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Voice of Experience

Voice of Experience: December 2023

2023 Tech Gift Guide for Seniors

Jeffrey M Allen and Ashley Hallene

2023 Tech Gift Guide for Seniors

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For the last quarter of a century, the role of technology in the practice of law and in our personal lives has increased rapidly and dramatically. It seems like a lifetime ago that we did not have pocket-sized telephones that took excellent pictures, did videoconferences, and functioned as small computers. Or that we did not have iPads, Kindles, or small, lightweight laptop computers that we could easily carry with us wherever we went. But as fast as technology has moved in the last quarter of a century, our dependence on technology moved much faster in the last few years than ever before.

Gift giving at or around year-end holidays has grown ubiquitous. Whether you seek ideas for the holidays, as a token of gratitude or appreciation, or just as a reminder to someone that you care, gift giving is a universal custom. Technology gifts are often shiny, fun, and useful, with many gifts offering a range of multitasking features. Over the last several years, we have adopted the tradition of sharing our insights as our holiday gift to you. Over that time, the importance of technology in our lives has continued to grow, making the practice of gifting technology a very clever idea.

Jeff’s and Ashley’s Lists

As an introduction to the gift guide and a suggestion of what comes next, we will continue our practice of starting with lists of our top ten products, the ones we want the most—or would if we did not already have them. In preparing these lists, each of us operated from the premise that we had none of the technology discussed. (In fact, we have most of the items on our lists.) Working from this premise, we each present our personal top ten choices for 2023.


  1. iPhone 15 Pro Max, Blue, 1 TB storage
  2. MacBook Air, 15”, Midnight, M2 chip, 16 GB unified memory, 1 TB storage
  3. iPad Pro, 11”, silver, 2 TB storage
  4. Echo Show 10
  5. Vasco V4 translator
  6. Air Pods Pro, 2nd generation
  7. Air Pods Max
  8. Apple Watch Ultra 2
  9. Fitbit Charge 6
  10. Kindle Scribe, 64 GB, leather cover, premium pen


  1. Galaxy Z Fold5, Icy Blue, 1 TB storage
  2. ROMOSS Portable Charger Power Bank, 30000mAh
  3. SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD V2, 2 TB storage
  4. JBL Flip 6, red
  5. Echo Show 8, 3rd generation.
  6. Wyse Cam v3 Pro
  7. Wasserstein Bird Feeder Camera Case
  8. Roku Streambar Pro
  9. Apple Watch Series 9, 41 mm aluminum case, Starlight Finish, Starlight Sport Loop, GPS plus cellular
  10. Kindle Oasis, 32 GB storage, without ads

Mobile Devices


Likely the most important single piece of technology in most people’s hands these days, the smartphone has expanded its functionality and desirability on a continuing basis. Most smartphones use Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android operating system. If you want an Android phone, you have numerous manufacturers and many models to choose from. If you want a phone running iOS, you have one manufacturer and several models to choose from. We have a strong partiality to Samsung on the Android side. Apple represents the only option on the iOS platform; we have no problem with that as Apple produces superb and reliable products.

If you have 5G available in your area but have not yet switched to a 5G device, you should do so. 5G refers to fifth-generation wireless technology, which works faster than its predecessors. All 5G phones offer backward compatibility with earlier systems. More 5G coverage has come online over the last year, and this trend should continue for the next several years. You will want to sign with the provider that has the best combination of network availability (coverage) with 4G and 5G, service, and rates.

Not surprisingly, iPads, like other hardware, eventually get old enough that you cannot upgrade them to the new iPad OS. The current point of demarcation for most Apple hardware has proven to be the introduction of Apple’s processing chips (what Apple CEO Tim Cook calls “Apple Silicon”). We have moved well into the second generation of Apple Silicon as the M2 chip has replaced the M1 in newer iterations of the Mac and MacBook computer lines, as well as in the newest versions of the iPad. Although iPhones use different processors, they are also Apple Silicon. We will actually find ourselves in the third generation momentarily. Apple has announced the release of the first computers sporting the M3 processor.  Expect to see more computers using it as well as iPads in the immediate future.

iPhone 15 Models

The iPhone 15 represents the basic unit in the new top of Apple’s phone line. It comes in two screen sizes, the iPhone 15 at 6.1” and the iPhone 15 Plus at 6.7.” The Pro versions of the 15 add additional features and boost the price. The differences between the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max primarily relate to the size of the device and its screen (again 6.1” or 6.7”), although there are a few other differences; most significantly, the battery size and the camera features in the Pro Max exceed those in the Pro.

You can compare the features of the iPhone 15 configurations on Apple’s website.

We think that for most people, the iPhone 15 (starting at $799) represents the best value in the Apple line, and the 15 Pro (starting at $999) comes in second in terms of value (but we consider it quite superior to the iPhone 15 in terms of technology, specifications, and features).

