As the maker movement gains steam, the gadgets we love are increasingly tools that help us create. For that reason we’re adding DIY to the gadgets guide this year. Follow along for our recommendations of our favorite gadgets and tools that we’ve covered this year.
Molekule Air Purifier
Molekule wants to be the iPhone of air purifiers, meaning it combines excellent design, build quality, and functionality–and comes at a premium price. In fact, it looks like what you’d imagine an Apple-created super-computer might, a tall brushed-aluminum column with a leather handle for portability and a soft purple glow. There’s a small OLED screen on top that updates you about things like filter status that looks very Nest-like. It will also interact with an app on your phone, so you can control and program when it runs, much like a smart thermostat. It uses a two-stage filter process, one of which includes a UV-activated coating to break down pollutants at the molecular level, and promises (with data) to improve life for people, including allergy and asthma sufferers, by taking pathogens, allergens, and VOCs out of the air. Most importantly, for a purifier that will keep up to a 600sf room fresh, it’s really, really quiet. And it looks like a piece of art. Molekule costs $799, and you can subscribe to get regular filter replacements for $99/year.
Heroclip is a clip that folds open, can hook to any surface, rotates 360º degrees, and can support up to 50 lbs. of weight. I reviewed this product in 2016, and it’s still on my backpack. It goes with me wherever I and my kids go. It’s sturdy, reliable, and now has a discount of 20%: just go to the page and enter HCHANG20.
“Alexa, what’s on my Christmas list?”
When you write for a place like GeekDad, where expressing opinions is quite literally a part of the job, you quickly realize that—and stay with me here—people like different things. That being said, my voice-controlled digital assistant of choice is Amazon’s Alexa. Since the earliest days of the original Echo, she has been my go-to girl Friday, managing my grocery list, reading me my morning news, and, most importantly, understanding my almost comically overemphasized southern drawl. Right now, you can bring your own Alexa home for the holidays for under 30 bucks, albeit in her diminutive Echo Dot form. Admittedly, the internal speaker is kinda butt, however, if you’re looking to try out this flavor smart assistant on the cheap or to expand existing Alexa functionality to an additional part of your home, this is a deal too good to miss. Best of all, thanks to a growing list of compatible “skills” and robust support for the IFTTT middleware, it’s also an easy way to get into smart home products and the related automation. Oh, and my kids want me to include that Alexa’ll tell you jokes too. They use that feature a lot.
Easily learn the preferred instrument of Don Ho, Tiny Tim, and countless YouTubers with the Populele.
Over the summer, my daughter and I decided to take up the ukulele together, and within weeks, she was playing circles around me. Coming from a guitar background, the tuning didn’t make much sense, and I spent more time looking at chord charts than actually, y’know, learning to play. Enter the Populele. This Indiegogo-launched instrument is a quality constructed spruce and maple uke with 72 independent LEDs concealed beneath the fretboard. Using a companion app and your phone or tablet’s Bluetooth functionality, you can learn to play via interactive lessons, games, and an ever-expanding library of popular classic and contemporary songs, with those pesky chord changes helpfully displayed right there on the corresponding frets. Even after you’re ready to step out on your own, the tuner and chord dictionary functions continue to provide valuable assets that any musician can appreciate. Currently on sale for the holidays, you can save up to a staggering 30% off the regular price, meaning there’s never been a better time to gift a ukulele to the burgeoning songwriter in your life! [Review materials provided by: Popuband]
Teach your kids how to build electronics and how to code at the same time with the littleBits Code Kit. With STEAM subjects such a priority in schools, extend that learning at home. Use the kit with your kids, or set them free to follow the included step-by-step instructions and educational materials so they can design and build their own video games with a real-world component. Read my review on GeekDad.
Kids can now design and build their own stop-motion animated movies with LEGO pieces! The LEGO Make Your Own Movie stop motion animation book provides a thorough education in stop-motion and animation movie-making ideas and principles, along with sets, inspiration, and 36 different LEGO pieces, including minifigs. Read my review on GeekDad.
Fully offers desks, chairs, and things to keep you moving. Image from Fully.com.
With a simple and elegant design, and tons of configuration options, the Jarvis Adjustable Standing Desk by Fully is the perfect gift for anyone that spends any time in front of a computer or at a desk. Designed to keep you moving, the Jarvis easily transforms from a sitting desk to a standing desk. Fully also offers anti-fatigue mats and balance boards as well as some awesome chairs that encourage movement. I’ve used the Tic Toc Chair as well as the Tic Toc Balance Board. Both are comfortable while allowing me to move and shift while I work. Looking for something for your little ones? Fully Kids offers the same movement-encouraging desks and chairs designed for kids! For young and old, Fully offers reasonably priced, elegant looking, comfortable, and health-conscious gear. Read GeekDad’s review of the Jarvis Bamboo Adjustable Standing Desk and the Cooper Standing Desk Converter. I can’t recommend these products enough!
