Tis the season to consider tech gifts for Santa to drop down the chimney, or fill your stockings. This list of 12 holiday picks range from tools to keep your phone charged, hydroponic gardens, to making a cup of coffee on the trail. Read our full review for some recommendations that won’t be lumps of coal!
1) AeroGarden Elite Harvest LED. This sleek 6 pod hydroponic garden is available only from Bed Bath, & Beyond, and uses over 100 high-performance 20-watt, full-spectrum LED grow lights LED's for a light source that uses less electricity, doesn’t require replacement, and eliminates the need to replace the florescent bulbs of their older units. This is perfect for your dorm room, office, or home. We recommended the accessory AeroVoir AeroGarden Reservoir so you can take a week off and not worry about water levels in your garden.
For more information about AeroGarden visit: http://www.aerogarden.com
2) One of our favorite products from the Digital Experience press event was something that doesn’t require electricity. It does require hot water and coffee beans though. The Cafflano Klassic Coffee Maker combines a high-tech coffee grinder, an integrated drip screen, a carry and drinking cup into one easy to carry unit. Grinding the coffee should take roughly 3 minutes with a bit of elbow grease, and then you pour hot water into the unit, and voila, freshly ground and brewed coffee. Looking a bit like a large Thermos, this should please even the most high-maintenance coffee foodie in your life. It does take a bit of experimentation to get the grind right, but it’s perfect for a camping trip, a huge improvement over freeze-dried offerings.
For more information on the Cafflano Klassic visit: www.mycafflano.com
3) USB chargers tend to look the same, ports, a plug, and different features like varying current loads for faster charging. The Thumbs Up UK PowerTap USB Charger is designed to look like a faucet, complete with a little On/Off knob, for power or no power to charge your device. Yes, it’s silly, but it’s fun. Two little areas for improvement are that it can only charge a single device, and it covers both plugs on an electric socket. Were hoping they will increase the output to 2 amps, add a second USB port, and redesign the base so it’s smaller and will only cover one socket. Still, it’s the most fun we’ve seen in a USB charger in a while!
For more information on the Thumbs Up UK PowerTap USB Charger visit: www.amazon.com
4) Fish have spent millennia being able to hide from predators, especially humans, but over the years technology has closed the gap, starting with the first fish finders. In the past, fish finders were complicated, expensive, and not always reliable at sea. Jump ahead to the smart phone generation. The iBobber Bluetooth Smart Fish Finder is small baseball sized USB powered fish finder that communicates via Bluetooth to your phone. We didn’t get a chance to test it as temperatures have been dropping on the East Coast, but the feature set is impressive, it can work on a summer day, or ice fishing, and it easily charges by connecting to a USB charger. The app works on either iOS or Android, so just about any phone or tablet is compatible. The iBobber is a perfect gift for the fishing enthusiast.
For more information on the iBobber visit: www.reelsonar.com
5) We are fans of stand alone GPS units, and welcomed the opportunity to test two new units from Magellan. The Magellan RoadMate 5322-LM is a fully featured GPS unit, with a bright 5-inch screen, 3D buildings, Free Lifetime Map updates, and Traffic Camera Alerts. Best of all, it’s the most responsive Magellan unit we have used, quick, no lag on the touch screen. Another new product is the MiVue DashCam 658. In countries like Russia, dashcams are in use as incontrovertible proof in case of an insurance claim. The new MiVue DashCam 658 is tiny, and videos are sharp with 1080p HD video capture. It sports several unique features including an impact mode that records and locks video if it detects a collision; it also works in a parking mode. So, while you might not be in Russia, a dashcam can also be used as a great way to record a road trip, take a still photo, record your location with the built in GPS, and it can upload video to your smartphone and share via YouTube & Facebook. And of course it’s useful to have in the case of an accident. We are still testing the MiVue and finding out new uses for it!
For more information on Magellan GPS and Dashcam units visit: http://www.magellangps.com/
6) No matter how good your smartphone’s battery saver technology is, there comes a time when either you need an electrical outlet with a charger, or a portable battery pack. A new entry into the field is a line of products from Cheero. We tested their Power Plus 3 unit, which utilizes Panasonic batteries made in Japan, in a beautifully finished Chinese made white metal case. The Cheero 13400mAh In-built Panasonic Lithium ion Battery External Power Bank for iPhone 6 Plus, 6,5, iPad 4, Air, Mini, Mini 2, iPod Touch and Android Phones - White Battery Pack, will charge your phone or tablet quickly and efficiently. It doesn’t ship with a charger, so you will need one to charge the unit. Perfect for the power user in your life.
For more information on the Cheero Power Plus 3 battery visit: www.amazon.com
7) One of the most venerable names in computer accessories is Kensington, long known for their outstanding product line, and solid customer service. The new Kensington 10,400 mAh USB Mobile Charger features a 2.1Amp USB port to quickly charge just about any device, and utilizes a high-grade LG® battery cell with high-quality components to ensure that your device charges safely and efficiently. It also has PowerWhiz™ Technology, so the charger can automatically detect your device and provide the fastest charge possible. It also has a lovely silver aluminum cover for a stylish look and LED's to alert you to the charge status. Like other Kensington products, this is a solid, reliable choice for an external battery. You can’t go wrong with Kensington!
