A Tech-Savvy Holiday Gift Guide for the Home

A Tech-Savvy Holiday Gift Guide for the Home
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As we prepare for the final two years of this decade, more Americans are embracing the idea of a smart home. Since it might seem odd to gift home improvement technology to friends and family, remember that the most important person on your holiday gift list is you. You deserve it! And with great deals on everything from smart TVs and home security to faster routers and smart appliances that will save you money, now is the time to make your home more techie for your family.

This holiday gift list has some very impressive gadgets that utilize the latest in smart technology to make life easier (and in many cases safer). A microwave that connects to our phone seemed like something from the Jetsons only a few years ago, but now it’s a reality. And with 4K smart TVs running Roku, it’s become easier than ever to cut that cable cord. Enjoy this gift guide and use it as a resource, whether you get any of these products for yourself or for a friend.


TCL Roku TV 55” – TCL may be the best TV brand you’ve never heard of. They’ve combined the Dolby sound and picture technology from your favorite movie theater with the 5000+ channels of Roku content for cord cutters. This model combines your favorite channels with your other input devices to simplify the home screen. My favorite feature is the ability to pause live TV delivered by antenna. Simply plug in a flash drive and you no longer must choose between cord cutting and DVR. I had just two of these hung in my office and everyone wants to know where to get one. http://www.tclusa.com/products/home-theater/p-series

Vizio 65” Smart TV – Nobody wants to spend their holiday plugging boxes into a television. Smart TVs make a great purchase or gift because they eliminate the need for additional hardware. This model from Vizio integrates popular streaming services like Amazon Video, Hulu and Netflix into the user experience. The SmartCast TV will also allow you to browse new 4K content and offer suggestions. I also love that content is now portable as Vizio’s SmartCast mobile app integrates with digital assistants like Google Home allowing you to pause the TV and resume on your phone or tablet in another room. This is very useful when the family is arguing over what to watch. https://www.vizio.com/smartcast

RCA 55” Smart TV with Roku – 2017 will be the year of the smart TV. Thanks to RCA, however, there’s no need to break the bank to get into this space. Their 55” model retails at Walmart for $699.99. RCA has been a pioneer in the television space since before most of us were born. This 4K model has an easy to navigate interface that combines live TV with streaming content. The “TV Everywhere” feature eliminates the need to enter login credentials into multiple channels. Available at https://www.walmart.com


CAT Smartphone – The CAT name conjures up images of bulldozers and other heavy machinery. Now they are into the smart phone game with the rugged and durable S41. It has the features you’d want on a job site – Gorilla glass, waterproof and drop-tested over six feet. I’m most impressed by its battery features because in addition to 36 hours of talk time, it has a cord that will let you charge any other USB device. Then you can decide how much of your battery you want to share when there isn’t an outlet to be found. This isn’t just a smartphone for guys on a construction site. Take it with you when you go camping or spend a weekend at an outdoor festival and you won’t have to worry about a fragile phone. https://www.catphones.com/en-us/shop/cat-s41-smartphone/

Cricket Wireless Alcatel Idol 5 – Cell phones are expected to represent 36% of holiday retail sales this year and Cricket has long been a reasonably priced way into the market. The $199 Alcatel Idol 5 makes the perfect gift for someone who loves watching videos on their gadgets. It boasts great sound with its dual front facing speakers and it’s VR Ready. Pair it with Alcatel’s UNI360 Goggles for viewing and gaming experiences. You can also upgrade the built-in 32GB of storage to 256 with a microSD card. The cameras are nothing to sneeze at either. Its front and rear facing cameras are 8 and 12 MP respectively. https://alcateloneus.wpengine.com/


Toto Washlet S350e Toilet Seat – A smart toilet seat is something I’d never thought of, but now I don’t know how I lived without it. It literally eliminates any need to think about using the bathroom. The Washlet features an automatically opening and closing light-up heated seat and it even has a remote control. There are two personal memory settings for the different cleansing (and drying) needs of you and your spouse. Washlet’s ewater+ system cleans the bowl after every use. I love it and so will you. It is costly, but so well worth the investment. https://www.totousa.com


