By Scott Baughman

Christmas is upon us once again and while the little ones will be hoping for the twinkle of magic under the tree, we all know that one or two tech-head in our lives who are hoping for a sparkle from something a little bit different – the blinking of some lights on the latest gadget!

So without further ado, let’s get to the column that’s become something of a tradition for The Mountain Breeze, the top five gifts for that special techie in your life.

  1. Durable phone case: With the iPhone 8 and iPhone X having just been released, you can bet these two new units from the boys in Cupertino top the list of many tech-heads. But did you know that one of the biggest overlooked issues with the latest and greatest is protecting them from those everyday disasters we all seem to have on occasion? I’m talking about the dreaded “I dropped my phone and the screen broke” conversation that you might have had with your friends. Well, fret no more as this year’s list of most wanted gifts also includes next generation phone cases like one from Mous Limitless that are ultra sleek, but also tough enough to survive impacts from a sledgehammer or weather a fall from 45 feet up! And they start at just $35.
  2. Fitbit Alta: Fitness trackers are all the rage and we’ve done a full column on them in previous issues so I won’t rehash the revolution here. But I will say this year’s number one model from industry leader Fitbit is the Alta. It allows you to track your heart rate when working out, counts steps (of course), helps track the quality of your sleep and can even receive calls or texts at a glance when nearby your paired phone. The Alta starts at around $130.
  3. Personal assistants of the virtual kind: I could do an entire column on personal assistants coming out now (and, hey, maybe I will some day soon) but this year the hottest ‘bot to do your organizing and such around the house is the Amazon Echo Show. You may be familiar with the Amazon Echo and its helpful AI named “Alexa” but did you know that Jeff Bezos and his crew at Amazon have come up with a new version of Echo that looks like it came right out of an episode of the Jetsons cartoon? Alexa can famously tell you how to do things – from changing a bulb in a particularly vexing corner of your refrigerator to getting the recipe for that filet mignon JUST right. But now with the Amazon Echo Show, Alexa has a little viewscreen like you might get on a tablet computer so she can actually SHOW you how to do those things with step-by-step directions. Also, with the screen, Alexa can now be a hub for your home security system as a monitor and – speaking of the Jetsons – she can be your homebase for a videocall. How cool is that? Amazon Echo Show is about $230 on, you guessed it, Amazon.com.
  4. TP-Link WiFi Range Extender: Between your kids’ smartphones, tablets and maybe even laptops, all of your wireless devices like phones, video streaming services and a computer connected to the web AND those virtual assistants we were just talking about, your poor old WiFi network is likely taking a beating with all that traffic! And if you live in a larger house and want a decent WiFi signal in the back bedroom? Forget about it! So what’s a tech-head to do? Why ask Santa Claus for a little help in the signaling department, that’s what! Enter the WiFi range extender. I like this one from TP-Link because it is potent enough to help double the range of the WiFi signal on most routers – in both ends of the 2.4GHz and the 5GHz bands, too – and it has three external antennas to push signal through at up to 1,750 Mbps speeds! Plus, it just plugs right into a wall outlet in your house so no need to worry about keeping a battery charged or fiddling with an AC adapter. Properly installed this thing can extend your WiFi signal to full strength in a home up to 10,000 square feet! And it’s only about $75.
  5. Navdy GPS Navigation Projector: Ok, I’ve saved the best for last this year with the unbelievable Navdy GPS. It isn’t just a GPS, it’s basically a virtual assistant for your car that doesn’t have a screen. Rather, Navdy projects the images of the maps you need and also lets you see text messages and receive incoming calls all onto your actual windshield! Yep, it’s a heads up display that posits itself right onto the glass so that it is both transparent (so you can still drive, of course) AND it makes sure it is visible in all kinds of light or weather. Maps, music info, messages and caller ID is projected right in front of you using the latest augmented reality technology. This is truly some next level stuff and it allows you to control it all with hand motions so you don’t have to fiddle with buttons or voice commands while you’re driving the car. Navdy starts at around $500.

Well, there you have it! I hope you and your tech head have a wonderful Christmas, and until next year…download complete!