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Gilster: Holiday gift ideas for the tech-inclined

Microsoft Surface Pro 4
Microsoft Surface Pro 4

Christmas always gives me the welcome chance to review the year’s tech products in search of interesting gift ideas. A quick Google search should ferret out any of these and offer price comparisons. My one caveat: I don’t do car-related tech because digital gadgets are dangerously distracting behind the wheel, and I figure we’re sharing the same roads. Onward…

Mr. Coffee Smart Wi-Fi Enabled Coffee Maker

Proof that connected gadgets will conquer the world. In my case, a family tradition in the coffee business makes this a natural. It’s a coffee machine you can control from your phone to adjust brew times and reminders. People don’t upgrade their coffee makers often enough, so make this your present to yourself.

Price: $150

Roku 3

This is absolutely the time to stop thinking about streaming services and start using them on your TV. The flexibility of choosing your shows when and as you want them, not to mention new content from the likes of Netflix and Amazon, will quickly win you over. The Roku includes a handy 3.5 mm headset jack for listening while others sleep.

Price: $95

DreamQi Bluetooth Alarm/Charger

Remember, the Internet of Things is coming. Here’s a connected take on your alarm clock, offering Bluetooth access to your music, a good speaker and wireless charging for your phone. I’ve been using wireless charging on my Samsung S6 for almost a year now and it’s a game changer. You’ll never go back to plug-in cords again.

Price: $90

Apple iPad Pro

Know your recipient well before springing for this beautiful device. There are those who admire Apple’s craftsmanship but don’t see the need for a full 12.9-inch Retina screen and double the CPU performance of the iPad Air 2. But those in the creative arts or anyone seeking a gorgeous display surface for books, diagrams or artwork will love it.

Price: $800

Google OnHub Router (TP-Link)

This marks the first time I’ve ever recommended a router as a Christmas gift, but my purpose is plain: If routers get us into details of network setups and channel selection confusion, why not end all that with a router that is easy to configure and manage? You can use its smartphone app to manage your network wherever you are. Not only that, but have you ever seen a router that wasn’t ugly? Now you have.

Price: $200

Anker PowerCore 15600 battery charger

My smartphone always seems to need power when I’m away from the office. An external charger like this one offers my Galaxy S6 multiple charges and USB ports for charging multiple devices at the same time. If you’re looking for a stocking stuffer for the gadget lover in your house, look no further.

Price: $30

Toshiba Chromebook 2

Trying to simplify? I’m a big believer in cloud computing, and given the power vs. price ratio today, it’s terrific to find computing options that strip portable computing down to its essentials. With a 13.3-inch screen, this Chromebook lives on the Web, where app ecosystems like Google’s give you a terrific, minimalist bang for the buck.

Price: $300

NETGEAR AC1200 Wi-Fi Range Extender

Depending on your house, this one can make your life much easier. If you’re tired of losing the wireless connection to your iPad or laptop, this gadget will boost the signal to the breakfast nook or the attic hideaway.

Price: $99

Amazon Echo

Here’s a device that’s fun to work with now but one that will grow in capabilities with time. The Echo is always listening for your request. Ask it what time it is, play some tracks from your playlist or just listen to the news. Siri and Google Now now find a cousin (Alexa) in this stylish cylinder that requires no input other than voice and looks graceful just about anywhere.

Price: $180

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

I can’t finish this column without mentioning Microsoft’s superb hybrid, whose 12.3-inch touchscreen display and Surface Pen provide a seamless experience for keyboard or stylus/finger operations. The new Type Cover (not included) widens keyboard spacing and gives you options that bear serious comparison to a laptop. Who knew Microsoft would craft a crossover hardware experience of this caliber?

Price: Starts at $899

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

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