iDB holiday gift guide 2013: Chris’ picks

Holiday Gift Guide

You’ve already heard from Cody, Lory, Oliver and Jim about their gift suggestions so it’s my turn now to articulate some of my favorite gadgets and accessories to possibly make your holidays merrier.

My personal picks may not be what you’d call tremendously diverse, but they do reflect the values I’m all about: innovation, practicality, power and true passion for awesome design which doesn’t sacrifice form over function and inspires folks to get the most from their gadgets.

Plus, I stand by these products as a direct result of using them myself and have voted for each and every one of them with my wallet. It’s my hope these suggestions will help you choose something worthy of that special someone with a technological bent, or at least give you some fresh ideas on boosting your everyday computing.

I proudly present Christian’s favorite holiday gift ideas…

11-inch MacBook Air

MacBook Air Thin

This unassuming machine proves that bigger is not always better.

If all you do on a computer is surf the web, check your email and social accounts, organize and enjoy your media, edit photos and movies and run popular Mac App Store apps, the entry-level MacBook Air with an eleven-inch screen will get the job done like no other ultra-portable on the market. And you can’t beat its portability and lightness.

The MacBook Air strikes the perfect balance between portability and power and can be hooked up to an external display like Apple’s 27-inch Thunderbolt display to gain access to the monitor’s Gigabit Ethernet, Thunderbolt, USB and FireWire 800 I/O – all via a single cable, making this combo your ultimate docking station.

For iDB’s Jeff and his video editing needs, the system represents “the best working machine available today” (and I concur).

To me, the 11-inch MacBook Air is what the dreaded netbook should have been from the onset: more powerful than a tablet yet more portable than a regular-sized notebook, without skimping on the keyboard, screen, CPU/GPU and other features.

Plus, it’s more affordable than ever: $999 buys you the base model which will boost your graphics and CPU performance, courtesy of the fourth-generation 1.3GHz Intel Core i5 CPU with Turbo Boost up to 2.6GHz, enhanced Intel HD Graphics 5000 and twice as much flash storage (128GB) versus the previous generation.

Go get this ultra-portable yet powerful machine, you won’t regret it.

Time Capsule

Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 19.20.06

I just love my Time Capsule.

This wireless appliance from Apple couples your choice of either a two or three terabyte hard drive to a Gigabit Wi-Fi (802.11ac) base station capable of serving up to fifty wireless clients at up to three times faster wireless throughput performance versus the previous generation.

Not only can you share its internal storage with your devices wirelessly, the OS X Time Machine feature can back up your Mac to Time Capsule as well. It’s just perfect for multi-device families, home office and small office setups.

I would typically keep my multi-gigabyte iTunes library on my Time Capsule along with tons of movies that I normally stream to my TV via the $99 Apple TV, using third-party iOS media players such as FireCore’s Infuse.

Time Capsule helps me free up space on my MacBook Air for applications and other more important stuff. The 2TB model retails for $299 and going 3TB is an extra $100. There are three Gigabit Ethernet ports on its back plus one USB port for wirelessly sharing devices like printers or external storage.

My only complaint about the wireless appliance is its inexplicable lack of AirPlay Audio via an optical audio port found on the $99 AirPort Express base station, allowing you to stream iTunes music to external speakers.

Time Capsule is slightly cheaper on Amazon, starting at $280.

BookBook Journal carrying case

TwelveSouth BookBook Journal (image 002)

I’m a big fan of Twelve South’s BookBook series of carrying cases.

I happen to own their MacBook Air case and they come in various shapes and sizes. One example is the minuscule and practical wallet-like BookBook for iPhone that will hold you cash, credit cards, IDs and protect your device while offering access to its ports and hardware buttons.

Another one is the MacBook series that poses as a Harry Potter spell book which keeps your Mac notebook hidden from prying eyes and protects it from elements and scratches.

My favorite BookBook case though is the tremendously useful Journal carrying case. It’s got strategically placed compartments, pockets and adjustable bands designed to hold your iPad and a myriad of accessories like power adapters, cables, USB drives, styluses, mice and earbuds – perfect for tablet road warriors.

It can even hold an iPad Air and a full-size headphones with fold-flat ear cups.

TwelveSouth BookBook Journal (image 004)

The Journal is the same size as the Steve Jobs biography, by the way.

