2019 Holiday Gift Guide: Gadgets

Geeks and gadgets go hand in hand. Many of us love the electronic gadgets that make our lives a little more enjoyable or convenient. Below are a few of the gadgets that have piqued our interests this year.


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Meze Audio 99 Classics

99 Classics Headphones
Suggested By: Ken Denmead
Mfg: Meze Audio
Price: $309
Purchase: 99 Classics Headphones

We’ve been fans of Meze headphones since they first came on the market eight years ago. This year, they came out with not only their best headphones as a brand, but one of the best pairs of headphones, period (as per the forums at Head-fi.org). These headphones sound great, and look amazing, with the Meze-signature real-wood earcups, and high-quality design and construction. They fit wonderfully, even on my giant head, and wear comfortably for hours of blissful listening. These would make any music fan a very special holiday gift. Also, look for their slightly less-expensive sibling, the 99 Neo, with similar sound quality.


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Nixplay Smart Photo Frame

Smart Photo Frame
Suggested By: Ken Denmead
Mfg: Nixplay
Price: From $180.
Purchase: Smart Photo Frame

Screen technology and cloud storage capabilities have finally reached the level of maturity where replacing traditional photo frames with smart frames has become both economical and attractive. The line of smart frames from Nixplay all look good, both in their design, and in the execution of displaying a large playlist of your favorite images and short videos, so that what’s up on your wall or bookshelf is an ever-changing walk down memory lane. The ability to snap a picture out in the world, and then have it in the rotation on your smart frame at home in a few moments is a magical experience. Buying smart frames for the whole extended family so you can simply and seamlessly all share pictures around the block or around the world is next level joy.


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See who’s at the door even when you’re not at home.

Ring Video Doorbell 2
Suggested By: Z.
Mfg: Ring
Price: $199
Purchase: Ring Video Doorbell 2

If your holiday season is awash with travel, guests, or package deliveries, that makes it the perfect time to pick up a video doorbell. The Ring Video Doorbell 2 pairs ease of installation—whether you’re replacing an existing doorbell or installing it wirelessly using the included rechargeable battery—with ease of access for a perfect marriage of security and convenience. Get motion-activated alerts and live HD video right from your phone, or pair it with a Ring Chime, smart lock, or Amazon Echo device to take its capabilities even further. Whether you’re greeting guests via the integrated mic and speakers, making sure no one absconds with your latest UPS drop-off, or simply keeping an eye on the house while you’re out of town, the Ring Video Doorbell 2 is the smart home gadget for you. [Review material provided by: Ring]


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I’ll defeat that dragon if it’s the last thing that I do!

Ring Fit Adventure
Suggested By: Z.
Mfg: Nintendo
Price: $79.99
Purchase: Ring Fit Adventure

As someone who struggles to stay active, imagine my surprise when my go-to fitness gadget of 2019 was created not by FitBit or Nautilus but by Nintendo. Using little more than a modified Pilates ring and leg strap to leverage the IR and motion detection capabilities of the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers, Ring Fit Adventure gamifies exercise by sending you on an epic quest to defeat a dragon with the power of your squats, lunges, and knee-lifts. Don’t get me wrong; you’ll probably look ridiculous doing it, but the gameplay is so polished and the tracking so accurate that you simply won’t care. In short, Ring Fit Adventure is part workout, part action RPG, and all fun. [Review material provided by: Nintendo of America]


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PIX Backpack \ Image: PIX

PIX Backpack
Suggested By: Dakster Sullivan
Mfg: PIX
Price: $259
Purchase: PIX Backpack

PIX backpack lets you express yourself on a 16×20 matrix of colored LEDs. You can create your own designs and animations or you can use one of the available widgets in the PIX app. It runs off any portable charger that you have laying around.
At 27L with 10 compartments, it’s a unique force to be reckoned with in terms of bags. It’s made of flexible and water repellent material so you don’t have to worry if you get smushed or caught in the rain. In addition to being cool, it’s also a great safety tool because you can put “STOP” or other safety messages to alert people behind you of your presence such as on a snowy mountain or while riding your bike.


