JamesGames on SiriusXM Channel 110 on December 6, 2017

Our Holiday Gift Guide

Fitness Bands & Watches

Fitness Bands

Healbe GoBe ($199) I was skeptical about the HealBe GoBe's claims that it can measure caloric intake and even analyze how much protein, carb, and fat I take in, but after a week, the results seemed just about right.  The device uses a number of sensors to monitor what is flowing through your veins.  Unlike other calorie monitors that require you to keep track of what you're eating, this fitness band looks at the results.  Keep in mind, this means that you don't see what you've eaten immediately, rather it shows up after it is digested.  It can also track sleep, tension levels, your steps, and even functions as a mundane timepiece.  This is really a device for people actively monitoring their weight and calories.  It is larger than most fitness bands, not particularly stylish, and less comfortable, because the sensors require a 24/7 snug fit around the wrist.

Watches

To a large extent the smart-watch you buy will be decided by your phone choice. 

Apple Watch 3 ($329 and up) - The Apple Watch is a great choice, with a strong battery and great screen, important when you're looking at something this size.  The big difference this year is that you can get a cellular-enabled version which means it doesn't need to be connected to your phone to work.  This makes it closer to Dick Tracy's iconic 2-Way Wrist Watch than anything we've seen before.  There is also a less expensive version that does require a watch.  The special edition Apple Watch Series 3 Nike+ ($499) with a special band, aluminum case and Ion-X glass, also comes with the Nike+ Run Club app.

Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro ($199) Just because you're running Android, rather than Apple's iOS, you can still have a great watch/fitness band.  The Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro has sensors to track where you go, calories you're burning, and a music player.  It can be used to track where you run using Map MyRun, and there are fitness apps from UnderArmour.  You can even wear it while swimming, with resistance  up to fifty meters.

FitBit has brought out a new watch, the Ionic ($299), that is designed to go head-to-head with the Apple Watch, but at nearly the same price, and with a less developed infrastructure, I think it is an uphill climb. Still, the FitBit apps, and other coaching apps created with partner adidas, there is a lot to like in this stylish watch that includes GPS, heart rate monitoring, and water resistance

Phones

There are a lot of choices this year.  Samsung's flagship is the Galaxy S8.  Apple has brought out two new phones, the iPhone 8 and the stratospherically expensive, but feature packed, iPhone X.  But, there are other choices that are also worthy of consideration.  Google's Pixel 2 is a well-designed Android phone with a camera on par with Samsung and Apple's best.  Motorola's Moto Z2 Force (who came up with that mouthful?) has a really cool gimmick that really works:  You can swap back onto the phone that give it special features including a 360 degree camera that takes great videos and stills.  I was less enamored of the Alexa-enabled speaker because it does not include the ability to stream SiriusXM as do the Amazon , Sonos, and Logitech Alexa-enabled models.

If you already have an iPhone, you should look at the SanDisk iExpand Base (from $49.99 at SanDisk.com and is also available at other popular retailers like Amazon and Best Buy).  Just plug your phone into it to charge, much as you already do every night, and it automatically backs up your  pictures, videos, and contacts. Simplicity  itself, you'll thank me if your phone gets lost, stolen, or broken and you still have access to all your priceless pictures!

Weight Loss

Nokia Body Composition Scale ($94.99) Giving a scale is one of the more dangerous gifts; perhaps, better to make this a gift for oneself!  Nokia recently acquired the Withing brand, and this scale has a lot of functionality.  Not only will it track your weight over time (using your smartphone) it can track body fat & water percentages, and even muscle and bone mass.  It even will tell you today's weather forecast.

Naked Body Scanner This scanner isn't available yet, but you can put down a deposit of $95 on an $899 price to reserve your unit for delivery in the Fall of 2018.  Basically, this unit takes a 3D scan of your body so that you can compare your weight loss/body sculpting progress over time.

Standing Desks are something you can get today that may really make a difference to your long term health.  There are motorized and manual versions.  In fact, one is even coming  that will automatically make you stand up periodically by raising the desk. 

Virtual Reality

VIRZoom VZ Bike Controller ($399) is my favorite fitness gadget of all time: A bike for virtual reality.  Now compatible with the Samsung GearVR (S8 or S8+), Playstation VR, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive Headsets, this product makes a game out of exercise.   Put on the VR headset (sold separately) and start pedaling.  You'll be transported to virtual worlds where you'll be in a kayak, tank, on a bike or even flying on a Pegasus! 

Brain Training

BrainHQ (Free Trial, then from $8 a month) It turns out that in fighting the effects of aging we need to exercise our brain as well as our body.  BrainHQ claims that more than 100 published papers show cognitive and quality-of-life benefits from using the games.  Try adding it to your physical workout and see if it works for you.

