Ask TLR Technology

Ask TLR Technology: Christmas Tech Gifts Guide

    Welcome to another episode of Ask TLR, this time I was contacted and asked if I had a quick guide or suggestions of tech gifts for Christmas. Well it just so happens that I’ve been giving tech gifts for the last few years. Here are just a few of many items that I like and that I think could make great Christmas gifts. 

     First on our list is Amazon Echo dots or Google home mini. You really can go wrong with either and we use both in our home. Anywhere in our home, you can say “OK Google” or “Alexa” and get a response.


     Let me give you a quick run down of what sets the 2 apart. ( Google and Amazon update regularly so features constantly get better) What I found is that Google is better at answering more detailed questions, both can answer general questions about weather, business hours, conversions etc. Amazon Echo can control more smart home devices compared to Google, but in most cases especially when it comes to main stream products either smart assistant will work. Both can make phone calls to numbers in your contacts if they live in the United States, Mexico or Canada, however, Amazons Echo can send messages and for some weird reason, Google home cannot. Both can be used as an intercom system if you have more than one. The largest difference is that Amazon Echo can be used to check prices or order products from it can also be used to track your Amazon orders. The Google home can also track packages if the tracking is sent to the Gmail account used to set up the Google Home. When it comes to sound quality, the newest 3rd generation Amazon Echo dot is slightly louder than the Google Home Mini, and the Google Home Mini is louder than the cheaper gen 2 Echo Dot that is still available for $20. Keep in mind that both echo dots can be connected by Bluetooth or 3.5mm to larger speakers, with that said the $20 gen 2 dot is smaller physically and has identical performance to the gen 3 when plugged into an external speaker. The Google Home Mini can be connected by Bluetooth it does not have 3.5mm jack.

Photo: TLR Technology

     I almost for got to add my favorite smart home/ smart assistant devices and they are the Amazon Echo Show and the Google Home hub. I have both along with the Lenovo Smart display all of these are excellent choices if you want a screen… and I’ll say you probably do. It makes a difference when it comes to consuming content with a smart assistant. Check out or reviews for more detailed info.


     Keeping with the smart home theme, the next item is the Lifx smart LED bulb. They have a rated life of 23 years with normal use, have some of the brightest and most vibrant colors compared to other LED bulbs. Lifx bulbs can easily be controlled from the Android or iOS app or either of the smart assistants. We have been using the Lifx bulbs for years and our power bills are cheaper as the LED lights use substantially less energy while providing more light at maximum brightness. Another cool feature is the bulbs can be dimmed anywhere for 1 to 100% brightness. In the morning when my alarm goes off the Lifx bulb in the bedroom turns on at 20% brightness automatically with a warm white color that doesn’t hurt my eyes. It’s a truly useful feature and one that everyone should have.


    The next item on my list is another smart home product, the Nest Smart Thermostat E. Yes, this is the cheaper of the Nest thermostats and it’s fantastic. This is another product that has caused a noticeable reduction in my utility bill. If you own a home you NEED one, if you rent I’d say get one install it and just reinstall the older one before you move and take the Nest with you.   It will save you money! Again this thermostat can be controlled from the Nest App anywhere in the world that you have an internet connection or the way I control it most of the time, by using one of the smart assistants. One of the coolest features about the Nest thermostat is that it can detect if your home and when your not it will go into a preset ECO mode and save even more dollars.


    Getting away from the smart home lets check out some computer tech. One of the newest items that I’ve picked up is the Logitech k380 keyboard. I’m typing on it right now while using my iPad Pro. I wanted a keyboard that was great to type on, easy to carry with great battery life and the k380 is it. I found the classic Logitech k480 that has a slot to hold tablets or phones was way to heavy to carry around in a bag, the next problem is the k480 was designed years ago. The newer tablets are all much thinner so the slot designed to hold them on the k480 doesn’t work that great anymore. The well known Logitech Keys To Go keyboard is fairly expensive for what it is. It is extremely small and has a plastic cover that removes 90% of tactile feedback and the smaller size makes it harder to type faster. Long story short just like Goldie Locks the k380 is just right. Another bonus is the k380 can store (3) different Bluetooth profiles that can be switched on the fly and has profiles for Mac/ Apple, Windows, and Android. 

   Here is a little something for our readers that stay on the go. The headphones that I carry everywhere are the JBL Everest 110GA Google Assistant enabled earbuds. These earbuds are comfortable to wear for hours, have good battery life, awesome JBL sound quality, and the Google Assistant. These would be a great gift for anyone.


    Let’s get into a few gifts that are in the higher price range. The first is Chrome Books. These awesome and often inexpensive laptops can be had under $150 refurbished or on sale and can rise close to $1,700 for over the top models. I’ve personally used Chromebooks for over 4 years. I’ve given 4 as gifts over that time and everyone has used and loved theirs. Let me tell you what I look for in Chromebooks. The first thing that you want to do is look at reviews as the quality of the build will vary from the manufacturer and can vary from model to model. If the reviews are mostly positive you’ll likely notice (if its a Chrome Book under $300) there maybe a choice of 2gb or 4gb of ram. Always get at lease 4gb of RAM. This should get you a lightweight laptop that can work for most people for most of the task they do daily. It should easily display multiple Chrome web tabs, run web apps, watch media like YouTube and Netflix with no problems. If you want a little more from a Chrome Book look for one with a touchscreen that supports Android apps. This will open up Chrome OS web store, and the full Google play ( Android) App Store which will give you access to other apps and games. Lastly, if you get one with a decent processor (m3, i5, i7) you can install Linux apps and have a great experience. I use a Google Pixelbook as my daily driver, I use Chrome OS, Android apps and Linux Apps, it’s fantastic.


     The next big items are iPads or the new Pixel Slate. Both of these have plus and minus. You can buy the 2018 (regular) iPad for less than $350 right now. The 2018 NON-PRO iPad is great for media consumption, mobile gaming, casually lounging and surfing the net.

     If you team Google/Android then the base Pixel Slate starts at $599… Yes, I know that you can buy nice android tablets for less but Chrome OS with Android apps are the future, and Google will certainly never make another android only tablet. I suspect that this will be the same thing for most major 3rd party companies like Samsung. It’s worth the extra cost to jump to the Pixel Slate, add the keyboard I listed above and a mouse and you have a full Chrome Book at a desk and a tablet. Another option is to buy one of the keyboard covers that have trackpads for the full Chrome Book experience on the go.


    The last device is the one I’m typing this on, which is the 2018 iPad Pro. It’s around the cost of the Pixelbook and it comes with no keyboard (see our review) but I can’t state enough how impressive the hardware is. I’ll admit the hardware is ahead of the software (iOS) for sure, but if the rumors are true iOS 13 which releases late next year will likely bring a lot of the functionality that’s holding it back from being a full laptop replacement for many people. Side note: get the Apple Pencil its worth it in my opinion.

    I hope this list helps you guys on your continued search for ongoing Christmas gifts.

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