Android-powered smartphones have a strong following. Check out the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra ($1,199.99 for 256 GB). The S23 features a whopping 200 MP main camera, allowing for incredibly detailed photos. It offers 8K video capture at 30 fps with impressive image stabilization ability, allowing you to record videos with incredible detail and clarity. The phone is powered by the custom-made Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip. The phone has a large 6.8” Dynamic AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate, offering a stunning visual experience. The Galaxy S23 Ultra supports Pause USB Power Delivery, which allows you to charge other devices using your phone’s battery. It comes with an integrated S Pen, providing a convenient way to take notes, draw, and navigate the phone’s interface.


The market for tablets has slowed. As the price and power of tablets increases, more and more people have chosen to treat the tablet more like a laptop than a smartphone, upgrading every few years instead of annually or even every other year.

Apple has dominated the tablet market since it introduced the iPad. Once again, we think that Samsung provides Apple’s strongest competition in terms of pure tablets. In our opinion, Apple, however, remains the runaway leader. If you want to get or gift a tablet, we recommend you go with Apple’s iPad.

We like all the iPads, but we particularly recommend the Pro versions for use in your practice. In fact, we like them best for all uses. Both Pro versions have pretty much the same architecture and features. The main differences are the size and weight.

The iPad Pro comes in two versions, the 11” and the 12.9.” We have no issue recommending either version. Memory availability goes up to 2 TB. For most, we recommend 512 GB or 1 TB of memory. Remember that you cannot add memory after you get it, so you should go with the highest amount you anticipate needing. We believe that whatever you think you will need, you should increase by about 25 percent as memory tends to fill up over time with apps, pictures, music, videos, documents, etc. Both the 11” and the 12.9” versions use Apple’s M2 chip. They share the same advanced camera system and include a LiDAR scanner. Both work with Apple’s second-generation pencil and have keyboard folios available as well. Both use facial recognition for security. Pricing starts at $799 for the 11” version and $1,099 for the 12.9” version. You can see a quick comparison of specifications and features of the various iPad models on Apple’s site.


Apple recently released the 15” MacBook Air. We consider this laptop the closest thing that we have encountered to the perfect computer for most attorneys. The 15” display gives an ideal compromise between workspace and portability. The new MacBook Air weighs less than you would expect and provides a crisp and sharp display. Powered by the relatively new Apple M2 processor, the 15” MacBook Air offers plenty of power for the work normally done by attorneys, including trial work, presentation, and videoconferencing. The 13” MacBook Air, now also powered by the M2 processor, comes in a decent second, but we think the difference in workspace makes the 15” option a far better choice. Their technical specifications other than size, are almost completely identical. You can compare the two computers on Apple’s website.

Tech Accessories

Power Banks

Power banks provide portable charging solutions, allowing users to charge their devices on the go without access to a power outlet. They come in handy in daily life and have proven particularly useful for travel, outdoor activities, and emergency situations where you have limited access to electricity. Power banks can power most portable devices, including smartphones, tablets, e-readers, Bluetooth headphones, smartwatches, and more, although some have limitations based on their capacity and/or the manner of connection.

For most portable applications, you will prefer lightweight batteries with the ability to provide multiple recharges on a single charge. You can find power banks almost everywhere these days: Best Buy, Costco, the Apple Store, Microsoft stores, Amazon, even Rite Aid and Walgreens. You can also get them at many airports and some gas stations. Well-known names include mophie, now owned by Zagg, JackeryRomossSamsungAnker, and myCharge. Pricing runs from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars, depending on size, capacity, and features.

Lawyers Always Need a Good Case

Many, if not most, cases are device specific, so make sure you know what model device you need when shopping. We think that electronic devices should all live in cases or some sort of protective envelope. Look for a strong case that protects your device against such common disasters as dropping the phone onto a sidewalk.


Solid state drives (SSDs) store data using flash memory, a faster and more reliable medium than traditional spinning hard disk drives (HDDs). Popular brands in this arena include Samsung and SanDisk for SSDS and Western Digital and Seagate for HDDs. We particularly like the SSDs for travel due to their diminutive size and weight as well as their ruggedness. If you are in the market for a portable SSD, check out the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD V2, available in 500 GB, 1 TB, 2 TB, and 4 TB ($74.99 to $249.99). The SanDisk Extreme is a convenient, portable device with impressive file transfer speed and durability that lasts. Another solid (get it?) option to consider is the Samsung T9 portable SSD ($199.99 for 2 TB). The T9 offers up an impressive 2,000 MB/s read speed, making this device ideal for students, gamers, and professionals. It has a rugged design and is built with an advanced thermal shield to keep your device cool even during heavy use.

