My holiday gift guide uses a simple formula: Pick the best made, designed and functional tech items for yourself or others dear to you.
The coolest first six items are also our giveaways so make sure to tune into my Global Edmonton Sunday Morning special Tech Talk giveaway at 9:45 a.m. for a chance to win big.
*The Sony RX100M4, $999.99 is a pocket camera that thinks it’s a professional camera. I can’t argue that.
From 40X super slow motion to 1/32000 shutter exposure, this camera on steroids uses a larger 1.0 type sensor shoot; much better quality than conventional pocket cams.
It eliminates distortions in fast-moving objects like a golfer’s club and can shoot in the brightest lighting.
How about continuous 16 20.1 megapixel frames per second or eye-popping 4K movies? It features a sharp OLED Tru-Finder pop-ip viewfinder and a fast f1.8 – 2.8 aperture Vario-Sonnar 24 – 70 mm lens. So much in so little space!
*Star War fans rejoice! HP’s 15.6” Star Wars special edition laptop, $899.99, with 6th generation Intel Core i5, 1TB hard drives and 12 GB RAM on Windows 10 oozes with Star Wars presence.
The impeccably Galactic theme designed outer shell – even the carry box – and extensive preloaded collection of rare Star Wars content is also a descent gaming computer with an NVIDIA GeForce 940M graphics card. Even the recycle bin is Star Wars themed…it’s a Death Star!
The 15.6-inch Full HD IPS anti-glare WLED backlit display impresses, while the handy built-in DVD disk recorder/player is Star Wars movie ready.
It also has every input and output connection you would want, including HDTV out.
The pièce de résistance? A brilliantly red backlit full keyboard with numeric keypad will whisk you away to a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… but you don’t have to go far for one –Best Buy, London Drugs, The Source, Staples and Walmart stores carry it.
*Simply put, the Sonos Play:5, $549, is a home speaker without compromise. You know the moment you hear it for the first few seconds.
Like its other Sonos siblings, the Play:5 is wireless, using your WiFi network to transmit music directly from the Internet through more music subscription services than competitors, your home media files or Android and iPhone.
What is good sound? It’s listening to clear instruments, voices and the low tone ambiance that your body feels when you are at a real concert. Hear singers stand out from each other and their instruments which also command your attention. The base, oh so rich and never boomy. It’s like hearing from three separate high, mid and low range speakers.
How does the Play:5 do that? Aside from top-tier components with heavy speaker magnets, Sonos introduces Trueplay tuning, available on three current models. It uses your iPhone’s high quality microphone, held upside down, walking in circles in your room, to automatically adjust sound balance. Taking account of room shape, furniture and reflective and sound absorbing surfaces like rugs, Trueplay figures out your optimum sound in just a few minutes. Even placing the Play:5 in awkward places in my family room produced such good, balanced sound.
Sonos prices start under $200, with a special holiday boxed bundle of two Play:1 speakers. But if want the best sound experience ever and have been good last year, aim for the Play:5.
*The Ecobee 3 home kit, $249.99, joins an elite group of smart thermostat controllers. It too works with your home WiFi network and smartphones letting you monitor your home heating from afar like start or stop heating.
What makes Ecobee unique is how it takes advantage of your home WiFi and smartphone’s Internet reach even further to offer you more.
It uses small remote wireless sensors which measure temperature and occupancy in any part of your home. For example, a corner bedroom in my home tends to be cooler than the rest of the floor.
Adding to the problem is the traditional placement of the base thermostat in the hallway does not accurately reflect the temperatures behind closed door bedrooms. Placing the remote sensor in that room made kept the desired temperature. You can use up to 32 sensors and program which one commands the attention of the furnace.
The main pitch black square panel has a lot more information than other thermostats. This includes outside weather information you can glance at as you walk by. Additional two remote sensor kits are available for $79.99. The Ecobee works with iPhones and Android and comes with a pre-installed program to get you started. Available at Best Buy and Home Depot.
*Philips innovation extends beyond LED lights and shavers. The new Philips Avance Multi Cooker, $250 joins the Air Fryer and Pasta Maker easily expanding your cooking menus, especially when you are in a rush. It features 10 preset programs for cooking anything from risotto to stew to baked pie. It’s primed for boiling, stewing, roasting or preparing desserts.
The included four-litre ceramic pot with smart heating technology and temperature control keeps even heat with consistent results. A keep warm feature keeps dishes warm for up to 24 hours and a 24-hour preset timer has delivers your meal in time.
