THE BLOG
11/14/2016 08:15 am ET Updated Nov 15, 2017

The Holiday Gift Guide 2016 - Technology Edition

It's hard to believe that Black Friday and the 2016 holiday shopping season are almost here. The good news for those of us shopping for personal consumer electronics and tech gadgets for friends and family this holiday season is that there are some real bargains. Tech innovation has improved dramatically over the last year and because of competition the pricing has come down significantly.

This year, I've structured the holiday tech gift guide a little differently. I had the opportunity to review many products this year, but I've narrowed the guide down to my top 30 featured products -- from tablets and phones to cameras and drones. I'm also putting together a future gift guide of less costly tech items in categories like kids, health/fitness, home/security and audio so be on the lookout for that. Always remember to check online for the lowest current prices on these items as most will be discounted as we get closer to the holidays. Remember, Hanukkah begins on the evening of December 24 this year.


Microsoft Surface Pro 4 - I'm currently putting this gift guide together using this awesome 2 in 1. It's super lightweight at only 2.4 lbs. and extremely thin making it the best alternative to a laptop. The Surface Pro 4 is the perfect holiday gift for a loved one looking for a device for work or play -- especially for the student who doesn't want to schlep around a heavy computer laptop. Powered by an Intel Core processor, it offers up to nine hours of battery life. Paired with the $60 Surface Pen you can use it for detailed sketches and handwritten notes. $899 microsoft.com

Parrot Swing Drone - I often hear people say they'd love to buy a drone, but the cost is a barrier. Apparently, Parrot heard this too and responded with a couple of new minidrones that are affordable and just as impressive as the more expensive models. The Mambo and Swing are Parrot's two new minidrones that will be great starter drones this holiday season. I had a chance to test out the Swing and found it to be easy to fly and very stable. It truly combines the best of a quadcopter with the power of a plane. Swing is the only plane with autopilot and a vertical take-off and landing mode. With the Parrot Flypad controller, it's simple to fly with ultra-precise control. $139.99 parrot.com



CleverPet - I spent close to an hour at the CleverPet booth at CES in January just watching the dog play with this amazing contraption. You sort of have to see this to believe it, but CleverPet is the first company to offer unlimited adaptive All-Day Play for dogs. Your dog's mind will be engaged and exercised with custom light, touch and sound puzzles. CleverPet's software, built by PhDs in computational neuroscience, includes puzzles using touch pads, lights and customizable sounds, paired with food-dispensing rewards. New games update automatically on the CleverPet Hub via WiFi. $299 clever.pet

 

GoPro HERO5 Black - GoPro has been in the news a lot lately because of its falling stock price, but don't count this company out yet because its cameras are still the best. HERO5 Black is the most powerful, easy-to-use GoPro with a 2-inch touch display, simplified controls and video resolutions up to 4K at 30 frames/second. You simply won't find a better holiday gift for your active friends who would love professional quality video of their outdoor experiences. This GoPro is waterproof without a housing to 33 feet and boasts advanced wind and noise reduction. $399.99 gopro.com


ASUS ZenPad Z8 - ASUS has been my computer maker of choice for the past six years so I wasn't surprised I fell in love with the ASUS ZenPad Z8. Exclusively from Verizon, this trusty little tablet boasts a 7.9-inch 2K IPS display with enhanced sharpness, contrast and color. It's ergonomically designed for comfort and its speed will impress you. This makes an ideal gift for anyone from students to grandma. I keep this in the glove box of my car so I'm never without a tablet at a meeting. $99.99 with 2 year Verizon contract verizonwireless.com/tablets/asus-zenpad-z8

 

XYZ Printing da Vinci Mini - If you think it's impossible for a top performing 3D printer to cost under $300, you'd be wrong. The da Vinci Mini is perfect for designing and printing 3D prototypes for businesses and replacing parts and pieces of items around the home. The unit comes with embedded Wi-Fi capabilities, offering portability and simplicity. The Mini automatically loads the filament and has an auto-calibration feature. This will be the perfect Christmas or Hanukkah gift for creative kids or adults. $289 xyzprinting.com


ergotronhome Workspace Lift35 - For several years I've been on the lookout for the best standing desk that isn't too expensive. The Lift35 converts any surface into a flexible sit-stand desk providing the proven health benefits of movement. I was able to set this up quickly and have been impressed with the simplicity of the desk's hand-brake levers to instantly stand up or sit down as I work. $449.95 ergotronhome.com

 

HairMax LaserBand 82 - Both men and women experience hair loss at some point in their lives. I can relate because I'm follicly challenged myself. HairMax's newest and fastest treatment laser device is clinically proven and FDA cleared. The LaserBand 82 delivers safe, nourishing light energy to hair follicles to activate them for stronger growth. Treatment takes as little as 90 seconds for 3 days a week. This might seem an odd Christmas or Hanukkah gift, but for the recipient who might not buy it for themself, they'll be grateful for your generosity. $799 hairmax.com


