Technology

GADGET ADVISER: Explore your inner tech fetish

Guys love gadgets. Actually, it's not quite love. "Techno lust" and "gadget fetish" are two terms playfully describing our sometimes unhealthy attachment to electronics.

For some, tech is a man's best girlfriend.

Uber-geeks at cnet.com once listed their 10 sexiest gadgets (topped by the Motorola Razr V3 phone and the Apple iPod). And it doesn't stop there. Earlier this year, gizmodo.com's British site panted over a "sexy ceramic toaster," for goodness' sake.

Apparently, few aphrodisiacs are as potent as a whiff of plastic and the glint of brushed aluminum. Unless it's the smell of leather and the purr of an engine: "The Aston Martin is sexy," coos forbes.com, even though that car didn't make the site's list of "Sexed-Up Race Cars."

Our male ancestors needed good vision to stay alive during the hunt for food. Maybe that's why we love big-screen TVs. And maybe that's why we love testing our hand-eye coordination in shoot-'em-up video games. With fast computer processors and visual eye candy, the PlayStation 3 and new Xbox 360 Elite would qualify as sexed-up, indeed. But it's not all about specs; sometimes it's about pure fun, as the runaway hit Nintendo Wii video game system shows. We guys want it all.

Specs matter, however, when our competitive nature is threatened or we need to be reassured about our purchase. His computer is faster than mine. His BlackBerry is thinner than mine. His phone works in every earthly hemisphere. Never mind that he doesn't edit full-length movies on his computer, his BlackBerry does things he doesn't even understand, or he'll never need to make a call from Kiribati -- the point is, he could if he needed to. I'm no "Star Trek" fan, but as a guy, even I understand the potency of, "I need more power!"

My wife is a gadget geek too -- "Pretty much anything that has buttons and blinking lights is sexy," she said the other day -- and I know women who have built their own computers. So techno lust is not some macho thing.

Some things, however, separate the men from the women. Take, for example, the ultimate guy toy: large-screen TVs. My wife and I battled over size when we were shopping for ours (I wanted a 60-inch screen; she started out looking at a 26-inch screen. We compromised on a 43-incher).

Electronics store sales teams know the drill, as I found out earlier this year when talking to Michael Obucina of the Magnolia Home Theater store inside the Best Buy in Bucktown, Ill. I was trying to learn what couples should decide before logging on to research HDTV purchases.

"Most of the time with the female perspective," he told me, "it's, 'How does it fit with the look of the room?'

"What's popular with the wives is everything, if possible, gets hidden -- no cords hanging out. They're real big fans of anything installed in-wall or in-ceiling, where the guys want to go for that bigger-is-better theme. We try to find a happy medium between look and performance."

We guys love fast and flashy, as long as we don't have to pay too much for it. (How many Aston Martin owners do you know? And a show of hands for all those who own the $80,000 LG 71-inch plasma encased in 24-karat gold.)

Fortunately, the next battleground in the LCD-versus-plasma war is the 50-inch-and-bigger screen. The advantage is held by plasma, which ignites pockets of gases to deliver rich colors. But cheaper-to-produce LCDs, which illuminate crystals sandwiched between glass, is gaining ground. With prices for large-screen TVs sliding down month by month, we can afford to buy bigger screens.

It's a good time to be a guy.

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