GE Café Series Over the Range Microwave Oven – Imagine how much easier it would have been to cook Thanksgiving dinner if your microwave and range communicated with each other. This GE microwave talks to a compatible range via Bluetooth. That means you can set the fan to automatically turn on when you use the burners on the stove. The microwave also features a pre-programmed setting for your favorite dishes. I also love that the clock syncs to your smartphone eliminating the need to ever program it again after a power outage or for daylight savings. http://products.geappliances.com/appliance/gea-specs/CVM9215SLSS

KRUPS 4-Slice Stainless Steel Toaster – If you’re looking for my last toaster (and why would you be?), it’s down at the curb. Most toasters are poorly made and not intended to last for more than a few years. KRUPS has figured out how to engineer a beautiful looking toaster that does exactly what it’s supposed to do and it is built to last. It comes in either the 2-Slice or 4-Slice version and is available for under $50 at Target stores and on Target.com. http://www.krupsusa.com/

Opal Nugget Ice Maker - Nugget Ice, made popular by the Sonic restaurant chain, is the hottest trend for your specialty cocktails. The Opal, from GE Appliances’ FirstBuild, is a great way to impress your friends with the bar quality drinks and it makes for the perfect bar/kitchen accessory. Nugget ice, unlike crushed or cubed ice, has become a craze and developed a cult following – it’s easy to chew and absorbs the flavor of your beverage better. https://firstbuild.com/products/opal/

Yonanas – Since we keep a kosher home we don’t serve dairy dessert after a meat meal. And it’s not so easy to find non-dairy dessert that tastes good. Yonanas to the rescue. Now, I can make healthy, dairy-free ice cream for my family after every meal. Unlike your typical food processor with a blade, Yonanas emulsifies bananas, strawberries or anything you put into the chute. This allows for the consistency of ice cream without having to worry about those who are dairy-free (for lactose reasons, a dairy allergy or for kosher adherence). It comes with a handy recipe book too. http://yonanas.com/

Nespresso VertuoPlus - This is the ultimate gift for the coffee aficionado on your list. The taste of both the 8-ounce coffee and 1 1/3-ounce espresso from this machine is unparalleled, right down to the crema (foam) on top. Nespresso’s new Centrifusion technology also makes for a much quieter brewing experience. If you’re rushed getting out the door in the morning, it boats an impressive heat up time of only 20 seconds and automatically shuts off after 9 minutes. This has been an absolute game-changer in my mornings and visitors to my office love it. https://www.nespresso.com

KRUPS 10-Speed Digital Hand Mixer – I was introduced to the KRUPS family of kitchen appliances with this hand mixer. Bottom line: I was impressed. I’m not a natural in the kitchen, but even I can whip up anything with this 10-speed digital hand mixer. The count-up timer with pause function allows you to track exactly how long you’ve been mixing your ingredients. It also has an impressive turbo boost feature for any challenging mixing. Its storage container will keep you from losing accessories and the entire unit is easily cleaned and stored in a kitchen drawer. It can handle many of a larger mixer’s jobs for a much more affordable price. http://www.krupsusa.com

Drinkmate Spritzer –Obesity is a serious epidemic in our country, especially among young people. Cracking down on sugary sodas is a great place to start curbing this national problem. Drinkmate takes this idea to the next level with their portable Spritzer, allowing you to carbonate any beverage on the go – from juice to iced coffee to water. It makes for a great gift for friends who love entertaining. You can even re-carbonate beverages that have gone flat. The bonus is that Drinkmate is environmentally conscious letting you recycle used CO2 containers. https://www.idrinkproducts.com/

T-fal Optigrill Plus –This is another home item that I didn’t know I needed until I tried it. When I think of grilling, I have always pictured myself out back on the deck with burgers, dogs or chicken on the grill. T-fal, however, let’s you have your BBQ even in bad whether by bringing the delicious flavors of the outdoor grill inside. The T-fal Optigrill eliminates the margin for error because you let it know what type of meat you’re cooking (even frozen) and how you want it cooked. The Optigrill will adjust cooking times based on thickness and has lights to display every result from rare to well-done. Well done indeed, T-fal! http://www.t-falusa.com

Home Security

Blink XT: Blink is one of the best entrees into the home security market. With an easy wireless setup and cameras that boast a 2-year battery life, I’ve been a fan Blink cameras for many years. I like their motion-activated push alerts and video streaming to mobile devices feature. The new XT version is perfect for outdoor use, as it adds infrared night vision and a weatherproof feature. You can always check on the house from anywhere and that will give you added peace of mind. https://blinkforhome.com

