Gadgets are popular gifts during the holidays, but with so many options it’s hard to know where to start. It’s even harder to know which are worth the money, or which will pay dividends in the long run.
With that in mind, here is our list of tech gadgets that are fun and useful, and that might also save you money.
The first smartphone built completely in-house by the search engine company, the Google Pixel is best-in-class right now—and it offers a few money-saving features not found on comparable devices.
The 5-inch Pixel and the larger 5.5-inch Pixel XL pack industry-leading cameras and are the first smartphones with Google Assistant, the company’s new voice-activated helper. Google Assistant is a step ahead of competitors thanks to its ability to carry on a conversation and return useful information from the web, rather than just perform perfunctory searches.
The Pixel devices are priced comparably to high-end phones from Apple and Samsung, but they come with free unlimited cloud storage for photos and videos and instant customer support accessible right from within the phone itself. Both features can save time and money.
Moto G Plus
You don’t have to spend $1,000 to get a good phone these days. The Moto G Plus is proof that high-end features are slowly migrating their way into less expensive devices.
It’s got a 16-megapixel back camera, 1080p display and fast fingerprint sensor, as well as rapid charging that gets the phone back up and running in 15 minutes.
The G Plus also has a few neat software functions. Twist the phone while holding it and its camera automatically opens up. Notification icons also pop up silently on screen. Tapping on one provides more information on what’s happening, while sliding it opens up the respective app.
If you’re over a certain age, you’ve probably got albums or shoe boxes full of old photos lying around collecting dust. Maybe you’ve considered digitizing them, but the daunting task would either take too long or cost too much to have done professionally.
The Epson FastFoto is the cure. The super-fast photo scanner zips through photos at a rate of one per second, with a feed tray that can fit about 30 at once. It’s the best and fastest way to digitize a large number of photos.
The included software also allows for batch labelling, so it’s easy to label pics by year, season, event or location. The FastFoto can also do double-sided scans to catch any notes that might be scribbled on the backs of pictures. It also handles document scans, for when you inevitably run out of photos to digitize.
It’s not inexpensive, but it can be cheaper than using a professional scanning service. It’s also an ideal product to buy with a group of people. Passing it around between friends and family is a good way for everyone to get a return on investment.
Price: $899 at Staples and Epson.
Outdoor home security cameras tend to come in one of two flavours: they’re either old-fashioned gizmos that use outdated DVR technology or they’re cloud-connected Internet data gobblers.
The Netatmo Presence finds a happy medium. It records to an internal SD card but also connects to your home WiFi network. Rather than streaming all the time and using up your monthly data, it only records and sends alerts when it spots something. Data only gets used when you fire up your smartphone app to see what happened, which can be a big money saver for households that have low monthly caps.
The Presence is also a remarkably smart camera, since its algorithms can distinguish between people, cars and animals. Users can set their notification alerts accordingly. The camera also records in the dark with infrared vision and has a motion-triggered floodlight. It will be in stores in early December.
Price: $349 at Best Buy and Netatmo.
What’s the best investment a parent can make in their kids’ future? Teaching them how to code is a good one.
Fisher-Price’s Code-A-Pillar is a toy caterpillar that teaches kids the basic concept of coding without any actual computer work involved. Each of the toy’s individual USB-connected segments have a directional button, which, when pushed, determine how the caterpillar moves.
Kids can make it wiggle, go in circles or follow a complex pattern by figuring out the right button sequences—just like coding. It’s a good way to prime children for becoming robot designers without their even knowing it.
BlackVue 650DW Dash Cam
Dashboard-mounted video cameras used to be just for police, but not anymore. As a good way to document collisions and other traffic incidents, they’re insurance against potentially costly legal tussles. It’s no surprise they’re going mainstream.
BlackVue’s 650DW records in 1080p high-definition to an internal SD card and connects to a phone via direct WiFi, so videos can be viewed without removing the storage. There’s also a parking lot mode, which uses motion-detection to record incidents in front of the car even when the ignition is off.
The built-in GPS can also record where footage was recorded, vehicle speed and other useful information. With all that, the camera is likely to pay for itself in the event of an accident.
If you’ve ever run out of printer ink, you’re probably well aware there are few substances that are more expensive by volume. Printer manufacturers have kept it this way for years—the devices themselves are relatively cheap, but the tiny ink cartridges they run on are incredibly pricey.
Last year, Epson broke ranks and introduced the EcoTank all-in-one printer. It’s slightly more expensive up front, but its ink tanks are big and last a long time—up to two years. The ink also doesn’t expire, as it does in some other printers.
The idea has been successful so Epson now has a range of EcoTank printers, from the Expression brand of home office devices to the larger WorkForce business machines. The printers’ quality isn’t great for photos, but they’re the most cost effective option for outputting basic colour documents.
Ring Video Doorbell Pro
It never fails: an important delivery or visitor comes to your front door the minute you set foot out the door or get in the shower.
The Ring Video Doorbell aims to fix that by connecting a video camera on your doorstep to your home WiFi network. From there, it communicates with an app on your phone, so you can provide instructions to visitors. You can see and hear them, but they can only hear you.
This year’s Pro version of the Ring doorbell improves the video resolution to 1080p high definition. For the security conscious, there’s also a monthly subscription service for US$3 a month that stores video recordings of every visitor.
Price: $299 at Best Buy and Amazon.
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