Holiday shopping season is off to the races, and retailers from Amazon to Target shared their best Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other holiday deals designed to lure us in. If you are shopping for a special someone who loves the latest high-tech goodies, follow along with our holiday tech gift guide for 2017.
iPhone X and Pixel 2
Apple and Google both have new flagship phones available this holiday season. Apple is making a big marketing effort for the iPhone X, while Google recently released an update to its Pixel line of smartphones.
The iPhone X offers even more screen with the death of the iconic button on iPhones. The new phone comes with a 5.8-inch Super Retina screen, rounded screen and phone corners, water resistance, and a new Face ID facial recognition to unlock your phone and authorize payments. The phone is not cheap, with a $999 starting price tag. You can pay over time starting at $49.91 per month for 24 months with the iPhone upgrade program, which is financed through Citizens Bank and requires a credit check.
As an Android fan still clinging to my two-year-old Nexus 6P, I have to admit I almost bought myself a new Pixel 2 when it was released. This powerful phone has arguably the best camera in the history of smartphones and starts at $649 or $27.04 per month for 24 months, which makes it much cheaper than the iPhone X. The Pixel 2 has expectedly great integration with Google products including the Google Assistant and the Google search app. It has impressive sound and display. The larger 6” Pixel 2 XL starts at $849, putting it closer to the iPhone price tag but still notably cheaper.
Google Home and Amazon Echo
Smart home speakers are more than a passing fad, and the Google Home and Amazon Echo families are the leaders. Having owned both myself, I am a fan of Google’s take on the home speaker, as I find the assistant to be more intuitive and helpful to use. With Amazon’s Echo, you have to tell Alexa to activate certain features before use, while you can ask Google more natural language questions and get a real answer.
If you are into Amazon, the new Amazon Echo is improved in a handful of ways over last year’s model. The new Echo starts at $99.99 for the fabric covered version, though you can pay $20 more for a wood or silver finish. For a limited time, you can save $50 on 3 with the code ECHO3PACK at checkout.
The Echo Plus is new this year and runs $149.99, and looks more like the original Echo. The Echo Dot is a popular starter version at only $49.99. For video, you can pick up the Echo Show for $229.99 or the new Echo Spot for $129.99. All are available from Amazon, many Whole Foods locations, some Kohl’s stores, and other select retailers.
I have a Google Home in my kitchen, and just today opened my new Google Home Mini for the bedroom. Google Home and Amazon Echo do more or less the same thing, and my preference is solely based on the user-friendly Google Assistant. Google Home sells for $129 and the new Home Mini is $49 — I paid half of that for my Home Mini with a deal from Google Express. The powerful new Google Home Max runs $399 and comes with much more powerful speakers. Available from the Google Store or select retailers.
I’ve spent time with the Roku, Roku 2, Fire Stick, and Chromecast, and the winner in my book is the Chromecast hands down. While Roku and Fire products give you a remote, Chromecast offers a virtually unlimited set of video partners thanks to the flexible casting options.
I never lose my remote because my phone is my remote, or I could cast video or any webpage from a built in feature in the world’s most popular browser, Chrome. Whether I want to watch Nextflix, YouTube, Plex, Sling TV, Crackle, HBO Go, Showtime, Amazon Video, or anything else, I can do it with my Chromecast. Chromecast is the only working way to watch TV anywhere in my home, and I have three of them.
Chromecast is just $35 and turns any TV into a smart TV. For the highest quality streaming, Chromecast Ultra runs $69. You can also turn speakers into casting devices with the $35 Chromecast Audio. Chromecast is available at select retailers and the Google Store.
If you also have Google Home, you can turn on your TV and start, stop, and pause shows with your voice. I watched the last 2016 Presidential debate saying “Okay Google, play the NBC Presidential Debate on living room TV on YouTube.” The TV, which was turned off, turned itself on and started streaming the show. It felt like something from Star Trek. But no, it was real life.
Nintendo Super NES Classic
I still have my old Super Nintendo in a drawer, but those looking for nostalgia for 1990s console gaming have a new treat coming this year with the Super Nintendo Entertainment System Classic.
The SNES Classic looks just like the original, except shrunken sized. It comes with 21 games including Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country, The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Kart, and previously unreleased Star Fox 2. One of these is sure to make your favorite 80s or 90s kid happy. Learn more at Nintendo.
Last year, BB-8 was all the rage for Star Wars fans looking to have their very own droid. This year, Sphero is back with the brand new R2-D2 remote controlled droid. It looks just like the real thing, and you can control it from an app in your phone.
Now your favorite child, or adult child, can take on the empire with the assistance of the world’s favorite R2 unit. If it’s good enough for Luke Skywalker, it’s good enough for me. Available from Amazon and other major retailers.
Amazon Basics Nano Bluetooth Speaker
If you’re looking for the perfect gift for a podcast addict in your life, my favorite is the Amazon Basics Nano Bluetooth Speaker, which costs just $14.99. Available in black, blue, or yellow, this little Bluetooth speaker comes with a lot of power for the price, plus it’s water resistant.
It has a plastic hanging attachment built it that is perfect for the shower (you really can listen to podcasts anywhere!), a bag or backpack, a fence near the pool, or anywhere else you want music or podcasts. It is water resistant, so shower podcasting is highly encouraged. Available at Amazon.
For the adventurer in the family, GoPro is the gold standard in portable video. The new HERO6 offers twice the performance of the HERO5. It supports recording in 4k60 and 1080p240 resolutions, which is as good as any TV or computer displays can handle today. It comes with improved stabilization for smooth footage and is waterproof to 10 meters (33 feet) without any housing.
Of course, all of this video power doesn’t come cheap. The base cost for a HERO6 is $499, and bundles and SD cards just drive the price up higher. But if it is in your budget, any tech enthusiast would be thrilled to find it under the tree, menorah, or wherever you deliver holiday presents. Available at Amazon and most major retailers.
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