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Review: High-tech gifts to update the low-tech dad

Thursday - 5/30/2013, 1:20pm  ET

This Tuesday, May 21, 2013, photo shows the Kohler Moxie shower head in Decatur, Ga. The Moxie has a waterproof Bluetooth speaker held in place by magnets and can stream audio from a nearby smartphone or tablet. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)

RON HARRIS
Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) -- Father's Day gifts have morphed over the years. It used to be a tie, a golf hat or a jazz CD. But dads are more tech-savvy these days.

There are plenty of new gadgets on the market to keep them busy, regardless of their interest or hobbies. The cool new products we've selected range in price from $10 to $1,600. There are music players for the shower, tools to help the budding guitarist and even a flask that doesn't hold alcohol.

We know what our fathers like. Here's a guide to some tech gifts that may help them do what they like even better.

-- Moxie ($200, Kohler Co.)

Your dad is likely going to tilt his head to inspect this gadget, then laugh a bit at it, then love it. The Moxie is a waterproof, wireless speaker snookered into a specially designed showerhead and held in place by magnets. The showerhead mounts onto the common pipes found in most shower plumbing hardware, but similarities to a regular showerhead end there.

One button turns it on. The speaker then plays music from your smartphone or tablet via a Bluetooth wireless connection. Sound quality is exceptional, and the build and look of the Moxie is top notch.

Buy earplugs if you can't stand Dad singing along.

-- VivoTab Smart ($500, AsusTek Computer Inc.):

If you want to spring for a new tablet computer for Dad, but think the iPad is too commonplace, you would do well to consider the VivoTab Smart from Asus. It offers a vivid, 10.1-inch display, plenty of social networking apps and the bonus of running the Windows 8 operating system for more demanding applications. This is the full version of Microsoft's system, not the lightweight Windows RT that can run only apps specifically designed for it.

I'm not totally in love with Windows 8 and its new interface for regular computing, but Windows 8 is slick for tablet use. The response in swiping from one application to the next is lightning fast and intuitive. There are plenty of free and paid apps for Windows 8, and the list is growing.

The VivoTab Smart is light and well designed. It comes with a thin, wireless keyboard and a sleeve that doubles as a stand for the tablet. It has a powerful Intel processor and Bluetooth to keep Dad connected to the aforementioned Moxie, or similar wireless speakers.

One of the best features is the camera. The tablet's 8-megapixel camera boasts an impressive F/2.2 aperture lens for low-light shooting. The sample images I took with it easily trumped my 8-megapixel smartphone photos.

-- Toddy Smart Cloth ($10, Toddy Gear) and the Toddy Wedge ($15):

All that texting and swiping can take its toll in the form of oily finger smudges on your tablet or smartphone. Here's a better solution than cleaning it with a T-shirt: a microfiber cleaning cloth with colorful and customizable designs. A few quick circles wiped away all the smudges from several devices I dirtied up.

The Toddy Wedge goes one step further in providing the same cleaning material wrapped around a beanbag-like wedge that also serves as a stand for your phone, e-reader or tablet. It's a lot better than laying your device down flat on a desk and risking scratching up its back.

Toddy will even customize the cloths with photos of the kids, the family or Kate Upton. I mean Mom, of course.

-- Vox StompLab 2G ($90, Vox Amplification Ltd.) and the Korg Wi-Tune ($100, Korg):

Many dads have a hearty guitar habit. Longing for the era of their favorite music, they sit around puttering at "Stairway to Heaven" with some Metallica licks thrown in for good measure. But Dad could and should sound better.

To that end, the Vox StompLab 2G is a sound-effects pedal with preset sounds. Dad can simply plug his guitar into it and play rock, blues, metal and variations of each with the proper tone. Guitar pedals such as the StompLab can, for instance, give an electric guitar a crisp jazz sound as opposed to the sound of distorted grunge music. But it usually takes several pedals to cover the wide range of styles. The StompLab offers dozens of effects with just one pedal. Just press on it and use dials and knobs to choose the effect. The heavy metal overdrive effects are the best.

If out-of-tune instruments are Dad's real bugaboo, Korg has the cure with Wi-Tune, a wireless tuner. The small transmitter clips on to a guitar or other instrument. A receiver, about the size of a deck of cards, rests nearby. The receiver has a screen that will tell Dad if he's flat or sharp and what the nearest note is. The Wi-Tune can also generate tones if Dad prefers to tune his instrument by ear. It's sharply designed and has a backlit display for use in low light. (The StompLab has a built-in tuner, so you won't need Wi-Tune as well if you get that.)

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