When it comes to external traditional hard disk drives, we like Seagate and then Western Digital (WD). You can get a portable traditional spinning Seagate 6 TB Expansion Desktop hard disk drive for $166.66 or a 6 TB Western My Book Desktop hard drive for only $149.99.

Let There Be Light!

Lighting represents a critical but often overlooked part of setting up for videoconferencing. For videoconferencing and especially court appearances, you will want to avoid backlighting as it will cast shadows over you and make it harder for people to see you. We explored lots of lighting setups during the COVID-19 lockdown and the ensuing reliance on videoconferencing.

LumeCube makes our favorite lighting components. You can find similar devices from other manufacturers and sometimes less costly ones. We have found LumeCube’s offerings to work well. We consider their pricing more reasonable than not and like the flexibility of their components.

For everyday use, we use a pair of LumeCube’s Edge Desk Lights ($129.99 each, currently on sale for $103.99). We use two to minimize glare. The Edge Desk Lights come with a clamp and adjustable arms to let you attach the light to a table and then position it for optimal lighting. The on-off switch and other controls are set in the arm. The adjustments let you make the light brighter or dimmer and give you the ability to change the light’s color temperature to make it more like daylight or warmer indoor lighting. We especially like this flexibility as it allows us to “tune” the lights to supplement the ambient lighting and optimize image quality.


The right speaker can round out your entertainment experience. A portable speaker works great for listening to podcasts, taking calls hands-free, or for use at parties and other social gatherings. Stationary home entertainment speakers also make a great gift. Home entertainment speakers can enhance the shared experience of watching movies or listening to music with friends and family. They create a more immersive and social environment, making it easier to enjoy entertainment together. Whether it’s a movie night or a gathering, good speakers can elevate the overall enjoyment and create lasting memories. JBL’s Flip 6 ($129.95) gives you a great portable speaker with a crisp and robust sound quality. You get your choice of six colors (black, dark blue, gray, teal, red, or “squad” camouflage). The Flip 6 measures 7” x 2.6” x 2.8” in size and weighs just over one pound. It boasts an IP67 waterproof rating, which is different from the IPX6 and IPX7 ratings that we discussed last year. An IP67 means the product is protected from submersion in 1 meter (3.3 feet) of water for up to 30 minutes. This rating also indicates that the product is resistant to dust. Dust accumulation around electronics can lead to hardware failure, so the IP67 rating is an extremely beneficial addition to this product, particularly in drier, dustier climates.

Another great option, especially if you like Smart features, is the Sonos Roam ($179). The Sonos Roam is about the same size as a water bottle and weighs just under one pound, making it easy to carry around in your bag. It produces a powerful sound with a nice bass quality. One of the Roam’s standout smart features, “Sound Swap,” allows you to “throw” your music from the Sonos Roam to the nearest Sonos speaker available. The Roam can connect via WiFi and Bluetooth, and it works with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

Sound Bars

The Vizio M-Series All-in-One 2.1 Immersive Sound Bar ($149), offers a great entry-level home entertainment option. The Vizio M supports HDMI ARC technology and processes Dolby Audio, and features six built-in speakers and dual built-in subwoofers. The built-in speakers include two radiators, two tweeters, and two mid-range drivers, along with the two subwoofers and passive bass radiators. Vizio uses digital signal processing (DSP) and a gyroscope to alter the sound curve, so it sounds right when mounted. With this speaker, you will get a high-quality reproduction of sound and excellent dialog clarity. It offers a surprisingly deep bass experience as well.

The Vizio M-Series 5.1 ($329, currently $307.48 on Amazon), features discrete surround speakers that connect to a wireless subwoofer that you will need to place toward the back of the room. Vizio also offers the Vizio M-Series Elevate 5.1.2 ($598 on Amazon). The Elevate offers up-firing speakers that actually emerge from the sides of the device when an Atmos signal is detected, which looks awesome. When there is no Atmos signal detected, the speakers spin back into the soundbar and fire directly out at you. The Elevate comes with surround speakers and a subwoofer like the M-Series 5.1.

There’s also the ZVOX AccuVoice AV157 TV Speaker ($249.99, currently on sale for $199.99). If you, or someone you know, struggles to hear dialogue when watching TV or movies, this may help. It employs AccuVoice hearing aid technology with 12 levels of voice boost you can choose from to make dialogue more intelligible.

Audiophiles looking to truly immerse themselves in the Dolby Atmos surround sound experience should check out the Bose Smart Soundbar 600 ($499, currently on sale for $399). Another all-in-one solution with two-up firing drivers, it adds Amazon Alexa voice assistant integration. Bose offers a very robust sound in a sleek, compact package. It is compatible with Apple AirPlay 2 and Google Chromecast, allowing you to easily stream from your favorite devices. The Bluetooth feature can store up to eight device connections, but it plays only one device at a time. It can also send sound out if you want to connect it to a pair of Bose headphones, allowing you to listen to a TV that doesn’t have the Bluetooth sound feature without disturbing anyone.