Huawei Nexus 6P - I've become something of an evangelist trying to convince friends of the Android phones that outperform the iPhone. I'd recommend Huawei's Nexus 6P over the iPhone 7 any day of the week. This has become my main phone (I carry a few) and I love it for its speed, lightweight feel and strong durability (made from aeronautical-grade anodized aluminum). The camera (12.3 Megapixels with a sapphire-crystal lens) is the best I've seen on a smartphone and no one believes the photos I take where shot on my phone. Available in three colors: Matte Gold, Aluminum or Graphite. $499.00 (32GB); $549 (64 GB); $649 (128GB) gethuawei.com/nexus6p


Moto Z with Insta-Share Projector - I'm big on the Moto Z family of smartphones because of the Moto Mods, which transform your phone by snapping on an attachment like the Moto Insta-Share Projector ($299.99), JBL SoundBoost ($79.99) or the Incipio offGRID Power Pack ($59.99). These mods snap on and off easily and turn your Moto phone into a high-res movie projector or a serious music player. The Moto Z calls itself the thinnest premium smartphone and offers up to 30 hours of battery life and a water repellant coating. $624 motorola.com

Slingbox M2 - I've been using Slingbox for a few years now and I can't imagine not having access to it when I'm out of town and want to watch my live and recorded TV content. This is the ultimate gift this holiday season for anyone who would appreciate watching their TV from anywhere in the world on an iPhone, Android, tablet or laptop with absolutely no monthly fees. From TV buffs to sports fan, the M2 is the perfect holiday present. Available at retailers nationwide including Best Buy, Target, Amazon, Costco and Walmart. $99.99 slingbox.com

 
Brinno TLC120 Timelapse Camera - This Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled time lapse camera is compact and weather resistant/waterproof. It creates HDR time-lapse productions easily in any environment. With Bluetooth app control and Wi-Fi transfer, capturing and sharing time-lapse videos has never been simpler. The new Brinno App (Apple or Android) makes it stress-free to frame the scene, set the capture interval, playback rate, white balance, exposure value, custom colors, and timer as well convert from AVI to MP4 videos and share them via social networks​.​ $299 brinno.com

singlecue Gen 2 - Israel-based eyeSight Technologies has released the singlecue Gen 2, a way to control your entire home with gesture control technology. With the simple wave of a finger (swipe, click and shush) you can now seamlessly control smart home devices, including TVs, media streamers, thermostats,  entertainment systems or lighting. Singlecue Gen 2 is compatible with more than 1,200 brands and 100,000 devices, including Philips Hue, Apple TV and Nest. $149 eyesight-tech.com

 
Pad & Quill Valet Luxury Bag for iPad Pro & 13" Laptops - It seems that not a day goes by that I don't get a compliment about my Pad & Quill bag. I use it to carry my Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and my ASUS ZenPad Z8. Stephen Hans, master of Product Design at Pad & Quill, describes this beautiful leather bag as "Mad Men meets the Wild West." This slim bag is made from full grain USA steer leather and lined with 24 oz. filter twill waxed canvas. I've been a long time fan of Pad & Quill's products including their phone cases, briefcases and luxury leather bags and now they're also producing handsome watch bands for the Apple Watch. $139.95 padandquill.com


BeeRaider Wireless Radial Keyboard & Mouse - To say this isn't your standard keyboard is an understatement. This special keyboard has been designed to be logical, ergonomic and compact. This will make a wonderful holiday gift for anyone who struggles to type and wishes they could type faster and more efficiently. The mouse is just a bonus. $119.99 beeraider.com

GrillBot - This was one of my favorite award winners at CES and I was thrilled the 2.0 version has been released. GrillBot has become such a popular consumer electronics product for one main reason: no one enjoys cleaning their BBQ Grill. This fully-automated device makes grill cleaning possible with the simple push of a button. The replaceable wire brushes pop off for easy cleaning and are dishwasher safe. It runs on a rechargeable lithium ion battery and the LCD alarm and timer let you set the GrillBot, walk away and return to a fully cleaned grill. Amazing! $129.95 grillbot.com

 

TomTom Adventurer Sports Watch - I don't understand why more people don't include TomTom when they talk about fitness trackers. The Adventurer has modes for hiking, biking, snowboarding, swimming, skiing or running all with GPS, compass and barometer tracking. The built-in heart rate monitor is more accurate than competing sports watches. An integrated music player even holds up to 500 songs (3GB) to let you workout or hike to your favorite tunes. $349.99 tomtom.com

