Hot This Holiday

Tech Tips
Time for our annual wrap-up of the hottest trends in tech gift giving.

Retro Video Game Systems

Nostalgia has hit children of the 1980s and 1990s as two of the hottest items this year are the Nintendo NES Classic Edition, which comes preloaded with 30 games that originally hit store shelves in the mid-80s. Classic games such as Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros., Pac-Man, and The Legend of Zelda are included in the lineup. The unit hooks up to a TV via an HDMI cable for quick installation.

For fans of Sonic the Hedgehog and all other things Sega, there is also a Sega version that is available as both a plug and play unit that can be hooked up to a TV or as a portable. The Sega Mega Drive and Ultimate Portable are preloaded with 80 games. In addition to most of the Sonic titles, game fans will find some Golden Axe, Phantasy Star and Mortal Kombat included with arcade classics such as Air Hockey, Chess, and Whack-A-Wolf.

The earliest gamers might be interested in the latest edition of the Atari Flashback series, Flashback 7. The unit includes 101 games that appeared on the original Atari 2600 and Atari 7800 video game systems of the late-1970s and early-1980s. Iconic games such as Frogger, Pitfall, Breakout, Pong, Warlords, Asteroids, and Missile Command are included, as well as the required joysticks, which are now wireless.

3D Pens

While they will not offer the same precision or sturdiness as a 3D printer, 3D pens are popular among artists looking for a new medium to work with and do-it-yourselfers looking for new ways to do minor repairs. Techy types also like to play with them as a novelty or to explore 3D design without all the expense of a 3D printer. There is a wide variety of pens on the market, and all have different features to consider, so a good place to start is this recent review article from 10beasts. Most of the pens work by melting a plastic filament that becomes the “ink” with which you draw your design. Drawings can be done on coated paper and then peeled off to assemble or the user can freehand the structure and build in 3D by using other tools, such as sticks or molds, to form the plastic as it cools. If you want to see 3D pens in action, there are plenty of videos on YouTube, many of which show pretty cool designs done by artists using the pens.

Virtual Reality Headsets

Gamers, as well as non-gamers, may have virtual reality headsets on their lists this year, as the market has just seen a bevy of new releases. The preferred headset will depend on the device which the user plans to pair with the headset. For example, a PS VR pairs with a PlayStation 4 while a Samsung Gear works with Samsung phones and tablets. The goal of the VR headset is to put the user into the environment to experience it in 3D/360 panoramic. Whether playing a game or just watching a video, the wearer feels like they are immersed in the environment. Wareable has a nice article comparing the devices and even includes an entry on Google Cardboard, which is a $15 make your own kit that transforms a cardboard box and smartphone into a VR headset.

The Usual Suspects

Of course this year is no different than past years, with health monitors, home control devices, and drones being popular items. FitBit and Garmin have new lines of activity trackers, while Google has introduced Home to compete with last year’s hot gift, the Amazon Echo device. Echo is still popular and both it and Home offer users voice control on everything from music playback to turning off the lights to turning up the heat. The devices they can control, such as thermostats and electrical outlets, are also popular with Nest, Samsung, Belkin, TP-Link and others offering home security systems, appliance control, video surveillance and other smart home applications.

Last year we mentioned 4K TV as a higher resolution alternative to HDTV and it is popular again this year, with sets coming down in price as well as accessories to match the TV, such as home theater systems and 4K video players. Headphones, particularly Bluetooth and wireless ones, are good bets for music fans while even non-techies can benefit from tech-savvy gifts, such as RFID blocking wallets that help protect your identity by shielding the RFID chips on credit and other cards you might be carrying around with you.

—Laura N.


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