At the higher end of this category, there is the Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus ($1,499.95, currently on sale for $‌1,199.95). Sennheiser is the champion when it comes to virtual Dolby Atmos surround sound, and this device may be the best compact single-speaker Dolby Atmos sound solution on the market. It has nine speakers under the hood. There are controls for the soundbar on the device and the remote, but there is a lot of customizing that you can do through the Sennheiser Smart Control app. The highlight of this app is the Ambeo mode and the system calibration feature. The Ambeo mode, Sennheiser’s custom sound-processing method, boosts the overall performance of the soundbar by enhancing the effects of spatial and immersive audio. The app also has an impressive room calibration system that uses four built-in microphones on the soundbar to automatically calibrate the soundbar for you.

Headphones and Earphones

We distinguish between earphones as devices that have some portion that goes into your ear and headphones as devices that fit over or around the ears. We will use that distinction in discussing the two. As a general rule, we prefer the portability and flexibility of the earphones but consider a good set of headphones more comfortable. We also think that top-level headphones provide better sound quality than top-level earphones. 

When it comes to earphones, we have a strong partiality to the second generation of Apple’s AirPods Pro ($249) and the new Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds ($299). Last year’s Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II (currently on sale for $199) also remain an excellent choice. We like the Jabra Elite 10 ($249.99, currently on sale for $224.99) and the Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Pro ($229.99) as well. These all have noise-cancellation features and produce excellent sound quality for streaming music. They also work with Zoom and your telephone. If you have an iPhone, we think the AirPods Pro represent your best option, despite the price. They work beautifully with the iPhone and produce excellent sound. We like the sound of the Bose QuietComfort Ultra a lot but think the very competitive Jabra Elite 10 represents a better buy.

Our favorite headphones include Apple’s AirPods Max (truly exceptional sound at a truly high price: $549), Shure AONIC 50 Gen 2 ($349), Bose QuietComfort Ultra (excellent engineered sound, typical of Bose at a price of $429), and Sony WH-1000XM5 ($399.99). Each has excellent noise-cancellation. All have built-in microphones to allow you to use them for Zoom or telephone calls, as well as music streaming. All produce excellent to superior sound. We have listed them in the order of our sound preference, but we recognize sound preference as idiosyncratic.

For those of you wanting to maximize contact with the outside world while listening to media and some who have certain types of hearing impairment, you might want to consider bone-conduction headphones. These devices fit around the ears but remain open, so they do not diminish ambient noise. They transmit sound by sending vibrations to your skull. They do work fairly well, although we have never found one that we thought produced sound as good as the better traditional earphones and headphones we tried. In our opinion, your best bets in this category are the Shokz OpenRun Pro and OpenFit (both $179.95).

Home Technology

Smart home technology makes life easier, safer, and more enjoyable, which makes for great gifts. You have a lot to choose from, including smart speakers, displays, lights, security cameras, plugs, and energy monitors.

Listen Up!

Smart speakers are a great place to start. They can play music, answer questions, control other smart devices, and more. They can make ordering items from your shopping list easier and give you a heads-up when something goes on sale. Amazon EchoGoogle Nest, and Sonos One are popular brands to consider in this category. Amazon has a long history of quality smart home speakers. They haven’t made many changes to their lineup since last year, but they have enhanced Alexa with the generative AI that is dominating the technology market this year. The new AI-powered Alexa includes a more robust language model specifically optimized for voice interactions, improving Alexa’s ability to reason, infer customer intent, and understand complex requests. The latest iteration of Alexa-powered devices will include:

  • Eye Gaze. This feature will allow customers with speech or mobility limitations to gaze at their tablet to perform pre-set Alexa actions such as playing music and shows, controlling their home environment, and even calling loved ones—entirely hands- and voice-free. This feature will roll out on Fire Max 11 Tablets automatically later this year.
  • Call translation. Alexa can translate audio and video calls in real time, allowing participants to break down language barriers and communicate more effectively. It will launch to Echo Show and Alexa mobile app customers in the United States, the UK, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain later this year in over ten languages, including English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.
  • Alexa Emergency Assist. This at-home, hands-free safety service lets you get fast access to the help you need, with features such as 24/7 urgent response, smart alerts, and emergency contacts. Soon, new U.S. customers can subscribe to Alexa Emergency Assist for $5.99 per month or $59 per year; customers with Guard Plus (the current system, soon to be discontinued) will instead get access to Alexa Emergency Assist for $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year.
  • Email to Alexa. Have Alexa help you manage your family calendar. Just send an email, invite, or photo of an event directly to Alexa. Alexa will then extract the event details, add the details to your calendar, and send you a confirmation.
  • Top Connections. Add the Top Connections widget to your Echo Show 8, 10, and 15 devices to see your favorite contacts or most frequently used devices within the household. You can then quickly initiate a call or drop in with a single tap.
  • Profile-level voice customization. While you can currently change Alexa’s voice settings for each individual device, this update lets you change Alexa’s voice for each individual profile, so you’ll hear your selected voice no matter which device you use. Customization options include feminine- or masculine-sounding voices, accent, and speaking rate.
  • AI art on Fire TV. Soon, you will be able to create AI-generated artwork on your Fire TV device with just your voice and imagination. Just give Alexa an imagination-driven prompt and watch as that prompt gets translated into a unique display on your screen. AI Art will begin rolling out to customers in the United States by the end of this year on devices with the Fire TV Ambient Experience.
  • Map View: With Map View in the Alexa app, you can create a digital map of your home’s floor plan and pin connected devices to it. This centralized view lets you see all your devices and their status without needing to scroll through lists, remember specific device names, or navigate to other apps. From here, you can also easily control your smart home devices. Privacy was taken into consideration when designing Map View, so you can choose which rooms are added to your app and which devices show up. You can also unpin individual devices and delete your floor plan altogether.