 
Nucleus - Designed for today's modern family, Nucleus is a home intercom system with video, a mobile app and Wi-Fi capabilities that puts you instantly in touch with the people that matter most. Equipped with a wide angle camera and speakers, Nucleus improves family communication between rooms in your home and between loved ones outside your home. I've been watching the steady growth of Nucleus since before their product launch and this is one impressive communications tool for any family making it an ideal gift this holiday season. $249 nucleuslife.com

 

Amazon Echo Dot - The Echo Dot is a hands-free, voice-controlled device that uses Alexa to play music, control smart home devices, provide information, read the news and set alarms. The Echo Dot is the perfect gift for colleagues at the office or your kids' teachers this holiday season. $49.99 amazon.com

Fitbit Charge 2 - Fitbit Charge 2 has become the company's most popular fitness wristband, featuring an enhanced exercise experience, new health and fitness tools powered by PurePulse heart rate tracking, smart notifications and a new sleek, design. The display is larger and easier to read and the tracking is more precise. Multi-sport modes allow for tracking specific workouts like runs, biking, weights, yoga and more. $149.95 fitbit.com

3Doodler Create - Have a friend or family member who's tricky to buy things for? Well, if they're artsy or into crafting or DIY, 3Doodler Create is a unique gift that allows them to get inventive and create almost anything. I gave each of my kids their own 3Doodler Create and it kept them busy for an entire afternoon as they created everything imaginable. $99 the3doodler.com


SkyBell - This smart HD video doorbell makes homes and neighborhoods safer with an easy and affordable home security solution. It's compatible with both iOS and Android devices. SkyBell's live video stream allows residents to see, hear and speak to visitors from anywhere. This is the type of holiday gift that shows you care about the recipient because it improves their safety. $199 skybell.com

 

Inductrix FPV RTF Drone - This is the perfect beginner FPV drone, which is designed for indoor flying in even the smallest of places. Its integrated video transmitter, FPV camera, high performance motors and large 200mAh battery make this one of the most impressive and smallest drones on the market. The ducted propeller design allows the drone to bounce of walls and objects without crashing. $199.99 horizonhobby.com

 
Logitech C922 Pro Stream Webcam - Today's webcam might look similar to the webcam you had ten years ago, but make no mistake they are very different indeed. Logitech's C922 is the perfect gift for anyone interested in broadcasting live video or increasing the clarity of their video conferencing. The camera allows for either 1080p or fluid HD 720p at 60fps. It also comes with a free 3-month premium XSplit license. $99.99 logitech.com

GoSun Sport Solar Powered Stove - Not everyone who enjoys camping and the outdoors wants the hassle of making a campfire to cook meals. The GoSun Sport is a smart holiday gift for your favorite outdoors enthusiast. This compact stove cooks a meal in 20 minutes (in full sunlight), heats up to 550° F, works through freezing, partially cloudy weather or light overcast and stays hot for hours. $279 gosunstove.com


Flir Scout TK Camera - When it comes to tech innovation there's just about nothing more impressive than thermal vision. This is the ideal device for the outdoorsman or hunter in your family. This pocket-sized thermal vision monocular lets anyone to see in total darkness. You can take video and photos capturing the heat signatures of people and animals up to 100 yards away. Common uses include spotting wildlife in zero or low-light conditions, including fog and making sure the campfire is really extinguished. $599 flir.com

Vuzix iWear Headphones - This set of high-end video headphones with dual HD display delivers a compelling mobile wearable video and gaming experience. As an on-the-go home theater device, iWear projects a 130 inch screen in front of the wearer. Content truly comes to life whether it's from a computer, DVD player or gaming console. The headphones support 2D & 3D video, as well as virtual reality for a comprehensive range of options. Vuzix's model is much more lightweight than many VR headsets on the market. $499 vuzix.com
 
DYMO MobileLabeler - I love DYMO labelers and this one lets you create high-quality, self-adhesive labels using Bluetooth wireless technology from your Apple or Android mobile device using the free DYMO Connect mobile app or from your computer. $129.99 dymo.com

Perfect Kitchen PRO Smart Scale and App System - This kitchen tech product makes baking accessible and hassle-free with a smart scale that seamlessly connects to your phone or tablet and guides you through each recipe in real time. It works with three apps -- Perfect Bake, Perfect Blend and Perfect Drink -- making it easy to become a better baker, a smoothie pro or a master mixologist. $129.99 surlatable.com

Beddi - This intelligent alarm clock has a wake up light, multiple USB charging ports, a high quality Bluetooth speaker and multi-colored mood lighting. Whoever is lucky enough to get this as a holiday gift will be woken up by their very own playlists on Spotify, get the most recent weather forecast, receive the latest traffic reports and request an Uber ride with the touch of a button. The settings can be customized by the free mobile app (iOS and Android). $99 wittidesign.com/en/beddi