iDB holiday gift guide: Jim’s picks

Another year down and year three of the iDownloadBlog Holiday Gift Guide hits the site. As tech bloggers, it is our job to make sure you know about the awesome new things that come out during the year. We pride ourselves in filling a Santa list that is top notch and informed.

The following list of items may or may not be things I currently own or reviewed. Items in my gift guide are simply my favorite gadgets, accessories or tech related items.Throwing price to the wind, but still keeping it within a reasonable reach of most consumers, take a step inside for my most wished for items.


Nest Thermostat Protect

At the top of my list for the second consecutive year, Nest’s Thermostat ($250) and Protect ($100). The Nest Thermostat is a connected home device that easily replaces your existing thermostat. I am the least handyman you will find and I installed two of them in my home in about 30 minutes. I used them for two complete years and would not live in a home without them. Creating a schedule is the least complex chore these guys can handle for you. In fact, it will even adjust its heating/cooling schedule around your family, automatically. A connected smoke and carbon monoxide detector completes the in-home package and will even let you heat your house up, on the way back from grandma’s.

60″ Crank Stand Up Desk

60 inch standing desk

Sitting at a desk day-in and day-out gets repetitive and boring. Not to mention, it is extremely unhealthy to sit for hours at a time. Having used a standing desk for a month while visiting an office space in California, I am bent on installing one in my home office. There are many versions of standing desks out there, even ones that will let you set specific heights and press a button to adjust automatically. In an effort to keep the price reasonable, I chose the 60″ x 30″ split level, hand crank, adjustable desk. The top is perfect for my iMac and the ledge will allow me to add my two additional mounted monitors.

Bringing home a desk is never cheap, especially a sturdy standing desk. This particular model and desktop size will run you $369, which is on sale from $600.

Kwikset Kevo

In the connected home category, Kwikset’s Bluetooth enabled Kevo deadbolt is top of mind as well. I do not own a Kevo, but was able to use one at CES in January 2014. It worked very efficiently and allows your smartphone to unlock your deadbolt. Once walking within ~30 feet of your door, the iPhone pairs to your deadbolt and provides an unlocking certification. Simply tap the deadbolt and it will then unlock! You can issue e-keys to families, friends, and the babysitter as needed. Alternatively, small Bluetooth key fobs can be given out. Finally, if all else fails, the deadbolt still works with a good old fashioned key.

These systems (and there are several in the deadbolt space) are quite expensive. Currently, the Kwikset Kevo is on sale through Amazon for $199, down from $460.

Belkin WeMo

Again, this is a product series I will personally stand behind and support. The Belkin WeMo collection is an amazing suite of products that are all connected home devices, with Wi-Fi connectivity built into things like motion sensors, wall outlets, wall light switches, coffee pots, and crock pots. Sure, the video above is a bit sentimental and focuses more on a relationship than the technology, but that is just the goal of WeMo products. They work so effortlessly, you don’t need to worry about your tech. Scheduling your coffee pot in the morning or switching on the space heater when it is cold outside can all be done through WeMo products. With the power of IFTTT, many recipes can help you tailor the experience.

I personally recommend the WeMo Insight programmable switch ($54.64), Crock-Pot branded slow cooker ($186), and WeMo Light Switch ($49.99).


NeatConnect Perspective Splash

I recently reviewed the NeatConnect Wi-Fi scanner. It is a great in-home or office scanner that connects directly to the cloud without the need of a parent computer. I used the scanner for several months for my review and never hooked up the included USB cable. Thanks to its connected ability, scanning directly to places like Drive, Box, DropBox, and Evernote is simple. Using an onboard OS and touch screen, setup is a breeze, and signing into your accounts is done with a touch keyboard.

This device, with its robust features and very high price tag, is for a limited number of people. It may be a simple purchase for the office at $459, but an in-home user may think twice. It certainly isn’t something I would buy myself, making it a great gift idea.

Karma Wi-Fi Hotspot

Karma Hotspot

Now more than ever, people carry connected devices with them everywhere. However, most people only own a phone for connecting to the internet when away from home. Hotspotting an iPhone to an iPad or MacBook can be expensive depending on your cellular plan. Often people must pay a monthly fee for the option to hotspot their phone, even if it isn’t utilized that way.

