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Tech gifts for homebodies, outdoors enthusiasts, readers and more

At $999 the DJI Mavic Pro drone delivers quality video and photos.
At $999 the DJI Mavic Pro drone delivers quality video and photos. Courtesy of DJI

Christmas seems to be sneaking up on me early this year, perhaps because of the wonderful extended fall. But I’m ready with some tech gift ideas in a year of wonderful gadgetry. A quick Google or Amazon search should pull the online address for any of these products.

DJI Mavic Pro drone. I knew I was going to have to make this the year that drones got into my annual Christmas list. They’re too popular to leave out, and this one offers excellent portability and a 4K camera so you can capture the same kind of aerial footage your Facebook friends keep posting. The quality of both video and photos is high, which is why this drone stands out amidst a sea of competitors, especially if you’re an outdoor type. $999.

Google Home. You could call this squat cylinder a “smart speaker” for the living room, but that doesn’t really do it justice. Google Home brings the company’s Google Assistant into continuous duty, able to access online resources with voice commands. Like Amazon’s Echo, it can answer questions and play music, but I particularly like the responsiveness Google is achieving with the latest Assistant, the next generation of computer interfaces. $129.

Stellarscope. If you have an astronomy-minded member of the family, the Stellarscope makes a great stocking stuffer. It’s a handheld star finder, a kind of on-the-go planetarium that identifies more than 1,500 stars visible to the naked eye. You set the time and date and let the Stellarscope produce a star map aligned with the night sky above you. $49.

Nest Cam. We’re gradually moving into the era of the smart home, which makes this nifty camera an idea add-on to gadgets like Nest’s smart thermostat. As an in-home security monitor, the Nest Cam offers high picture quality with 1080p video and a wide 130-degree lens. Also impressive: Enhanced night vision features and basic intercom capabilities. $199 (access to features like video history requires an additional fee).

WeMo Switch Smart Plug. Speaking of smart homes, we’ve all bought bulky, tricky-to-program switches to turn lights on and off when we were on vacation. Now an inexpensive smart plug like this one can handle the chore, controlling various appliances through your smartphone, and offering programming options to power appliances on the schedule of your choice. $29.

Apple iPad Pro 9.7-inch. The new 9.7-inch screen on the iPad Pro (the 12.9-inch is still available) reminds me why the tablet category originally took off. This version of the iPad Pro offers excellent screen readability through TrueTone automatic color adjustment, which tweaks the display according to ambient conditions, and throws in improved glare reduction. As a vehicle for displaying your photos, it’s likewise top-notch. $599.

Samsung Gear VR virtual headset. I almost didn’t include this one, having traded my S6 smartphone in, but those of you with Samsung phones are going to want to take advantage of the opportunity to experiment with virtual reality. It’s surprisingly realistic – immersive is the word – and lightweight enough to let you concentrate on 360-degree photos, videos and games. Virtual reality, I expect, is going to be an addictive experience as it matures. $99.

Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB turntable. I can’t tell you how pleased I am I hung onto all those old jazz LPs that occupied me in my youth. I picked up one of these turntables a couple of years back and have been playing it non-stop. If you have a collection of vinyl in the house, get it out of mothballs with this fine item. $229.

WD 1TB Black My Passport Portable External Hard Drive. Storage space seems like an afterthought with today’s massive hard disks, but anyone will appreciate the chance to back up priceless photos and files on a solid external device like the Passport. This one offers 1 TB storage and swallows up whatever I feed into it, which by now is a vast assortment of archives dating back 20 years. Connects easily to your computer through a via a USB 3.0 port. $59.

Kindle Voyage. All of a sudden 2016 delivered up multiple ebook readers of high quality. I could easily send you to the Amazon Oasis, the priciest of these, or the Kobo Aura One (for those who like a larger screen). But the Voyage fits the bill for anyone hoping for crisp readability, readily adjustable lighting and access to the vast Amazon catalog. $199 and up.

Paul A. Gilster is the author of several books on technology. Reach him at gilster@mindspring.com.

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