Kano’s Pixel Kit. 16 Million Colors. Infinite Fun.
Kano’s Pixel Kit is an amazing way to brighten up your children’s coding. We love the Pixel Kit in our house. It has a very easy to use interface, and the array of LEDs seems to spark off idea after idea for glitzy projects. The projects have a physicality to them too, which younger children appreciate a great deal more than just seeing things moving on a screen.
Everything you need (apart from the app, which you can download) to build Pixel programs is included in the top quality box. Kano has clearly put a great deal of thought into its product. The app that’s used to program the Pixel Kit encourages iterative improvement and bug-fixing, so it fosters great coding skills. It can also be used without the kit at all, so worth a look if you want to see if your child might be interested. The app and more information about the Pixel Kit can be found on their website. For smaller budgets, Kano also makes an impressive motion sensor kit, which is great fun too. For my full Pixel Kit review, click here.
I really want a version in yellow and blue.
The heft and finish of the Wolverine screamed “top tier” as soon as I took it out of the included hard case. The textured grips ensure that the controller won’t slip out of your hands during long play sessions. The Wolverine has triggers and extra shoulder buttons just like the XBox Elite Wireless controller, interchangeable thumbsticks (short and domed), and two different D-pad styles (one 4-way classic, one multi-directional). The thumbsticks and D-pad are magnetic for easy interchangeability. Just like Razer’s PC hardware, the Wolverine’s light strip is completely customizable. You can tweak it to glow in hundreds of different colors and seven different glow patterns. One of my favorite features is the “Focus/Agile” customization. With it, you can increase or lower the track rate of the thumbstick with a button press (again, customizable via the Synapse app). The only downside is that the Wolverine is 100% wired. At least it’s a nicely braided, fully breakaway, cord. The Razer Wolverine Ultimate doesn’t come cheap, but the additional physical and virtual customization you get with the Razer controller is well worth the extra cash.
Old Oasis on the left, new Oasis on the right
The All-New Kindle Oasis is the best Kindle that Amazon has ever produced. It’s waterproof and the display is bigger–a full inch larger than any other Kindle display (even though the device itself is smaller than even the Kindle Voyage). That extra space provides room for a bigger battery, getting rid of the need for a charging cover and allowing Amazon to create water-safe fabric covers with a handy kickstand feature (if you still prefer leather, there are non-waterproof leather versions). You can now get the Kindle Oasis in 8GB and 32GB capacities, letting you store up to 160 Audible books and, for the first time, stream them to your Bluetooth speaker or headphones. The Oasis also now features adaptive backlighting (previously exclusive to the Voyage). The non-symmetric design is still perfect for one-handed reading and without the weight of the battery in the cover, it’s even a little better than the original Oasis was. The All-New Kindle Oasis is significantly cheaper than its predecessor as well, making this the perfect top-tier Kindle.
Left to right: Hot Rod/Thunderhawk, Broadside/U.S.S. Flagg, Titans Return/Action Master Optimus Prime
Transformers fans are impossible to buy for. Since a large part of the hobby is staring at a browser, trying to figure out who has the latest figures in stock, it’s practically impossible to get them something that they don’t already have. So why even try? This year, grab a few figures that they probably already have and grab a Reprolables set from Toyhax that they can use to turn that Titans Return figure into a toy from a completely different ’80s property. My favorites this year convert Hot Rod into the Thunderhawk from M.A.S.K., triple-changer Broadside into the U.S.S. Flagg from G.I. Joe, and triple-changer Optimus Prime into Action Master Optimus Prime. (OK, that last one is a bit of a fudge, but the set captures that ’90s Hasbro cheeseball aesthetic so well, I had to include it.) They get that old school thrill of applying toy decals, but the conversion kits aren’t so involved that they’re going to take days to complete. With an hour or so of effort, you end up with a toy with an entirely new deco that you’ve completed yourself. Some of the more involved sets even include 3D-printed add-ons to really complete the conversion. Even if you don’t choose one of these kits, there are hundreds of labels for hundreds of figures to enhance or repair their collection.
Saddleback Leather Waxed Canvas Tool Kit
At first glance, you might think this was the Canvas Dopp Kit that I recommended last year. And, essentially, it is, just seriously upsized. Like the Dopp Kit, Saddleback Leather’s Waxed Canvas Tool Bag is made from marine-grade, waxed canvas, and features bolted leather straps, durable stainless steel eye closures, copper rivets, and bull leather plates and handle. If all that sounds like overkill–well, it is–but when you have a 100-year warranty, you tend to overengineer things. The bag is roomy, the waxed canvas is waterproof and seriously puncture resistant, and it’s extremely versatile. I’m using the bag to store all my various Transformers redecoes that are in progress, as well as their labels, and the needle-sharp tweezers I use. The waxed canvas is fairly stiff, and bull leather plates give the bag even more structure, so you don’t have to worry about it collapsing. There is also an interior canvas flap and a back pocket that you can employ if you want a little organization. The straps for the eye closures have two positions, so even overstuffed, you can still close the bag securely. The leather strap makes it easy to transport and the rear grommet allows you to hang it anywhere. It’s a durable project bag that will likely outlast whoever receives it.
