Courtesy of our friends at C3 Magazine, here’s a roundup of 10 Christmas Gadgets. List of gadgets are not new to the Internet, but ones that are available in Sri Lanka are. Everything here is either available on the ground or able to be shipped to our resplendent isle.
Note that we’ve numbered the items by price (lowest to highest), not how awesome they are. That really depends on what’s awesome to the geek on your Christmas list.
1. Silicon Power Portable Charger (Rs. 5,720)
Essentially a 5200 mAh lithium-ion rechargeable battery, the P50 acts as a portable power bank for when your smartphone starts dying. Plug in your smartphone and it’ll charge up your battery – and at full charge, this thing holds enough to top up an S4 from 0 to 100% twice.
It’s fairly inconspicuous – plain white, nothing flashy – and has not one, but two USB ports through which you can charge two smartphones. Alongside this useful feature is a LED that indicates the charge status of the P50 and overload protection circuitry.
Silicon Power rates it as being good for 500 charge cycles. Even if you use it every day, that’s around a year and a half. By that time, we hope somebody will have solved the infernal problem of battery life. It’s Rs 5,720 at Takas.lk.
Why we think it’s cool: While it’s by no means cheap, it’s probably one of the most practical gadgets you can get this Christmas. It has a decent burst of power, enough to share with a friend. Even more than smartphones, the SP50 is useful for tabs. The SP50, with its massive battery, is just what the doctor ordered.
2. Logitech Wireless Keyboard (Rs. 6,500)
Yup, that’s right. A keyboard with a touchpad. It’s intended as a wireless replacement for a laptop keyboard / pad combo, and indeed works in pretty much the same way – but a lot more comfortably. It neatly eliminates the hassle of needing a mouse. You can easily park your laptop or PC somewhere and walk around with this thing. It’s plug and play. Simple.
The best use for it? Hooking up your laptop to the TV, lying back on the couch and watching movies or surfing the web like nobody’s business. The K400 has an unbelievable range of around 30 feet – at that distance, you won’t be able to even see the mouse pointer. No messy cables and restrictions. Couch potato heaven. It works just as intended even on ye older normal PC – just plug in the receiver, put your feet up on the desk and enjoy your chair without having to hunch forward.
It’s available at Redline Technologies for Rs 6,500.
Why we think it’s cool: it’s so convenient that it makes you think twice about ever using a wired keyboard again. Or, for that matter, a mouse.
3. Asus O! Play Mini (Rs. 9,990)
The O! Play Mini is a light, compact little box that plugs into your TV and plays almost anything and everything you throw at it. Including, but not limited to Blu-Ray ISOs, FLV ripped of streaming sites, MPGs, those old .DAT files from VCDs, AVIs and WMVs – in case you hasn’t noticed, that’s almost all the formats you get today. Any movie you download, any TV series, any video ripped off a site, and you can play it. It’s got both HDMI and the old red, white and yellow jacks, so those with old TVs can use it too.
Which means the entire family can kick back and enjoy those semi-compulsory Christmas movies in HD and literally surround yourself with the bells and whatnot. Or, if you’re like us, you can lock yourself in the den, load up those HD BRrips and ignore the rest of the world. It’s Rs 9,990 from Takas.lk.
Why we think it’s cool: It’s the perfect replacement for that aging DVD player. It’s small, as mentioned, barely larger than a handspan, comes with a remote, a 4-in-1 card reader and actual 7.1 channel surround sound. Plug in a memory card and you have on your hands one of the most versatile media centers on the island.
4. Vodafone MiFi Router (Rs. 12,490)
A Mi-Fi router is like a hotspot. We do this in dire emergencies on our phones – enable 3G, set up a hotspot and let your friend’s laptop in on the connection. Unfortunately, doing this has the same effect on the phone’s battery as opening a buth packet in a crowded classroom. Insta-kill.
Which is where a Mi-Fi router comes in. Insert data SIM. Plug it in. You now have WiFi. It’s a fire-and-forget solution that lets all your devices in on the same connection without having to get your phone involved.
Hence the Vodafone R205, sold by Dialog for Rs 12,490. There’s a tiny OLED screen displaying signal strength, number of users, connection duration, roaming indicator, data transfer volume, battery life and text messages. Battery life lasts about 4 hours of constant use but can be charged via laptop. Plugged in the router can transmit up to 60 meters: unplugged, you can hit 10 meters. It works with any device or platform.
