Thanks to the Christmas Clock I can tell you there are only 34 shopping days until Christmas. Eek! You’d best get onto the gift shopping then. But where to start? Well you could do worse than check out my Christmas Gadget Gift Guide for 2013.
Everybody loves music and there are plenty of cool music gadgets out there to help you enjoy your favourite sounds. The UE Boom from Logitech has to be one of the must-have gadgets for the summer. Not only does it sound great, it’s portable, rechargeable, waterproof and you can pair two together to increase the acoustics. This device will easily last for the best part of a day on one charge from a micro USB cable. It is priced at $299 but shop around and you’ll get it for less than that. Staying with bluetooth sound, the Wowee One Pro is a neat device that pairs with Bluetooth compatible devices, providing you with a portable and fixed audio connection. This little device can transform into a hands-free speakerphone for in car calls. The audible caller ID function lets you know who’s on the line while your listening to your music. Another recognisable name in audio Sony also has a great range of sound products. My pick for personal audio is The 4GB waterproof MP3 Walkman. It weighs little more than a standard set of earbuds yet can store thousands of songs and it’s waterproof, meaning you can complete many laps in the pool while listening to your favourite beats. It’s also a steal at just $99.95.
Speaking of Sony, the Tablet Xperia Z got great reviews this year and if you already have a relatively recent Sony TV this device will interact with it seamlessly. There are a lot of tablets to choose from this year. Of course Apple have released two new models just in time for Christmas, the iPad Air and the latest iPad Mini. Also just released are the new Microsoft Surface tablets (the Surface 2 and the new Surface Pro). What I really like about the Surface 2 is that it comes pre-installed with working versions of Microsoft Office. As long as you get a touch cover to go with it you’ll find this a very productive tablet (great for students or business people traveling between meetings). This week LG announced it’s re-entry into the tablet market with the LG G Pad 8.3 tablet, the latest addition to its G Series lineup of premium mobile devices. The new LG G Pad 8.3 has the first Full HD display on an 8-inch class tablet and wide range of connectivity features for a price of $599. Throughout the year I’ve been using the budget HP Slate 7 as a travel companion and at $229 it’s a relatively safe buy for younger members of the family.
The smartphone market has begun to mature and manufacturers now seem to push the software features as much as the hardware. You’ll need to decide for yourself what size screen you want etc. but here are a few recommendations. The new iPhones are out. The pricey iPhone 5S is a super-smart piece of machinery and I liked the Touch ID sensor more than I thought I would. Still I would have preferred NFC to fingerprint recognition as a feature. The colourful 5C variety promises two hours more battery life and if you like to customise your phone with colourful cases, this is the phone for you. The most recent Android phone I’ve got my hands on is the LG G2. With a big 5.2 inch HD screen, a 13mp camera and a 3,000 mhz battery and snappy processor, this phone is powerful. Like the Samsung Galaxy range it has great specs and like the Apple range it comes in a sealed body (so no adding SD cards or swapping batteries with this one). Talking about Samsung, if you’re a leading edge tech geek then you’re probably looking to add a smart watch, namely the Galaxy Gear, to your personal gadget arsenal. When it came out you could only use it with the Note 3 phablet, but Samsung has since started adding support for the S4, the S3 and the Galaxy Note 2. Handy if you like taking calls and snapping pics from your wrist. The best waterproof phone I tested this year was the Xperia Z1. How it manages to have an open headphone jack and yet stay waterproof I don’t know, but it does. Plus, it has an incredible camera with a range of software features that you’d expect from a standalone video camera. All of these phones have a price tag around $1,000. For something a wee bit cheaper, yet apparently able to give you super powers, you might want to check out Huawei’s Ascend P2. It is only 8.4mm, making it super slim with an infinity edge and a 4.7-inch HD touch display at a reasonable price point of $599.
Health and Fitness:
While the point of this column is to talk about Christmas gifts, we all know that New Years rolls along very quickly after Yuletide, bringing with it the annual resolution list. If you’ve eaten more than your weight in turkey and pudding, losing weight might be one of these resolutions. The TomTom multi sport watch can probably help. Not only does it track your runs and bike rides with GPS, it can record swimming distances too (thankfully it is fully waterproof). There’s only one thing more fun than exercising, and that’s sharing tour exercise stories with everybody afterwards. Also getting into the smart sport watch market is Adidas. The superior $600 miCoach SMART RUN packs a host of smarts into one wrist watch. You can use it to track runs using the GPS mapping, set a personalised training schedules and monitor your heart rate while listening to your favourite music beamed wirelessly to compatible headphones – snazzy eh? While GoPro is fast becoming the generic term for sports video recording, Sony does a nice job too with its Action Cam. If you want to be able to show those you’ve left in your wake there’s the ATC Chameleon cam which has a front and rear mounted lens. Those two viewing angles should amount to double the drama on the replay.
