2019 Holiday Gadget Guide

From my perspective, the end of 2019 is a good time to re-examine technology categories that have quietly improved over the last few years. I've got four suggestions for investigation of potential upgrades in this holiday season.

Consider a new multi-function printer. I know, a new printer; does John know what decade it is? The key here is the multi-function part of the description. The printer designation is now a Trojan horse for something that is actually the hardware portion of a document management system—we use the printing features of our multi-function far less than the scanning and copying features. I'm partial to Epson's Expression series; we've had an XP-950 for a couple of years. A comparable current model would be the Expression XP-840.

This may be the year to purchase some noise-canceling headphones. The best of these devices have gotten so good. Whether it's Bose's QuietComfort 35 Series II headphones (the long-time market leader), Sony's WH-1000XM3 headphones (the stunning upstart and a current favorite of mine—review coming soon), or Apple's AirPods Pro earphones (the miniaturization leader), these are computers that you wear near your ears.

Consider transitioning to a mesh network for the home. Mesh kits work to minimize some of the many underlying issues with the various WiFi protocols and are especially effective in older or larger homes. I like Netgear's Orbi, but Linksys' Velop, Euro, Plume, and perhaps Google also seem worth considering.

Finally, is it time to replace that elderly iPad? My rule of thumb is that there are three reasons to replace an iPad: a) it's broken, b) there are applications you use that don't run well on it, c) you can no longer update it to the latest iOS version. Apple, of course, would like you to replace one every two years. When folks do get a new iPad, they tend to be very happy with it. The good news is that there isn't a poor iPad choice right now. Just remember to budget for an Apple Pencil while you are shopping—pens, pencils, and styluses have improved vastly in the last decade.

John Mulhern III, posted 11/24/2019