By Marc Saltzman
’TIS THE SEASON TO buy gadgets, gear and
games for loved ones—or hey, why not yourself,
too—and in 2014 there’s no shortage of amazing
tech toys to suit varying tastes and budgets.
Whether you’re looking for something
shiny and new for under the tree or
perhaps a stocking stuffer for the
kids, here are some gift suggestions
for the techies on your list.
Tablet for easy computing
Treat your loved one to his or
her very first tablet. Whether it is
for someone age 9 or 99, the giftee
will love it for so many reasons: A tablet is super thin and light; there’s no
waiting for it to boot up (just wake it up with
a single tap); the battery lasts up to 12 hours on a
single charge; using fingertips on a touch screen
feels great; it’s perfect for reading e-books and digital magazines; and finding software (“apps”) is very
easy and affordable (if not free).
Quick tip: A 7-inch tablet is more portable,
while a 10-inch is better for use at home.
A new watch
No, I’m not talking about the traditional timepieces. A new generation of smart watches not only
tell time, but act as a handy extension of your smartphone on your wrist. For example, Motorola’s
moto360 responds to your voice: Say, “OK Google,
how is the weather?” and you’ll get a forecast. These
smart watches double as activity trackers, keeping
track of your steps and heart rate.
Stream it, watch it
A variety of clever devices can stream
your favorite entertainment to your TV,
where you can enjoy it on the big screen.
Three notables are Google Chromecast,
Apple TV and Roku. Chromecast is a thumb-size device that plugs into the HDMI port on
your TV; you stream movies, pictures and
music from your smartphone or computer to it.
Apple TV connects to your TV; you stream content from i Tunes (including your own library, or
movies to rent) and other sources to it. Roku also
streams content from the Internet to your TV. With
these devices you get full access to services such as
Netflix, HuluPlus and Pandora.
Sound bar for home theater
If you don’t have the budget, space or technical
savoir-faire to set up a surround-sound system for a
Costco sells a complete vari-
ety of these great electronics
and more in the warehouses
and online at Costco.com.
Costco Cash cards also
make a great gift.
home theater, consider a sound bar to add some
boom to your room. Sitting just below or above
your television, sound bars house multiple speakers
in a horizontal enclosure and deliver multichannel sound (or, in some cases, simulated surround sound, but still way
better than your TV’s speakers) for
your movies, TV shows, sports and
Many sound bars include a
wireless subwoofer to place somewhere else in the room (for the
low-end bass), and some let you
stream music from your smartphone or computer via Bluetooth.
Backup power supplies
A practical gift for a smartphone owner is a
portable backup battery. Small enough for a pocket,
purse or, in some cases, even a keychain, these portable power packs can power up a smartphone
when you need a quick boost. They can also provide
new energy for cameras and other gadgets. They’re
great for those times when a plug isn’t handy for a
Quick tip: When shopping for a battery charger,
remember that the higher the milliamps, (mAh),
the more times it can power up a device—but the
bigger the battery will be.
Wireless speakers for great sound
These cool accessories let the recipient play
favorite music, podcasts or audiobooks from a
smartphone, tablet or laptop. The latest crop of
inexpensive wireless speakers work with any
Bluetooth-enabled device, up to 35 feet away.
Some of these speakers are waterproof or
weather resistant for tough on-the-go settings, and
many have an integrated microphone, which turns
it into a speakerphone if a call comes in.
Headphones for all uses
Finally, what to buy an on-the-go music lover?
Cool headphones, of course. A growing number of
them are wireless (using Bluetooth technology).
Also, active noise cancellation is a nice feature for
frequent travelers, as it blocks out ambient noise,
such as a plane’s engine roar. C
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how is the wea
a leading high-tech
to more than three
on radio and TV, and is
the author of 15 books.
He’s on Twitter at
ther?” and you’ll get a forecast. These
ce that plugs into the HDMI port on
Gadget gifts for the holidays