Friday, May 13, 2016

2016 Graduation Gift Guide - Tech Edition

For the past several years at this time of the year I've put together technology gift guides for "Grads and Dads." It made sense since "dads" rhymes with "grads" and, after all, Father's Day does always fall around graduation time. This year I've realized that the tech gifts that an 18-year-old high school graduate or a college grad might like are not necessarily the same that your 60-something-year-old dad would want for Father's Day. So, I've gone through hundreds of offerings and put together two separate lists of amazing gifts -- one for the grads and one for our dads.

Today's high school and college graduates are difficult to buy tech gifts for. This is the generation that has grown up with their own smartphones and tablets. They don't know what it's like to ride in a car without GPS and texting their friends from their Apple Watch has become second nature. There are some ideal gifts for this cohort when you consider they care about style, enjoy listening to their music everywhere and they love taking and sharing photos.

Featured: HP Envy Curved All-in-One - This is the ideal all-in-one computer for the incoming college student or the recent college grad. There's not enough space in this article to fully explain how cool this product is, but I'm guessing that HP named it the Envy because the graduate who gets one of these as a graduation gift will be the envy of her friends. This model is the world's widest curved all-in-one PC and its 34-inch diagonal curved display will truly impress. As if the display isn't enough, the state-of-the-art audio by Bang & Olufsen turns this all-in-one into a rockin' entertainment system with dynamic sound. With a 6th generation Intel Core processor, up to 16GB of RAM, the Intel RealSense 3D Camera and NVIDIA GeForce 960A graphics, this is a powerful computer for a dorm room or first home. Available with Intel Core i5 or i7. www.store.hp.com  $1,649.99 (i5)



Hurom HK Slow Juicer - There was a time when college students survived on Ramen noodles and soda. Today's students are more health conscious and eating healthy is a priority. This hi-tech slow juicer from Hurom would be a valued addition to any dorm room or sorority house. The Hurom has a patented Slow Squeezing Technology that operates at only 43 rotations per minute, which allows it to cold-press raw foods, extracting the smoothest, most delicious juice that is full of nutrients. The Hurom has a compact footprint and an elegant design. Available in Wine and Ivory colors. www.hurom.com $439



Parrot Bebop Drone 2 - College campuses are the ultimate places to capture beautiful video footage from the skies with a new drone. The Parrot Bebop Drone 2 would make a wonderful gift for the high school graduate looking to impress his friends at college this fall. I loved flying my original Bebop drone, but my only gripe was the short battery life. This second iteration of Bebop is the first leisure drone in the 500 gram category with a 25 minute battery life giving it almost twice the amount of flying time as its predecessor. With a reinforced structure and flexible propellers, Bebop 2 is sturdier too. It boasts a 14 megapixels camera and shoots 30 frames per second of video. Too bad they didn't have drones when I graduated high school! us.store.parrot.com $499.99



Behmor Connected Coffee Brew System - While a coffee maker has long been a staple gift at graduation time, it's the 21st century and that means young people should have a smart coffee maker with an Internet of Things (IoT) platform. This allows the college student or recent grad to customize her cup of joe and control it from her smartphone with accuracy. From anywhere on campus, the student can use the app to connect to the Behmor Brew System and make a personalized cup of coffee. www.behmor.com $299



STM Haven Laptop Backpack - STM makes the most stylish computer laptop backpacks around and they rolled out their new Velocity Collection earlier this year. Students schlep their laptops everywhere and that means across campus on a bike or on foot rushing to class. The STM Haven is a 15" backpack that comes in four colors, offers ample space and most important -- superior protection for the computer. It features STM's patented CableReady Organization and Air Channel Comfort technology to provide extra ventilation and comfort. I receive compliments all the time for my Haven backpack, especially at the airport. www.stmbags.com $99.95



Polaroid Cube+ HD Action Camera - Have a graduate on your shopping list who is active and loves sharing videos of their activities? The Polaroid Cube would be a fitting gift for them. With 1080p HD video, a 124 degree wide-angle lens and a long lasting battery with 90 minutes of life, a 128 GB Micro SD, and bumper case this is the ideal action camera. The magnet on the bottom of the Cube lets the user stick it to a helmet, skateboard or any metal surface for amazing video results. Accessories include a helmet mount, waterproof case and bike mount. This new model looks basically the same as the original Cube, but has some major improvements in its features like Wi-Fi. www.polaroid.com/cube $149.99



Ronin Element Phone Case by ElementCase - Not all phone cases are created equally. A nice graduation gift would be a sturdy and stylish smartphone case and these can be purchased for around $50. ElementCase, however, has designed a high-end case with highly refined style that is much more expensive than your average case, but worth every penny. The Ronin Element case is available in Bamboo, Walnut and features impact resistant Precision Modular Chassis, CNC machined wood side rails, a genuine top grain leather wrapped back plate and a matching top grain leather pouch included. Anyone fortunate enough to receive this case as a graduation gift will appreciate its design and craftsmanship. www.elementcase.com $199.95



weboost eqo Phone Signal Booster – Every high school and college grad has their own cellphone. It is 2016 after all! The biggest complaint these young people have is when they can’t get a good cellular signal for their phone. This could be their campus apartment building with old walls or a fraternity house with poor connectivity to local cellular towers. The eqo booster from Weboost solves this problem. With a 1500 square foot coverage area, urban gain strength and the fastest network speeds, this device will be a godsend for young people. It’s set up for multi-user so it will vastly improve cellphone quality for many individuals in the same house or apartment – everyone’s phone gets boosted automatically and it works with all devices. Setup is simple and quick (minutes). www.weboost.com $349.99.



