Category Archives: Top Tech Lists

My Top Tech Gifts for Christmas 2012

Here are a few gadgets that you might want to consider this holiday season. As always, check my past lists below for other ideas. And if you have a questions, just leave it in the comments. I’ll get notified immediately and respond. Merry New Year!

1. iPad Mini ($329, Apple)
If your eyesight can stand the reduction in screen size, this is the better iPad, and it costs less. It has the same resolution as the original, just packs more pixels into a smaller space. But what you’ll really appreciate is its weight. With my iPad 2, every night I worry the things going to break my nose when I fall asleep. This thing is beautiful. But it may be in short supply before Christmas.

2. Nest Learning Thermostat ($250, Amazon)
This is thing beats other thermostats by a factor of 10. Designed by the guy that designed the first iPod and iPhone, the Nest learns your habits over time and programs itself. Turn the heat up every weekday morning at 7A, but not until 9A on weekends, and it will eventually start doing it for you. It also lets you access it from anywhere (so you could turn your heat up from your iPhone on your way home). It has gotten rave reviews.

3. Canon Pancake Lens: 40mm EF f/2.8 STM ($149, Amazon)
This one is on my Christmas list. If you have a Canon DSLR, you’ll love how light and compact this makes your camera. The pancake lens has long been missing from Canon’s line-up, but they now offer this high quality option for a low price. Any Canon SLR user would be happy to receive this.


4. The new iMac ($1,299, Apple)
If you haven’t been by an Apple Store lately, its worth the trip to hold the new iPad Mini and see the new iMac. It is crazy thin, fast and beautiful. If you have the cash, choose the $1,499 model and add the Fusion Drive, a combo hard drive and solid state drive. That will make the thing scream.  The 27-inch models will ship in January. And remember that when you buy a new Mac, it’s always best to by right after they are released, because the price rarely goes down. Wait a while, and you could purchase a Mac just before a new one comes out–the worst time.

5. Sonos ($299, Amazon)
Sonos was on my Father’s Day gift list, but I had to add it again because I have gotten to use it so much since then. I replaced my Polk XM receiver with a Sonos Connect, so now I have access to all the Sonos goodness like Pandora and Rdio, my new favorite music service. But the multi-zone aspect of Sonos is it’s best feature. My friend, Peter, just put six zones in his house and it is ridiculous how easy it is to control the system from an iPhone, iPad, iPod or Android device. The picture and link above is the Play:3, which is their smaller portable unit. Check out the whole family of devices.

My Father’s Day Top Tech Gifts for 2012

As always, I encourage you to peruse my last few lists for additional ideas, but here are my latest favorite tech toys–any of which should make a semi-nerdy dad smile.

The Sonos Play:5 is an elegant all-in-one that packs a wallop.
1. Sonos

I included the Sonos Play 3 on my Christmas list. Since then, I have had more time to play with different configurations. I have come to the conclusion that this is currently the best system for music in the home. My brother recently replaced his multi-zone home audio system with six Sonos amps. The result is a system that you control with well-designed iPhone, iPad or Android apps. It’s ridiculously easy to group zones together to play the same music, or you can have every zone play something different.

The Sonos family of products.
The Sonos system offers four primary components: 1) CONNECT hooks up to your home network and outputs audio to your stereo or home audio system; 2) CONNECT:AMP includes an amplifier and can power speakers directly; 3) PLAY:3 is an all in one system including speakers; and 4) PLAY:5 is the big brother to the PLAY:3. They have also recently announced SUB, a $699 subwoofer that connects wirelessly to the system, which is due to ship in late July 2012.

You need only connect one Sonos component to your home network (if there is not an ethernet connection where a Sonos component will go, you can employ the $49 SONOS BRIDGE). Once a unit is connected, it creates a proprietary wireless mesh network to which all other SONOS units can connect.

The Sonos system is easily controlled by computer, iPhone, iPad and Android.

Once you’ve connected your SONOS components, you can listen to all music in your iTunes library, or you can access myriad other popular sources like Pandora, SiriusXM, Spotify, Rhapsody, MOG,, Rdio and much more.

