Technology upgrades can make great gifts around the holidays. The computer monitor often gets overlooked, and if your loved one’s monitor is getting up there in years, consider the HP 23.8-inch FHD IPS Monitor with Tilt/Height Adjustment and Built-in Speakers ($109.99, amazon.com). This HD display boasts a 178-degree viewing angle with beautiful color definition. It has a slim design that will fit nicely on your desktop. You can adjust the tilt, height and the pivot angle of the monitor to customize the view to your needs. If space is your primary concern, the built-in speakers are a nice touch; though they will not provide impressive sound quality, they will at least get the job done.
For your favorite budding photographer, consider picking up the Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II ($399, Amazon.com). This Compact Digital Camera features a touch-enabled 3-inch LCD screen and is Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth-Enabled. The 20-megapixel sensor produces quality images. It also features a fast shutter speed that helps to reduce the chance of blur.
The camera itself is fairly lightweight at 7.3 ounces (marginally more than the iPhone 8 Plus), making it easy to carry around in your pocket or a satchel. Depending on your skill level, you can manually control the settings (such as shutter speed, aperture, ISO, etc.), or enjoy the convenience of “Auto” (point-and-shoot) mode.
For the more serious photographer who wants a great all-around pocket-sized camera suitable for pretty much anything, simple enough for a beginner, and with features that will please a serious photographer, invest $1200 in the Sony DSC 100 III. It represents the newest and best in the RX100 line, which has ranked at the top of the pocket-sized camera field since the RX100 first came out several years ago.
The newest version adds telephoto capability to the camera without a noticeable increase in size. Sony continues with Zeiss optics in this line (some of the best in the world), Using a Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T*24-200mm high-resolution zoom lens. The camera uses a 20-effective megapixel Exmor CMOS sensor and takes both exceptional stills and excellent 4K videos. The camera measures 4" x 2 3/8" x 1 11/16" and weighs only 10.7 ounces. The camera also features optical image stabilization. For a full description and specifications, check out the Sony website.
The Kindle Fire 10 HD ($149.99, Amazon.com) puts millions of movies, TV episodes, songs, books, apps and games at your fingertips. The Fire Operating System offers Blue Shade, an exclusive Fire feature that automatically adjusts and optimizes the backlight to provide a more comfortable nighttime reading experience. The Kindle Fire 8 HD and the 10 HD are fairly close in terms of features, but the 10 pulls ahead here with the Alexa Hands-free feature.
Alexa, the digital assistant that powers the Amazon Echo and Show devices, allows you to control features on your Kindle through voice command. You can enable it on the Fire 8 HD, but it is only accessible when in use or plugged in. For the Fire 10, it is always enabled, meaning you can wake your Kindle Fire up with a voice command.
If you (or your giftee) already have an iPad, you won’t want to get the Kindle Fire. The iPad will do everything the Fire does and a lot more. However, even if you have an iPad, you may still want to get (or gift) a Kindle e-Ink device. They are smaller and lighter than the tablets and do not do as much as they have no color capabilities. Nevertheless, they provide an excellent reading experience and travel in most coat pockets.
Amazon has expanded its e-Reader line to include several models. Top of the line is the Oasis followed by the Voyage and the Paperwhite. The Paperwhite is the oldest of the ones we recommend, and it is several years old. It costs the least of our recommended versions ($140). The Oasis 2 ($249) is the most expensive. You can get a comparison chart and full specifications on the Amazon website. We virtually never leave home without our Oasis eReader.
Smart TV’s, like the Toshiba 43-inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV with HDR - Fire TV Edition ($329.99, Amazon.com), are a great addition for the bedroom, study, or exercise room. This Toshiba is a SmartTV, meaning it is designed to connect to WiFi and works like a Fire TV device―which is typically an additional piece of hardware that allows you to stream services like Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, and more.
You can connect a cable box or antenna to it as well for your cable channels. The remote is voice-responsive and powered by Alexa. You can set the TV up with your voice; this makes a great gift for anyone who is visually impaired. Alexa also allows you to control your smart-home devices through your voice commands.
For the music maven, consider picking up a Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker II ($129.00, Amazon.com.) This compact, portable speaker from Bose produces a beautiful sound quality whether you are at the pool, park, or out on your patio. It is available in Black, Blue, Red, or White so you can pick up the shade that suits you (or the person you intend to gift). It is encased in a rubber texture that makes it easy to grip and able to handle accidental drops. As an added bonus, it can act as a speakerphone when your smartphone is connected to it.
If you are looking for some retro nostalgia, check out the
If you want to listen in private, look at Bose line of headphones/earphones. Bose produces exceptionally well-engineered devices and has the top of the line noise-cancellation technology.
