We review a lot of gadgets throughout the year. Some are one and down, some only for a season and some are easily replaced when something new comes along. For me, there are a few gadgets that I use daily and have become a big part of my life. Tech that has been so integrated into day to day that I don’t remember my life before I used them. I love them so much and feel they will make a great gift for the gadget lover in your life.
If I had to choose which gadget got the most use in my house this year it has to be the iCoffee Opus. I can understand most people may not think a single serve brewer is all that great, but it was hit in my house. Especially since we all have different preferences in what coffee we drink. It works with any K-cup, or K-cup type so when grocery shopping I don’t need to worry about compatibility. It also comes with a reusable cup which lets you use your own coffee grounds. The Dial-A-Brew system let’s choose according to what size mug I’m using between 4-12 ounces in increments in .5 ounces. It has a removable shelf that accommodates my travel mugs for when I need to grab a coffee and go. The energy saver mode automatically shuts off so I don’t have to worry when I forget to turn it off.
The best thing about this brewer is that it’s easy to use. My grandmother is not tech savvy at all, she still carries a flip phone and just learned to somewhat text. But, when she came to visit I only had to show her how to use the brewer one time. After that, she got up every morning and made herself a cup of coffee with no help. This may have caused her to overdo it just a bit on the coffee but for $139.99 I can buy her one for the holidays.
Epson WorkForce ET-4550
One thing I hate about having a printer is that it runs out of ink when I need to use it the most. Then when I go to the store to find the right color, usually black, it’s almost always sold out. I work from home and have a teenage son with plenty of projects so we print a lot. Sometimes people want to come over and make copies or my mom wants to print pictures of her new grandson from her phone. With all of the downsides of having a printer, it is also a convenience. There is nothing more convenient than not having to buy ink for 2 years. The Epson WorkForce ET-4550 claims just that. Of course usage will determine just how long the ink lasts but the point is I won’t be running out anytime soon. When I do need to change the ink there are extra bottles for refill. The Workforce ET-4550 is a true all in one printer, it’s also a scanner, copier and a fax machine. Yes, I still use fax machines. Some may find $499.99 to be steep to pay for a printer, but if you think of how much you save on ink, the ability to print your own pictures, it’s well worth it. I found set up to be easy and it wasn’t too heavy to lift up myself. Initially trying to install drivers using my MacBook Pro, it gave me a slight issue but once I installed all of the updates it worked like a breeze. I was also able to print from my phone with no delays or issue.
Adonit Jot Mini
The Adonit Jot Mini came as a surprise to me. I don’t usually like styluses, but I do love gold accessories to match my phone. When I saw all the features of the Jot Mini I decided to give it a try. It is touchscreen compatible, creates precise fine lines and is very portable. I love that it has a clip so I can always know where it is and that the cap screws onto both ends of the stylus (I have a tendency to lose things). Since my phone has the ability to write notes I am able to use the stylus instead of having to type it all out or use my fingers. I’m a girl that still uses fine ballpoint pens and paper so the Adonit was perfect for me. I was also amazed at some of the pictures I’ve seen people draw with the Jot Mini. It is available in Black, Silver and Gold and only $19.99 , making it a great stocking stuffer.
Bose SoundLink® Mini Bluetooth speaker II
When people think, “top of the line”, audio Bose is usually the company that comes to mind. The SoundLink® Mini Bluetooth speaker II doesn’t let the legacy down. Set up was easy, I was able to connect to my Bluetooth with no problem and one charge usually lasts me about a week (but it claims 10 hours). It comes with a wall charger and charging cradle making it convenient when I’m at my desk and the battery is low, but being able to charge using the MicroUSB port is convenient also. The speaker itself is only 2″ high and very lightweight at 1.5 lbs making it a great travel companion. If I had any complaints it would be that it doesn’t come with a carrying case (although you can buy one online). The bass isn’t overbearing but perfectly balanced making all genres of music I listened to just right. For $199.99 it’s a great buy.
