Tech Sense: Holiday Shopping Ideas 2021 By John Bell
Updated: Dec 31, 2021
Another Holiday season and we are feeling the economic impacts of nearly two years of COVID. There are shortages of many popular technologies so unless you have already purchased it you may want to look for alternatives this season. Prices are also higher. A computer similar to one I purchased last year is now selling for almost $200 more this year. Some manufacturers are offering computers with older and slower chips because they are easier to get. It also seems that many stores are running “Black Friday” sales for the entire month of November.
Apple, Samsung, and Google all released new phones this year, meaning there are bargains to be found if you can get last year’s models. The Google Pixel 4a, 4a with 5G, and 5a all appear to be exceptional phones at affordable prices. Even the just release Pixel 6 seems to be an exceptional phone for $600. There is still no burning need to worry about 5G, the technology isn’t really ready yet. It is still going to be a couple of years before 5G technology makes a real difference. Many 4G phones are a bargain and should work just fine. However, most carriers are expected to shutdown older 3G networks next year. So, if you have an older phone you may want to consider upgrading. Motorola seems to have a good lineup of low-cost phones with long battery life. Look at the Moto G and the Moto Ace series of phones.
TVs, Sight, Sound, and Streaming
Most TVs today are Ultra High Definition (4K UHD) High Dynamic Range (HDR) televisions with resolutions of 3840 by 2160 pixels. Not much has changed since last year, but the big bargains are a little harder to find.
On the other hand most streaming devices have been updated to also support 4K UHD/HDR and the streaming services like Disney+ and HBOMax are starting to deliver 4K streams. This means it may be a good time to update your streaming device. All four of the major streaming boxes; Google Chromecast, Amazon’s Fire TV, Apples’ Apple TV, and Roku have released newer versions with 4K UHD/HDR support. Roku has also released a separate remote with voice which will work with most Roku devices, even older ones. Roku also supports viewing Comcast channels without renting an extra Comcast TV box, saving on your Comcast bill.
You may decide to give the gift of streaming. AppleTV breaks the Apple mode by playing nice with most streaming devices. CBS All Access is now Paramount+, and Comcast has the new Peacock Network apparently now renamed the NBC Universal Network. Disney has a bundle that includes Hulu, and ESPN, and a new option to make the Hulu commercial free. HBO provides HBONow a new streaming version of HBO that is also showing some movies that are currently in Theaters. Look for good Black Friday deals for Hulu if you are not already a subscriber. Both Disney+ and HBOMax have added 4KUHD content this year.
Sound bars are a hot item again, improving the sound when watching TV. A sound bar often combines with a woofer and two satellite speakers to provide full surround sound for your home TV setup. There are many models with support for 2 channels and base (2.1) in the $100 range. These are great for a smaller TV. Larger 5 channel systems seem to be selling in the $150 to $300 range. Make sure your TV has an extra port to plug the sound in.
The Nintendo Switch game platform is still popular but there are new platforms from Sony and Microsoft. Sony’s PlayStation 5 (PS5) is a hot item and is in very short supply due to the current chip shortages. It is supposed to be compatible with software for the previous PS4 box, meaning upgraders can continue to run their old software. The new Xboxes however is supposed to support several previous versions of the Xbox. Look for sales on the online connected services for both of these platforms.
Any feast wouldn’t be complete without a desert. The Raspberry Pi is a popular small computer with the intention of allowing kids to learn computers the way many of us did decades ago by getting our hands on them and playing. The Raspberry Pi organization has just released a new computer the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W. This computer uses the same form as the Pi 0 computers but offers more power and memory. The price if you can get one is $15. Of course, you also need the other parts which will run you close to $50. Or you can buy a kit, or last year’s Pi 400 which is ready to go out of the box. Look it up at https://raspberrypi.org
This wraps my list for this year. This year has been difficult for many of us. I hope we all remember the many things we have to be thankful for this Holiday season. May all your gifts bring joy to those that receive them!