With the MobileStudio Pro line of computers, we’re talking about high-end computers in small packages. The MobileStudio Pro combines valuable tools including a top-tier monitor and graphics system, lightning-fast processors, 3D cameras, and a pen interface into a single synergetic unit with extra features and optimization on top. Think of it as a tablet, desktop computer, laptop, pen interface, and powerful digital pen tool all in one.
The only downside is the cost. It’s not cheap to put all these features into one machine. When you consider the whole package, however, the cost is absolutely worth it. Thankfully, there are five models, each with their own price point, guaranteeing you can find a fit for the artist who deserves the best tool for Christmas this year.
Just released, the XBOX One X is the latest and greatest console on the market. The XBOX One X is leaps and bounds more powerful than both its predecessor (XBOX One) and competitor (PlayStation). With the XBOX One X, you can play three generations of XBOX games, use all XBOX One accessories, stream and record gameplay at 4K resolution, and enjoy all the benefits of XBOX Gold. This means your geek will have access to the best gaming community to go along with the best console. To top things off, the XBOX One X comes with a Terabyte of storage, so they’ll never run out of space, and no bulky external drives are necessary.
Osmo iPhone Base
The Osmo system offers several awesome educational games that teach coding, math and money, and more. The new Osmo iPhone base gives you more flexibility so you can use an iPhone instead of just an iPad, raising the phone to the proper height so the camera mirror can do its magic. It’s a great mix of digital and physical play.
The Kodak Printomatic. Image by Rob Huddleston
Everything old is new again, including having cameras that print their pictures directly. Kodak’s entry into the market is competitively priced with the Polaroid models, and uses the same technology, printing onto 2×3 sheets that are loaded into the camera. What I really liked about this model is that it is incredibly lightweight, so you aren’t carrying around another heavy thing, and incredibly easy to use: load the paper, turn it on, snap the picture, wait a minute for your print. You aren’t going to win any National Geographic photography competitions, but if you have a teenager at home like I do, they will absolutely love being able to shoot and print photos of themselves nonstop.
ArcKit Master Plan
I’ve covered ArcKit before on GeekDad several times before and their latest offerings are their best yet! First off, for that master planner and builder in your family comes ArcKit Master Plan with over 390 pieces, vinyl adhesive sheets for roads, grass, and more, and free access to the entire ArcKit digital library! The other new additions are ArcKitPLAY Citycape and Tiny Towns. These kits come in smaller sizes and feature more colorful and playful features. The Tiny Towns boxes actually unfold to become a base and landscape for your creations! For anyone more architecturally or design-minded, ArcKit is a great alternative to the run of the mill building toys.
I’ve tried a lot of fitness devices, and the problem I always have is that they are pretty intrusive and bulky. So I take them off or don’t put them on, and then they do me no good. And in comes Motiv. For people who enjoy wearing rings, the Motiv is the perfect solution! It is a fitness, heart rate, and sleep tracker in one and it’s just a ring that goes onto your finger. I’ve been using my Motiv for a month now and I really enjoy it. I like the way it looks on my hand, it doesn’t ever get in the way, and it syncs via Bluetooth to my phone. There is a USB charger that it easily magnetizes too for a quick recharge.
Loki Dagger Kit.
Cosplay is becoming ever increasingly popular and accessible to fans and convention goers. If you know a cosplayer who needs a leg up on their costume or props, have them check out Billythebrick Cosplay where there are a bunch of props, kits, and patterns and blueprints for CosMakers of all skill levels and fandoms. Even custom commissions are available!
The Cairn lantern attached to a tree. Image by Rob Huddleston
Modern camping combines an age-old problem, the need for light after dark, with a modern one, the need to keep devices charged. (Yes, I know the arguments about being out in nature and whatever, but for the sake of argument let’s assume the devices in question are merely being used for the cameras.) The Cairn Lantern and Power Bank, newly released by Lander and available via their website or at your friendly local REI store, solves both in one compact package. The lantern is surprisingly bright, putting out 300 lumens, and can last up to 2 1/2 hours. The integrated tether lets you attach it to practically anything for hands-free light. And best of all, the power bank feature means you can also charge your phone off the lantern. Watch GeekDad.com in the coming days for a full review.