Amazon didn’t have big releases this year, but it did make some updates worth mentioning. The Echo Show 8 3rd Gen ($149.99) got an update to video calls and improvements for the overall ambient experience. It features a newly centered camera, background noise minimization, and special audio-processing technology that creates a more immersive sound experience. It also added room adaptation tech that senses the acoustics of the room and fine-tunes playback for optimal sound. Amazon added adaptive content as well, so now your home screen will change based on your proximity to the Echo Show 8. If you are farther away from the screen, it will show essentials such as a simplified news headline or a large clock—information you can read from across the room. As you approach the device, the screen will transition to a more detailed and touch-friendly User Interface, along with personalized content.

This year, Amazon will also roll out the Echo Hub ($179.99), a wall-mountable smart home control panel powered by Alexa, with an 8” touch screen and customizable dashboard for your smart home devices. At the Hub, you can arm your security system, turn on the fan, change the volume on your Echo, and more, all with a few taps. The Echo Hub will support more than 140,000 smart devices. You can also get power-over-ethernet (PoE) from devices such as Eero PoE Gateway by using a compatible USB-C converter. PoE is a technology that delivers DC power to devices over copper Ethernet cabling, eliminating the need for separate power supplies and outlets.

Home Security

Most home security devices work with Alexa and Google Home smart hubs. If you prefer Apple HomeKit or another smart home ecosystem, you may have to do some more research to find a system compatible with your smart home ecosystem. When selecting a video doorbell, consider the design, whether it offers affordable (or free) video recording, how it handles motion detection and alerts, and the video quality. Decide whether you want a wired doorbell or a wireless one. If a wired doorbell is an option, go that route. They will almost always cost less, work better, and require less space, so they look nicer. The latest generation Nest Doorbell (wired) ($179.99) has the ability to record 24/7, not just when it detects. It can protect your packages from porch pirates by sending you an alert when someone leaves package at your door. You get limited viewing ability for free, but for $8 per month ($80 per year), you can access the Nest Aware subscription, which offers 30 days of video history recording, intelligent alerts, and more. The subscription covers all your Nest devices.

If you want to beef up security outside your home, check out the Wyze Cam v3 Pro indoor/outdoor security camera ($53.99). The latest version includes new capabilities such as Smart Focus (which gives you a better look at anything moving in the frame) and a built-in spotlight. It has an IP65 weatherproof rating that protects it from rain, snow, and dust. The camera captures 2K video (2,560 by 1,440 pixels) at 20 frames per second (fps) during the daytime and at 15 fps during the night. It has a 116-degree field of view and 8x digital zoom. An embedded 2.4GHz WiFi radio handles your connectivity. The front of the camera features four infrared LEDs for black-and-white night recordings, while a Starlight sensor delivers color night vision in low-light conditions. There’s also an 80-lumen spotlight, a microphone, and a status LED that flashes red during setup and solid blue during normal operations. You can turn the spotlight on or off in the app, as well as configure it to turn on whenever the camera detects motion or sound. You can also activate a built-in 89-decibel siren from the app.

The Blink Outdoor Camera + Solar Panel Charging Mount (currently $139.98 on Amazon) provides a wire-free smart security camera with high-definition day and infrared night vision, two-way audio, and motion detection that lets you see, hear, and speak to visitors. Alexa enabled, the device has a solar panel with an outdoor camera connected and mounted in the case, so you can mount the camera anywhere (with sunlight) without worrying about access to power or having to change the batteries frequently. The solar panel casing does not charge the Blink camera itself. Instead, it charges a rechargeable battery that powers the Blink Camera.

