Tech the Halls: Top 12 Gadgets of the Holiday Season

It’s the perfect time to get a jump on your holiday wish list. For technology lovers, that means just one thing—gadgets. Whether you prefer to stand in line for hours to buy the newest smartphone or long for the days of 8-bit gaming, there’s a perfect tech toy for you this holiday season.

We asked Global Knowledge’s resident experts for their ultimate tech gifts this year. Here are their top 12 picks and reasons for wanting each device, as well as a way we can help you geek out with your most coveted tech gadgets.

12. Fisher Price Think & Learn Code-a-pillar ($49.99)

How it works: For ages 3-6, this children’s toy “crawls” in different directions based on the arrangement of its eight segments. Each combination will send the Code-a-pillar on an alternate course.
Coolest feature: There is no wrong sequence. The Code-a-pillar moves regardless of how it is assembled. But if kids want more of a challenge, they can piece together the Code-a-pillar so it will reach certain destination targets placed around a room. It’s a great way to learn how to problem solve and strengthen motor skills through play.
Laura Faughtenberry, Product Marketing Manager: “Encouraging your child to learn to code at an early age can increase their creativity and excite them to develop great problem-solving skills. And with a toy like this, they won’t even realize they are learning. I’m excited to see my kids put their minds to work! As the cloud and interconnectivity become more and more prevalent in our day-to-day lives, I want to make sure my kids have a foundational understanding of computer science early on.”

11. Canon DSLR 7D Mark II ($1,849.99)

cHow it works: This 20.2-megapixel digital camera is perfect for both amateur and professional photographers. The camera captures images up to 5472 x 3648 pixels while the movie mode records footage at 60p in MOV and MP4 formats.
Coolest feature: Burst mode makes it possible to capture images in a rapid sequence. It’s ideal for nature and sports photography as well as finally getting decent shots of family members furiously unwrapping their presents.
Kevin Colleton, Senior Project Manager: “The primary feature that attracted me to this camera was its sheer speed: a whopping 10 frames per second! This made it a great camera for taking action shots at my son’s soccer games and other sporting events. It doesn’t have a ‘full-framed’ digital image sensor like a professional photographer might use. However, it does have Canon’s latest dual DIGIC 6 image processors that can process 64 different focus points! It takes great photos and has excellent video capabilities at 1920 x 1080 resolution. The Canon 7D Mark II camera is a great choice for the photo enthusiast who desires professional-level results at consumer-level pricing.”

10. SkyBell HD Wi-Fi Video Doorbell ($199.99)

How it works: Each time your doorbell rings, you receive an alert to your phone and are able to see and speak to the visitor. There’s also a motion sensor to alert you even if the doorbell isn’t pushed. It’s a terrific security device, especially when you’re not home or are trying to avoid the in-laws.
Coolest feature: You can access a live feed of your front door at any time using the SkyBell app. It doesn’t matter where you are; you’ll have access to HD video and can even record or take a snapshot of each visitor.
Jack Broeren, Manager, Pre-Sales Support: “The SkyBell video doorbell is at the top of my list this year. I’m a total geek when it comes to home automation. I love being able to control the electronics in my home from my iPhone. The HD camera is amazing and the color night vision is impressive. The two-way audio feature means I’ll never have to rush to the post office after missing my latest Amazon order! SkyBell even works with the smart lock on my front door.”

9. Sphero Special Edition BB-8 App-Enabled Droid ($149.99)

bb8-300x300-300x275How it works: This is the droid you’re looking for. Control and communicate with BB-8, the pint-sized breakout star from the blockbuster film “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” using your smartphone or tablet. In addition to the app, BB-8 reacts to voice commands and records virtual holograms. There’s also the option to have BB-8 patrol, so it’ll roam around your home on its own, protecting you from any invading factions of the First Order.
Coolest feature: You get your own droid! Also, if you pair BB-8 with a Sphero Force Band, you can control it with a wave of your hand—no training from Yoda needed.
Marnee Bruno, Vice President of Marketing – Canada: “Christmas is the time for nostalgia. I am old enough to remember the pre-CGI world of ‘Star Wars’ in the ‘80s, so BB-8 makes me think of the real wonder I felt watching R2-D2 as a kid! But, memories aside—and maybe more importantly—I need to relax this Christmas, and I am looking forward to being cuddled up by the fire and using my app-controlled BB-8 to run and wear out my puppy while I sip my eggnog!”