For more information on the Kensington 10400 USB Mobile Charger visit: www.kensington.com
8) A new name in Mac accessories is Uppercase. Their product line includes Palm Rest Protectors, the KRADL Air Vertical Stand for MacBook Air; a line of ultrathin keyboard protectors made with Made with Thermalplastic Polyurethene (not silicone), leather and hard-shell cases for Apple laptops, and finally tempered glass screen protectors for iPhones. All the products we tested were well made, elegant, and a great buy. If you want to protect your Apple gear, then we recommend checking out Uppercase, who is totally devoted to accessories for Apple products.
For more information on Uppercase accessories visit: www.gouppercase.com
9) Despite our name, we have always been interested in non-Apple products, and in fact next year will bring a change from Mac Edition Radio to Tech Edition Radio to better reflect upon our mission. As much as we love Apple iPads, even the least expensive ones are still expensive, and with the onslaught of powerful, inexpensive Chromebooks, Android laptops and tablets, and Windows based tablets, you can buy quite a bit of power and features for much less than you might expect. The nextbook Flexx10 is very affordable, powerful, and packs a lot of punch for the money. We tested the Flexx10, which has a 10.1-inch high-resolution IPS screen, an Intel BayTrail-T CR Quad-Core 1.8Ghz, processor, and 32GBs of memory, expandable to 64GB with the Micro SD card slot. It also has an attached removable keyboard, so it can switch between its life as a tablet or laptop in seconds. It has a front-facing and back-facing cameras, both are 2.0MP, so it’s ok for Skype, but not much beyond that. Our unit came with Windows 8 installed, and a free one-year subscription to Microsoft Office. There is one tip we can pass on which is to make sure that you activate the Microsoft Office 365 subscription before you upgrade to Windows 10. If you upgrade to Windows 10 first, as the computer urges you to do, you can’t take advantage of the free subscription. It took quite a bit of time to install the software, then update to Windows 10, and then install every software update in the Microsoft playbook, but once it was completed, the unit proved eminently useful. We wouldn’t recommend the Flexx10 for power hungry tasks, but for web surfing, writing, spreadsheets, cloud connectivity, and more it was great. And, keep in mind that you could almost purchase 3 Flexx10’s for the price of an iPad Air 2 and keyboard. And the Flexx10 can do something that no iPad can do, namely open up more then one MS Word document at the same time so you can copy, paste, and work between documents, something that Apple still can’t manage! If you are in the market for an affordable Windows 10 tablet and keyboard combination, the nextbook Flexx10 is worthy of consideration.
For more information on the nextbook Flexx10 tablet visit: www.nextbookusa.com
10) The Roost Smoke Alarm Battery. Last year during the Consumer Electronics Show 2015, at a small table during the CES Unveiled event, was one of the inventors of a new smoke alarm battery. Ok, so if you wondering why the world needs a new smoke alarm battery, it’s a good question. If you have struggled in vain to figure out which of your smoke detectors is chirping late at night, and if you have, like us, tried each smoke alarm only to find it’s another alarm with a low battery, then the Roost is for you! On a personal level, I was thrilled to see this product go from working prototype to shipping finished product, a testament to the founder’s vision and perseverance. The battery is a standard 9-volt battery form factor, but it has two distinguishing features. The first is a 5-year lithium cell, and the second is a detachable base with a Wi-Fi enabled transmitter. Using a free app, the battery allows your smoke alarm to be a smart smoke alarm, with notifications for low battery charge, if your alarm is triggered, and can even silence your alarm should you leave your pop-tarts in the toaster too long. At $30 the Roost isn’t cheap, and we suspect that most homes like ours will require at least 3 batteries, but as they produce more batteries expect the price to drop. The Roost is a very cool solution to a not so cool problem; smoke alarm batteries that chirp into the night.
For more information on the Roost visit: http://www.getroost.com
11) Keeping an eye on your home while you are away has become an industry unto itself. Most of the systems have one thing in common, video and audio capture streamed via your wireless network to the cloud. The newly released Canary is small and stylish, combines the requisite video and audio capture, but adds an alarm siren, air quality, temperature, and humidity to your smartphone notifications. Once you purchase the unit, you get 12 hours of saved video history, and five saved videos. For more money, you can purchase a variety of plans offering between 2 to 30 day coverage at rates commensurate with other systems. We are still getting used to working with the Canary, but so far it has proven to have high-quality wide-angle HD video capture, setup went off without a hitch, and we have been able to login to it with our Android phones. If you are searching for a home-security system, we think having a Canary on your side is a great idea.
For more information on the Canary visit: https://canary.is/
12) One of the threats to athletes working out or running is posed by their earbuds, which are great at drowning out the outside world, but being cutoff has its drawbacks. The most innovative solution we’ve seen is from AfterShokz, whose BlueZ2S headphones use bone conduction to provide music through one’s cheekbones, leaving the ear canal open. You won’t confuse the audio quality with a pair of audiophile grade earphones or headphones, but they aren’t ideal for a hard sweaty workout without a problem. With Bluetooth connectivity, these are a stylish and almost indestructible option for the athlete in your life that doesn’t block the outside world.
For more information on the AfterShokz BlueZ2S Bone Conduction headphones visit: http://aftershokz.com
Happy Holidays from all of us here at Mac Edition Radio!
Harris Fogel, Nancy Burlan, and Frank Schramm, posted 12/14/2015