The durable steel is micro coated and the non-stick interior simplifies cleaning. The Multi Cooker comes with a detailed step-by-step cooking book. Enjoy! Available in most store kitchen sections.
*For most of us, snapping the photo or a quick video is the easy part. But getting the best out of “so so pix and vids” calls for graphics programs from the pros. Adobe Photoshop Elements 14 and Adobe Premiere Elements 14 is the perfect combination gift for saving those Kodak moments. You poorly exposed pictures or shaky videos get done over professionally with options for slick slide shows and special effects on your videos. Step-by-step instructions for simple fixes or automatically made movies with co-ordinated titles, music and effects bring out the director in you, leaving room for you to grow your photo and video editing skills. Available on disc in computer stores, $179.
MORE OF MY FAVOURITE HOLIDAY GIFT SUGGESTIONS
- Dyson Hot + Cool Jet Focus combination heat and cool air vertical model, $549.99 is 75 per cent quieter and features long range or wider close range fan dispersion patterns.
- Epson’s Ecotank printers $$459.99 to $599.99 cost several hundred bucks more than traditional model printers. But they can be the gift that keeps on giving, rather printing. That’s because they come with large bottles of ink to fill their special made side tanks. Ecotank printers come with full ink bottles, which cost as much as a traditional ink cartridge but print many more pages saving you ink costs several times over the traditional ink cartridge replacement. If you buy more than four full ink cartridge replacements a year, the ecotank printers are a better deal for you. Don’t forget Epson’s Creative Zone for printing up festive cards and holiday-themed scrapbooks that go hand-in-hand with Epson custom papers.
- D-Link Water Sensor senses water anywhere in your home and notifies you the old fashioned 70db loud alarm or notifies you via push notifications on your smartphone. It also works with mydlink Connected Home Devices.
- Google’s just launched Pixel C tablet, $649 and very cool magnetically attached keyboard, $199, is pricey but one nice piece of tier one hardware with 10.2 – inch brilliant screen at 308 pixels per inch. It runs on Googles newest Android 6.0 Marshmallow operating system. If you have been looking for a reason to leave your laptop at home, this is it. The keyboard, a must, tilts continually at any angle and closes on the tablet flat, magnetically too. The battery is good for 9 to 10 hours, features a descent 8 megapixel rear camera and 2 MP front. It weighs about 400 grams without the 100 gram keyboard. Oddly, it comes with a dedicated non-micro USB cable, so don’t lose it. I want one Google.
- For portability and Windows 10, check out the 10.1” ASUS Transformer Book T100, $349 to $399 with magnetically attached keyboard with multi-touchpad. It features USB 3.1, 12 hours of battery life and comes in 32 or 64 GB SST drives, 2GB to 4GB RAM and weighs 2.4 lbs.
- The king of camera straps, the Carry Speed Pro Mark III, $99, is the answer to safety and comfort for serious photographers. It fits diagonally and features a special heavy duty ball head mount you attach to your camera’s bottom. Its plate has six tripod screw threads so you can mount the camera on a monopod or tripod without taking the Carry Speed camera attachment clip off. Nice. A safety cord between camera and strap is included just in case you are sloppy at attaching the camera to the main stainless steel ball head connector. It takes some getting used to, but once on you can carry the heaviest cameras with ease. The kit comes with a detachable clip strap for hanging a smaller point and shoot camera.
- Dell’s XPS 12 2-in-1 – starting at $1499.99 has an innovative, simple and elegant 2-in-1 design, for easy transition between laptop and tablet, using a magnetic connection that only needs one hand to use! It is the only 2-in-1 device with a 4K Ultra HD display option, and also features a high resolution front-facing and back-facing camera. Dell’s gorgeous new Chromebook 13 Business-class, starting at $529.00, features a vivid Full HD display, 12 hour battery, 5th generation Intel i5, under 6 second startup time and 13.3 Full HD and multi-angle viewing IPS display.
- Toronto based Caseco keeps on getting better with innovative mobile accessory offerings. Apart from a range of touch phone cases, very cool universal car mounts and quality fashion clad Sono earbuds, their rich colour and style collection of Bluetooth built-in headphone Beanies, $49.99, make the perfect Holiday gift. Count them, 63 styles!
- BC-based Farbe Technik blends quality and design on its mobile accessory line, available online and at Best Buy. The Mini Bluetooth Wireless Speaker, 44.99 is right out of an art gallery with great sound while the 5 watt/1amp + 10 watt/2.1 Amp Dual USB Power Plug is a life saver. It automatically configures the right power charge on two devices.
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