Dial down the stress of finding just the right tech gifts for your loved ones with these seasonal suggestions. Photo: Courtesy of Rakuten Kobo Inc.
It’s gift giving season, and gadgets may be at the top of your list. We have some seasonal suggestions.
Adding to the stress of a hectic holiday season: Trying to find just the right gifts for loved ones.
No one wants to gift something the recipient doesn’t like, of course, but it can be tough to know what to buy and how much to spend — especially when it comes to tech. Buying for kids and grandkids is especially hard, since they tend to know more about this world than we do, amirite?
Assess what they’re into, such as music, books, movies or games. Ask friends or siblings to give you hints. Include the gift receipt, just in case.
If you’re looking for some ideas, the following are eight great high-tech recommendations.
1. Charge It
If you’re shopping for a smartphone owner — who might also have earbuds and perhaps a smartwatch — the 3-in-1 More Wireless Charger Stand ($58) is a smart and space-saving doohickey to place on a desk or table, and can wirelessly change up any iPhone (8 or newer), Samsung Galaxy or other Qi-supported phone, by simply leaning it on the stand. No cable needed.
Since the phone is propped up, you can engage in a FaceTime call or watch videos at the same time. Tucked behind the phone stand is an Apple Watch holder and flat area to lay an AirPods case, for both of these to charge up, too.
The 10-watt foldable charger (ideal for traveling) includes a USB cable and power cube to plug into an available AC outlet. The stand will glows blue when charging.
2. What’s the Word?
Just in time for the holidays, Kobo has launched its most versatile ebook reader (“e-reader”) to date.
Kobo Sage ($306) is a lightweight 8-inch device with a high-definition e-ink Carta 1200 display — to really give you that “ink on paper” effect — and with zero glare, making it just as ideal to read outside on a sunny day as it is for inside viewing. In fact, it’s fully waterproof (IPX8 rated), so you can bring this to the beach or pool.
So, what makes it versatile? Kobo Sage also works with Kobo Stylus, an optional pen to jot down notes, lists, or annotate on ebooks and PDFs. It can convert your handwriting to digital text, and then sync to other devices via Dropbox, if desired. And for the first time, you can download audiobooks to listen to, when streamed to Bluetooth wireless headphones or a nearby speaker.
Kobo Sage also enjoys fast page turns (thanks to a powerful processor) and stronger Wi-Fi than previous models.
3. Worth the Weight
OK, so this might be more science than tech, but the weighted Hush Blankets (from $269 for adult size or $199 for kids size) is like gifting a long hug (read: all night) to a loved one.
Using DTPS (Deep Touch Pressure Stimulation), these blankets apply small amounts of even pressure on your body, which has been proven to naturally reduce cortisol (stress) and promote serotonin (to produce the sleep-inducing melatonin).
It’s recommended to use a blanket about 10 per cent of your weight (with options ranging from five pounds for kids models all the way up to 35-pound adult blankets, perhaps for two users in bed). Hush is filled with non-toxic micro glass sand, woven throughout the blanket to avoid clumping. The company also has cooler-to-the-touch Iced 2.0 blankets.
“Zipper tech” means you can unzip the duvet cover for easy washing.
4. Have a Ball
You might know Arcade1Up has enjoyed success with its award-winning arcade cabinets that house a few retro video games from yesteryear — including Pac-Man, Galaga and Burger Time.
And so the company is looking to do it again, but in the pinball space.
That is, instead of it housing a real silver ball under glass, this is a collection of virtual tables you can play on a 24-inch LCD playfield (and see your score on a smaller 7.5-inch screen), but the ball rolls realistically thanks to lifelike physics and authentic flipper feedback. The plunger and buttons are the real deal, though.
Similar to its arcade machines, these tables are a 3/4 scale compared to the originals.
Perfect for a “man cave” or “dame den,” the pinball games are as follows: Attack from Mars, Fish Tales, The Getaway, Junk Yard, Medieval Madness, White Water, Red & Ted, Funhouse, Tales of the Arabian Nights and No Good Gofers.
5. Instant Hit
Speaking of what’s old is new again, the Instax Mini 11 ($89) from Fujifilm is a kitschy gift for kids and kids at heart.
Yes, it’s an instant camera — like what you used in the ’70s — but now in five fun colours, and with modern features like a selfie mode (simply pull out the lens and check your framing in the teeny mirror) and automatic exposure to ensure even dark images are brightened before it prints.
And yes, it prints captured photos within 90 seconds, onto 2×3-sized photos (62mm x 46mm) you can stick onto your fridge, bedroom mirror, in a kids’ locket at school, or onto the side of a computer monitor.
Included, but requires two AA batteries, which yields about 100 shots.
6. Hanging Around
Powered by Alexa, Echo Show 15 ($330) is Amazon’s largest smart display to date at 15.6 inches, making it ideal to mount on a wall or prop up on a table, desk or kitchen island (in either landscape or portrait orientation).
Use your voice to ask a question, initiate a video call, pull up a calendar, play music or request a recipe for virtually any dish you can think of.
Or use your fingertip to write a (virtual) sticky note to remind you of something, stream a TV show or jot down a shopping list (and it’ll be synchronized with your phone).
The handy photo frame feature also lets you use your Echo Show 15 to display your albums from Amazon Photos or Facebook.
7. Stream Dream
The new Roku Streambar ($190, but currently on sale for $99.88) is like two gadgets in one: It turns your regular television into a smart TV, while also enhancing its audio.
Simply connect the Streambar to your TV with the included HDMI cable and link it up to your Wi-Fi to begin streaming movies, television shows and other content from thousands of free and paid channels (including Netflix, Prime Video and Crave), with up to 4K HDR (high dynamic range) picture quality and full, rich Dolby Audio sound.
You can also wirelessly play music from your phone or another Bluetooth device and control it all using the voice remote or an Amazon or Google smart speaker.
8. A Clean Slate
The original tablet is still the best — and now in its 9th generation.
Apple’s latest iPad (from $429) is a stunning 10.2-inch slate with a multi-touch retina display (with True Tone, which adjusts the display to the colour temp of the room), powerful A13 Bionic chip, and supports Apple Pencil for those moments you want greater precision (like writing, drawing, sketching or colouring).
A camera graces each side of the device: an 8-mepagpixel wide camera on the back for taking photos, recording videos and for augmented reality experiences, while the front-facing 12-megapixel ultra wide camera is perfect for FaceTime video calls (and now with “Center Stage,” which automatically adjusts to keep you centred in the frame).
This thin and durable tablet, with all-day battery life, supports more than a million apps available on the App Store.