Abode HomeSecurity Starter Pack – Some people are hesitant to invest in home security because they’re afraid of the cost or the setup hassle. The Abode Starter Pack combines easy setup with flexibility. You can self-monitor your home for free or choose from several professional monitoring plans that vary in price. I love their mobile app that comes with a widget to let you turn the system on and off outside the app. Since you can’t be too secure with home security, Abode even has a cellular backup in the event your home WiFi goes down. https://goabode.com

EQUES Home VEIU Smart Doorbell – Smart doorbells are revolutionizing the world of home security. Two decades ago, we would never have imagined that we could instantly see our front door from anywhere in the world. You can see a delivery person, a friend arriving, or even an unwanted visitor. In addition to the features of other smart doorbells, I love the VEIU’s LCD monitor inside the door. It’s great for anyone in the home that isn’t tech savvy and you can install it in minutes. Plus, the VEIU doesn’t come with the costly monthly storage plans of other providers. https://equeshome.com/products/veiu

iKeyp Pro – Even the safe is now smart. The iKeyp Pro has the benefits of secure storage for things like medications, passports, and cash. It doesn’t, however, require a physical key or the sharing of a combination with others. You can use the iKeyp and its mobile app to remotely grant access at that exact moment to someone who is in front of the safe. And it’s only in that moment. The iKeyp Pro connects to the Internet via WiFi and will send you alerts if anyone tries to tamper with it. https://ikeyp.com

Dojo by Bullguard - The IoT (Internet of Things) will reach 8.4 billion connected devices by the end of this year. Bullguard was designed by Israeli Defense Force security experts, who know about internet protection. This system continuously monitors every connected device in your home for abnormal activity (the first year comes free with purchase). In addition to mobile apps, the Dojo “pebble” will sit in your home and turn yellow or red when a threat is detected. It’s my choice for staying one step ahead of the “bad guys” in my connected home. https://dojo.bullguard.com/

August Smart Lock Pro + Connect, Keypad, Doorbell Cam – You’re late for work, you get in the car, and think “did I close the door?” With DoorsSense technology the AugustSmart Lock Pro can confirm that for you. You can also check the lock any time with August’s mobile app. The reverse is also true; the door automatically unlocks when you get home. I also enjoy the remote access feature – you can give a trusted friend, neighbor, or relative access to your home without the need for codes or keys. It integrates with Amazon Echo, Alexa, and Google Home. August also offers a doorbell camera and smart keypad to provide monitored access. http://august.com

Everything Else

Sony Portable Ultra Short Throw Projector - 4K TVs are great, but once you hang it on a wall, that’s pretty much the wall it’s going to stay on. However, with throw projector from Sony, you can transform your living space by displaying anything you like, wherever you like. I use it to show photos from vacations past to my kids so they remember what a good time we had. You can use it for everything from showing home movies to your favorite TV shows and movies. It works on any surface including the ceiling and floor. The compact wireless design makes it easy to pick up and go wherever displaying images of up to 80". It’s currently on sale for only $799.99, which is significantly less than its original price. https://www.sony.com

Ockel Sirius B Windows 10 Pocket PC - Ockel is the first company to put a Windows 10 mini PC right in your pocket. This little device is as light and small as a smartphone, yet as powerful as a desktop PC. The Ockel Sirius B can turn any television into a smart media center and is the perfect solution for anyone who is looking for powerful portable technology. That’s exactly what I did in my conference room, connecting this fast PC that is totally hidden behind a 4K TV on the wall. http://www.ockelcomputers.com/

BENQ EW277 27” Monitor – I’ve used this monitor in my office and the colors and contrast are impressive. I love the versatility of this screen as well. I can toggle between an office setting that reduces harmful blue light and an HDR setting if I want to take a break and watch a video. The monitor also has two HDMI and one VGA input for plug and play ease. You might not have heard of BENQ, but trust me you will hear about them a lot more in the future. http://www.benq.us

ORAL B Genius Toothbrush – My wife and I switched to an Oral B electric toothbrush a couple years ago and never looked back. We thought we’d never change, but now we have and that’s because the Genius is a whole new ballgame when it comes to brushing teeth. Touted as the world’s first electric toothbrush that sees what you don’t, this smart toothbrush really is smart. It combines a Position Detection Technology with Triple Pressure Control forcing you to brush just as your dentist recommends. Your teeth have never felt this clean. https://oralb.com/

