These gifts range from the obtainable to the extravagant, so no matter your budget, there's a gift or two sure to meet your holiday shopping needs.
Ion Lamp Box Set by School House Electric ($129)
This simple lamp is inspired by a design that Thomas Edison used to test the first light bulb. We've come a long ways since then with LED bulbs, but sometimes you want the warmth and candle-like glow of an incandescent bulb. This is the perfect lamp for that. The Ion Lamp is handcrafted and made in Portland, Oregon using traditional materials of glazed porcelain, cast iron and twisted cloth covered power cord. The lamp comes in black or white porcelain, with a choice of red or khaki cord. A simple on/off toggle switch is located on the back of the unit and includes an Edison Marconi Bulb all in a sophisticated boxed set.
Panasonic Eneloop Rechargable Batteries (Starting at $14, $18 with charger)
You know what the worse feeling is right after you open a gift? Reading, "batteries not included" on the packaging. Instead of pilfering said batteries from other toys and the TV remote, gift someone rechargeable batteries. In the past, rechargeable batteries have been unreliable and expensive, but fortunately Panasonic (formally Sanyo) have changed that with the Eneloop line. They are perhaps the best rechargeable batteries available featuring chemistry technology that allows them to be recharged up to 2,100 times. They can also maintain 70 percent of their charge for up to five years if stored. Bonus: they come pre-charged at the factory using a solar power source. The Panasonic Eneloop Batteries offer many sizes and package sets to fit any gift price range.
Wiha 8-Piece Screwdriver Set ($33)
Devices are getting smaller and that means the screws holding the parts together are also getting smaller. This screwdriver set from Wiha can be used to tighten all the little screws you come across, even the extra tiny ones on eye/sunglasses. And those pesky screws that hold the battery cover on small toys? No problem. This high-quality precision German made screwdriver set includes four slotted and four Phillips screwdrivers, all housed in a nice canvas pouch. The screwdrivers are made from chrome-vanadium-molybdenum (high strength) tool steel with molded plastic handles, which provide a little dimple on top. This allows for your finger to rest comfortably and stabilizes the screwdriver. This handy little set will quickly become a prized possession of the whole household.
CyberPower Intelligent UPS Battery Backup (Starting at $65)
Most plug-in electronic devices are sensitive to power spikes and outages, and it's a good idea to protect them by plugging into an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) or battery backup system. The CyberPower units can be used to power a desktop computer and safely save documents before gracefully shutting it down. A UPS is also very useful for plugging in devices like network routers and Internet cable modems. This enables one to still access the Internet from battery-powered devices like tablets, smartphones and laptops during power outages. UPS battery backup systems come in a wide variety of wattage capacities. What that means, is how long the unit can power the equipment load. The CyberPower Intelligent line of UPS come with an LCD screen that provides the battery level and runtime, as well as other status information right on the display. The basic 600VA version will be enough to power most small networked appliances during normal brief power outages.
Outdoor TV by SunBriteTV (Starting at $1,495)
Outdoor living spaces are becoming more common, and the company that created the outdoor television category back in 2004 is offering a new line of outdoor televisions that are slimmer. The Signature Series televisions are manufactured right here in America and are fully weatherproof. They are designed for permanent outdoor installation and great for placement near an outdoor kitchen, poolside or even next to the hot tub. Fully protected against salt corrosion, dust, insects, grease and all forms of moisture, these televisions even function in temperatures ranging from -24 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. There is no better way to enhance the experience of watching the game than watching it outdoors with friends and family. Available in black, white and silver color options and sizes of 32" ($1,495), 46" ($2,895), 55" ($4,095) and 65" ($7,695).
PureFizz Sparkling Drink Maker ($60)
Here's a great kitchen device that can virtually carbonate anything. This includes water, syrups, fruit juices, wine, cocktails -- you name it -- you can even carbonate eggnog! Most other sparkling soda makers require you to use special CO2 refills and only carbonate water (adding syrups later), but with the PureFizz sparkling drink maker you can add bubbles to any liquid using readily available CO2 (food grade) cartridges. Just pour the liquid you would like carbonated into the provided stainless steel bottle using the included funnel. Screw the lid on and insert a CO2 cartridge, then shake and serve! The stainless steel bottle, combined with the CO2, also chills the beverage making the beverage perfectly chilled and bubbly every time.