The Sonos system is excellent for it’s simplicity of set-up and use. If he’s a music lover, start him off with the Play:3 and a Bridge. That will allow him to easily take his music the porch, the backyard or the garage. And right now, you can get the $49 Bridge for free at

The Big Jambox improves on a good thing.
2. Jawbone Big Jambox

Jawbone’s original Jambox topped my Christmas list by providing great quality sound streamed via bluetooth from my iPhone or iPad. But if he likes a bigger sound and doesn’t mind a bit more weight, the new Big Jambox is for him. At $299 it’s a little pricey, but the technology and components are great, and the ease of use is wonderful. (Buy it at

Still one of my favorite pieces of technology, and only $95.
3. Apple TV

I have used the Apple TV as my primary music source for over five years, and there is still no more beautiful way to view your pictures and home movies.  This little device is about the size of a few decks of cards, but once plugged into your TV or home entertainment system (via an HDMI cable) offers you access to all your iTunes content, movies and photos. It also allows you to purchase or rent content directly from the iTunes store. Or you can watch YouTube, Netflix, and much more. And now with AirPlay technology, you can easily stream audio and video from any iPhone, iPad or Mac. At $95, the only reason you should not have one is if you have an older TV without an HDMI port.  (Buy it at

4. The New iPad

While the New iPad is merely an iteration of the iPad 2 without a major overhaul, it is an amazing piece of technology. The new retina display shows pictures and HD movies in stunning quality. I use my iPad more than any other piece of technology these days–for e-mail, reading, games, controlling my DirecTV and Apple TV and much more. And when iOS 6.0 ships in the fall, you’ll get Siri to do your evil bidding. There is a reason that the iPad product line has gone from nothing to 25% of Apple’s $160 billion in annual revenues–it is worth it. ($499 at

16GB of storage and about as big as a dime.
5. Verbatim Thumbdrive

More and more, automobiles come with a USB port in the stereo. If your car will play music from a USB device, this little thumb drive is a great addition. It’s little more than the size of the USB port itself, but it packs 16GB of storage for only $15–less than a buck a gigabyte! That’s enough for about 4,000 songs. And you barely notice it. (Buy it at

6. iPad Camera Connection Kit

I love taking a sharing photos. And now when I am on the road with my camera, I bring my iPad and camera connection kit along. It allows you to connect a USB cable from camera to iPad, or insert an SD memory card into the bottom of the iPad to transfer your photos. And with the new iPhoto app, its easy to create a great slideshow on the fly.  (Buy it at

7. The new Macbook Pro with Retina Display
The new MacBook Pro is a major rework of Apple’s professional notebook computer line. It thinner, lighter and stronger. And it’s the first Mac with a high-resolution retina display. So if he’s been very good, and you have $2,200 burning a whole in your pocket, go check it out at the Apple Store.

That’s it for this year. If you have any questions, just post a comment below.

My Top Tech Gifts for Christmas 2011

Much of my Top Ten Tech Gifts for Father’s Day 2011 post remains true, though some have had nice price reductions (the Canon Rebel T3i with lens dropped from $916 to $720). I thought I’d add a few more thoughts for Christmas.

1. Jawbone Jambox

A friend brought this little gizmo on a recent camping trip and I was amazed. It connects to a multitude of devices via bluetooth and pumps out thumping sound for it’s size (6″L x 2.2″W x 1.6″H; 12 oz.).  It is rechargeable and lasts about 10 hours. It also works well as a speakerphone. The Jambox retails for $199, but you can get the red model shown above for much less with no tax and free shipping using the following link. (, $163)

2. Sonos Play 3

Sonos has long been a provider of whole-home wireless music solutions, but the recent release of the Play 3 and Play 5 remote speakers have brought rave reviews. Easily control your music from an iPhone, iPad, computer or Android device–playing the same song everywhere or a different one from each speaker.  In addition to your iTunes library, Sonos has built-in support for Pandora, Last FM, Spotify, Napster, Sirius XM, and many other offerings from the Internet. The speakers are well built, crank out great sound, and adding another zone means simply buying another speaker. If you don’t have a wired network connection where the speaker will be placed, you’ll need the $49 Sonos Bridge–you only need one for all the Sonos speakers in your home. ( Play 3, $299; Wireless Bridge, $49)

3. Epson MegaPlex Projector

Epson recently released these turnkey projectors, but Amazon has already lopped the price dramatically in time for the holidays. The 720p model is HD, though not full 1080P HD, but it should be fine for showing the kids the latest Pixar movie on the side of your house. And the built-in speakers are loud enough to handle that rehearsal dinner slideshow. The iPhone/iPad dock is just gravy. ( 720p, $680; 520p, $549)

