Ted on Tech: The holiday gift guide for the longest year

With the holidays fast approaching, it’s time to think about possible gifts for your clients, friends and even yourself. We can all use a bit of holiday joy, regardless of which holiday we happen to celebrate. I’ve been fortunate to get a lot of products to review over the past few months, and while I don’t often do a formal gift guide, this time around I figured you might want to buy yourself or a client something nice to put a smile on what, so far, has been a less than joyful year.

So I’ve put together some suggestions you might want to consider. Some are useful products for a work-from-anywhere office, and some are just purely extravagant. But you’re worth it, and I’m sure you have a client or associate or two who would appreciate the surprise of receiving something nice.

I haven’t begun to cover all the great stuff I’ve had in the review pile over the past few months, but there’s plenty of other cool and useful things to consider for gifts. Whatever you decide on, just know that it’s your thoughts for others at this particular holiday season, which are the true gift and the best one you can give. I hope that you and your family, and others who are important to you, have a happy, healthy, and safe holiday.

logitech zone headset

The Logitech Zone Headset, for the talker

Everyone you know spends hours on video calls, as I’m sure that you do as well. A great gift, for a friend, associate, or yourself, is the Logitech Zone Headset. I have the wired version, which plugs into a USB port on my PC. It has soft foam earpads that are easy on the ears even after a two-hour video conference, and a swing-down microphone which mutes the call when you swing it up out of the way (there’s also a mute switch on the cord if you don’t feel like flipping the mic up and down during a long call). Logitech makes a wireless version as well if your tastes run towards reducing the wire clutter. For about $130, it’s money well spent in both convenience and comfort.
SXFI theater headphones

The Creative Labs SXFI Theater headphones, for the listener

If music is more your thing, the headphones designed for video calls probably aren’t going to cut it. At $199, the Creative Labs SXFI Theater headphones, aren’t cheap, but they sound great. Creative is very well known for their speakers, and the SXFI Theater headphones carry on that decades-long tradition very nicely. I get a lot of high-end headphones to look at (and listen to), and while there is some difference in sound quality between these and headsets in the $350-$400 range, it’s really only noticeable when performing a direct A to B listening comparison using a variety of music tracks. The SXFI Theater phones are comfortable to wear for hours, can be used in wireless Bluetooth mode, and the sound is simulated 7.1 channel sound that Creative labels “holographic.” That feature and difference is noticeable when watching a movie. They have large 50mm drivers (the speakers in each earpiece), where many similarly priced headsets use somewhat smaller 40mm units. Creative claims up to 30 hours of battery life I didn’t actually time them, but I was able to use them for several days before they needed a recharge. The icing on the cake is that they look as good as they sound. A built-in mic lets you make or answer calls if you’re paired with your phone.
Acer spin chromebook

The Acer Spin 713 Chromebook, a good backup machine

Eventually, many of us are going to have to get back out there, whether to the office, a client site, or hopefully, to an in-person conference if they ever resume. If your laptop has been taking a beating the past months, it may be time to replace or supplement it. The Acer Spin 713 Chromebook is a great reasonably priced laptop that, at about $650, is not the least expensive Chromebook out there. But it is perfect for a backup machine for you or someone you’d like to surprise. The Spin 713 is a 2-in-1 notebook, which means that it can also be used in tablet mode, and sports a 13.5-inch screen, which isn’t too small, isn’t too large, but is just right for lugging around the house, using on a porch or balcony, or back out on the road. And when travel resumes, it’s a great lightweight laptop to take along.
solo new york renew laptop case

The Solo New York Re:New laptop briefcase, to protect the goods

Along with that new Chromebook, you’ll probably want to put it in a brand-new laptop bag. The $55 Solo New York Re:New laptop briefcase not only looks great and has lots of room for the other stuff like the power supply, a mouse, and maybe a sandwich or other snack, but is also made from recycled PET soda bottles. Solo bags are great. My Lenovo ThinkPad has been in one for a few years, though you wouldn’t know it from looking at it — it shows no signs of wear even though it gets pretty knocked around. And my Surface tablet is also in a Solo case that’s been through the wars, but shows no signs of wear and tear.

HEX Anti-Microbial Bags, for the germ-conscious

If your needs run more towards a backpack than a briefcase, and you’re concerned about all of the nasty bugs around, consider the HEX Anti-Microbial Bag Collection. At the moment they are on Kickstarter, but I’ve had a couple of HEX bags over the years, and they’re really good-looking and functional. I have the backpack, and if I ever get to go on a trip in the future, which at the moment doesn’t look like a sure thing, it’s the bag I’ll take with me. At $99, it’s great for commuting as well, if you or someone you know is headed back to the office.
Cat S42 Rugged Phone

The Cat S42 Rugged Phone, for the cautious

In today’s cautious world, it makes sense to have things that you use frequently able to withstand frequent cleaning. And, if you are anywhere near as clumsy as I am, unintentional abuse. I’ve yet to break my iPhone, but it’s probably just a matter of time. You probably know the Caterpillar brand name for their heavy machinery. The $299 Cat S42 Rugged Phone is the entry-level model in Cat’s phone line. At that price, the phone doesn’t have a huge amount of internal memory, but can accommodate a microSD card for additional memory if needed, as well as dual sim cards if you have work and personal numbers. While the promotional materials target workers in the construction field and first responders, the resilient rubberized TPU case design gives this phone both drop protection and protection from the elements and multiple cleanings. It’s not fancy — there are Android phones with more glamor and features. But for sheer toughness, the S42 would make a terrific gift for someone you know who has wrecked multiple phones in the past.