If you want to check on your pets while you are out, check out the Furbo 360° Dog Camera ($210, currently on sale for $189). This camera features a 132-degree (diagonal) wide-angle lens with 360-degree rotation, panning abilities, and vivid color night vision. It features two-way audio and treat-tossing technology, so no matter where you are, you can let your pet know that he’s being a good boy. Those of you with the open-housing concept will enjoy the auto-tracking feature, which lets the camera go wherever your pet goes in the room. You will know when your pet gets distressed with the bark alert, an automated barking detection feature. In the app (Android or iOS), you can take photos or video of your pet, toss a treat, talk to them, and control the rotation of the camera. Cat people should check out the Furbo 360° Cat Camera ($220, currently on sale for $198). In addition to the 360-degree wide-angle view and treat-tossing technology, it comes with an attachable toy so you can watch your pet in active play. For more features, get the Furbo Dog Nanny or Furbo Cat Nanny subscription ($6.99 per month or $69 per year). With the Nanny subscription, you get real-time alerts (barking, crying, advanced meowing), recordings, and daily video summaries of your pet’s day. With the Cat Nanny, you get vomit alerts—no more surprises when you get home.

The Eufy Solo Indoor Cam E220 ($54.99) offers another option. This indoor camera has built-in human and pet AI detection, 2K image resolution, and two-way audio, and it can move a full 360 degrees around. It can integrate with Alexa, Google, and Apple HomeKit. Like other devices, it allows you to configure zones for monitoring and zones for privacy. It is not battery powered, so you will have to place it close to a plug for a power source. Also, if you want to save recordings, you will need a microSD card, which does not come with the device. On the bright side, however, there is no capacity limit to the SD card reader, giving you nearly unlimited storage. In addition to viewing 360 degrees around the camera, you can move the camera vertically through a 96-degree vertical range.

TVs and Streaming Devices

If you dream of streaming this Christmas, we think you should upgrade your TV via a streaming device rather than to acquire a smart TV solely for the streaming features. Smart TVs typically come with built-in streaming capabilities and apps, allowing you to access popular streaming services directly from the TV’s interface. This is nice if you don’t want additional devices cluttering your entertainment setup. Expect sluggish performance compared to streaming devices.

Streaming devices are dedicated devices designed specifically for streaming content. They usually connect to your TV via HDMI and offer a wide range of streaming apps and services. Streaming devices such as Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Amazon Fire TV generally deliver consistent performance, provide frequent software updates, and a user-friendly experience. They typically offer more versatility, allowing you to access a broader selection of apps and services than certain smart TVs.

If you prioritize a smooth streaming experience, a wide range of apps, regular software updates, and consistent performance, then we recommend that you opt for a dedicated streaming device. If you prefer simplicity and integration with other smart features of your TV, then a smart TV with sufficient streaming capabilities could prove a suitable option.

Smart TVs

For smart TV simplicity, we recommend the TCL 6-series lineup, such as the TCL 65” 65Q650G ($699.99, currently $498 at Amazon). This smart TV offers incredible visual detail with 4K Ultra HD resolution and a bright picture with Quantum Dot LED (QLED). It has a bezel-less design, giving you a full view of the screen. It runs on Google TV Smart OS, which gives you access to Google Assistant voice commands and the ability to connect your Google devices.

A 65” TV, such as the 65Q650G, might not necessarily work well for you, however. You can generally determine what size TV to buy based on the viewing distance, the distance between where you will sit to watch TV, and where the TV will be:

  • Viewing distance 5’ to 6.5’: screen size up to 43”
  • Viewing distance 6.5’ to 8’: screen size 50” to 55”
  • Viewing distance 8’ to 9.5’: screen size 60” to 65”
  • Viewing distance 9.5’ to 10.75’: screen size 70” to 75”
  • Viewing distance 10.75’ to 11.5’: screen size 80” to 85”

Streaming Devices

When it comes to streaming devices, top options include Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast with Google TV, or an Amazon Fire TV device. Our favorite is Roku, especially because it incorporated Apple’s AirPlay a while ago. Roku offers the most streaming options with the simplest streaming platform interface.

Fitness/Health Wearables Options

Apple Watch

This year Apple released the Apple Watch Series 9 (starting at $399) and the Apple Watch Ultra 2 (starting at $799). Both authors find the Apple Watch works best for them as a fitness wearable. The Series 9 and the Ultra 2 offer subtle improvements over previous generations but probably not enough to justify an upgrade if you just bought An Ultra or a Series 8 last year. The big change is the addition of a second-generation ultra-wideband chip and the upgrade to watches’ 10. The new chip offers a 30 percent faster graphics processing unit (GPU) and a four-core Apple Neural Engine with twice the performance of the Series 8. The upgraded chip also enables a Precision Finding feature that works like Apple AirTags, although you need an iPhone 15 to use this feature.