Hurom HH Elite Series Slow Juicer ($400)
Finding a great juicer is a tough assignment. The most common issues are they are very loud, don't extract all the juice (especially from leafy vegetables), and are extremely hard to clean. I'm happy to report that I've found a juicer that can satisfy all of these shortcomings. The Hurom HH Elite Series Slow Juicer is surprisingly quiet because it doesn't spin at high-speeds. Instead, it uses a slow juicing process that is more like wringing out a towel than putting it in a violent spin cycle. The result? The juice is exposed to less enzyme-damaging heat, which means the extracted juice can be more easily absorbed by our bodies (up to a 20 percent increased absorption rate). The waste produced by this juicer is dry and fibrous that translates to less juice in the trash and more juice in the glass. I've juiced apples, oranges, kiwi, carrots, grapefruit, lemon, kale, pear and pineapple using the Hurom Slow Juicer with extreme ease and not only was it delicious, it was a breeze to clean.
La Marzocco Home GS3 Espresso Machine (Starting from $6,900)
Looking for the ultimate espresso machine for the espresso lover in your life? The La Marzocco GS3 is the machine to get. While the name may not be familiar to many outside of the coffee world, La Marzocco has been the leader in espresso machine innovation since 1927. It's almost certain you've experienced amazing espresso shots from one of their many machines in coffee shops around the world. The GS3 is a professional-grade espresso machine that easily fits on a kitchen counter and has become the gold standard for the home espresso enthusiast. Part of the new La Marzocoo Home program, the GS3 can be customized with features including matte black body panels, wood accents, and glass side panels. La Marzocco Home will also offer Mazzer espresso grinders and barista tools as well as La Marzocco designed accessories. I've had the privilege to use a GS3 for some time now and the espresso shots pulled from this machine is comparable, if not better, to the ones you get at your best local coffee joint because you can control every aspect from the bean, grind, water quality, temperature, pressure and shot time. The GS3 is handmade in Florence, Italy using commercial quality parts so this is a machine that can be handed down for generations to come. It's so good; that you'll be able to setup a coffee stand in front of your house and charge folks for the amazing espresso this machine produces.
Apple iPad Air 2 (Starting from $499)
Pencil by 53 ($60)
Paper by 53 (FREE w/in-app purchases)
The iPad has been finding its way onto many gift guides over the years, and it's for good reason. The iPad is an amazing piece of technology that enables people to not only be entertained but also learn and be creative. The latest iPad, the Air 2, is a bit thinner than the previous generation and includes an updated rear-facing camera that offers better quality photos and videos as well as adding the much-anticipated TouchID sensor. However, the biggest improvement is that Apple bumped up the hardware specs making it the fastest iPad ever. There are enough updates to the iPad Air 2 to warrant an upgrade from a pervious generation iPad and it's really a no brainer for someone getting one for the first time.
Combined with the Paper app and the Bluetooth enabled stylus called Pencil by 53, any iPad (Mini, iPad 3 and above) can be turned into a highly practical sketchbook. When using Paper, you really begin to believe you are actually sketching with a pencil and the watercolor painting effects are equally impressive. This is one of those things you have to experience for yourself. Once you do, you can finally put away the old analog versions of paper and pencil for the new digital versions -- highly recommended!
Troy-Built JET Gas Leaf Blower ($149)
When shopping for a leaf blower there are two main details you need to look at carefully: airflow velocity and volume. The velocity is the number with "mph" next to it and it's used to describe how much power the blower has to move heavy, wet leaves. The other is volume; that's the number with the "cfm" next to it and this number means how much air it can move in a single pass. You want a unit that has numbers that are large in both. The Troy-Built JET gas leaf blower has one of the highest airflow volume numbers for a consumer grade blower. Around 650cfm means you'll be able to move a whole lot of leaves in a single pass. The unit also has an innovative design that looks more like a jet engine than a leaf blower making it not only a fully capable leaf blower, but one that will stop people in their tracks to get a closer look at it.
iPhone 6 & 6 Plus (Starting from $199 & $299)
The iPhone 6 (and 6 Plus) could possibly be my pick for this year's best product award. There is so much that has been improved over the 5S. The most obvious ones being the bigger screen sizes and better battery life. Especially impressive is the new camera -- it takes stunning photos and video every time. It's getting to the point now that there is less and less of a need to carry a point-and-shoot camera for day-to-day. Equally impressive is the new NFC (Near Field Communication) support that makes Apple Pay possible, and will also allow people to use their iPhone to open up their hotel room door. The fit and finish of the new iPhone is superb and it's curved edges feel much better in the hand. Apple has also increased the storage capacity now offering 16GB, 64GB and 128GB models. If there had to be one thing I would critique about the iPhone 6 is that the camera lens sticks out a little bit on the back, but I'm OK with that.