Note that while all the Bose headsets we have tried have produced excellent sound, not all of them have noise-cancellation technology. We think the noise cancellation technology is a worthwhile investment, and it will enhance your listening enjoyment when you find yourself in a noisy environment, such as inside an airplane. Check out the available models at your local Bose store or online at www.bose.com.
We are particularly partial to the Bose Hearphones, ($500) which you can customize to help you hear conversations better in addition to giving you excellent music. Another favorite, the QuietComfort 35 Headphones II ($450) give you excellent music and top of the line active noise cancellation technology.
If you want to spend less and/or don’t want active noise cancellation, look at the Soundsport line of wireless headphones ($150-$200).
And one interesting sidelight: the new Bose noise-masking sleepbuds provide engineered white noise to mask annoying sounds and help you sleep ($250).
Give the gift of entertainment with the Roku Ultra ($99, Roku.com). Roku can now stream over 2,500 channels, some of which are free whereas others are accessible with a subscription. The Roku Ultra comes with a Voice Search Remote that can operate your television as well, reducing the number of remotes you need in the house (your children and grandchildren will especially appreciate this when they come over.)
Another nice feature added to the device is a lost remote finder—a button on the player that you can press to play a sound. No more tearing up couch cushions trying to find the remote. The device includes headphones and the remote itself has a headphone jack, allowing you to listen to programming without disturbing the rest of the house.
The picture quality is great, it was designed with 4K Ultra HD TVs in mind. The Ultra also has a Night Listening mode that will automatically lower louder moments and boost quieter ones to provide you with just the right amount of volume at night.
Relish the sound of music with the BÖHM Wireless Bluetooth
It is fun to think of gifts that people want but would never buy for themselves, one of those gift ideas may be the North Bayou Sit Stand Desk Converter Height Adjustable Standing Desk Workstation ($59.90, Amazon.com). This adjustable desk converter allows the user to choose whether to work from a sitting position or a standing position, providing a host of health benefits. While you are giving the gift of office enhancements, consider the Qwork Mobile Laptop Desk Cart ($46.99, Amazon.com). This portable desk features a surface with a 180-degrees tilt to adjust the angle of your workspace.
For those of you who still work, travel, or carry a fair amount of gear around on a daily basis, think in terms of a daypack, sling, backpack or carrying case/briefcase. A well-designed bag is worth its weight in silver (gold has become too damned expensive). While you can get cheaper ones, the best-designed bags we have found come from Tumi (www.tumi.com) and Tom Bihn (www.tombihn.com). You can check out both vendors online and Tumi has stores in most large cities and many airports. Tom Bihn does not have stores, but there is a factory showroom in Seattle where you can see and purchase their products. Both companies have large online businesses.
Tumi makes its bags in an increasing variety of materials. Of the various materials, we prefer ballistic nylon in terms of ruggedness and versatility. The leather looks richer but does not last as well. Tom Bihn also uses several products (no leather bags). Again, we prefer the ballistic nylon. While both lines can hit the higher end of the market in pricing, they justify that with high-quality manufacturing and amazingly useful designs.
Tumi provides a larger selection of models with different external designs and relatively similar internal features. With Tumi, what you see is what you get. Tom Bihn has far fewer models to choose from but has many internal design adjustments that you can make by acquiring different pieces that connect to the inside of the bag and, when installed, work like they built the bag that way. We think it is hard to go wrong with either line.
Favorites in the Tom Bihn line include the Synapse backpack (available in two sizes, the $190 Synapse 19 and the $200 Synapse 25), the $160 Pilot bag (a smaller version goes by the name “Co-Pilot” $140), the $160 Cadet briefcase, and the $145 Ristretto (vertical oriented messenger bag).
On the Tumi side, we have a strong partiality to the Alpha Bravo line. Favorites include the $250 Kelly Sling, the $395 Nellis Backpack, the $425 Albany Slim Commuter briefcase, and the $350 Davis Backpack. They also make a number of crossbody bags for women and in unisex models. We particularly like the $125 Pocket Bag (small) and the $225 Barton. All of the prices are the list prices for ballistic nylon, leather versions are costlier.
As you may have noticed, the Tumi bags tend to be pricier than the Tom Bihn. We have never seen the Tom Bihn bags discounted. Tumi bags are not regularly discounted online, but Tumi has two or three sales a year when they give you about 20% off the list price. You can also get discounts on discontinued models or discontinued colors in a continuing model line.
Speaking of cases, if you want leather phone cases, tablet cases, and the like, visit the Colonel (no, not the fried chicken guy), go to see Colonel Littleton (www.colonellittelton.com). We have had and used the Colonel’s wallets, tablet cases, and phone cases. They are very well made and very high quality without exception. The prices are not cheap, but for the quality you get, they are not out of line.