The Apple Watch Series 9 case comes in aluminum (from $399 for 41 mm, from $429 for 45 mm) or stainless steel (from $699 for 41 mm, from $749 for 45 mm), with GPS capability or GPS plus cellular capabilities. The stainless-steel case only comes in GPS plus cellular. The aluminum case is available in pink, midnight, starlight, silver, and red. The stainless-steel case is available in gold, silver, and graphite. Both come in 41 mm or 45 mm size. The GPS plus cellular model allows you to stay connected even without an iPhone nearby. The GPS-only model will require an iPhone for certain functions. To pair the Apple Watch Series 9, you will need an iPhone XS or later with iOS 17 or later.

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 comes in a 49 mm titanium case, with built-in GPS plus cellular connectivity. It has all the features of the Series 9, plus ruggedness, a larger display and a larger battery. 

Android Watches

If you prefer Android devices, the Samsung Galaxy Watch collection might hold more appeal for you. Samsung currently offers the Galaxy Watch4 ($199.99 for 40 mm in aluminum, currently $115 on Amazon), Galaxy Watch5 ($329.99 for 40 mm, currently on sale for $197.99 at the Samsung website and for $175 on Amazon), or Galaxy Watch6 ($269.99 for 40 mm, WiFi-only).  You can manage all the Galaxy watches  on your smartphone using the Galaxy Wearable app. Both the Watch4 and the Watch5 have either a 1.19” display (for the 40 mm watch) or a 1.36” display (for the 44 mm watch), while the Watch6 offers either a 1.31” display (for the 40 mm watch) or a 1.47” display (for the 44 mm watch). All three feature Super Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode (AMOLED) displays, which provide an increased refresh rate with reduced power consumption.

The Galaxy Watch6 stands out currently with its Irregular Heart Rate Rhythm feature. It uses the sensors underneath the watch to monitor and identify your regular heart rate; then, it will notify you if that rate is off. Watch4 comes in two sizes (40 mm and 44 mm). If you wish to upgrade the Watch4 from the aluminum case to stainless steel, then it is only available in 42 mm, but you can get it in black or silver. The Watch5 comes in 40 mm and 44 mm. The 40mm features a graphite or pink gold face, while the 44 mm comes in graphite. The Galaxy Watch6 comes in 40 mm (gold or graphite) or 44 mm (graphite or silver). There is also a Galaxy Watch6 Classic, which has the same technical features but is made from stainless steel instead of aluminum. It comes in 43 mm (black or silver) or 47 mm (black or silver). The better-quality material carries a heftier price tag ($369.99 for 43 mm, $399.99 for 47 mm).


What would a fitness wearable lineup be without Fitbit, one of the leading brands in the fitness tracker category? For those of you who have not heard, Google recently bought out Fitbit. We don’t know what changes that may bring about; we do have some concerns as we thought Fitbit worked well. Our experience with larger entities acquiring smaller ones has not always been positive, so we will have to see how this plays out.

Fitbit offers a full suite of wearable technology to meet your fitness needs. Their wearables combine with the Fitbit app to form a powerful platform to launch your fitness efforts. Fitbit can further fuel your effort with their Fitbit Premium Membership ($9.99 per month or $79.99 per year).

In terms of hardware, we prefer the Fitbit Charge 6 ($159.95); it gives you pretty much everything the Charge 5 did with enhanced Google integration and some improvements and expansions of existing functions (such as additional workouts). If you have a Charge 5, we see no compelling reason to upgrade. If you don’t, we consider the Charge 6 one of the best values and most useful of the health-tracking wearables (despite the fact that it was designed primarily to handle workouts).

Oura Rings

If you don’t want to dedicate an entire wrist to a tracking device that can monitor your health, track your activities and your sleep, and help you improve your health, then can choose instead to give a finger to your health tracking! The Oura Ring lets you do that and not miss a beat. The Oura Ring works best on your index finger but also works on other fingers. It has the appearance of a simple wedding band and comes in two styles that do not look very different, called the Heritage and the Horizon. The Heritage costs $50 less (starting at $299). You can get each style in multiple finishes at different prices. The rings all have the same technology and work identically. The rings are manufactured from titanium and are water resistant and very durable. Like other wearable trackers, the Oura Ring pairs with your smartphone and connects to an app that stores the data the ring collects. The ring collects a variety of data from your finger, including activity and recovery, sleep, heart rate, temperature, and stress levels. It also collects menstrual cycle information for women. The Oura App will sync data to the Apple Health App as well.

Travel Tools

Internet Hot Spots

Most airports, hotels, restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and many stores and shopping centers we have entered have offered free Internet access to patrons. This service comes on a relatively unregulated and unprotected network. Even networks with a password offer little protection, as anyone can get the password. The bad guys often hang out on such networks to snag information from devices that connect to them. We understand that the lure of free Internet access may prove hard to resist. We still discourage the use of such networks, but if you must use them, be sure to run your communications through a virtual private network (VPN) to afford yourself and your data some protection against the bad guys.

