by Lori Salley Ring, Focus Data Solutions
OK, you've recovered from turkey, family, and travel -- now it's time to shop! If you are not among the 20 percent who finished their holiday shopping in November (wow), don't despair. You are in good company and, as always, Focus Data Solutions is here to help. FDS staff put together our wish list to give you some great ideas, even for the "one-who-has-everything" on your list.
Gifts of Technology (for those who want the latest and greatest gadget)
Stick PCs: A top pick; we are impressed with this new technology that allows you to turn a television into a computer by inserting a “stick” (think of something like a USB thumb drive) into your TV. Add a wireless keyboard and mouse, and voilà. Intel introduced the Compute Stick earlier this year and others have followed with similar products (Lenovo, Asus). While this new technology is sure to improve with time, it’s pretty cool right now. Price: less than $150.
Apple iPad Pro: Several of us have the iPad Pro on our list this year. With a larger screen and double the CPU performance of the iPad Air 2, among other refinements, this is sure to be a popular item. Price: $800+. Keyboard and stylus are sold separately.
Apple TV: Winter is the perfect time to curl up and binge watch your favorite shows. Apple TV allows you to use apps (e.g., Netflix, HBO NOW, Hulu, iTunes, etc.) to pick what you want to watch or play on your TV. Basically, you can personalize your TV like you do your phone or tablet. The newest version comes with a Siri remote, so you can ask her to find shows and launch apps for you. Price: $150-$200.
4K (Ultra HD) Television: Prices have come down and early naysayers are now recommending 4K TVs as the superior choice over 1080p TVs. Vizio offers a 43-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV for under $550.
Games and Toys (because everyone at every age needs a toy)
Fallout 4: For the gamers among us, we’re excited about the newest version of Fallout that was released on November 10th (compatible with Xbox, PlayStation, and PC). In this “open-world” game, you enter a world destroyed by nuclear war where you fight to survive and rebuild the wasteland. Price: $60
Minecraft Story Mode: Another popular choice for gamers, this Minecraft game is “like a playable television show based on your favorite game, where YOU are the star, and your choices and actions decide how the story is told.” The first episode was released in October with subsequent episodes planned for release every month or two (compatible with PC, PlayStation, Wii U, Xbox, Android and iOS). Price: $30.
Lego Dimensions: A sort of toy and game combo for Lego fans. This video game (compatible with PlayStation, Wii U, and Xbox) incorporates real Lego bricks, gadgets, vehicles and mini-figures via a toy pad in a virtual game that takes you on journeys to different worlds where you team up with allies and use gadgets to defeat the evil Lord Vortech. Starter pack price: $85.
Star Wars Drones: We could have added a separate category for Star Wars given all the hype (which we support) and associated products being released around the premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on December 18th. (By the way, we think tickets to the movie would make a great present). For enthusiasts, an X-Wing or Millennium Falcon remote-controlled drone may be a winner. Price: $50-$300.
Sphero BB-8 – Here's another Star Wars toy on our list (yes, there are a few fans among us). It’s like giving the gift of friendship, or at least companionship. This is an app-enabled Droid that is programmable and controlled by your smart phone or voice. You can watch him explore, as well as record and view virtual holographic videos with BB-8. As he gets to know you, he'll adapt to your personality (we all need friends like that). Take him with you anywhere! Price: $150.
Nerf Rival Zeus – In the realm of innovation, Nerf completely redesigned how you fire and load their Nerf guns. No more darts and pumping. The result is something between dart guns and paintball. (It shoots little foam balls at upwards of 70 MPH!) Per our staff, "easily the best Nerf gun ever." Price: $50.
Anki Overdrive – We love this classic toy ramped up with technology. Honestly, who can resist playing with a race car track? This one features smart phone-controlled slot cars with a track you can design, digital weapons, and even built in AI so you can race when you're solo. Starter kit price: $150.
Modern Conveniences (for all of us with hectic life styles)
Portable Charger: Who wants to worry about where you are going to plug in your phone or if someone has a spare charger. A light weight, portable charger like the RAVpower charger can go with you anywhere and is a life saver. We found it on sale for $10, making it a perfect stocking stuffer!
Amazon’s Echo: Many of us could use an aide available at our beck and call. This speaker-looking device, meant for home use, is always on and listening for commands -- much like Siri (except, according to our staff experts, “way, way, way, way, WAY better”). You can call out commands, and she will respond. Ask her anything from “what time is it?” to “give me a recipe for the best chili on the planet,” to “please turn the lights on” (when programmed accordingly). Price: $180.
Coolest Cooler: For those of us who enjoy fresh air, we think we can lure even our most serious gamer and TV-binge-watching friends outside with this gift. It’s a 55-quart cooler that also has a blender, USB charger, blue-tooth speakers, a bottle opener, a night light, and wheels. Just add ice and your beverage of choice! Price: $500
Touch-Screen Gloves: In the realm of first-world problems, it's rather annoying, not to mention uncomfortable, to be out in the cold weather enjoying errands, sports, or a nice walk and have to remove your gloves to answer your phone, check your messages, or respond to a text. Luckily, there are many manufacturers making gloves that allow you to operate your touch-screen devices, so pick the style that suits that special person on your list. Some who have done research and testing think Glider Gloves make a top-end product. Price: $10-$50+
Headphones: So many to choose from -- noise cancelling, wireless, in-ear, around-ear – but who doesn’t enjoy the retreat that quality headphones offer? Our staff likes Audio-Technica Professional Studio Monitor Headphones and Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling In-Ear Headphones. Price: $150-$300.
We hope you've found something on our list to ease your shopping burden. Happy Holidays and happy shopping!
Focus Data Solutions, Inc., is an IT management firm located in Alexandria, VA. The firm specializes in professional technology services for business.