7 awesome tech toys you can't buy in America

There is always that person that is impossible to buy for at the holidays — you know, the guy who has everything. So if that special someone has every DVD or Blu-ray, owns a huge TV and has more gadgets than Batman, fear not: there is still hope. It just might mean digging for something special that isn't available in America.

Even in these digital times of the global mall — where there is a mobile phone shop just a stone's throw from the Sphinx and a Starbucks on every corner in Tokyo — there is still plenty of stuff you can't get in the States. Here's a guide to the best of it, but be warned: you may have to do quite a bit of hunting to find them.



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1. Dell Mini 3i Smartphone

It seems things are looking up for Rio with Chicago's hopes for the Olympics utterly crushed, and now the locals have a spiffy new handset to boot with Dell's new smartphone. This Google Android-based device, which has also been released for China Mobile as well as Brazil's Claro, includes Bluetooth and GPS capabilities, features a 3-megapixel camera with auto-focus and photo-editing options, and runs on quadband GSM/EDGE networks. Word is this handset won't be compatible beyond the exclusive carriers in Brazil and China, which is too bad — this might just be the Mini for you and me!



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2. Yamaha Tenori-on

Imagine if that old school Lite-Brite actually did something besides just make pretty pictures and run up the electric bill. What if it could also create music in the process? Well, then it would be much like this electronic musical instrument. The Tenori-on features a screen with a 16-by-16 grid of LED switches that can be activated to create a musical soundscape — so think of it as a musical chessboard with lights. Some more avant-garde performers have rocked on with the Tenori-on, but this device hasn't exactly gone mainstream with musicians. However, for anyone who has mastered the button mashing on Guitar Hero, this could be the next step where you let the lights shape your performance.



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3. Blu-ray Recorders

Here is the ultimate riddle in an enigma: why did the consumer electronics companies roll out standard-def DVD recorders just as HDTV was taking off? Now with the analog signals gone the devices are outdated — yet where are the Blu-ray recorders in the States? While the technology is seeing robust sales as a playback technology for movies and TV, Americans can only watch in envy as the Japanese can record in Blu. Beware if you think about importing one of these devices, though, as they aren't compatible with American TVs.



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4. China Blue High Definition Players

What's worse than our nation owning China billions of dollars? How about the fact that they could also kill Blu-ray? Nearly two years ago the HD DVD coalition, which was basically Toshiba, threw in the towel and the Blu-ray format was declared the winner in the HD wars. HD DVD didn't entirely die, though, as China's CBHD — China Blue High Definition — is still available and fighting, and, while it hasn't made in-roads to America yet, the technology is outpacing Blu-ray players by three to one in the land of the dragon. Given that this technology also offers more copy protection features and could be more affordable down the line, China Blue could cause yet another format war. Oh, and for fans of Chinese action cinema, this might be the only way to go!



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5. Chinese Knock-off Mobile Phones

Looking for a deal on a HiPhone or a Sany Ericssan smartphone? Sure, those are typos, but there are strangely-similarly-named products in parts of China that are even outselling the real deal. You won't find these locally made knock-offs at the official carrier stores, but that hasn't stopped the shops in China from producing phones with the look of major brands. Some options are really impressive, too, such as a totally bogus flip version of the iPhone. Crazy, right? The functionality of these handsets is mostly inferior, however, and most won't run on American networks. But for sheer audacity these handsets really are a cut above the rest of the pirated goods coming from China.



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6. Motorola auBox

Set-top boxes are a dime a dozen in the United States, and since there are plenty of devices available to share content between home entertainment systems, it isn't hard to see why Motorola decided not to introduce the Linux-based auBox in its own backyard. Too bad for us since this one is designed for that small user base that doesn't share content via a computer, and still offers some nifty features, such as being able to upload video from personal recorders and even transfer it to mobile handsets. The set-top box can even serve as a home portal for Web browsing, including the streaming of user generated content.



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7. Sony Hi-MD Walkman

While the Mini-disc format died even before MP3 was the new kid on the block, the format is still going strong in the United States. While there are some players available, if you're looking to use a technology that practically no one else uses then go with the Sony Hi-MD Walkman MZ-RH1 in silver. The black version debuted stateside, but silver was strictly for the Japanese market. There is wanting something exclusive, and then there is totally VIP exclusive, so much so that you could claim this 90's technology is actually the next big thing.



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Have we teased you enough? Find out what you can buy in America with one of our other gift guides, part of 12 Days of Gadgets here on DVICE:

Day One: 7 gadget gifts that will never go out of style
Day Two: 6 tech gifts billionaires are giving each other this year
Day Three: Giving a Kindle? Check out these 8 other e-readers first
Day Four: 8 offensive gadget gifts for the frenemies in your life
Day Five: 6 absurd gadget gifts your girlfriend will dump you over
Day Six: 5 classic sci-fi gadgets guaranteed to please your geekiest beloved
Day Seven: The DVICE guide to buying an HDTV in the off season
Day Eight: 7 awesome tech toys you can't buy in America
Day Nine: 7 gifts steampunks are giving each other this year
Day Ten: 6 gifts for if we lived in the retro tomorrow of yesterday
Day Eleven: 7 tech gifts you'll have to wait until next year to buy
Day Twelve: 5 holiday tech gifts that just might save the planet