Karma stands to fix the strangle mobile carriers have on hotspotting. Karma is a small puck that can constantly connect, but only charges you for data as it is used. An ultra fast 4G LTE hotspot will only charge you per 1GB, as needed. The data never expires and offers nationwide U.S. coverage. If you want a full break down on the pricing, check out their comparison with larger cellular carriers.

Currently only available for pre-order, it will not make it down the chimney. But Karma intends to ship in January 2015. You can pre-order yours for $10 off the retail price, coming in at $139.

Rokform iPhone 6 Docking Station

Rokform Docking Station

I love docks. Currently, I have four on my home office desk and two at my work desk. The one I go to is the Rokform Docking Station. Originally termed the Rok Dock, it is now updated for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. With a similar design, the Docking Station is CNC machine milled from solid T-6061 aircraft grade aluminum. The dock is a solid three pounds and commands attention with its hyper-masculine design.

With three pounds of product and precise cuts, the iPhone 6 Docking Station is a whopping $99. At that price, it is only for connoisseurs or the gadget guy with everything and a gifter with a big budget for small items. Take a look at my review of the same dock, for iPhone 5/s before making the big decision to purchase.

Outdoor Tech wireless Orcas

Outdoor Tech Orcas

This is another reviewed item from earlier in the year. The Orcas are not going to provide you with the best sound or blow you away with bass, but they are highly convenient. Perfect for working out, or in my case putting up Christmas lights outside, the two buds are connected with a single wire, but there is no Bluetooth dongle or connection piece for your iPhone. Onboard controls let you monitor volume and track or answer/make cellular calls. With BLE or Bluetooth 4.0, you can be sure they are only sipping the battery instead of gulping it down like most Bluetooth 3.0 competitors.

The Outdoor Tech OT5200 Orcas are $99.95 via Amazon. They are a little pricy, but after all, its the holidays. Portability is amazing.

Nodus Access

Nodus Acess Case Splash

Another recently reviewed item is my favorite of the year. Nodus of London is currently only making one case, the Access. Because of their drive to perfect only one single item, they have perfected that one single item. Access is a stitched leather case for iPhone or iPad that utilizes micro-suction pads to hold the device in place. Standing in stark contrast to competitors 3M adhesive option, the micro-suction pad allows the iPhone to be removed and replaced an infinite number of times without residue. It is perfectly sized, amazing Italian leather, and a perfect pocket companion for the business professional.

The catch is foreign currency for non-England buyers. At £49.99 ($78) for iPhones 6, 5/s, the price is well-matched with the competition, but a high price for people not natively using the British Pound. To help ease the pain, iDB readers can use code “idownload20” until December 31 for a 20% discount.

Monument Valley

Millions of apps hit the App Store every year, only a few truly stand above others. Monument Valley is an incredible and visually stunning puzzle game. Taking cues from M.C. Escher, the level design is a mental twist, requiring a new perspective before solving. Following Ida on her discovery of these areas will transport you. Recently updated with an eight level expansion pack in Forgotten Shores ($1.99) and (RED) sponsored upgrade for $.99, Monument Valley totals 20 unique challenges.

Give your special someone an iTunes gift card to cover the game and upgrades or directly gift them the original 10 levels for $3.99.

Star Wars: Black Series

Star Wars Sandtrooper Black Series

To Star Wars nerds everywhere, if you have not heard of the Black Series, stop calling yourself a Star Wars nerd. The Black Series is marketed as the most accurate and detailed collection of Star Wards figurines to date. Released in waves, characters range from R2-D2 to Ree-Yees and everyone in between. In either 3.75″ or 6″ variations, make sure to check them out. You may have to look around a bit for locations that still sell all versions, but the Jedi Temple Archives posted a very conclusive visual library.

The pictured TK Sandtrooper is selling on Amazon for $37.50, but many of the figures vary drastically by availability and character.

Be on the lookout for more gift guides from all iDB editors: