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Holiday Gift Guide 2015: Todd’s list

by Todd Haselton | November 3, 2015November 3, 2015 1:00 pm PDT

This is my favorite time of year. Yes, I admit, I’m one of the guys who orders the iced pumpkin spice lattes and the fall, and can’t wait for the peppermint mochas in the winter. It’s also the time of year when there are plenty of new gadgets out, particularly because OEMs want their devices on store shelves in time for the holidays. That means fresh things to play with and lower prices on everything else.

Of course, it’s also when I have a reason to go walking down the aisles of places like Best Buy, one of my favorite pastimes and an excuse to find things to buy for my family. There’s really nothing more fun to me than buying something like a new set-top box, a phone or tablet, and gifting to it to a loved one for the holidays. (There’s also nothing worse than the tech support call I’m almost guaranteed to receive three months later.)

Here’s a look at some gifts that I either want myself, or think that your family and friends might love.

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Money is No Object

Fully equipped Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine

$77,805

I followed the launch of the Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine pretty closely. I had a chance to see it through a test crash at Volvo’s facilities in Sweden and eventually took it on a test drive through California. It’s not really in my budget right now, but I’m pretty sure Santa can swing it. Plus it’s safe, and I love how comfortable the drive is.

I’d want the high-end T8 Twin Engine plug-in Hybrid model, which has 400HP and starts at $68,100. Once I add in the special Inscription Trim — which features all the trimmings like Nappa leather upholstery, 20-inch wheels and walnut wood inlays — in addition to the onyx black paint and vision, convenience and climate packages, my Volvo XC90 comes in at about $77,805. Looks like the elves won’t be going to college.

Gifts Under $2,000

Loaded Surface Pro 4

$1,799

I’ve been using the Surface Pro 3 for a few months, and the new Surface Pro 4 keyboard has been a gamechanger for me. I have the Core i5 model of the Surface Pro 3, but I’d definitely grab the new Core i7 model with 256GB of storage and 16GB of RAM if I had $2,000 to spend. That would come in at about $1,799, after which I recommend also adding the new keyboard.

I know a lot of folks would probably choose the Surface Book instead, but I really like the portability and smaller size of the 12.3-inch Surface Pro 4, and I think you will, too.

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Gifts Under $500

RIF6 CUBE Projector

$269

I just found this online and it really piqued my interest. The RIF6 CUBE is a tiny 2-inch pico projector that can fit in the palm of your hand and shoot a 120-inch display on your wall. It’s not that bright with just 50 lumens, but it also only costs $269 and is incredibly portable.

I have a meeting with the company behind the RIF6 CUBE soon, when I plan to fully test it, but its positive reviews on Amazon suggest that it’s already a solid gift option.

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Gifts Under $250

New Apple TV

$149 – $199

The Apple TV just hit the market, and I’m excited to try it out. I’m a bit bummed that you can’t use Siri to search for Apple Music, but everything else looks promising. Third party support for applications should mean plenty of applications to choose from — though they’re only now beginning to populate — and new gaming experiences for the family. I also really dig the new interface and remote, which includes a touch pad that replaces the awful directional pad on the previous model, and Siri voice controls.

AppleTV-4G_Remote

ASUS Chromebook Flip

This is a device I’ve been hovering my “buy” finger over for a month or so now. It’s the smallest Chromebook I know of, with a 10.1-inch display that bends and flips so you can use it in a laptop or tent mode. It also features 4GB of RAM, a 1.8GHz Rockchip processor, 16GB of expandable storage and a premium metal design (I played with one in Best Buy recently) all for just $279. No, it’s not the most powerful computer on the market, or even Chromebook for that matter, but it’s highly portable and affordable.

Gifts Under $100

InFocus Kangaroo Windows 10 PC

$99

Here’s another product I’m super interested in, and which might make the perfect gift. When Windows 10 was about to launch, several companies, including Infocus, announced new, super small computers that pack a full version of Microsoft’s new operating system. The InFocus is one such example, and it’s a full computer with one HDMI port and two USB ports all in the footprint of a large smartphone.

That includes an Intel Cherrytrail Z3500 system-on-a-chip, 32GB of expandable storage, 2GB of RAM, dual-band Wi-Fi and up to 4 hours of battery life when it’s unplugged. You could potentially carry your entire computer to and from work in your pocket, provided that you have a monitor, keyboard and mouse in both places.

I’ve asked the company about a review unit, so stay tuned for impressions in the future.

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Microsoft Wireless Foldable Keyboard

$99.95

This is my go-to mobile keyboard. It’s a little expensive at $99.95, but it folds up into a small rectangle no bigger than a tiny paperback book, and offers a really solid typing experience. It takes some getting used to, that much is certain, but I can already type on it much faster than I can on my smartphone or other portable keyboards. Plus, I love that it supports two devices at once, and is formatted for Android, Windows and iOS operating systems. Paired with the mouse in the next section, and you can actually get a lot of work done right on your smartphone.

Gifts Under $50

Annual Plex Pass

I’ve been fooling around with Plex more and more recently, and I’m loving my monthly Plex Pass. Plex is generally free and lets you create a server to share media, including photos, videos, music and more with your mobile devices, gaming consoles, streaming boxes and more. It works incredibly well, but there’s a premium option that offers evne more features.

You might consider gifting an annual Plex Pass this year, which will allow your loved ones with Plex servers to take advantage of premium options such as offline storage on mobile devices, cloud sync, camera uploads, Vevo Music videos, customized accounts and more. It’s priced at $39.99 a year, which is well worth the service it provides in my opinion.

 

Plex-Browse-Content

Logitech Bluetooth Mouse M557

When I got the aforementioned Microsoft Wireless Foldable keyboard and started using it with my Galaxy Note 5, I decided I needed a good Bluetooth mouse to go with it. When you’re using a mouse with a tablet or phone that lacks a USB port, you need one that doesn’t require a Bluetooth USB plug. The Logitech Bluetooth Mouse M557 fits that bill, and has been an awesome addition to my mobile arsenal in the few months I’ve owned it. The M557 costs just $29.93 and works on PCs, Macs and, as I said, Android devices.


Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...

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