Why we like this (particular) gadget: it’s one of the cheapest fully-functional Mi-Fi routers on the market. Ridiculously useful for a laptop LAN session or giving free WiFi to the whole party.
5. Apple TV (Rs. 13,500)
Apple TV is a great thing to own if you already have an iOS device. A stream of consistent improvements have taken this thing from being a jumped-up Netflix box to something useful for us Sri Lankans.
In short, it’s a box that you plug into your TV or HD monitor (HDMI only – older TVs are out, we’re afraid). That gives you HBO, ESPN, and some other channels in addition to the One Channel to Rule Them All: YouTube. Plus, if you’ve done some heavy iTunes shopping, you can wirelessly stream movies, TV shows and music off your iPad. Not to mention photos and most app-based content.
It’s pretty neat if you’ve got the goods for it (including a wireless connection for doing anything online). If by any chance you have a Mac running Mountain Lion or newer, you can turn that TV into a full-on duplicate of your screen.
There’s quite a bit we can speak about, including that super-slim, spartan remote, but basically the Apple TV does it’s job by being almost invisible and drastically extending your TV’s functionality while it’s at it. Personally, we find YouTube the most useful feature of all. The Apple TV is available at various places that sell Apple products, including BT Options.
Why we think it’s cool: it basically turns your TV into a giant iPad and extends the Garden of Apple into your living room.
6. Skyartec Model Aircraft (Rs. 20,240)
Few things (short of an alien invasion or presidential election) are more exciting than an RC toy for Christmas. Our pick the Skyartec Mini Extra300, a fully featured radio-controlled model aircraft that looks like a miniature Piper Meridian. You know, the ones with the turboprop engines.
Basically, this cool toy is about 50 centimeters across (wingspan, that is) and about 41 cm long. That’s neatly in the court of large enough to be carted around, but not large enough to be difficult to control. All it needs to comfortably flight around is a small yard – the local playground would do just fine. A couple of meters of flat space for a runway and you can have this thing buzzing around like a white-and-red bee.
It’s not cheap, but as hobbyists will tell you, nothing of the sort ever is. Skyartec’s a reputed manufacturer: it’s not some Pettah stuff that’ll fall apart after the first month of use. At the same time, it’s not astronomically expensive as far as RC planes go. Skyartec has thrwon in 3G3X, a system which serves as a stabilizer, minimizing both the need for and the plane’s response to quick successive corrections. It’s Rs 20,240 at Hobby Tech Lanka.
Why we think it’s cool: It’s easy enough to fly. Anyone can pick it up and enjoy, from your little son to a full-blown hobbyist, and it doesn’t need too much space for takeoff. Any plane or remote control buff, however old or young, will love this as a gift.
7. Yamaha Stereo (Rs. 33,250)
The Yamaha MCR-042 is a complete music system for, say, an office or bedroom space. It’s a colorful, decidedly retro-looking box with two speakers. Remember those epic radios we used to have, with the cassette players and whatnot? The Yamaha MCR-042 is the upgraded version of that. You’ve got CD playback and AM/FM, but now you can hook up a media player or a phone, play files off a USB drive and even dock your iPad or iPhone on top.
It also sounds good. By good we mean really good. Like the epic radios of old, music is clear and rich. It sounds different from the subwoofers + satellite combos we’ve got accustomed to. It certainly brings back to almost-forgotten joys of Christmas songs on the radio.
The MCR-42 comes in ten colors, for the décor-heads among you, and thankfully Yamaha Music Center (which will sell you this for a seasonal price of Rs 33,250) stocks all of them. Now you have speakers to go with that purple wallpaper.
Why we like it: it brings the best of radio together with the best of this iTunes generation. Plus it comes with this iPhone Alarm App that lets the radio wake you up when you should be asleep.
8. GoPro Hero 3+ (Rs. 65,000)
The GoPro is hands-down the ultimate action sports cam. The initial GoPro HD Hero built on the helmet cam principle and delivered wide-angle HD video in a ridiculously hardy and tiny package. The Hero 2 improved on that, packing in a better sensor and some nifty new tricks. Like 4K, for example.
