10 Holiday Gifts for Tech Lovers
You don’t have to be a geek to covet the year’s top gadgets, but membership in the tech-savvy club never hurts. This holiday season, technology once again tops gift-givers’ and receivers’ must-have lists, and for good reason. Here’s our guide to the best of the best.
Apple iPad Mini with Retina Display
If tablets are the hottest tech gift category this year, then Apple's newest and smallest iPad is the hottest of the hot. First introduced last year, the just-updated mini inherits the high-resolution (known as "retina", in Apple-speak) screen from its bigger brother, the iPad Air. It also inherits a higher price: $419 to start. Fortunately Apple still sells the first-generation mini for $299 if you're okay with an older screen and slightly slower performance. Google's Nexus 7, which starts at $239, is an even better bargain for folks who prefer Android, but still want something that will go the distance.
$419 at Apple
Smartphones and tablets can store and stream every song known to humankind, but when you want to share the experience - or have a party - your cheap earbuds aren't going to cut it. Blueteooth-enabled speakers that wirelessly connect to your device are quickly becoming commonplace as sound quality goes up and prices come down. The $180 Jawbone Jambox is the granddaddy of them all, with enough power to fill a room. Setup is a snap, and if the original doesn't do it for you, take a look at the $180 Mini Jambox and $300 Big Jambox models.
$150 at jawbone.com
Got a dumb TV? This should smarten it up. Until now, if you wanted to watch Netflix, YouTube or other streaming Internet services on your TV, you were stuck buying a so-called smart TV. This was often expensive, hard to set up, and didn't always play nice with your other devices. Enter Google's Chromecast, a $35 dongle that plugs into your TV and wirelessly streams your favourite online movies and shows. As good as it is today, it's going to get even better: Google and its partners will continue to update the software to connect to even more online services.
$35 at google.ca
Everyone's talking about wearable devices like smartwatches and glasses, but only Pebble sells something most regular folks can afford. Its $150 smartwatch syncs wirelessly with your iPhone or Android device, and it lets you see who's calling, emailing and tweeting you while your phone stays in your pocket. With software developers creating hundreds of new apps for it - including ones that record your workout, control your tunes and keep track of your favourite team - and a battery that lasts up to a week, it's beating the industry giants at their own game. Even better, it was invented in Canada.
$150 at pebble.com
Sony Playstation 4
Game consoles are hot again thanks to brand-new, next-generation offerings from Sony and Microsoft. Sony's Playstation 4 beat Microsoft's Xbox One to market by a week, which could make it easier to find on store shelves this holiday season. While choosing a game console it always somewhat subjective, Sony's PS4 gets the gift-giving nod for a lower starting price - $399, compared to the Xbox One's $499 - slightly higher-quality graphics, and a more advanced controller.
$399 at Future Shop
Nest Learning Thermostat
While a thermostat may seem like an odd choice for a holiday gift, the Nest Learning Thermostat isn't just any thermostat. It was designed by one of the same engineers who designed the original iPod, so it's easy for even the biggest technophobe to install and use. You can program it from your smartphone or tablet, but its neatest party trick is its ability to learn from your habits to save you energy while keeping you comfortable. The device can also control humidifiers, and regular software updates, delivered automatically via the Internet, which only adds to its wizard-like abilities.
$249 at Best Buy
Apple iTunes or Google Play Gift Card
Years ago, my mother taught me an important lesson that's as valid today as it was then: When in doubt, get a gift card. With Apple and Google together controlling most of the smartphone and tablet market, it's hard to go wrong with an iTunes App Store or Google Play gift card for your iPhone, iPad or Android-device-toting friends and family members. Pick your card, pick your amount, and send it. You can even buy and send them online. What your recipients download - tunes, movies, TV shows or apps - is entirely up to them.
Want to get in shape but just can't be motivated off the couch? The Fitbit Force could be the gadget to help you keep your new year's resolutions. This strap with a built-in display looks deceptively like a regular, if somewhat geeky, watch. But it's loaded with high-tech sensors that track your activities through the day, including number of steps, calories consumed, even your sleep patterns. After syncing wirelessly to your smartphone, it'll generate all sorts of detailed reports that let you track - and share - your progress.
$130 at Best Buy
Mophie Juice Pack Powerstation
Technology rules the universe - until your battery dies and you're nowhere near a wall outlet. Portable chargers keep the good times going no matter where you are. Charge the Mophie Juice Pack Powerstation at home, then toss it in your bag before you head out. When your phone, tablet or any other USB-capable device runs low, plug it in and keep working or playing. Mophie and other companies offer a growing range of devices, from small and cheap to large, high-capacity ones that can easily recharge your entire mobile office.
$79.99 at Best Buy
Afinia H479 3D Printer
Imagine a printer that can print in three dimensions. Now stop imagining: They're here, and they're finally somewhat affordable. Well, if you bust the gift-giving budget a bit. The Afinia H479 3D printer melts layer after layer of plastic to build actual things you can use. You can even go online to download files to make even cooler stuff, like that replacement knob for the toaster you broke last year. If the Afinia is still too pricey, Saskatchewan-based Peachy Printer plans to start selling its $100 unit next summer. Better update your 2014 wish list, then.
$1600 at Staples