Toys for Techies

David Powell

IF YOU’RE ONE of the lucky ones in this COVID-19 economy, with a job and the wherewithal to buy holiday gifts for friends or family, here are five eclectic tech gift ideas for budgets small, large and XXL:

1. Ergonomic Desk. The pandemic has many of us working from home. After a couple months of this, my back, neck and forearms cried out for the ergonomic desk I had at the office. Luckily, my friend Diz turned me on to GeekDesk.

The company’s super-sturdy Model 4 adjustable height desk starts at $749 and was pretty easy to assemble, especially when you have help. (Thanks, Katie.) Get the optional controller, which has four presets, so you can quickly flip between standing and sitting or just tweak the height a bit. For another $150, splurge on the gorgeous bamboo desk surface. GeekDesk’s cord tray is an essential accessory. Paired with an AmazonBasics power strip set in the cord tray and a power grommet for desktop devices, you have a neat, single-cord look for your desk.

2. Oura Ring. There are a lot of wearable health and fitness sensor products on the market today, but none I’ve tried works as well as Oura Ring for tracking and hacking your sleep. Deep sleep activates your immune system and, today, we could all use more of that. Starting at $299, Oura’s ring has sensors which accurately measure heart rate, respiration, relative body temperature and motion, everything Oura needs to tell not just how long you’re sleeping, but also how well.

Other solutions track sleep, but through an uncomfortable wrist-sized bracelet. Others can record resting heart rate or heart rate variability, but not as accurately as Oura. A single charge lasts nearly a week and the ring is waterproof, so no worries showering or washing dishes while wearing it. Matthew Walker’s bestselling book Why We Sleep makes a great companion gift.

3. Factfulness. Speaking of great books, many tech-loving readers on your shopping list will enjoy Factfulness by Hans Rosling, a sword-swallowing public health expert from Sweden who entertains with great storytelling, while upgrading your worldview and enhancing your understanding of the natural biases all humans have. If you wonder how in the world your beloved relatives or coworkers can look at the same information and reach opposite conclusions, this book sets you on a path to clarity and empathy. It helped me retain a glimmer of optimism in 2020, and that’s surely worth $12.

4. Anker Power Chargers. Okay, it’s not a sexy gift idea. But if you’re keen to save time charging devices, enjoy the simplicity of carrying one compact power adapter on trips (remember trips?) or want the convenience of wireless charging, Anker makes well-built products like this, with a USB-C port to power a 45-watt Surface or MacBook computer while also quick-charging a phone or tablet. For fastest charging with a cable, use Anker’s products with a USB-C connector or a blue USB 3 type A connector.

5. Tesla Model Y. If you’re looking to thrill your spouse with a vehicle that plugs in, or it’s just time to replace an old clunker, check out Tesla’s latest model. The midsized, all-wheel drive, pure electric Model Y SUV has wicked acceleration, 68 cubic feet of cargo room, optional trailer hitch and EPA-rated range of 326 miles (your range will vary). At half the price of Tesla’s Model X, the Model Y is a bit less refined in its ride but equally thrilling to drive.

For owners of all its cars, Tesla has delivered a simplified driving experience which improves with age, as new features and refinements get released in its monthly updates. Paired with Tesla’s Wall Connector in your garage and its lightning-fast Supercharger network for long trips, you’ll not miss gas stations or the expense and hassle of quarterly oil changes. That said, I do urge caution using Tesla’s autopilot features if you go for that option.

David Powell has spent his career writing software and leading engineering teams. During his 40 years working in tech, he has come to respect the limits of human imagination in any planning. Like the rest of us, David looks forward to a post-COVID world with lots of travel, shaking hands and dining in restaurants. His previous articles include Money for Later, Beat the Cheats and Get Me a Margarita. Follow David on Twitter @AmpedToGo.

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