Flitt Flying Camera - No flying experience is needed to operate this flying selfie machine from Hobbico. This drone has a folding design that tucks the arms and propeller blades into the camera body when they’re not needed for flight, which means you can put them in a pocket, purse or backpack. The flying camera drone gives you instant, one-touch media sharing from the free iOS and Android apps that also let you control the flight simply by moving your finger up, down or sideways. The Flitt is smaller than a king-size candy bar and practically flies itself. http://www.flittcamera.com/

Synology DS216j - If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by all your photos and videos on your computer, this drive from Synology is for you. The DS216j is an all performance drive that lets you manage media and data, as well as backup your devices with a powerful, all-in-one solution, delivering fast data transfer performance. The DS216j is designed for cool and efficient operation with extremely low power consumption, and its noise dampening design fits perfectly anywhere. https://www.synology.com

AIO Robotics 3D Printing Pen – I love the concept of 3D Printing Pens for the artist on your Hanukkah or Christmas list. They heat plastic filament and force it out in the shape drawn by the user. The plastic can then be molded and shaped by hand. AIO’s latest version has eliminated some common headaches with this new technology and you can now control flow and temperature easily, all monitored by an OLED display. I also find the ergonomic pen easier to hold and operate than previous models. It’s very reasonably priced at only $49.99. http://www.zeus.aiorobotics.com/3dpen

Brother Business Smart Plus Printer – This printer is ideal for a home office or small business. It has many of the same features as more expensive models, including the dual-sided printing, the capability to print 11x17, mobile/wireless printing, and the ability to scan to the cloud. It utilizes INKvestment Super High-yield ink cartridges. I haven’t had to replace them yet. I was also pleased with the quality of the color photos printed from this model, saving me from having to pay for other services. http://www.brother-usa.com/

XYZ Printing da Vinci Mini 3D Printer – I reviewed the original model of this 3D printer and raved about its ease of printing 3D objects around the home. This new and improved version has improved portability by reducing its footprint by 30%. The da Vinci is a great gift for creative kids or anyone with a penchant for creativity. It make a great introduction to the art of 3D printing and I love that it uses environmentally safe materials. https://www.xyzeshop.com

Airblock Modular and Programmable Drone – I love everything about this product. It’s a drone with a Lego/Construx type feel. Pieces can be built and rearranged into a drone, hovercraft, or other configurations. My favorite part, though, is that it’s educational. The Android/iOS app teaches kids the basics of coding and aerodynamics as they build and fly their own creations, made of durable, but soft foam. They ran a very successful campaign on Kickstarter and have been recognized by CNET and received a Best of CES award. It’s reasonably priced (under $200), and it’s the perfect entry-level drone for kids ages 8 and up. http://airblock.makeblock.com/

Airbolt – There are few things more frustrating than lost or damaged luggage. If your bag is lost, you simply activate the Airbolt mobile app and anyone close to its signal can alert you to its location. Even if your bag isn’t lost, your belongings still need to be protected. This TSA-approved lock can be disarmed with your phone, eliminating the need to remember keys or combinations. I’ll be sure to travel with this lock next year. https://www.thegrommet.com/airbolt-gps-connected-smart-travel-lock

Airthings Wave Radon Detector – If you’re reading this, you likely have a smoke detector and Carbon Monoxide Detector to protect your family. Radon, however, lingers in 1 out of 15 homes and is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. I found the Airthings Wave easy to install, and with a simple wave of my hand, the device shows green, yellow, or red, depending on any radon detected in the house. As a bonus, it can also track temperature and humidity with a Bluetooth connected app. https://airthings.com/wave

AllDock Charger – This is the item that will get the whole family in one room, at least while they’re charging. Between phones, tablets, smart watches and more, most people’s homes are now cluttered with messy cords that present tripping hazards. The AllDock charger presents a clean-looking solution. AllDock is customizable and available in many colors for both Android and iOS devices. https://alldock.com

Amped Wireless Helios Router – When we have holiday visitors, the first question is often “what’s your WiFi password?” The wireless s network at my house is already taxed by my family of 5 and all of our many devices. Common dual band routers have two bands – one at high speed 5GHz for streaming, and a second at 2.4 GHz for lower bandwidth activities such as web browsing and email. The Helios adds a second highspeed band (for a total of 3) to ease the stress on your home network. It also boasts 12 high power amplifiers and 4 antennas to virtually eliminate “dead spots” in the house. This will eliminate arguments over who’s hogging the WiFi for less than $200. http://www.ampedwireless.com