4. iPhone 4S

It’s silly not to upgrade to the latest iPhone if your contract allows it. You can sell that old phone on eBay for about as much as the new one costs you. And the new iPhone 4S offers increased speed, Siri, and an amazing camera upgrade. Dealing with the phone companies makes this a difficult gift to give, so the link takes you to the iPhone gift card page. (, $199 with contract)

5. MacBook Air

If you need an extra computer around the house, the entry level Apple laptop is a great choice. Shoehorning this much power in such a small and light package is amazing. And the recent upgrades make this laptop even more of a bargain. ( 11.6″ Display, $940; 13.3″ Display, $1,280)

6. Fujitsu SCANSNAP S1100 Portable Scanner

I have used this line of scanners for five years now. The combination of build quality, performance and ease of use are unparalleled. Turning that pile of bills on your text into digital copies (now acceptable to the IRS) is much better than filing them all. And it folds up so small, you’ll barely notice it. (, $190)

Just a few ideas. I know they are a little expensive in these difficult times. Check my Father’s Day post for some less expensive options. Or just get him some Thorlo socks. Those are quite nice.

Incidentally, while the iPad is still one of my favorite gadgets (I rarely use a computer at home anymore), the rumor is that they will update it sometime around next March. So I would leave that for a Fathers Day gift.

My Father’s Day Top Ten Tech Gifts for 2011

Here is my annual look at great technology gifts for dads. These are all gadgets that I use personally and love. And I go through a lot of gadgets. Got a question? Just e-mail me.
1. Apple TV 2 ($98) 
The Apple TV headed last year’s list because it has long been my favorite piece of tech. And now they have released the Apple TV 2, lopping $170 and the hard drive from the original model. I was originally reluctant to rely so much on streaming over the network versus an internal hard drive. But now that I have used it, I like it. And with the advent of iCloud this fall, the new Apple TV will be even better. The device only has an HDMI output for video, though. So make sure you have a recent TV with HDMI inputs. (
2. Apple iPad 2 ($499)
I probably would have slotted the iPad in the number one spot if it were a little cheaper. But if he’s worth it, I can’t imagine a man who would not love this device. I have a laptop, a desktop and an iPhone, but I do most of my “computing” on my iPad. It’s the perfect size for e-mail, reading, watching videos and playing games. And with the upcoming iOS 5 and iCloud, it will be even more useful. Just the $499 base model is good enough. Order early! (

3. MLB.TV Subscription ($99)

If he is a baseball fan, especially a fan of a team in another city, then he will love this. I’m a Giants fan and recently got hooked. Previously, I very rarely got to watch my team. Now I have every game available live or recorded on my iPad, Computer or iPhone. They also support Apple TV 2, iPod Touch, Android, and some newer TVs. (MLB.TV)

4. Canon EOS Rebel T3i ($916)
I fully expect senility to start setting in soon, and I know I will want a little help remembering. My pictures are a key reason that I love my iPad and Apple TV, because there has never been a better way to view and share pictures. The T3i is the annual release of Canon’s wildly popular digital camera line. This year’s model adds even better picture quality and a swiveling display, which makes the built-in HD video camera easier to use. If he has been a very good boy, this is a gift that will benefit you as well. (


5. Thermapen Instant-read Thermometer ($93)
Two of my six brothers are chefs, but all six eat rather well and swear by the Thermapen. When grilling, I know exactly when my steak is medium rare. And it’s high quality with great service. My display stopped working after five years, and the company fixed it and sent it right back for $25. (

6. Apple Airport Express ($99)

While I have had an Airport Express for years, since it’s great for setting up quick wi-fi networks in hotels or at a friends’ house, the recent version’s inclusion of AirPlay earned the device a spot in my top 10. Plug it into the wall, run an audio cable to your stereo, and you’re soon able to stream music directly from your iPhone, iPad or computer at the touch of a button. And anyone on your network can do the same, which will wow your friends when you let them play their own music. We have one hooked up at the office so that anyone can dish music whilst we sip ales on our sundeck and watch the sun set over the Pacific. Mmmm. That sounds nice. (

7. Apple Magic Trackpad ($69)
While I use this trackpad for my desktop at home and like it very much, it would not have made the top ten list until earlier this week when Apple previewed the next version of the Mac operating system. Being able to swipe different ways with different numbers of fingers will be very important starting next month (July 2011) when Mac OS X Lion is released. So if he has a desktop Mac, or uses his laptop with an external mouse, he’ll appreciate this soon. (


