Whether you are looking for yourself, your loved ones, or your peers and coworkers, this year’s holiday gift guide has something for everyone. Not only will you find all the tech you’ve come to expect, this year you may also discover some special items for the loveable Luddites in your life.
So, sit back in your fireside armchair (or your office chair under the fluorescents) and enjoy the childlike fun of imagining yourself giving and receiving all this year’s top gifts – even if (and perhaps, especially if) you purchase not a one.
Gifts for Media Consumption
Vizio M Series TVs (50” – 80”)
Tags: Home, Bang for Your Buck
Price: $849 - $4,000 (but can be found for less this holiday season)
Once again, the Vizio M Series tops my list of the best TVs for the money. Like last year’s models, these 4K TVs punch well above their weight, mostly due to their continued use of full-array local backlight dimming. This feature (sometimes referred to as “FALD”) provides superior black levels and contrast in comparison with other LCD TVs and is typically found only in other manufacturers’ most expensive sets. This year’s M series TVs also boast a sleeker design, come with full-on Android Tablets for remotes, and – most notably – support high-dynamic-range (HDR) video, bringing even more contrast and color range to an already excellent display.
Tison Rhine is the advisor to the State Bar of Wisconsin Law Office Management Assistance Program (Practice411™). Reach him at (800) 444-9404, ext. 6012, or by email.
Alternative: The slightly more expensive ($999 - $3,799) Vizio P Series TVs (50” – 75”) roughly doubles the amount of zones included in the sets’ full-array local backlight dimming in comparison to the M Series, resulting in a slightly better picture (and one of the best non-OLED TV pictures available). So, slightly more money, slightly better picture – either way, both are great values.
LG OLEDB6P and LG OLEDC6P TVs
Tags: Home, Office? Whoa
Price: $2,000 (55”); $3,000 (65”)
LG’s OLEDB6P, and its curved cousin, the OLEDC6P, may be the cheapest OLED TV models that LG is currently offering, but they perform nearly the same as the more expensive E6 and G6 models – that is to say, exceptionally. With OLED, you not only get perfect black levels, accurate color, high brightness, wide viewing angles, and anything else you may want from a TV image, you also get a good looking TV that is incredibly thin –0.18” thin. And, now that the prices on these models have been reduced to $2,000 and $3,000, such a thing may just be within your reasonable reach. So, if 55” or 65” is big enough for you, I strongly urge you to check out these sets in person.
Nintendo NES Classic Edition
Tags: Fun, Late 80s Nostalgia, This Year’s Tickle-Me-Elmo?
The NES Classic Edition is a miniature replica of the original 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System, which was released in the United States back in 1985. The Classic connects to modern TVs via HDMI and comes preinstalled with 30 games, which include essentials such as Super Mario Brothers 1 through 3, The Legend of Zelda, Dr. Mario, Tecmo Bowl, Castlevania, and Punch-Out! (which is still fun even though it’s the Mr. Dream version, and not the Mike Tyson version). Unlike the original NES, you can save progress in all the games, which is a very welcome feature given that so many original NES games are super hard (being made during the arcade era, when games were designed to take all your quarters).
The Classic isn’t perfect – the one included controller’s cable is very short and you can’t now or ever play anything on it other than the 30 games it comes with – but at a mere $60, this gift is a no-brainer for anyone who likes video games; that is, if you can find one. At the time of this writing, the NES Classic Edition is sold out everywhere. Let’s hope you are reading this under better gift-finding circumstances.
More Cool Media Gifts
- Kindle Oasis ($289) – Best E-reader
- XBOX One S ($299) – Best value console / 4K Blu-Ray player
- PlayStation 4 Pro ($399) – Best video gaming console
- Google Daydream / Samsung Gear VR ($79 / $55) – Best introduction to VR for Android
- PlayStation VR Launch Bundle ($499) – Best value full-experience VR
- HTC Vive ($799) – Best VR
- Roku Streaming Stick ($50) – Best value media streamer
- Roku Ultra ($130) – Best media streamer
- Chromecast and Chromecast Audio ($35) – Best stocking stuffer
Gifts of Sound
UE Boom 2 Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker
Tags: Home, Music, Good
Also one of last year’s top gift ideas, the UE Boom 2 wireless Bluetooth speaker is still waterproof, still has 15 hours of battery life, and still sounds great for its size. And although I know it’s a bit boring to recommend the same gift two years in a row, now that the Boom 2 can commonly be found for prices well below its $200 list price, I just had to include it again. Get one (or two), and I’m sure you’ll forgive me.
KEF MUO Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker
Tags: Home, Office, Music, Better
The KEF MUO isn’t waterproof like the UE Boom 2, and it won’t provide quite the sound of similarly priced plug-in wireless speakers (such as the $299 Sonos Play: 3, or the $499 Sonos Play: 5), but the KEF MUO’s 12-hour battery and Uni-Q driver will give the most detailed, musical performance of any portable wireless speaker currently available in the United States. And these days, portability rules.