8. NES Classic Edition ($59.99)

How it works: Nintendo has packaged 30 of its original NES video games into one small console. All games are pre-installed in this miniature version of the iconic gaming system, initially released in 1985, and each console comes with the classic rectangular controller.
Coolest feature: We know what you’re thinking—it’s not a true NES experience unless you’re playing on an oversized CRT television from the ‘80s. Well you’re in luck! Each player has the option to select three different displays, including the “CRT Filter” that provides a retro look, with scan lines and all. Now if only there was a filter to help you beat the “Super Mario Bros.” water levels.
David Price, Director, Learning Architecture: “The NES Classic takes me back to those carefree, halcyon days of youth, when my best buds and I would get home from school on a rainy day, tear open a bag of chips, plant ourselves in my parent’s living room, fire up the Nintendo and the 19-inch Sylvania, and do the Donkey Kong. This diminutive device packs 30 games for a mere $60, which is a small price to pay for a journey back to (the good parts of) adolescence.”

7. Google Chromecast ($35)

chromecast-200x300How it works: Chromecast lets you stream apps like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go and YouTube directly to your television from a phone or laptop. You can also use your smartphone as a remote, which comes in handy if you find yourself inclined to fast forward through the scary parts of “Stranger Things.”
Coolest feature: Set-up is one step: plug it in. Seriously, as long as you have a USB port on your TV, you’ll be watching your favorite show in seconds. Also, if there’s an app on your laptop or phone that isn’t available on Chromecast, you can still mirror the content from your device to your television.
Casey Wasserman, Marketing Communications Specialist – Editor: “I just moved and decided to cut the cord once and for all. Using Chromecast, I can stream my favorite shows (hello, ‘Breaking Bad’ marathon!), and the best part is that I don’t have to worry about losing the remote in a sofa cushion. My phone does all the work!”

6. Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator ($3,899.99)

How it works: Looking to save energy? Want to spy on your food? The Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator’s three built-in cameras let you peer inside your fridge without opening the door. The 21.5-inch touchscreen is also helpful when looking to shop online or when you want to leave a note for a family member. There’s also a compartment that can be utilized as a fridge or a freezer—you decide. It’s a great way to maximize space.
Coolest feature: Have you ever been grocery shopping and forgotten what’s in your fridge? You can view your refrigerator contents from your mobile device. It’s also a great way to see who eats all of the holiday leftovers.
Lia Byers, Cisco Product Manager: “This refrigerator goes beyond the word ‘refrigerator.’ It is a place for family members to connect and leave messages for each other. It is a family photo album that runs in slide show or individual mode. It has Pandora, a radio station tuner and a shopping list that can be viewed on your smartphone. You can even send messages to the touchscreen while you’re out of the house. How amazing! Please Santa, bring me my own.”

5. Microsoft Surface Pro 4 ($899.99)

preview-full-surface-300x150-300x150How it works: The Surface Pro 4 erases the need for both a tablet and a laptop. It’s thin and portable with a keyboard that isn’t flimsy like many associated with laptop/tablet hybrids. The included Surface Pen further enhances its versatility as it allows users to write and draw directly on the screen.
Coolest feature: The Surface Pen elevates the Surface Pro 4 many ways. You can sketch with it by taking advantage of 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity to produce detailed images. You can also take notes during classes or meetings. Or you can screenshot a webpage, mark it up with the pen and share it with a friend or colleague. And for those of us who aren’t perfect, there’s an eraser.
Andrew Kyriakoulis, Web and Graphic Designer: “When tablets hit the market, I admit I wasn’t very impressed. I loved the idea, but wanted something much more powerful and versatile. Then the Surface Pro came out and I’ve been eyeing it ever since. I love that it comes equipped with Windows 10 (instead of a mobile OS) and has the specs necessary to handle more intensive computing tasks. Normally when I’m on the go, I keep a sketchbook handy for on-the-fly notes, sketches and ideas. With the Surface Pro’s perfect size, awesome touchscreen and pressure sensitive pen, I think it could be an even better creative sidekick. Now, what I really want is to pair the Surface Pro with the new Surface Studio coming out in 2017. There’s a dream come true.”

