This was also published in the November 20, 2016 edition of Seacoast Sunday.
It’s that time of year! Thanksgiving is right around the corner and so is Black Friday. If you are into gadgets, or have someone on your gift list who is, here is my annual list of gifts that any techy on your list would be thrilled to receive.
For the past several years, my list has had some common themes. Mostly updated editions of products that I had recommended the previous year, along with some unique items you may not have thought of. This year, there is a plethora of new technology available, though there really is not one hot item that stands out from all the rest.
If you’re in the market for a laptop, there are really only two to look at. For those who are Apple fans, the new MacBook Pro is the laptop to beat. The screen is as crisp as you would expect and while overall, it may seem like it’s just updated hardware, there is one feature that sets it apart from its predecessors. What Apple is calling the Touch Bar. This is not a touchscreen, rather it’s a dynamic bar that sits just above the keyboard and below the screen. It changes based on what you are doing and presents icons or commands you can “touch” to make things happen on the screen. It’s a good development, though I’d prefer to see a full touchscreen myself.
On the PC side, the Microsoft SurfacePro 4 and Surface Book are the ones to beat. The difference being that the Surface Pro 4 is really a tablet that can be accessorized to be a complete PC where the Surface Book is a complete PC that can be a laptop or a tablet. The design and durability rival a MacBook Pro, as does the screen. Surface products are fully touchscreen and stylus enabled so you can touch, draw and type. It’s all about what you prefer. If you want a powerful computer that will double as your desktop computer and be ultraportable without compromising features or performance, the MacBook Pro and Surface lines are what you want.
If home automation is your thing, check out the new Wink Hub 2 from Wink. It’s one of the most capable and simple to use home automation hubs on the market. Its closest rival is the Samsung SmartThings Hub, but I like the ease of use and broad support of the Wink, along with its wide array of integrations to bring management of all your smart-home devices into one app.
If you are not familiar with these types of hubs, they can control your lights, appliances, garage doors, passage doors, water valves, leak detectors, thermostats, smoke detectors, alarm systems, curtains and a whole lot more. You can create all kinds of automated routines with these devices, to say dim the lights and play a certain type of music when the mood strikes you. If your outdoor lights make you crazy this time of year, home automation will put the fun back into them. If you’ve got a techy person in the family, they will have a blast with all the things you can do with a home automation hub. The good news is, they are not too expense. Starter kits run from $100 to $200 and the various devices you can add range from $30 and up.
When it comes to music, it’s tough to top Bose for quality and value, especially when it comes to their headphones and Bluetooth speakers. I’m a huge fan of the Bose QuietComfort 20 headphones. These are in-ear headphones with a small noise cancelling adapter. They are lightweight and have very impressive noise cancelling. For sport, the wireless Bluetooth SoundSport headphones are sweat resistant and deliver excellent sound in a convenient package. For portable speakers, you can’t do better than the SoundLink series of portable Bluetooth speakers, especially the Mini. These speakers deliver impressive and immersive sounds in a small package that is easy to take with you wherever you are.
Another great idea for gift giving is Amazon’s Alexa powered Echo or Echo Dot. The Echo is the original flagship member of this family of voice controlled devices. The Echo includes a full featured speaker through which you can listen to your music. The Echo Dot is a much smaller version, just slightly larger than a hockey puck that can sit in any room. What makes the Echo’s unique is that they are entirely voice controlled. You can be sitting across the room or even in another room and say “Alexa, what’s the weather like” and the device will respond and give you the current weather and what’s to come. I was very skeptical about these devices when they first came out, but I have two in our house. I can control lights, ask for news, weather, play music throughout the house, set the temperature and more. I know, I’m a geek. My kids tell me this all the time.
Some other devices I think will make great gifts are smartwatches from Apple or Garmin. These are my two preferred brands as they have great integration with smartphones and are waterproof so you can shower and swim with them. Too many wearables are not, and for me that’s a show stopper.
Drones are everywhere. Most of the really good ones are pretty expensive, as in more than $1,000, so if that’s within your budget, you’ve got lots of options.
With all the talk about cutting cords, streaming media players are a very affordable and hot gift this year. Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Google’s ChromeCast are all very affordable and work well. If you have Amazon Prime, the Fire TV with Alexa Remote is impressive. Just tell it what you want to watch and chances are, you’ll have access to it through your Prime Video library. At the higher end is the Apple TV, which is also an excellent option if you are looking for something in the $100 range.
I could go on with many more recommendations, but I think this will give you more than enough ideas to get you going. There is no shortage of great gifts out there for anyone techy on your list. Have fun shopping and have even more fun giving. Happy Thanksgiving. May we all be able to step back and enjoy time with family and friends and embrace the true spirit of this uniquely American holiday. Thanks for reading.