Kensington Ultimate Presenter with Virtual Pointer – Nobody enjoys a boring office presentation. When the host has “technical difficulties,” it becomes painful and unprofessional. Kensington’s new Ultimate Presenter prevents most common problems. The ergonomic mouse connects wirelessly to a USB device in your Mac or PC. The best part is that it can be used on everything from projection screens to televisions, in any light. https://www.kensington.com

Bosch Max Flexiclick – I’ve trusted the Bosch brand for decades and this 5-in-1 tool is great for professionals and amateurs alike. At a slim 1.8 pounds, it’s easy to carry, but feels very durable. Attachments include a locking bit holder, keyless chuck, offset angle, and right angle to get the job done anywhere. The Flexiclick also features two speeds (one for speed and one for accuracy). Bosch is at the cutting edge of hi-tech tools in the 21st century. https://www.boschtools.com

Molekule Air Purifier – Air filters are a must for anyone with allergies, asthma or other chronic conditions. While Molekule’s self-learning technology and mobile app connectivity are nice features, what really sets it apart is its destruction of microscopic particles. 20 years of R&D have gone into this product, including funding from the EPA and Department of Defense. Destroying (not capturing) particles, and doing it on a molecular level, has given my home a difference in air quality that my entire family notices. https://molekule.com/

Bosch Starlock Oscillating Multi-Tool – This is a must-have for the DIYer on your list. For less than $100, Bosch gives you a sander, cutter, grinder, scraper and more. Parts are easily interchanged with its magnetic Starlock interface, there are pieces for working with every kind of material and it’s small enough to fit in (and under) those hard to reach places. And if you’re already in the Bosch family, this Multi-Tool is compatible with Bosch chargers and batteries. https://www.boschtools.com

Bond Home Ceiling Fan Control – Bond is a great name for this device because you’ll feel like James Bond when you control your ceiling fan. The device learns the RF and infrared signals of your old remote controls, replaces them and connects to your WiFi for easy access with your mobile device, Amazon Echo or Google Home. I love this product because it turns your existing home into a smart home at a fraction of the price. I connected it to the ceiling fan in my in-laws’ gazebo, but you can use the gadget to control up to 6 appliances. https://bondhome.io/

NVDIA Shield – This is the television streaming device for the gamer. It was very easy to set up right out of the box. The Shield can download Android games directly from Google Play, or use its GeForce Now application to stream high-end computer games. With compatible accounts you can stream exclusive 4K content from Amazon Video and Netflix, creating an in-home theater experience. Telling your TV what to do is much more fun than pushing buttons all day. https://www.nvidia.com/en-us/shield/

eero – Many of the products in this guide require WiFi, but more smart products puts more strain on your home network. I like eero because it boosts your WiFi with nearly effortless setup. Plug the main unit into your modem, and it walks you through where to put the additional units. It has solid security software, and it learns your family’s WiFi usage, adapting to time of day, location, etc. https://eero.com

Eneroid Plus+ Deluxe Automatic Battery Charging Machine (Korea) – With all the great technology we have today, I can’t believe we’re still buying old fashioned batteries that die. Korean company Eneroid has a great idea tosolve that problem and it was a big hit at last year’s CES. This magical box will charge your AA batteries (AAA with an adapter). Simply put your batteries in the top and the machine will charge 4 at a time in an hour. Once they are charged, they drop down to a bottom drawer, and the next four can be charged. Available on Amazon.

D-Link Covr AC3900 Whole Home WiFi System – I’ve long held D-Link in high regard when it comes to routers and this system is no exception. The Covr supports four simultaneous data streams, giving priority to activity that needs more bandwidth, such as gaming and HD streaming. With 4 external antennas, D-Link provides a network that can cover 6,000 square feet, with uninterrupted coverage as your device switches zones. I also like the parental controls and guest WiFi network. It’s the modern-day equivalent of having guests over during the holidays, but keeping some parts of the house off-limits. http://us.dlink.com/products/connect/covr-ac3900

Dreampad – As shown on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” the Dreampad is a must have for business travelers and the family that’s schlepping to Grandma’s this year. Its technology converts music to vibrations that only the user can hear. It really calmed me down after some long days at the office. https://dreampadsleep.com/

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