4. Apple iPhone 7 ($799.99 without contract)

How it works: The lack of a headphone jack is getting the most press, but the newest iPhone has a multitude of improvements over its predecessor. For starters, the phone’s speed, camera, stereo and battery life have been upgraded. The display screen is also brighter and more colorful than previous versions.
Coolest feature: We wouldn’t recommend intentionally spilling your morning coffee on your iPhone 7, but if you want to, you can. Hey, whatever floats your boat. The phone’s case and screen are water resistant, so a trip into the shower or pool won’t leave you disconnected to the rest of the world.
Amanda Gladieux, Sales Director – Canada: “I have to admit it, I want the latest and greatest. The iPhone 7 Plus is definitely on my list this year. After getting used to my apparently massive 6 Plus (and the comments I get when I hold it up!), I can’t imagine downsizing. The large screen is just too good to give up. Here is what’s cool about the iPhone 7 Plus—it is fully water resistant (meaning it will survive if you drop it in the bathtub or toilet), it has a dual camera system with good front camera image quality (for those creative photographers or selfie-obsessed), the battery lasts longer and there are bigger storage options. Although it’s a splurge, the new iPhone 7 makes my list this year.”

3. Amazon Echo Dot ($49.99)

echo-200x300How it works: The Echo Dot works just like the Echo, but with a smaller speaker. That’s it, that’s the difference. (And half the price, which is nice.) The device streams music and is voice-activated, so Alexa is still there to tell you the weather forecast, order pizza or let you know if the Knicks won. (They probably didn’t.)
Coolest feature: The size of the Echo Dot is its biggest attribute. It can easily fit in your coat pocket or handbag, so moving it from room to room and taking it on the go is a breeze. While the original Echo has the sound advantage, the Echo Dot can be connected to external speakers, allowing you to control the audio quality and volume.
Ruth Patterson, Senior Marketing Manager: “My wish for this holiday season is to get the all-new Echo Dot! I think it’s so cool with the ability to get smarter as I use it with things like playing music, using the alarm clock, requesting time and temperature, and ordering a Domino’s pizza—all hands-free. I’m sure by the time I master all of these uses there will be many more. Can’t wait!”

2. Bose SoundSport wireless headphones ($149.99)

How it works: Headphone jacks may soon be extinct so there’s no better time to ditch the wires. The SoundSport wireless headphones pair with your Bluetooth device and stay charged for up to six hours. They’re also sweat and weather resistant, so you can go the extra mile during your workouts.
Coolest feature: The StayHear tips are designed to be lightweight and deliver strong sound quality. Better yet—they’re designed to stay in your ear! Crazy concept, we know. There’s nothing worse than earbuds that don’t stay in place when you move.
Kerrie McCullough, HR Generalist: “I would love to wake up Christmas morning to find the Bose SoundSport wireless headphones under my tree. I love to listen to music at home, work and when I’m out for my walks. I’m a fast walker and always end up pulling the earbuds out of my ears. These will allow me to go crazy with my arms during my speed walks while listening to my favorite music.”

1. Oculus Rift ($599.99)

oculus-150x300How it works: The Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset that allows users to play video games, watch TV shows and movies, and connect with friends in a virtual environment. The Oculus Rift comes with an Xbox wireless controller while a new motion-capturing controller, the Oculus Touch, will be released Dec. 6. The Touch will register arm and finger movement to create an even more interactive experience.
Coolest feature: Prefer to watch movies in the theater? The Oculus Rift has a video feature that allows users to watch movies and videos in a virtual reality theater environment. You can take a trip to the movies while still on your couch. All that’s missing is the popcorn.
Justin Alisauski, Application Developer: “Virtual reality has a long history, but only recently, with constant technology evolution, have we come to an age where video graphics are more realistic and where things like the Nintendo Wii and the Xbox Kinect have increased interactivity with video games. Enter the Oculus Rift, which has revolutionized virtual reality. It has the controls to allow for interactive game play as well as the graphics to give an experience where users actually forget they are in their living room. The Oculus Rift allows users to share experiences with friends and family, so you can witness their reactions as they go deep-sea diving, journey to space or fend off endless hordes of zombies.”

Bonus Stocking Stuffer: $500 Best Buy® e-Gift Card

How it works: Sign up and attend an eligible Global Knowledge IT course and receive a $500 Best Buy® e-Gift Card on us. It’s the best way to get Cool Stuff and check items off your own gadget wish list.
Coolest feature: You don’t have to wait for Santa to get the tech toy of your choice this year! Use the $500 Best Buy® e-Gift Card to score some wireless headphones to pair with your new iPhone 7. Or pick up the Amazon Echo to play your favorite holiday tunes for all to hear. (Blast them as loud as you want to—we won’t judge.)

What’s on your wish list?

Let us know your favorite gadgets from our countdown or share your own personal wish list by tagging @GlobalKnowledge and using #TechtheHalls.

Don’t forget to share

Dear @OfficialSanta, please bring me the #iPhone7 or anything on the @GlobalKnowledge #TechtheHalls list: https://ter.li/a93n48

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