Last year’s post was a big hit. If you are your family’s CTO you know how it goes, this time of year your opinion is valued as everyone is running around trying to figure out what gear to buy. I’ve found that if I take notes on what I’m asked and add it to a post now I can just throw the link around. That way when people ask me questions at Thanksgiving we don’t have to go through the same thing over again two weeks later when they are doing their shopping.
TV and Home Theater
This is the same as last year, the best thing I’ve done on the tech front is switch from a TV to a projector. It was crazy, I’ve been getting Black Friday emails talking about “Saving $1,200 on the latest TVs” which is absurd. For less than $700 you can have a 120 inch screen that is jaw dropping. There hasn’t been any real changes in projectors over the year. The one I have does 1080p and as of today is $229. With an Apple TV and Bose TV speaker that’s around another $400 and it’s bluetooth so you don’t have to run any wires for the speaker. Full story here.
I am still a fan of the Nintendo Switch because it’s the only console that also goes portable so your kids will end up logging a million hours a year. Maybe that’s not a positive. On the downside the Joycon controllers are fragile, I just have a drawer filled with replacement parts and screen protectors. It’s worth the $70ish dollars to get the pro controller which is what you’d get from other consoles. Last year’s post has more on the Switch if you are going that route.
If there’s specific games your recipient is looking for then you may have to get an Xbox or PS5. Both are great, the only new info I learned this year is that if you spend the $20 to join the GameStop thing where you get their magazine you also get emails about members only sales. I was able to score a PS5 for a friend this year, which was pretty cool.
Also, my son and nephews got me into Fortnite this year. We have fun spending time together even though the nephews relocated this year. If you play, ping me at PhilDunphey247
The only news here is that Apple is having some Black Friday deals, get a $250 gift card if you buy a Macbook (I’m a little sore on that having bought last week.)
Otherwise same story here: Macs are great for people that don’t know what they are doing, I’m so excited not to be Anti-Virus police for my family. But if you have any gamers or people who want to venture outside the controlled garden, you may be PC shopping.
This year’s most astonishing thing is that I got a pair of Beats Fit Pro earbuds and they are amazing. Up until now if you had told me I would spend my own money on Beats I would have said you were a moron. It’s been kind of a joke that while they are good, the premium pricing is out of hand. I’ve said that their headphones are fantastic $50 headphones, the problem was they charge $299.
Having been acquired by Apple it seems like they are using similar noise reduction as AirPods, and using the M1 chip in the iPhone makes it less wonky than other Bluetooth earbuds I’ve had.
I bought them because the Bose Pulse that I’ve used for running finally died this year after 5 years and they are no longer made. I was not expecting them to be so amazing but there’s a reason why The Wirecutter has them as their number one pick.
Some tips on these – the Apple store has them in Black, White, Gray and Purple. Black isn’t the greatest choice because if you drop them at night or they slip out of your pocket they can be the most difficult to find. If you go to the Beats site they are available in skin tone colors which is fantastic if you’re going to use them for work zoom meetings.
Also, I prefer memory foam tips to the silicone ones they come with, Comply makes a great set here (I cut out the foam screen over the opening because I thought they sound better without it.)
I’ve resisted these for years. I tried fitness trackers many years ago and after a couple of years said “I sleep ok, my phone gives me alerts and measures steps, I don’t need this.”
Forward to this summer when my earbuds died, I started looking at Apple Watch as a heart rate monitor. Bose stopped making the earbuds that were great for heart rate, and I was not going back to a chest strap. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that the Apple Watch SE is a lot more useful that I thought it would be. It is great for running, I can see my splits and it measures heart rate. It took some fiddling to find the right app but I like how it’s working. The bonus is having another tool in the Apple stack – I can use my watch as a TV remote for the projector that has Apple TV, great for when the kids left the remote someplace weird yet again.
It’s also very cool when using Apple Maps in the car and the watch vibrates when I should be making a turn. I hate the audio voice queues and end up missing turns now and then. This takes care of that. And for true geeks having altitude and bearing with a sweep second hand is satisfying for the watch aficionados.
Nothing new here, I’m still a fan of Philips Hue bulbs which integrate well with Amazon Alexa. Being able to say “Alexa turn off Christmas tree” from upstairs when you forget is very cool.
It’s getting a little weird with my universal remote, the Logitech Harmony, which also integrates with Alexa – “Alexa tell Harmony to turn on Projector” makes all the remote problems go away. The issue is Logitech has stopped making it so I’m not sure where that will go next if something dies. The crazy part is since we use voice control the remote getting lost or destroyed is not a factor.
Last year was upgrades for everyone so no purchases this year. The big learning though was changing carriers has been life changing. I did not realize how garbage our last carrier was until spending a week with the new one. This is worth checking out if you have a friend on another carrier if you are complaining about dropped calls and poor signal. Another tip – our library lends wifi access points, another way to check another carrier (or for my wife to set up a camera in the barn to keep an eye on horses having babies instead of having to sleep in the barn. This has improved my life considerably.)
Trusted Review Sites
This hasn’t changed from last year. I’m a paying member of Consumer Reports for appliances and cars. The Wirecutter is fantastic for trying hundreds of products and recommending the best (Lauren Dragan on headphones!)
That’s all I’ve got for today, but Thanksgiving isn’t until tomorrow so I’ll have updates over the next week. I hope you enjoy your holiday!