For the kids:
I reviewed last years LeapPad 2 kids educational tablet and know a certain little someone who LOVES it a lot. This year you can buy the LeapPad Ultra which has wi-fi, a rechargeable battery and a larger screen. This may make it more appealing to kids who have outgrown the LeapPad 2 but aren’t quite ready to use an iPad (with all of that relatively unfettered access to the internet and premium apps available etc). Half way between the LeapPad and the iPad though is the SmarTab which is designed to keep kids entertained and educated. The SmarTab Junior Tablet is designed specifically for children aged four and up and provides straight out of the box entertainment that they can start using immediately. Just power it on and they can start reading Spiderman comics, playing Sugar Rush or learning their ABC’s straight away. The $249 tablet is pre-loaded with over 50 books, educational apps and popular Disney and Marvel games, including Wreck-it-Ralph, Spiderman and Mickey Mouse. If you do let your kids use an iPad I highly recommend the new Crayola range of iPad Digitool apps and accessories. Each kit has some some really cool handheld tools which you use with an ipad app to create designs and images that can be saved in an image gallery to email off to friends or print off at home. The different packs include a 3D tool kit to create eye-popping stand out designs, airbrush tools for spray art designs, glitter and metallic pens. Please note the iPad itself is not included! Hitting the shelves with its third generation is the popular console game Skylanders Swap Force. If the kids in your household have played previous instalments “Spyros Adventures” and “Giants” you’ll be familiar with the setup. Collectable characters can be inserted into the game through a “portal of power” but this time you can swap bits of characters to add new powers. Sounds like fun!
For the home:
For some reason, this year I got to test a lot of gadgets for the home. My wife certainly appreciated all of the vacuuming and food preparation I carried out for my segment on Breakfast. So if you do feel brave enough to buy anybody a household product as a Christmas gift, these are the ones that carry the Gadget Guy seal of approval. The $2,3000 Kenwood cooking chef is a top notch food mixer with a conduction heating plate, allowing you to mix and cook at the same time. After a little accident at home (full cup of coffee meets light coloured carpet) I can tell you I have hands on experience with Bissell’s the Little Green.This waterproof vac acts like an emergency carpet cleaning unit for when accidents happen and your carpet needs quick action. I’m guessing a lot of these spills happen around the festive season. The vac has two chambers, one with carpet cleaner or treating the spill and one to capture all the moisture the unit vacuums up before stains set in. If you love tasty food but hate fat, the Philips AirFryer might be the gadget for you. Philips has created a new fast and healthier way of cooking. Powered by the unique Rapid Air Technology, the Airfryer can bake, grill, roast and fry with little or no oil – yummy fries can be cooked in 12 minutes with up to 80% less fat according to Philips.
For the gaming geek:
There are plenty of options what with the launch of the latest generation of consoles from Sony and Microsoft. One accessory that piqued my interest was the Plantronics gaming rig. The gamer in my household likes to keep in touch with his mates via Skype while playing GTA V and this phone-jack/gaming headset lets you take calls and keep playing.
It might be worth talking about an unusual solution – the Kaiser Baas R1 car camera. 2013 seemed to be the year of in car camera footage thanks to the amazing captured footage of events like the Russian meteorite crash in February and footage of a 747 falling from the sky near Bagram. Whether it’s an accident, incident or a fun road trip, the R1 Car Camera is designed to record everything that happens while you drive. I reviewed a number of great cameras this year. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 is a premium interchangeable lens DSLR camera, built for people who have high standards when it comes to imaging. Its retro good looks and tiltable viewfinder are obvious style cues on the outside while the range of simple menu and software options give you infinite control over your output. For fans of Digital SLR, Canon has a new intermediate level system to choose from. The Canon EOS 700D has an interchangeable lens and incredible smarts, for example continuous auto focus when recording video and an LCD screen with touch screen controls. It’s easy to use and produces vastly superior shots when compared to a smartphone (even if the “selfie” has been crowned the word of the year).
In summary, don’t forget, Christmas is not all about buying the latest and greatest gadget. Spend time with the ones you love first, then, when you’re tired of that, you can retreat to a corner to play with your shiny new toys! Merry Christmas everybody.