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Image: LeapFrog

Rock It Twist Handheld Gaming System
Suggested By: Sarah Pinault
Mfg: LeapFrog
Price: MSRP $59.99
Purchase: Rock It Twist Handheld Gaming System

If you crossed a fidget cube, with a handheld 80s video game, with a Kindle Fire, with a Bop It, you would just about come close to the wonder of the Rock It Twist. This latest device from LeapFrog comes with four sides of light up controls. The buttons, spinners, sliders, and switches, are used to play twelve different games, at three levels of difficulty. There are five categories of game play that each require you to operate the device in a different way, keeping you constantly on your toes. All games are consistent with the LeapFrog brand and are focused around literacy, math, problem solving, science, and creativity. In addition to learning games, each Twist is loaded with three digital eggs that you nurture as they grow. There are six additional game packs, one of which is Trolls themed, that add new games and pets. When loaded onto the Twist, new icons appear in the menu for the additional games, making it easy to navigate. All three of my kids have loved getting their hands on this device. The recommended age is four to eight, but at ages three, seven, and ten, it has proven consistently engaging on a wide variety of levels. The volume control is really responsive, and there is a headphone jack so you can control what the rest of the house hears at all times. This is a great gadget to bring on a long road trip, or to have in hand for long family dinners. It is a single player system, and while it does come with three accounts, one of them is a guest only account that does not save progress. The system connects to your computer in order to charge and load the games, and you will need to create an account to add the game packs. You can also upload music files. However it does not need Wi-Fi to operate and so you simply un-box it and start playing. This is a highly versatile and entertaining device for small and medium hands.


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Image: Edifier

Edifier W860NBs Noise-Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones
Suggested By: Jenny Bristol
Mfg: Edifier
Price: $98
Purchase: Edifier W860NBs Noise-Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones

On the go or at your desk, these Edifier Noise-Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones bring comfort, good sound, and the ability to quiet what’s going on around you. Noise-cancelling can be turned on or off, and you can use these with a cord or wireless. If used wireless, they have 25-45 hours of playback time, depending on whether you’re using the active noise-cancelling feature. They are the best of all worlds, and are comfortable to boot. And, at a price tag under $100, they’re a decent option for a mid-range set of headphones. They also can be made fairly flat, and come with their own firm-sided traveling case. These headphones are extra useful for those with large heads that have trouble finding headphones that fit. They also fit my medium-sized head just fine. Read my full GeekDad review here.


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Images: Arlo

Arlo Doorbell
Suggested By: Rory Bristol
Mfg: Arlo
Price: $67.40
Purchase: Arlo Doorbell

Update your home security with the Arlo audio doorbell. Not only does it alert you to movement via the app (whether or not the bell is rung), the doorbell initiates a video call instantly when the bell is rung, so you can see and have a conversation with the person at the door, even if you’re not home. The doorbell is compatible with all other Arlo setups, which means it’s also compatible with Alexa, Google, Arlo cameras (including Arlo Baby), and Arlo lights. This makes your security system 100% accessible on the go, and customizable for your security needs. This makes Arlo Doorbell a great gift for gadget-loving geeks and for those who want a little more security at home.


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Image: Facebook

Facebook Portal
Suggested By: Rory Bristol
Mfg: Facebook
Price: $129.00
Purchase: Facebook Portal

The Facebook Portal is more than a simple video call station. This gadget works seamlessly with Alexa, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, allowing calls with up to 7 other people. Other Alexa features work as well, allowing you to listen to music, watch TV, set timers, connect to your smart home devices, and everything else Alexa does to make your life easier. The greatest drawback to the Facebook Portal is its price. With Portal Plus costing $279.99, the sticker shock is real. Thankfully, you can buy a much more portable and just as useful 8-inch version for a much more digestable $129. Facebook Portal is a great gift for kids who are away for college, or anyone who could use a little more effortless connection in their lives.


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Wicked Audio Syver True Wireless

Syver True Wireless from Wicked Audio
Suggested By: Anton
Mfg: Wicked Audio
Price: $99
Purchase: Syver True Wireless from Wicked Audio

I’ve been using these in the shop for about a week and love them. They handle with the dust and sweat with their IP65 rating. Sound quality is as good as any other earbuds I’ve tried. The case also doubles as a Bluetooth speaker which will be super convenient when traveling.
My wife appreciates the earbuds too since I can now hear phone alerts and respond to her message,s regardless of how loud it is in the shop.


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Twinkly Curtain Lights 210 RGB LEDs

Twinkly LED Lights
Suggested By: Anton
Mfg: Twinkly
Price: $100-300
Purchase: Twinkly LED Lights

I’ve got a set of Twinkly lights on the way, but haven’t yet received them yet. I’d prefer to test them thoroughly before I post them to the gift guide, but after searching, and asking friends, these appear to be some of the best addressable LEDs on the market. I’m looking at the Curtain specifically, but they have many other options.
I intend to use the Curtain set on the front porch create holiday specific animations year-round.

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