the 4GB Zen, you can imagine how skeptical I was - are you kidding me, I thought. Not again.

But I am a trusting gal, and I thought – how bad could it be?

And you know, it turned out to be one of the best things to cross my desk in 2007.

I know!

Here’s the lowdown:

First of all, I don’t know why I thought I had to do 30GBs. This 4GB player holds 1000 songs, along with videos, photos, your calendar and contacts, has an FM player built right in, along with a voice recorder and a fantastic seamless flat screen (no raised ridges around the edge) to watch it all on!

It’s small, smooth and black so it’s small enough to fit into that front pocket of your jeans, and when you slide it in, you won’t have to worry about accidentally pressing the on button because it is a switch that you have to hold down and that warm blue light (like I described above) goes on to let you know it’s coming on.

And it comes on quickly. The start up page is on the screen only momentarily and the player remembers the last song you were listening to or the last radio station you were scanning, so you can get right back to where you were! Nice!

You can sync all of your info through the USB cable that comes with the player and transfer songs off and on easily so your library can always be changing.

You can make playlists if you like (I haven’t gotten to that yet), but what I love is that you can flip through your music by Playlist, Album, Artist, Genre, All Tracks, Recordings, Bookmarks and/or DJ. And when you choose on something, say artist, you can scroll down the names - AFI, Aaliyah, Air, Alicia Keys - or pass over to the alphabet on the right and scroll down to the letter you want, say F – and it’ll take you right to Faith Evans, Fall Out Boy, Fergie, etc!

The buttons are smooth and easy to use and you can delete a song or entire album or make it a part of your playlist (I swear I’m on it!) without any technical stuff. Just press and go!

I like that you can preset your favourite radio stations on it and there is a SD slot for your memory card.

By selecting “System” you can adjust settings for audio, photo/video, the display and player settings, making it really the way you want it.

And just like iPods, you can watch videos and television on it. I think the screen is great (2.5”). I just watched an episode of Carpoolers – fantastic! And I can show people my photos and they don’t have to squint like on some cellphones, asking, “Who is that?!”

I charge it through the USB while my computer is on anyway, and on a single charge you can listen to 25 hours of music or watch up to 5 hours of movies or television. Pretty sweet!

It comes with decent headphones, but as you’ll see from above, I’m rockin’ the AURVANAs.

It’s fairly easy to set up and start using (installation and quick start guides included) and works with Windows XP and Vista.

So if the Zen 4GB can bring me ‘round after all that, I think you’d have to agree it really passed the test!

Silent Optical Wired Mouse

The Silent Optical Wired Mouse is one of the best mice I’ve ever used.

We are a society that is used to the click of the mouse as you choose to view a page, link or hit reply in email.

Well, imagine if there was no click.

It’s such a unique feeling. You click on the mouse, but there is no sound. At first, you might wonder if you did indeed click.

But you’ll see yourself being directed to the next page or sending that email.

Yep, it worked.

After the initial weirdness of not hearing anything, you’ll be soothed by the complete quiet except for the softened tapping of the keys as you type.

The mouse is silent and suddenly, your day is a whole lot better.

It’s not a big thing, but it’s a wonderful thing.

p.s. You’ll be happy to know that it is PC/Mac compatible and is ready to go with Windows Vista. Woo hoo!

Stephanie Dickison

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