8. Ooma ($200)
I keep this device on from last year’s list. Just plug it into your broadband Internet connection, then plug a wireless phone system into Ooma, and enjoy free calls nationwide for the rest of your life. Upgrade to Ooma premier for $10 and get cool additional features like having your voicemails e-mailed to you. (

9. iPod Nano ($149) and Lunatik watch band ($80)
I love watches, and being able to wear a watch made by Apple struck a chord with me. The Lunatik also protects your iPod from accidental bumps. I run with it every morning, first listening to music, then the business report on NPR with the Nano’s built-in radio. But it’s most fun out in the evening when it gets noticed. With a few swipes on my “watch” I can share the latest pics of the kids, and a fingertip twist rotates them toward the viewer. Seriously. How cool am I? ( iPod and Lunatik)

10. Slingbox Pro-HD ($259)
This funny little box works with your cable or DirecTV system to feed your TV, including recorded shows, to your laptop or mobile device anywhere in the world. So with the $30 iPad app, you have all your TV anywhere there is a WiFi connection. Great for sports fans and travelers. (

Oh, and don’t buy him an iPhone now.

The new iPhone 5 (or perhaps 4s) should arrive this fall. So wait on that one.

What are your thoughts?

My Father’s Day Top Ten Tech Gifts

I started this blog because a friend asked me to send him my top ten list for technology. I have updated that list in time for Father’s Day. Most of the items can be purchase from with no sales tax and free shipping using the links to the right. Got a question? Just e-mail me.
  1. Apple TV ($230) 
    • The Apple TV has long been my favorite piece of tech. My wife loves it too. And of the dozens of friends who have seen mine and bought their own, every single one has been blown away. Think of it as another stereo component that lets you listen to all your music, see all your pictures in stunning high definition, watch all your movies and much more. Rumor has it that Apple is working on a new version that will cost only $99 but do away with the hard drive, leaving streaming from a networked computer or the Internet as the only option. I like the fact that all my music is so easily accessible, whether I am connected or not. Go ahead and upgrade his CD player. 
  2. Apple iPad ($499+)
    • I’ve had mine since day one and love it. The only question is memory size and whether to pay the extra $130 for the version that can access the cellular data network, rather than the basic Wi-Fi only model. I opted for the smallest memory and Wi-Fi only. I could have spent the extra $200 for 64G of memory versus 16G, but I would still have to decide which of my content to leave off, and 16G is plenty of music and video to carry with me. And I don’t listen to music much on the device anyway. As for the extra $130 for the ability to access the cellular data network, you have to pay an additional $15/mo for 250MB of data, or $30/mo for unlimited data, and I don’t travel enough to justify the additional costs. I always have my iPhone in a pinch.
  3. Any new Mac computer ($999+)
    • If he is still on a PC, save him. If he is on a Mac that is more than three years old, he’ll love the blazing new speed.
  4. Canon EOS Rebel T2i ($800)
    • This is the newer version of the camera body that I use. Amazing pictures, easy to use, and HD video capabilities just added.
  5. Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM Standard and Medium Telephoto Lens ($345)
    • The lens that comes with the Canon Rebel kit costs you $100. Leave that one behind, buy the body alone, and spend another $245 to get the most stunning photos an amateur can take.
  6. Apple iPhone 4 ($199)
    • The fourth generation iPhone was just announced and it is amazing. It’s 24% thinner, has 40% more battery life and let’s you video chat with other iPhone 4’s. Pre-order it on June 15 and give him a gift certificate on Father’s Day. His phone will be ready on June 24.
  7. Samsung Blu-ray DVD Player ($200)
    • $200 will get you a Blu-ray player disc player that also streams Netflix, YouTube and Pandora. 
  8. Ooma ($200)
    • It’s time to dropkick your telephone company. Pay $200 for this slick device, plug it into your broadband Internet connection, then plug a wireless phone system into Ooma, and enjoy free calls nationwide for the rest of your life. Upgrade to Ooma premier for $10 and get cool additional features like having your voicemails e-mailed to you.
  9. Time Capsule ($279)
    • It’s not much to pay for seamless backup of all your photos, music, movies and data (every hard drive will eventually die, you know). And you get the best wifi router as well!
  10. Nike Plus ($29)
    • Got a fat husband, like my wife? Get him into running with this cool add on for compatible iPods and iPhones.