Tech Gifts for Christmas

-by John Dunker- It is a jungle out there looking for the right tech gift for Christmas. Regardless of the person’s age or your budget, there are literally thousands of items available in a vast range of prices. It can be mind-boggling when searching through the various types of devices and what they do. After researching this year’s offering of tech products, here are a few I think are worth considering as gifts for people on your list.

For the Young and Young-at-Heart:

There are some great gifts for kids that not only provide for play but also for education and skill development. Several tech-type toys out there meet that bill. Robots are foremost on my list in this category, and prices can meet most budgets. I really like the Wonder Workshop Dot and Dash Robot kits. Kids are able to learn programming skills using an app installed on a smartphone to make these robots do some amazing things. There are no instructions needed as built-in challenge tutorials teach you how to program the robot. I wish this toy were around when I was kid.

Drones are a hot topic these days. However, they are expensive. With future regulations looming on the horizon, they might not be practical as Christmas gifts. But there are smaller, less expensive flying devices that can make great gifts for flying enthusiasts. They are more of a toy than a drone, so government regulations won’t apply. As an example: The Syma Mini RC Helicopters are an exciting new toy for kids and the young at heart. These helicopters are very durable and stable with a metal frame. A new gyro system provides for flawless flying. There are several different models to choose from. Prices range between $15 and $30. Great buy!

For Parents:

To keep track of your children, you might think about giving wearable tracking devices. Some trackers use simple radio waves and are excellent for short distance monitoring, like those moments in the supermarket where you turn round to find your little one missing. They usually work using a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone. GPS tracking devices are different and will cost more than Bluetooth models. With a GPS system you can pinpoint the exact position of the person you’re looking for using a map on your smartphone or tablet. Some models also offer geo-fencing (an electronic barrier drawn on a digital map) which, when breached, immediately alerts the parent or guardian. Do your homework to find the right model and type to buy.

For Anyone:

Bluetooth devices make great gifts. Two years ago, I wrote about this in December 2013-January 2014 Hometown, “A Bluetooth Christmas”. These tech items (headsets, keyboards, speakers, receivers, printers, adapters) are available in price ranges for every budget. They work with smartphones, tablets, or computers that have wireless Bluetooth capability. You’re sure to find something that will please just about anyone on your list.

Tablets still make great gifts too. Prices start around $100 and go up from there. Depending upon who the recipient is and how they will be using it, you can find some great deals on quality products. There is even an AARP RealPad model for $99 which will serve a low-tech senior very well, great for emailing, surfing the web and social media.

External hard drives make a thoughtful gift. Used for data back up or storage of pictures, movies, and music files, these devices are a nice addition for anyone who needs storage. USB connections make them easy to set up and use on any computer. Important files need to be stored safely, and this device gets the job done. Some people use “cloud” storage for this purpose, but I prefer this hardware device for my needs. Prices start around $50 and go up depending upon make, model, and how much storage space they provide.

Portable USB flash drives are another great gift for storage of files. They are small and inexpensive and make great stocking stuffers. Prices depend upon the amount of storage they provide. On the higher end, ScanDisk makes a 64GB wireless flash drive for smartphones and tablets. It can connect up to 8 devices and stream 3 simultaneous media steams on the go, with no Internet required. It also has a USB connection for charging and use as a normal flash drive.

A monitor upgrade for an older desktop system might please someone on your list with an older system. Wide screen monitors are the norm now days, and the bigger the better, I say. You can find an Acer 21.5” monitor for $99 and a 27” HD monitor for $170. Be sure the type of video input connection required for the computer will match with the monitor, such as DVI-D, HDMI or VGA.

We’ve only scratched the surface of the many tech devices available for Christmas. Whatever device you choose, be sure to research it thoroughly. Read reviews and shop around for the best price before purchasing. Selecting the right gift for the right person will make a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.