We think that acquiring your own cellular hot spot makes more sense, and we encourage you to do that. The hardware for a hot spot generally consists of a small, self-contained, usually battery-operated device that you can put a SIM card in and that will create a portable network you and your family and friends can use for your communications. The two devices we have the most familiarity with come from GlocalMe and Solis, formerly Skyroam. Both offer their devices with SIM cards and international data plans. You can get hot spot devices from other manufacturers and acquire a local SIM card from a provider in the countries you visit. If you are going to stay for a while in an area serviced by that provider, this option may prove less costly than using GlocalMe or Solis. If you travel to several countries using different providers, you may find GlocalMe or Solis the most convenient as well as the most affordable.

We have seen more 5G hot spots available recently and, in fact, have acquired one. It works very well, but the  limited availability of 5G service remains a problem. When and where you can get it, you get a lot more speed than 4G. Most of the time, however, the device taps into 4G service. You will have to decide whether you want to spend the extra money for a 5G device.


While we can generally get by with English in many countries, we have always managed to find someplace in every country (including both the United States and England) where the ability to communicate in a foreign language has proved helpful. You have lots of possibilities to get help with translating from the local language to English. Many of them come in the form of apps on your cell phone (some free, some not). Some of those will let you download language files so that they can work without an Internet connection. Others require an Internet connection to translate for you. We have come to prefer using stand-alone translation devices. We found several that we like, but one that we think works better than the others (albeit at a higher price point).

The V4 represents the top of Vasco’s line.  The translator works with 108 languages for photo translation, 90 for text translation, and 76 for voice translation.  It comes with free lifetime Internet connectivity; but, not surprisingly, the connectivity works better in some places than others.  You can get a complete list of the languages and full details about the devices at You can go through a helpful tutorial at Amazon sells the V4 for $389.00.

Another translator worth considering, the Vasco Translator M3, ($299 at Amazon), can handle up to 76 languages. It comes with its own SIM card and advertises lifetime Internet access for the device for translation purposes in 200 countries at no additional charge.

We have used Timekettle translators for a while and like  the WT2 Edge/W3 Real-time Translator ($299.99). These devices come in the form of two earphones that look like oversized AirPods. Each of the two parties in the conversation uses one earpiece and gets an almost simultaneous translation of the other person’s side of the conversation. They handle 40 languages and 93 accents. Some of the languages require Internet access for the time being. Many work with no Internet connection.

Some Odds and Ends That Did Not Fit in Other Sections

We have some items we want to talk about that did not fit elsewhere in this guide, so we created this section for them.

Smartphone and Tablet Stands

Smartphone and tablet stands make nice gifts and run the gamut from very inexpensive but functional to much more costly. We have and use permanent stands as well as folding stands we can pack in a briefcase or backpack and use on the road. We do not have a particular recommendation as the ones we like best were given to us by merchants and do not have a manufacturer’s mark on them. We have seen similar stands on Amazon in the $10 to $13 range. If you have an interest, you can also get stands that fit in the cupholder of your car or that have clamps to clamp to the side of a desk or table. You can also get holders with longer and flexible arms to allow you to reposition the device. Most of the devices accommodate a charging cable. Some accommodate wireless charging.


The eReader wars have pretty much ended, and Kindle stands tall as the king of the mountain. You can get the Kindle app (and other eReader apps) on laptops, tablets, and smartphones. The apps work very well for most thing, but often have some limitations to induce you to use the Kindle-branded devices. We use both the apps and the devices. You can explore all the Kindle options on the Amazon website. Our favorite of the devices remains the Kindle Oasis with a 7” display ($279). We have used iterations of the Oasis for several years and prefer the display size, clarity, and related options to any of the other Kindle devices.

Our next favorite would be the relatively new Scribe, which has pretty much all the features of the Oasis, as well as a sophisticated note-taking capability. It comes in a larger form than the Oasis to accommodate its notebook function, and has a 10.2” display. The least expensive version ($369) comes with 16 GB of memory and a basic pen for notetaking. For $419.99, you get the 64 GB version and a premium pen.

The best value in the Kindle line, the Paperwhite, costs $139.99 for the 8 GB version and $149.99 for the 16 GB version.

Check Out

Well, we’ve pretty much done our shopping, and we have shared many of our findings with you. We tried to provide a sufficient variety of tech-related items at a broad enough cost spectrum to help you with some (or maybe all) of your gift choices, as well as some things to consider for yourself. We regularly follow the practice of buying a few gifts for ourselves for the holidays to ensure that we get something we really want. It has worked for us for years, and we recommend the practice to you as well.

Happy Shopping!

Happy Holidays!