SmartHome

Streaming Devices

Two of my favorite gadgets are the Roku Stick 2017 ($39.99) and Roku Ultra.  These bring streaming to your TV and are nearly effortless to set up and use. Both now feature voice remote control.  The latter streams the highest resolution - If you just invested in a 4K TV this is the streamer you want.

Smart Speakers

Alexa has taken over my home.  We use it to listen to music, control the lights,, and even raise the blinds!  The least costly way to get started is with the new Amazon Dot ($29.99), now available in two colors.  The very best portable versions of Alexa are the MegaBlast ($299) and Blast ($229.99) from Ultimate Ears.  With long lasting rechargable batteries built in, you can take Alexa with you anywhere there is WiFi, or just use Bluetooth to play directly from your smartphone. 

The best sounding Alexa-enabled speaker for home use is the Sonos One ($199).  You can use these individually or even set two of them up in pairs for above average stereo sound.  Not only do you get all the benefits of Alexa, but you also have the full control of the Sonos system to give you access to your music library as well as on-line sites.  I should note, however, that while the Sonos One has Alexa, Alexa doesn't fully control your Sonos library.  For that, you still need to use your remote, at least for the time being.

Outdoor Tech

Cameras for on the Go

GoPro virtually created the category of action cams.  Today they are used by skiers, surfers, and bikers everywhere.  Their latest cameras are their best and most interesting.  The GoPro Hero 6 has the highest resolution ever, and the just released GoPro Fusion is a fascinating (if expensive and largely unreviewed) way to get into action videography in 360. 

If you're looking for less expensive (and, for better and worse, more tested) options check out the Ricoh Theta 4K ($426.99) . I've found the camera better than earlier versions, and I like that there are options such as a 360-degree microphone attachment, and underwater housing. 

The Mevo (from $299) and Mevo Plus Livestreaming Cameras can turn where ever you are into a remote broadcasting location. Everything you need to  broadcast to YouTube, Periscope, or Facebook Live fits in a small carrying case!  You can stream in 1080p (or with the Plus record in 4K).  An optional battery pack integrates to give extended broadcasting time.  The star of the show is the included app that lets you select shots, pan, and zoom manually or even automatically, using a single camera!  

I rarely talk about products I haven't tested, but if you're travelling or hiking to places where the water might not be safe, consider The Lifesaver Water Filtration System (from $89.99 depending on color).  It claims to remove 99.999% of virus, bacteria and protozoa from water.  It also uses a carbon filter to help remove bad taste and color, an improvement over some of the company's earlier models.  The company has been involved in providing humanitarian relief around the world.

Favorite Computer Gifts

If you or a loved one regularly make PowerPoint presentations I highly recommend the Logitech Spotlight Advanced Presentation Remote (from $110.98).   Spotlight will really make your job easier.  Better than a laser pointer, the Spotlight lets you zoom in and navigate your slides intuitively, even guiding you if your presentation is going on for a bit too long!

Dell Canvas 27" ($1799) is so good I bought one myself.  The canvas is a touch sensitive monitor that is the perfect companion for graphic artists or photographers.  In fact, once you use it with Photoshop you'll never want to go back to using a mouse.  Selecting with the stylus couldn't be easier, and the Canvas is a real time-saver.

Hi-tech Gifts for All Ages

Robots are super hot this year.  Anki's Cozmo ($179.99) is my favorite because it is just so smart and cute.  Artificial intelligence and clever animated eyes make him feel more like a pet than a thing.  Plus, he learns as you play with him, you can drive him as an RC vehicle, or even learn to program him using a vastly improved Code Lab, a visual programming platform. Read more on JamesGames, here, or purchase it on Amazon.

From the movie theater directly to your living room, Anki OverDrive: Fast and Furious Edition is the 21st century’s answer to slot cars. Play against or alongside the Dom and the rest of the crew. Each AI controlled car has its own personality and improves the more you win! Read more on JamesGames, here, or purchase it on Amazon

Finally, if you have a youngster in your life, I want to recommend a company called Tech Will Save Us.  Their latest product Dough Universe, mixes the magic of science with the creativity of sculpting.  Kids as young as 4 can build electronic creations out of dough, learning to add sound, motion, and light from the beautifully animated storybook. Purchase it on the Tech Will Save Us website or read the full review here.

 

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Editiors Note on Sponsorship:  All products were provided by the manufacturers for consideration, some of whom also sponsored my appearances on air this year.  All opinions on the site and on-air are soley mine; sponsors have no editorial control.