Sunday, December 17, 2017

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Tech Talk

Tech the halls

12/6/2017

Tech gifts that don’t require taking out a home equity loan

Amazon Fire Stick

With technology and gadgets having woven themselves into the very fabric of our collective existence, it would seem that gift buying would be easier than ever. Walk the aisles of your favorite electronics section, pick up a few gizmos, and your holiday shopping is done in one short afternoon. As ideal as that sounds, the dream starts to dissipate as soon as you start encountering questions of brand, quality, life expectancy and the mother of all criteria, cost. Who would have thought ubiquitous dream appliances would heighten the stress of gift shopping? Well, before your fears boil over into hysteria, let’s approach every shopping speedbump with the same problem-solving zeal our tech overlords used to develop our life-altering gizmos.

As the most financially successful people will tell you, make a budget and stick to it. Yes, you would be a surefire Hall of Fame parent if you bought each of your four children a $1,300 iPhone X or a Google Pixel 2 XL. But for almost everyone, that is fiscally preposterous. Even if you can afford the greatest and latest, there’s not much separating top-shelf smartphones from the second tier. For half the price, and nearly the same specs, look to the Samsung Galaxy s8 or go bargain bin with the iPhone SE and wait a few months for an X price drop. Another route to mobile device consideration should be a tablet. The base model version of either the iPad Mini 4 or Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 are one-third the iPhone X price, and, of course, they come with a larger screen and deliver much of the same functionality.

Garmin Virb 360

Another classic holiday tech gift is a camera. In recent years, a cool bargain buy has been gift wrapping an action camera, i.e. a GoPro. The difference for the 2017 holiday season is GoPro has completely thrown away its brand recognition for innovations and quality. After three holiday seasons in a row with underwhelming camera sales, and embarrassing itself last year with a horrid new drone, the death clock is ticking on GoPro as a business. For high-quality action cameras from companies likely to be around in a year, consider picking up the Sony Rx0 or even the new 360 from Garmin, the Virb 360.

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Of course, smartphones, tablets, cameras and drones as gifts are no-brainers. If you’re looking to expand into something that will incorporate all of these traditional gift ideas, a good idea is a streaming stick. Google, Amazon and Roku all offer powerful palm-sized media devices that allow anyone with a smart device to wirelessly share their media on any modern TV. Starting at $35 and maxing out at $70, these streaming sticks are a great way to bring less-than-tech-savvy family members into the streaming world and connect with everyone by sharing family media and memories on the tube after the annual holiday dinner. Each of these models has its distinct benefits. Google’s Chromecast allows for easy local stored media sharing, 4K streaming, and is integrated into YouTube. The Amazon Fire Stick has everything Amazon a few taps away. The Roku Stick offers an easy-to-use interface with hundreds of familiar media channels included.

So, while Apple’s latest iPhone is the most desired gift this holiday season, know there are plenty of excellent alternative tech gifts that don’t require taking out a home equity loan. Spending your money on classically “trusted” brands like Apple or GoPro could be the gifts that spoil this holiday season. ♦

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.

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