Fast forward the the Hero 3+ Black edition. It’s ridiculous what this pocket-sized device can do. Everything’s gotten some subtle upgrades. You can shoot WVGA at 240 FPS (no, we’re not kidding), 720p at a butter-smooth 120 FPS, 1080p and 60 FPS, 1440p at 48 FPS and 4K at…12 FPS. While those 4K video recording features aren’t going to see much use, it’s gratifying to know the camera can do it if we wanted it to. Even better: it can do all of this underwater. Strap it into the dive housing and you can record those corals any way you like.
It’s Rs 65,000 at Open Road Equipé and has with a whole host of accessories that we’ll leave you to discover for yourself. Sure, there are less expensive cameras, but none of them can hold a candle to the GoPro for quality AND sheer portability .
Why we think it’s cool: This thing is basically a camera smaller than the palm of your hand. It’s waterproof, toddlerproof, can take some pretty hard knocks, and the video quality is just a notch under a full-blown DSLR. All you have to do is strap it to your head and keep rollin’.
9. Google Nexus 5 (Rs. 76,700)
Where to start? The Nexus 5 effectively takes on every premium flagship smartphone on the market and destroys them in terms of sheer power and features. And then it destroys them even further by pricing itself half of what they cost. A 1080p, Full HD, five-inch IPS screen; a top-of-the-line Snapdragon 800 clocked at 2.2 Ghz: do these sound like they belong in a 76-thousand-rupee phone?
No, they don’t: any other manufacturer would be happy to charge you over a hundred grand for that kinda thing. Not Google. Which is why we – and all geeks on the planet – love the Nexus 5.
As far as build quality goes, it’s good. The HTC One, with its unibody aluminum construction, will for now remain the watermark for Android devices – but the Nexus isn’t too shabby, either, easily clocking it around the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S4. It’s solidly constructed with Gorilla Glass on the front and soft-touch polycarbonate (read: plastic) on the back. There are others with slimmer lines, more expensive materials and such, but the Nexus 5 wins by value. Plus, it comes in white. You can’t argue with white.
Note that due to shipping delays, it might well be past Christmas until you get it. Kapruka Global is taking orders now. It’s still worth the wait.
Why we think it’s cool: Ostensibly a beefed up LG G2, the Nexus 5 is a killer phone – mostly because it’s Google redefining the value-for-money argument. It’s basically a huge statement saying: “this is what users should get for this much money”. It’s effectively the most powerful Android handset on the market, outperforming even the highest-end tabs in Sri Lanka. And at Rs 76,700 it’s a good chunk cheaper than most flagships. It’s the perfect gift for anyone even remotely considering a new phone.
10. The Sony Playstation 4 (Rs. 99,500)
The Playstation 4. Where do we start? This sleek box, roughly the size of the PS3 slim, is arguably the most powerful console of this generation. For those in tune with the jargon, there’s an octa-core x86-based AMD Jaguar APU under the hood. For those less interested in the numbers … it plays games.
You also get the improved DUALSHOCK 4 wireless controller plus some neat features. Play as you download, for example, lets you purchase a game online, let part of it download and then play while the download completes. We’ve seen this system in MMOs like RIFT and we quite like it. Sri Lankan internet being what it is, this feature is still more of a novelty than a prizewinning feature.
Of course, the ultimate test of a console is the games it has. The Playstation series has never disappointed and it’s not about to start now. Given Sony’s console lifespan, we expect this thing to be rocking happily for the next 6-7 years. Plus, you get to play Final Fantasy. Don’t think we’ve forgotten Lightning or her sister.
What’s the downside? The price tag. Chelsey’s selling it for a shade under one hundred thousand rupees. We think it’s expensive given Sony’s price tag ($400), but a quick Amazon search show that it’s around 700 US dollars even on the international market. That’s a fair price.
Why we think it’s cool: Sony’s done an admirable job of sticking to their strength – providing a great gaming experience. They’ve made the most powerful gaming console slim, small, easy to set up and easy to use. That, a ton of great games to play and the sheer wow factor makes it almost impossible to beat this thing. Give one to you gamer brother or kid and watch their eyes light up.
Again, thanks to C3 for the content. For more, you can visit their website or pick up their magazine from the wow.lk office, Barefoot, Vijitha Yapa, Yamaha Music Center or Redline Technologies.