BlackRapid Sport R-Strap – There’s no better gift for the photography aficionado who is graduating this spring than high quality accessories. Photography is an expensive hobby and lugging around a heavy SLR camera can get tiring. BlackRapid makes these best photography accessories because they keep both comfort and style in mind. The Sport R-Strap is perfect for the active photographer as it has an ergonomic fit and a “Brad” (underarm stabilizing strap) to keep the camera close during extreme adventures. www.blackrapid.com $73.95



Leef iAccess iOS microSD Reader – Young people love shooting videos and photos with their phone, often maximizing the amount of space. Rather than having to move all this data to a computer, the cloud or a storage device, Leef came up with the iAccess iOS microSD Reader. This memory solution is expandable in nature, allowing you to never be limited by the quality or quantity of footage you want to view or edit on your iPhone or iPad. Simply attach the reader to the iPhone or iPad and insert a mobile memory card.  Leef also sells iBridge Mobile Memory, a storage solution for iOS or Android that adds up to 256 GB to your device. www.leefco.com $49.99



Audio:

Master & Dynamic ME05 - A true music lover would really appreciate these high end earphones from Master & Dynamic. The company has developed a reputation for sound, durability, and style in only two short years in business. These beautifully designed earphones come with extra pairs of silicone ear tips, replacement acoustic filters, a leather storage box and a cable clip. Sure the price tag seems high for earbuds, but after the graduate listens to one song with the ME05s, trust me you’ll see the price was just right. Comes in brass metal, palladium, black metal and gunmetal. www.masterdynamic.com $199.99



BeoPlay H7 - After four or more years of hard work in college, your favorite graduate deserves premium headphones. This over-ear model from BeoPlay will cause any young music lover to realize that Beats by Dre might be the popular headphone choice, but it’s not the quality choice. These wireless headphones are comfortable and produce the most amazing sound quality you’ll ever hear. One charge and they’ll last an entire day. An intelligent battery-saving feature will turn the headphones off after 15 minutes of idle time. To control the headphones, simple finger gestures on the side will answer calls, switch music tracks and adjust the volume. www.beoplay.com $449



RIVA Turbo X Portable Speaker - Portable Bluetooth speakers are very hot right now. The ability to connect a phone to a portable speaker and let your friends enjoy your music is key for young students and grads. RIVA's Turbo X is a personal entertainment system that is compact, stylish and boasts beautiful sound quality. With RIVA’s ADX Trillium technology for truly immersive sound, Trillium Surround for an enhanced movie & gaming experience and a turbo mode to boost music up to 100 dB, this model is at the top of its industry. www.rivaaudio.com $299



3D Sound One Audio Headphones - These wireless headphones are priced more affordably than the BeoPlay model, but still offer high quality drivers (40mm) and a strong battery life (18 hours). They charge with a micro-USB connector and are lightweight enough to forget you’re even wearing them. These headphones are ideal for the gamer or graduate who loves watching movies with some audio privacy. www.3dsoundlabs.com $249



AfterShokz Trekz Titanium - I’ve been a big fan of AfterShokz headphones for years and for good reason. They are comfortable, boast high sound quality and have a unique design. They make a great graduation gift for anyone who is active. These headphones don’t go into the ear or even over the eart. They sit comfortably close to the ear using bone conduction technology so you can still hear your surroundings for safety. Trekz Titanium are lightweight, deliver premium music play and are designed with athletes in mind – sweatproof and secure. www.aftershokz.com $129.99



BlueParrott B350-XT Noise Canceling Bluetooth Headset – Hands down this is the best noise cancelling headset product based on both quality and comfort. VXI won a CES innovation award in 2015 for this headset. A special Parrott Button can be set to mute, speed dial and or several other options. When it’s noisy in a classroom, dorm room or apartment, these are ideal noise canceling headset that will cancel up to 96% of ambient noise. It’s easy to stream music or GPS directions to the headset and connecting to a phone is simple with NFC pairing. Battery life is 24 hours and the headset recharges with micro USB. www.vxicorp.com $129.99



Creative iRoar Sound Blaster Speaker - This has been billed as “the Most Intelligent Speaker on the Planet.” The Creative iRoar is designed to provide the best audio performance despite its small size. The sounds is clean and accurate, making this a definite favorite gift this graduation season. The best characteristic of this speaker is its ability to be personalized with a platform that allows for value-added third-party add-ons. With a huge 20-hour battery life, Creative iRoar is one of the best portable Bluetooth speakers on the market. No surprise it was honored with a 2016 innovation award at CES. us.creative.com $369.99



CordCruncher Tangle Free Earbuds - For those looking for a much less expensive option for the graduate, have a look at CordCruncher’s array of fashionable and colorful tangle-free earbuds. Using their patented tangle free cord management system, these earbuds are designed and engineered to never get tangled. No one enjoys taking the time to untangle earphones so this will make a practical gift. They are available in 4 colors: cobalt blue, glo green, poppin pink and gun metal gray. www.cordcruncher.com $20.99



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