‘Tis the season to spread my annual love so turn up the radio, flip on the TV to find me talking about and showing my picks for the best gifts of the holiday season. There have been better years with cooler gadgets and toys to choose from. Between the slow economy and every company already releasing its own tablet I still found some stuff that will light up your menorah or stuck up underneath your tree.
- Samsung Galaxy SIII. I’m an Android fan and this device hits on all cylinders. The screen is big enough to read emails and texts, view websites, and watch videos. The cameras are powerful and produce hi-res photos and videos with less blur and shakiness as the device is easy to hold. I haven’t found the battery life to be worse than other smartphones (how’s that for a back-handed compliment to battery manufacturers?). True to the genius TV commercials, this phone had almost everything on it – and more – before the iPhone 5 was release.
- HTC Windows Phone 8X. Don’t laugh at this choice because I didn’t find this new phone and OS funny; just very useful and engaging. In what seems like Microsoft’s umpteenth time to launch a smartphone they finally hit the nail on the head. This device is very sleek and I like the four color options it comes in. The new Windows Mobile 8 OS takes a little getting used to but – also thanks to TV commercials – we are used to seeing the dynamic tiles that are displayed on the home screen. You can place your most-used apps here and instantly be aware of new emails, calendar appointments and all of your social media updates. The Windows Store is quickly adding apps by the day.
- iPhone 5. Take a breath Apple fan boys. Yes, one of my only Apple recommendations this year. Quite simply because I like the new form factor and (finally) upgraded design of the ubiquitous iPhone. iTunes is still the king for apps and it is very simple to use. If you want to pay more than the phones I recommended above, have a bit smaller screen or just want to be in the “in crowd,” get this one. But I give this my Heinz Award of the year…it simply played “ketchup” to other Android phones already on the market.
- Samsung Galaxy Tab 2. If you sense a theme here then you know where I stand on Android devices and even Samsung. The upgraded Galaxy tablets have incredible displays and are thinner than its previous models. Available in either a 7” or 10” version the Tab 2 is simple to use and I am impressed with the battery life.
- Google Nexus 7. Google decided to brand its own mobile devices using different manufacturers. When I put the 7” tablet (made by Asus) vertically in my hand it fit perfectly while giving me a large, clear display of websites and on-screen text. It was very speedy and also delivered a similar experience of the Android OS, which as we know is Google’s. The Nexus 10 is made by Samsung and should be considered along with the Galaxy Tab 2 if this is the size you are looking for.
- Amazon Kindle Fire HD. Sorry Apple fan boys, I warned you..no iPad on my list. Amazon is now en fuego (actually on “fire”) with this new version of its tablet disguised mostly as an eReader. Take a long look at this one if you mainly read books or watch movies as the Amazon online store has over 22 million download choices. Battery life is excellent.
I don’t know how many times I can put the Slingbox on my annual list but here it is again. This time with an all new upgrade featuring a new form factor and – finally – an HDMI port. I’ll state this again, if you watch or record a lot of TV then this is the one gadget you may not be able to live without.
Connect the device to your cable or satellite box and a high-speed Internet connection. I use my cable box and TV in my home office so as not to disturb the viewing habits of my family on our main TV. Log on to the Slingbox website from anywhere in the world or launch the mobile app on your phone or tablet. Boom. You are now watching your home TV and can control all of its functions including the DVR.
There are no monthly subscriptions and the ability to catch up on your recorded shows from anywhere gives you a few hours back in your life when you get home.
Home security continues to grow and get more expensive. Cameras used to be cumbersome to install as they needed to be wired to the Internet but Dropcam is the simplest solution. It connects to your WiFi network so the only connection it needs is a standard electricity outlet.
The device is very small and can be placed almost anywhere including baby nurseries, front and back doors, outdoors and garages. The camera can be accessed via the Dropcam website or a mobile app.
The color picture and sound quality are great and you can talk through the camera to let those in the camera’s vicinity know you are watching them.
Many celebrities now boast their own line of headphones and the good ones tend to set you back more than $100. SOL Republic is changing that with a line of headphones that deliver very good sound and durability for a more affordable price.
SOL stands for “soundtrack of life” and its line consists of two styles of Amps in-ear headphones and two styles of Tracks on-ear headphones. The Tracks’ headband has a proprietary new polymer called FlexTech, which the company says makes the headphones virtually indestructible.