ecbc Hercules Laptop Bag
The ecbc Hercules Laptop Bag isn’t the most stylish, but it might be the best one I’ve ever used. Not only is it waterproof and made of indestructible nylon, pockets for smaller devices, a phone pocket, water bottle pocket and a padded pocket for tablet/iPad for a total of 21 storage compartments and the moisture wicking air mesh back panel is comfortable on your back. All of that might sound insignificant but when you carry a lot of different tech pockets are everything. Also, one of the biggest headaches I have when traveling is when the airport makes you put your laptop in a separate bin. After stuffing all the tech you need, even what you don’t, into the bag and barely closing it taking the laptop out makes everything shift so you have to repack everything again and still catch your flight. The Hercules Laptop Bag eliminates this issue with the ECBC FastPass® System. The FastPass system allows you to unzip the pocket and lay it flat on the conveyor belt without having to remove your laptop. I’ve tried this at LAX, Orlando Airport, JFK and Laguardia and haven’t had an issue with being told to remove my laptop. Once my bag goes through I zip it up, throw my shoes back on and I’m on my way. The bag holds up to a 17″ laptop with an insert for smaller devices. For $139.99 it won’t break your pocket and will be a great gift for the traveler in your life or maybe even for yourself.
I’ve spent the last few months adding as many smart home products that I can. I like things as simple as possible and with an app. Some say lazy I say easy, potatoe potato. There are some products that you don’t know that you need until you actually use them. I think smart home products fall into that category. I’ve tried quite a few locks, security cameras; etc. But I’ve listed the few things I use often and think would make great gifts this season.
For the last couple of months, I’ve been using Withings Home HD security camera. It not only monitors your home, it also checks the air pollution level and has a two-way microphone. It really doesn’t take up much room and I was able to customize how sensitive I wanted detection to be. I could choose how often I wanted to be alerted about motion, sound and air quality. It has a 135° wide angle view, exceeding most on the market. I love that I am able to see what’s going on in my house when I’m not home and even check in on the 2-way microphone and speaker instead of having to make a call, especially if I have a low signal and using WiFi. The speaker has echo cancellation and noise reduction so the sound wasn’t choppy on either end. The camera is 5mp with 12x zoom with auto enhancement so being able to see clearly was never an issue. It’s also compatible with the Apple Watch and Apple TV, great because both are on my Christmas list, and for $199.99 it’s worth the piece of mind.
Okidokeys Smart Lock-Access Pack
What I love about the Okidokeys Smart Lock is that I didn’t need to spend a lot of time trying to set it up, drill any holes or make new keys. All that I needed was a screw and a screwdriver which actually came in the box. It’s battery operated and I found that the battery has a longer life than other smart locks I’ve tried. I was able to lock and unlock my door via Bluetooth 4.0 using the free app. It let me send keys to my family directly and revoke their access if I chose to. I have the access pack which comes with 3 covers (black, white or DIY color or satin brass, antique brass and chromes), a smart reader that lets you open the door using a RFID card, wristband or keycard. So if I wanted to go for a morning walk without carrying my phone I was still able to lock and unlock my door. The app allowed me to set my door to automatically unlock when I got within a certain distance from my front door. This makes it easy to get inside when my hands are full. The Access Pack is available for $249.99, but you also have two other options. Either without the reader or with more bells and whistles.
iPhone 6S/ iPhone 6S Plus
I opted for the 6S, I wasn’t ready for the commitment of the bigger size yet. Even though it looks exactly like my iPhone 6 the added features made it worth the upgrade. 12MP camera (although the 8MP did just fine), 4K video (amazing), 3D Multitouch (responds to how much pressure you apply) and lets you “Peek and Pop”. A light touch lets you “peek” (preview) an email or a website link and you can press harder to “pop” it open. The fingerprint scanner took some getting used to – at first it felt almost too fast to me. I wasn’t used to how it opened when I barely touched it, I sometimes had to try twice to open my 6. Siri and I never had a good relationship but on the new 6S she understands me and is much more accurate. iPhone 6S comes in the same colors as the 6 (Gold, Silver, Space Gray), but has added Rose Gold. Depending on what storage capacity you prefer it ranges in price from $649-$849, with different carriers offering differing down payment amounts.
Alcatel Onetouch Idol 3 Unlocked
Even though my primary phone is an iPhone, I also try to carry a primary Android device as well. One of my favorite Android devices this year has been the Alcatel Onetouch Idol 3. For $249.99, you get an unlocked device that comes with dual front facing JBL speakers, JBL Headset, 13MP Rear Camera, 8MP Wide Angle Front Camera and 0.26s Fast Face Focus, 5.5″ Full HD Technicolor Color Enhance display and completely reversible interface. These features are comparable with the top smartphones on the market for the price of what you may pay just for a downpayment. Alcatel regularly runs sales and you can pick up the phone for as low as $149.99. It has so many cool features, one of my favorites has to be the pre-installed Mix app that lets you mix both local and streaming tracks and share with your friends. You would expect a budget phone to be heavy and thick but at 7.44mm thick it’s a perfect size.