Whether father’s day conjures up memories of fishing and camping trips at the lake, or images of Dad accidentally stepping on razor-sharp Lego pieces you left on the living room floor causing him to erupt in profanity, you owe the old man something after all he’s done for you – or all you’ve put him through. A card and an awkward hug will do just fine, but if you want to step your gratitude up a notch, gadgets are the key to a dad’s heart. Make sure yours won’t end up relegated to the attic over the garage like last year’s croquet set, by choosing from our hand-picked list of gadgets for dads of all types – including yours.
For the Handy Dad
Bosch Power Box 360, $199.99 and up.
Nothing makes time go by faster when power washing the deck, mending fences and replacing outdoor light fixtures like a little Bruce Springsteen. But without any outlets nearby, your resident jack-of-all-trades may be high and dry for the juice he needs to run that 1983 boombox. Bosch’s Powerbox has built-in speakers for blasting music in all directions, runs on its own internal battery, and includes a sheltered compartment and input for an iPod, plus a USB port for charging cell phones, and even an SD card slot. Not bad for a roll-cage-enclosed bit of work equipment that looks like it belongs in a cargo bay on the USS Enterprise.
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For the Active Dad
Adidas miCoach Pacer, $139
Though getting up there in the years, your proud, grizzled old man pounds pavement right beside the young guys. And places ahead of them in some his 5Ks. Invigorate his training runs with Adidas’ miCoach system, which works in conjunction with an MP3 player to literally coach him through his workouts using a heart-rate monitor for feedback. A number of fitness plans – like de-tress, finish faster and lose weight – help customize his runs to what he wants to achieve and keep him there. Unlike the competing Nike + iPod system, Dad doesn’t need an Apple product to supply the tunes: Any MP3 player will do.
For the Dad with 10W-30 in his veins
Kiwi Wifi and Rev for iPhone / iPod Touch, $190
The “check engine” light in the car is on again, and now your shade tree mechanic needs to drive all the way to Autozone in the pouring rain just for a code scan to figure out the first place to start turning a wrench. This Wi-Fi connected OBD II scanner and software will not only let him snag the code from the comfort of the garage, read it from his iPod Touch or iPhone and get cracking, it will give him access to more data than most mechanics would dream of. Revolutions per minute, forward acceleration, wheel horsepower, fuel trim, you name it, all in real time. You’ll need to drop $150 on the hardware and $40 on the app to get access to all the features, but if this won’t make Dad feel like a pit mechanic, nothing will. (And on a selfish note, you’ll be glad you did when the light in your car flicks on next time).
For the Dad who's a Kid at Heart
Nintendo Wii, $159 and up.
Even if the old man swore off gaming during the heyday of Atari and hasn’t shown a spark of interest in blowing up aliens or commanding undead armies, the Nintendo Wii might appeal where other systems have failed. Besides dead-simple operation, it hosts an endless number of casual games, from bowling to trivia and virtual fishing. If he’s a movie fan, a recent partnership with Netflix will even let him stream movies from it instantly (though not in HD, as the Xbox 360 will). Just don’t introduce it with well-intentioned but cringe-worthy line, “They use these things in nursing homes, Dad!”
For the Dad with a Sense of Humor
Garage Door Murals, $229 and up.
OK, so it veers a little bit from the strictest definition of “gadget,” but if your dad is the kind of guy that likes Whoopie cushions, practical jokes and treats “tacky” as a compliment, these garage murals might quite literally be right up his alley. The mammoth-garage-sized graphics turn any vanilla garage door into a drive-through portal to the beach, Italian vineyards, or just a fantasy garage with a firetruck, jet or racecar parked in it. At $229 and up, it’s a pricy gag to play, but still definitely cheaper than a real boat, Mustang or stable full of horses. Just be prepared for the impending war with neighbors, egging by teenagers and inevitable garage door destruction when grandpa drives the Buick through it thinking it was really a door to the beach.
For the Adventurous Dad
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1, $237.63 and up.
No pocket digicam will ever match the quality of a full-size DSLR like the pros carry, but good luck hauling one to the beach, shooting in the rain or getting one to the top of Mt. Hood on your next hike. Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-TS1 is both small enough to carry anywhere and durable enough to survive there, thanks to a waterproof, shockproof, dustproof enclosure. A 12.1-megapixel sensor, 4.6x optical zoom, optical image stabilization and 2.7-inch LCD make it a competent shooter, too.
For the Green Dad
Fiskars Momentum Reel Mower, $250
If your dad loves the environment as much as he loves his lawn, a reel mower like Fiskars Momentum is a no brainer. And if not, you can still make the case for this reborn version of an old timey gadget: It costs less than a gas mower, has fewer parts to maintain, runs almost silently, and even rolls a light aerobic workout into the weekly chore routine. Fiskars’ Momentum model uses its InertiaDrive system – basically a larger reel and heavier blades – to help chew through twigs and dense grass, and has blades that extend right to the outside edges of its front wheels to eliminate uncut strips of grass.
For the Dad on the Run
LaCie Rikiki 250GB Portable Hard Drive, $65.92 and up.
It’s hard to get excited about something as utilitarian – and useful – as portable storage, but for bringing movies, documents and music on the go, they can be an absolute necessity. LaCie’s Rikiki treats it as an art form. The anodized black, brushed-aluminum enclosure looks and feels like something out of a Bond movie, and moves data in a hurry, too. If you break down the price per gigabyte, it’s also one of the more affordable portable drives in its class. As an added bonus, you’ll get to hear Dad attempt to pronounce “Rikiki.”
For the Stylish Dad
Sony Vaio CW Series, $810 and up.
Move yourself straight to the position of favorite child by replacing Dad’s dusty old laptop with one of the sleekest Sony Vaios we’ve laid eyes on. The Vaio CW may not be the lightest 14.1-inch notebook you can buy, but it specs and style more than make up for it. Every model (including the entry-level model priced at $810) gets a discrete Nvidia GeForce 310M graphics cards and Intel Core i3 or better CPU, plus a sharp high-resolution display and a glittering, automotive-quality finish.
For the Business Dad
HTC Incredible Cell Phone, $200 on Verizon with Contract.
Dad checks his stocks over his Frosted Flakes, attends a conference call with manufacturers in Beijing on his way to work, and pores over earnings reports with a chicken schnitzel sandwich in one hand at lunch. Give the man a break and get him a phone to help him juggle and make sense of it all. HTC’s Incredible boasts the Android 2.1 operating system for multi-tasking and access to a wide variety of productivity apps, plus a snappy 1GHz Snapdragon processor to whip from task to task without delay, and a high-resolution screen for making even full-size webpages look sharp.