Alternatives: The $249 B&O A1 portable wireless Bluetooth speaker doesn’t quite reach the MUO’s level of sound quality, but it comes close. It is also slightly more portable, and offers up to 24 hours of playback! On the other hand, the slightly more expensive Dali Katch actually beats the MUO in both sound quality and, in my opinion, design. Unfortunately, it is not yet available in the United States, so you’ll have to purchase from overseas.
KEF LS50 Wireless Speaker Pair
Tags: Home, Office, Music, Best
When KEF’s original LS50 Mini Monitor speakers were released a few years ago, they were an instant hit, providing transparency, resolution, and musical realism that were unheard of at their $1,499 price point. They have since gone on to become one of, if not the most rewarded and well-reviewed pieces of audio equipment of all time. Their only downside, if they had one at all, is that like most other high-end loudspeakers, poorly matched amplification and sources (especially those that tended toward the brighter side of sound) could undercut the speakers’ excellence.
With the just-released-this-month LS50 Wireless, however, KEF has built in an expertly matched end-to-end signal path, with a streaming pre-amplifier, two separate DACs per channel, and 230W per channel of power in a bi-amp dual mono configuration. And it did so while only increasing the price over the original LS50 by $700. For those of you who don’t know, finding a well-paired hi-fi amplifier and DAC – let alone a source that allows users to stream music via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, or wired via USB, TOSLINK, or RCA – all for $700, is an almost comical bargain in the audiophile world. Best of all, with the LS50 Wireless, you don’t have to know what any of that means or care about the audiophile world at all. Just make a single purchase and enjoy.
More Cool Gifts of Sound
- Bose SoundSport Wireless ($149) – Best wireless athletic headphones
- Sennheiser Momentum Wireless ($499) – Best wireless noise-cancelling headphones
- Audeze Sine ($449) – Best iPhone 7-compatible headphones
- Mr. Speakers Ether Flow ($1,799) – Best high-end headphones under $2,000
Some Impactful Gifts Are Not “Things”
Remember the Wisconsin Law Foundation in Your End-of-year Giving. Support the charitable and educational work and impact of the WLF. There are three options for giving. Visit https://npo.justgive.org/wisconsinlawfoundation.
Gifts for the (Practical) Professional
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (OLED)
Tags: Office, Home, Cutting-edge Display
With generally excellent performance, good keyboards and battery life, and sturdy designs, ThinkPads – whether under IBM or now Lenovo – have long had a reputation of being among the best laptops for business and travel. Now, however, with Lenovo’s new ThinkPad X1 Yoga with OLED display, ThinkPads should rightly be considered among the best laptops available for any purpose.
The new X1, like many of its forebears, boasts an excellent keyboard (with the signature red tracking nub that I personally love), good battery life, very fast performance, and a rugged design, but it’s the absolutely stunning 14” 2560 x 1440 OLED touchscreen display, which is available on the X1 Yoga’s more expensive configurations, that really makes the X1 a uniquely excellent laptop. It’s hard to put into words what an OLED display brings to the table compared to LCD (although “inky blacks, vibrant colors, incredible contrast” come to mind), but I can assure you that when you see it, you will want it. I do – and I am usually a MacBook Pro kind of guy.
Alternative: The new Apple MacBook Pro ($1,499-plus) doesn’t have an OLED display or a touchscreen, but there is an available OLED Touch Bar. The Touch Bar, which sits right above the keyboard, offers additional input options and should be a worthwhile addition for many users, but with or without it, the new MacBook Pros are still sleek, still magnificently built, and still among the best laptops available.
Nicetrails Topographical 3D Printed Desk Art/Trophy
Tags: Adventure, Office, Home, Client Conversation Starter
Price: $110 - $270 (depending on size and current Euro conversion rate)
If you’ve been a lawyer (or anyone else who works in an office) for long enough, you will likely have given or received at least one gift that was meant to be placed on a desk. Maybe it was a clock, a university-themed paperweight, or even a miniature Zen garden. Those gifts are just fine, but if you or someone you know leads a particularly active lifestyle, next time consider giving him or her a 3D printed topographical “trophy” that, with the help of data taken from the adventurous recipient’s GPS-equipped device (or public data), can be made to showcase the actual path taken during a personally significant hike, ride, run, or climb.
If none of this makes sense to you, don’t worry. You can enlist a likewise adventurous helper elf, who knows how to access the relevant .gpx file from the giftee’s GPS device. Once you have the file, go to nicetrails.com, choose whether you want a satellite- or terrain-based map style, and take advantage of the free worldwide shipping. With any luck, your gift will not only evoke fond memories and discussion but also provide a motivational sense of accomplishment during those tough days when the giftee would really rather be outside.