Like other BookBook cases, the Journal is hand-distressed using high quality leather, giving it that unmistakable well-worn vintage look so no two are alike. As an added bonus, the design serves another practical purpose – it’s an effective theft-deterrent.

The practicality of the Journal is further cemented by its dual zippers and a rigid spine protecting your iPad and accessories from getting damaged when you’re on the go. The BookBook Travel Journal is available on Amazon for $99.

Dekke Slope iPad stand

The Slope (photo 003)

Here’s a magical tablet stand for Apple’s magical iPad.

If you own an iMac or Apple’s Thunderbolt Display, you’re going to want to suspend your iPad mid-air, perfectly slanted at 66 degrees to compliment your computer or monitor. Born out of a successful Kickstarter campaign, this supremely minimal yet versatile accessory resembles the base of an iMac stand and is based on nanofoam technology which uses thousands of tiny air pockets that function as mini suction cups.

Pressing your tablet against the front pad forces the air out of these pockets, creating vacuum which brings suction that secures grip. The tight bonding is guaranteed – no need to worry about your device slide off accidentally. It’s quite magical and effective, too: nanofoam tech allows for hands-free tablet use with easy access to all of the sides and corners of your device.

The bottom pad will secure the stand to your table.

The Slope is the perfect iPad companion and is especially useful for enjoying your media, using the tablet in the kitchen or as part of your work setup. For instance, the anchored iPad can double as an external display for a Mac, with a little help from third-party App Store apps such as Avatron’s $9.99 Air Display 2 or Shape Services’s $4.99 iDisplay.

The Slope is nicely designed – Jony Ive comes to mind – and build quality is reminiscent of Apple. It comes in two sizes – one for smaller tablets up to eight inches and the other for larger ones up to ten inches – and can be ordered from Amazon for $60.

Herman Miller Aeron chair

Herman Miller Aeron chair (lifestyle 001)

Sometimes the best gifts are for yourself.

And if you spend most of your day sitting in front of your computer, this Aeron chair by Michigan-based office furniture maker Herman Miller is among the finest office chairs available in terms of ergonomic features.

It’ll do wonders for your health and general posture by protecting your back and shoulders from the wear and tear of prolonged sitting. The Aeron looks stunning – you see it frequently featured in television shows, for example – so little wonder that it’s become the office chair of choice for boardrooms and government agencies.

The transparency of the chair enables the free flow of air to the skin and the design team tapped anthropometric studies using a specially developed instrument to calculate everything from popliteal (back of the knee) height to forearm length to make possible the chair’s unmatched fit, motion, weight distribution and ergonomics.

Despite costing north of $600 for the base model, this is the Space Shuttle of office chairs in terms of high performance features and comfort, incorporating many patented technologies that allow for great adaptability.

What’s more, it comes backed with an unheard-of twelve-year warranty (not a typo), which helps maintain the projected value over its lifetime (parts that get the most wear are easily replaced and recycled).

For the base model, the twelve-year warranty translates into fourteen cents a day. One thing: be very, very careful who you buy the Aeron from, especially in terms of used chairs or suspiciously low-priced Aeron products that in most cases are refurbished chairs which don’t come with Herman Miller’s twelve-year warranty.

My best advice to you would be to check out the Herman Miller website for a list of official dealers – that’s really the only guarantee you’ll be buying a genuine, brand new product with the full warranty. They’re also available from Amazon for slightly cheaper, coming directly from Herman Miller.

This classic executive chair was conceived in 1994 by Don Chadwick and Bill Stumpf and its design has earned it a spot in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection.

Because your health deserve only the very best.

i-Spy Tank

ihelicopters iSpy Tank

This will appeal to your inner spy agent.

i-Spy Tank, an iPhone-controlled tank with built-in spy cam from the guys who brought you app-enabled toys like the iUFO, RC cars and helicopters, won’t let you spy on your neighbors (and you know you shouldn’t be doing that) like Parrot’s AR.Drone, but it will be good enough to take your kitten videos to the next level.

Unleash this tank on your unsuspecting cat or dog and capture their reaction using the on-board camera, controllable via your iOS device. You can adjust the camera angle, watch the real-time video feed on your iPhone’s screen, take snapshots and capture video to relive those fun pet moments later (or make a viral YouTube vid).

The i-Spy Tank is powered by six standard AA batteries, works over Wi-Fi at distances of up to 30 meters and is available starting at $74 over at Amazon.

I’m curious to learn how you liked my gift suggestions so sound off in the comments.