Nvidia Shield Gaming Tablet ($299 16GB Wi-Fi / $399 32GB Wi-Fi + LTE)
If someone you're shopping for is a gamer, then the Nvidia Shield tablet is the ultimate gift for him or her. Nvidia, known for its advanced graphics processing units (GPU) used in powerful desktop systems has now brought its most advanced mobile processor, the Tegra K1 with 192 GPU cores built-in, to a tablet. This means for the first time you can get desktop graphics in a tablet. It's powered by Google's latest Android 5.0 ("Lollipop") operating system, one of the first and few tablets to offer it. Nvidia prides itself that the version of Android running on the Shield is pure and optimized for the processor and they don't ship with any rogue apps running in the background that will impede performance. The Shield was designed from the ground up to be a fully featured gaming tablet with a stunning 8" HD display and front facing speakers. Not a gamer? The Shield is also the best Android based tablet I've ever used. This tablet is jam packed with features like front and back facing 5MP cameras so you can stream using the front facing camera as well as capture the onscreen game play to services like Twitch. Priced at $299 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version and $399 for double the space and LTE, it's also the best bang for your buck. Complete the gaming set with Nvidia's Bluetooth game controller, sold separately for $59.
Milwaukee M12 Compact Driver Kit ($125)
Milwaukee 38-Piece Drill and Driver Bit Set ($33)
Built to be used by professionals for everyday tasks requiring a small and lightweight screwdriver, the Milwaukee M12 compact driver has enough torque for any sized task in the home. While the Milwaukee can be used to drill and screw in tight places it also is powerful enough to be used to screw in decking screws. Yes, it can drive up to 130 3" screws on a single battery. Features 1/4" hex chuck that can be operated using one hand, makes changing bits quick and easy. Other notable features include a battery fuel gage displaying remaining run-time, metal gear housing for durability, built-in LED for illumination and variable speed trigger for output power control. This driver is built tough and it has to be since Milwaukee also provides a 5-year warranty. Included in the set, the driver, 2 12-volt Lithium-Ion battery packs, 12-volt charger and a storage bag.
Combine the drill with Milwaukee's 38-piece drill and driver bit set and the lucky person getting this gift will be set for any household task!
MAX 2 Cordless Dual Node Percussion Massager ($229)
This is the most powerful cordless hand-held massager I have ever used. At first, I was skeptical that a cordless massager could actually perform a satisfying massage, but this one really does. Powered by a rechargeable, lithium-ion battery, the MAX 2 Massager can deliver a soothing shoulder and back massage without fading. The feature that sets this massager apart from the rest is the distance the massage heads travel up and down. The result is a much deeper and percussive massage. It's also just the right weight to still be portable but heavy enough to keep pressure on the area being massaged. The housing is made out of machined-aluminum and has two ergonomic handles that let you glide the massager over the body and decide how much pressure to apply to tight muscles. Customizable massages with 5 intensities and 3 distinct programs provide an impressive 1,750 to 2,550 RMS of intense body-relaxing massaging power. The massager can operates with or without the power adapter/charger.
Yale Electronic Touchscreen Lock Set (Starting from $200)
Keys are becoming a thing of the past and why wouldn't they be? Now you can enter you home using a simple passcode or even better, you can integrate and control access from any Z-Wave or ZigBee enabled home automation system. Even if you don't have an automation system, this Yale lock set works standalone and can be programmed for up to 25 users. The whole setup process is voice-guided so you'll never have to search for an instruction manual to program it. The lock comes in three finishes, Oil Rubbed Bronze, Polished Brass, and Satin Nickel. The touchscreen keypad is weather resistant. The Z-Wave option can integrate this lockset with a compatible wireless automation system and enable other safety features like remote unlocking and locking of the door, send and receive text message and email alerts as well as program user access rights by date and time.
Danny Mavromatis (@dannymav) runs mavromatic.com, a technology and product review website since 2004. Every product listed in this gift guide has been thoroughly reviewed hands-on by Danny so you don't have to.