More Cool Gifts for Practical Professionals
- Dell XPS 13 ($800+) – Best value PC laptop
- Blue Apron Subscription ($59.94 per week) – Best gift for professionals who want to cook
- Blue Bottle Coffee Subscription ($24 and up) – Best coffee subscription
- Oxo Cold Brew Coffee Maker ($49) – Best value cold brew coffee maker
- Bonavita BV1900TS ($130) – Best value coffee maker
Books for Lawyers
Typography for Lawyers, by Matthew Butterick; and On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, by William Zinsser
Tags: Office, Writing, Improvement
Price: $30 / $10
Most lawyers write every day. Yet, many attorneys haven’t actively studied writing style since law school. Change that with two accessible books that were recommended to me by a lawyer who edits legal books for a living. One was originally published in 2010 and one in 1976. Both offer something valuable for lawyers today. These books will be on my list this year, so at the very least, you can look forward to even better Wisconsin Lawyer articles in the future.
Cool Practical Gifts for Everyone
Davek Solo Umbrella
Tags: Weather, Office, Home, Car
There are a lot of good umbrellas out there for reasonable prices (for example, the REI Travel Umbrella and the Lewis N. Clark Automatic Travel Umbrella), but if you are giving an umbrella as a gift, you may be looking for better than good. If so, the Davek Solo is your umbrella. With a leather strap, a zinc-alloy handle plated with brushed nickel, and a signature design of all black (save for one colored panel), it certainly looks the part of a luxury accessory. But, it is really the high-grade steel shaft, the fiberglass reinforced frame, and the auto-open and close button system that justify the purchase.
The Solo also sets itself apart from many other “fancy” umbrellas by closing down to a relatively short length of 11.75”. So, although it lacks the length (and hook) that would make it an adequate weapon with which Kris Kringle could defend himself on 34th Street, the Solo can more reasonably be stored in your car or bag. Best of all, the Solo comes with an unconditional lifetime guarantee. And if you lose it, you can get a replacement for 50 percent off.
Bosch PS42-02 12V Max EC Brushless Impact Driver Kit
Tags: Office, Home, Power Tools
Cordless power drills, with their versatile ability to drill holes and drive screws, are among the most common tools kept in both homes and offices. Most of us, however, tend to drive far more screws and bolts (doing things like putting together furniture) than we do actually drilling things. And when it comes to driving screws, bolts, and other fasteners, tools known as impact drivers offer several advantages over standard drills. For one, impact drivers are typically smaller than drills, making them easier to use in tight spaces.
Don’t let their slight figures fool you, however, because impact drivers are actually incredibly powerful – offering far more torque than even the best drills. As a result, you can use them to drive the largest of lag screws – or in perhaps a more realistic scenario – to put together a fleet of conference room chairs in no time flat. And, because that high level of power is achieved in part through small concussive blows, which transfer power directly to what you are driving (and not your hands), your arms won’t feel like jelly when you’re done. So, which one to get?
My pick is the Bosch PS42, a very compact 12-volt model with excellent run time and a brushless motor that will last for years. Just remember that unlike standard drills, which use a chuck to accept round and hex bits, impact drivers only accept hex bits and attachments. So, if you do occasionally need to drill something (impact drivers can be used for this, but be careful with all that torque), be sure to pick up some hex drill bits as well.
Nest Cam Outdoor
Tags: Office, Home, Physical Security, Big Brother
Price: $199 (single); $348 (2 pack)
One of last year’s picks, the Nest Cam, can now be found for approximately $180 and still makes a good gift. If you are more interested in outdoor security, however, the waterproof Nest Cam Outdoor is a better option. Like the original, the outdoor has great night vision, 1080p video, and a convenient magnetic base with an adjustable swivel joint. You can still view 24/7 continuous live streaming on your portable devices and computers, as well as receive sound and motion alerts at no added cost. Although many added features, like the ability to access past video, create timelapse video, save and share clips, and use advanced “activity zone” based motion alerts, are still mostly limited to Nest’s monthly Nest Aware service (starting at $10 a month), you can now view three hours of activity-based snapshots for free. All things considered, Nest Cams remain one of easiest ways to keep an eye on your office from home or your home from your office.
More Cool Practical Gifts for Everyone
- Belkin SurgePlus USB Swivel Charger ($30) – Best travel surge protector
- APC BR1000G Back-UPS Pro ($122) – Best way to keep your internet up during a blackout
- Lasko 754200 Ceramic Heater ($25) – Best value space heater
- Speakman S-2252 ($60) – Best showerhead
- Megapro 211R1C36RD 13-In-1 ($35) – Best ratcheting screwdriver