The holidays are almost here! It's definitely my favorite time of year, not because I receive new technology and gadgets, but mostly because it's a chance for me to give them to my friends and family. Here are some of my favorite picks for this year, many of which I already own and have used extensively. Check it out, and I hope you and your loved ones enjoy these picks as much as I do. Happy Holidays.
Money is No Object
AT&T Digital Life Home Automation and Home Security Packages
- Smart Security: $39.99 per month plus $149.99 for equipment.
- Home Automation: $9.99 per month plus $199.99 for equipment.
- Remote Door Control: 4.99 per month plus $99.99 equipment.
- Energy Package: $4.99 per month plus $199.99 equipment.
- Water Detection: $4.99 per month plus $49.99 equipment.
- Water control: $9.99 per month plus $249.99 equipment.
No, home automation isn't cheap if you want to control almost everything under your roof, but boy oh boy do I want (a house and) AT&T's Digital Life Home Automation and Home Security Packages. I'm filing this under "Money is No Object" because these monthly fees certainly add up. The equipment alone will set you back $950, and that's before you drop about $75 per month, or $900 per year, for the full security and home automation suite. Still, AT&T Digital Life lets you control everything, from your water faucets and washing machines to your lights, garage door, home appliances and much more, all from your tablet or smartphone. The security package even includes video cameras to keep an eye on your pad while you're gone.
Gifts Under $2,000
Samsung 55-inch LED 1080p 120Hz Smart HDTV (UN55F6400AFXZA)
The 55-inch Samsung LED Smart TV from the company's 6400-series of HDTVs gives you great bang for your buck. It's priced at about $1,200, depending on where you look, and offers plenty of inputs, including four HDMI ports, three USB 2.0 ports, 1 Ethernet jack, 1 component port and more. It also packs a dual-core processor which helps run the Smart TV software for viewing your channel listings, seeing recommendations, installing Smart TV apps (TechnoBuffalo has one!) and even browsing the Internet. It features an LED display for inky blacks at the price point, in addition to a nice slim bezel and a swiveling stand. After having spent some time with one, I personally ordered it for my own living room.
Gifts Under $500
Wren V5AP/V5PF Speaker
I've always been a fan of wireless speakers, but I rarely hear a set as good as the Wren V5AP/V5PF speakers. The V5AP takes advantage of Apple's AirPlay technology for wirelessly streaming from your computer or iOS device, while the V5PF works with Play-Fi for Android support, which means you should be able to play music back from most Android and iOS tablets and smartphones. My only gripe is that there's a lack of support for some third party apps, like Google Music on Android, but I can deal with that for now. I'm in love with the bamboo and rosewood finishes, though personally prefer the rosewood. Both are super easy to setup, too, thanks to Wren's own applications and a easy-to-follow setup guide.
Galaxy Note 3
$299.99 – $349.99 (Contract)
While I'm also a huge fan of the Moto X, the Note 3 is currently the Android smartphone with my heart in its hands. I love that it offers a huge 5.7-inch display with a full 1080p resolution, while still sporting a thin form factor that fits in my jeans (and I wear regular jeans, OK?). I feel pretty future proof too, with its Snapdragon 800 processor, USB 3.0 port, Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy chip and array of amazing S Pen software features. I think Samsung could do well to improve the camera a bit more for pictures, though it did add an awesome UHK 4K video recording option. Toss in a microSD card slot and removable battery, and it's hard not to like the Galaxy Note 3. It's available from most U.S. carriers for $299.99 with a contract, though Sprint sells it for $349.99.
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Gifts Under $250
iPhone 5S 16GB
The iPhone 5s is right up there with the Galaxy Note 3 as my favorite smartphone right now. I'm madly in love with Touch ID, which makes the phone super easy to unlock with a quick tap of my finger, and am still blown away by the camera quality. I went with the 16GB model because it was the only option in stock at launch, and I think it's just fine. I rely mostly on the cloud for storage these days, so I don't need to much backed up locally. Additionally, I can't wait to see what Apple has in store with its M7 and A7 processors – I think developers are just now beginning to realize how much power is available, and we should see some unique use cases in the future. Sure, you may dislike the smaller screen, but this is my top choice for easy one-handed use.
I picked up a Pebble Smartwatch not too long ago, and having seen both it and the Samsung Galaxy Gear I think this is still the real winner. It offers about 5 days of battery life and is incredibly useful while walking around the city, or sitting in a meeting, for viewing smartphone alerts. I don't have to lift my phone out of my pocket, just a quick glance at my watch and I know how important the alert is. Plus, Pebble has been courting the developer community really hard, so there's some unique watch faces and mini-games that make the experience pretty fun. No, it's not the most beautiful watch on the planet, but it certainly is useful.
Gifts Under $50
Grand Theft Auto V
I haven't removed my GTA V disc from my Xbox 360 since I installed it, and I can't stop playing. The single player game has been a riot, though somewhat more serious than past titles, and I love being able to switch between the three major characters. Multiplayer is even more fun: I often create a private server, invite my friends, and complete missions with them. It's hilarious to see everyone's outfits, and I definitely love that there's some Mario Kart-style racing combined with more serious tasks to finish. P.S – Already playing GTA V? Join TechnoBuffalo's Grand Theft Auto V crew!
Sunski Polarized Sunglasses
About a year ago I backed a Kickstarter campaign, my first and only ever, for a sunglasses company called Sunski. The idea seemed cool: the creators wanted to develop and sell affordable but stylish polarized sunglasses that were based on a model from Australia that hasn't been sold in decades. I ordered two pairs and have loved them ever since they arrived. I often buy the $48 sunglasses for my friends as gifts, and I can't recommend them enough. I haven't had any issues with the arms breaking, or the lenses scratching, and I'm a pretty cavalier keeper of shades. The styles might not be for everyone, but if you're into the whole skate/surf culture, you may dig what you see.
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