Top 10 in Holiday Tech
When it comes to gifts that one yearns to see under the tree come Christmas or Three Kings Day, technology products are often on the top of the list. For that reason, we have come up with our own wish list of items that would significantly cheer up our holiday spirit.
In a similar list published in the Caribbean Business print edition (December 8-14), we went out of our way to highlight products out of left field. This time around, we’re letting our inner child take over and just listing what we consider are the best products in each of the major tech categories. If guided by just sheer cool factor, and money were no object, these would be our picks (most of these devices are available at local vendors such as Best Buy or online through Amazon).
Smartphone: iPhone 7 Plus
MSRP iPhone 7 (base model, without contract): $769; Galaxy S7 Edge: $780
In the history of great rivalries, the iPhone and Galaxy line-ups rank up there with the Lakers vs. the Celtics, and so we must give the latest handset in each camp almost equal praise. However, we’d have to give the slight nod to the iPhone over its closest rival, the Galaxy S7 Edge, because it’s slightly more user-friendly and has a more robust app ecosystem. Despite this, the Galaxy S7 has a better camera—although not by so much nowadays—and the Android OS lends itself to more control and customization options. Under other circumstances, we would’ve given the overall nod to the Samsung Note 7, if not for its unfortunate battery problem.
Gaming: PlayStation VR
The Playstation VR remains the best overall value for anyone jumping into virtual reality. Sure, there are strong contenders such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, but Sony’s first full foray into the VR arena offers the most bang for the buck, as well as the more layman-friendly setup typical of console gaming. If you’re getting the PlayStation VR, might as well go all the way and spend a few hundred more for the full experience, with the PlayStation Pro ($399), an updated version of the PlayStation 4 with faster, more powerful processors and 4K graphics capability.
TV: Samsung 78″ Class JS9100 Curved 4K SUHD Smart TV
Plenty of candidates vie for the title of king of 4K TVs. The advent of new technologies such as HDR, which ramps up contrast, have also leveled the playing field. LG’s OLED line-up of displays arguably offer the best image quality out of the whole bunch, but in this instance, we must lean towards the Samsung, a beautiful behemoth of a thing that provides exceptionally bright colors courtesy of Samsung’s “quantum dot” technology and breathtaking detail. Although it’s MSRP is close to $12,000 we’ve seen it for $10,000 in local stores and $6,000 online.
Laptop: Macbook Pro
MSPR (15-inch, 512GB storage): $2,799.00
There is a reason why Apple’s line of laptops, from the ultra-thin Macbook Air to the high-performance Macbook Pro, are standard bearers in such a competitive segment. After what seemed like years, the company finally updated its Macbook Pro model earlier this year, and the first thing that jumped out was its keyboard, which now features touchscreen capabilities through its Touch Bar. Apple also introduced Touch ID, a fingerprint scanner, and replaced its input/output ports for the new-fangled USB-C format. But perhaps best of all is the new trackpad, which occupies considerably more real estate than in previous versions. In all, if you’re searching for a premium laptop, look no further.
Music Player: Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Direct-Drive Professional Turntable
Vinyl’s officially back and it has shoved CDs and even digital music aside, judging from the latest sales figures, so if you don’t own a turntable by this point, you’re missing out. Likewise, when purchasing a turntable, we suggest that you don’t settle for the cheap stuff and instead invest in a quality player able to squeeze every bit of sonic goodness out of those records. The Audio-Technica has always been a reliable brand in this regard, and this model also has a USB output for digital transfers of vinyl records. We would also recommend any turntables by Rega, Pro-ject, or Marantz, but they are difficult to get outside of specialty stores.
Desktop Computer: Falcon Northwest Tiki
MSRP: $1,982 to $15,000 (depending on configuration)
Falcon Northwest has historically been the Rolls-Royce of high-performance desktops, and the Tiki is the company’s top-of-the-line product. Frequently used by game and virtual reality developers, the Tiki can pack serious horsepower inside a compact, seemingly innocuous exterior. Each machine is built to the client specifications, which can be easily customized through the company’s website. For research purposes, we built our dream rig, with a 22-core Intel Xeon chip, 64GB of DDR4 memory, an NVIDA Quadro video card, a combined 6GB in SSD storage, and sweet paint job, the price creeping steadily toward the $15,000 range.
Media streamer: Roku Ultra
Media streamers are a dime a dozen, but Roku has for years stood out from the pack in part due to the sheer number of options it provides. In contrast to similar offerings by the likes of Apple, Amazon and Google, Roku is not beholden to its own digital platform, and thus is more free to add a wide variety of apps. In the case of the Ultra, Roku has provided a 4K, HDR-capable media streamer. Granted, there is not that much 4K HDR content out there nowadays, so consider the Ultra a future-proof investment. Optical digital audio output, a USB port for playback of video files and a microSD slot further make a purchase of this super streamer a no-brainer.
Router: Asus RT-AC88U Wireless-AC3100 Dual Band Gigabit Router
Let’s face it: the router that your cable TV providers supplies seldom passes muster. There are times when you need a turbocharged router capable of streaming of delivering broadband goodness to all corners of the house. Enter this beauty, which almost looks like an alien spaceship, and has features that seemingly come straight out of a sci-fi flick. With four antennas that allow it to have a coverage of up to 5,000 square feet, the dual-band router pushes the envelope speed-wise in both 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz. It also boasts eight Gigabit Ethernet ports and NU-MIMO technology, which allows the router to give every compatible device its own dedicated full-speed Wi-Fi connection.
Speakers: Pioneer SP-PK52FS Andrew Jones 5.1 Home Theater Speaker Package
Sometimes, it’s best not to mess too much with perfection. Case in point, Pioneer’s by-now-classic line of home theater speakers, which deliver the best sound available at this price range, and thus the better value. They may not look as sleek and stylish as some of their contemporaries, and the center channel speaker may prove particularly bulky. However, designer Andrew Jones, who is more known for fashioning ultra-high-end speakers that sell for $80,000 or more, did not make these speakers to be seen, but to be heard. In that regard, this system passes with flying colors.
Digital Camera: Sony Alpha A7R II
In the realm of high-end consumer/prosumer dSLR cameras, Canon and Nikon reign supreme, but a few years ago, another type of high-end camera, dubbed mirrorless, has steadily taken over the market with its more compact, lighter form and comparable picture quality. In the realm of mirrorless digital cameras, Sony’s Alpha line-up reigns supreme, and the Alpha A7R II is the most powerful, with a full-frame sensor that is the same size as a frame of 35mm film; in other words, photographic big leagues. Its 42.8 megapixel resolution, 4K video recording capability and superlative stabilization features makes this digital camera one of the most drool-inducing on the market.