The 2016 CPA technology gift guide

This year’s list of high-tech holiday goodies is heavy on the delivery of HD video and high-quality sound.
By David Cieslak, CPA/CITP

The 2016 CPA technology gift guide
Photo courtesy of Pebble

Looking for the perfect gift for that special CPA in your life? Or maybe you are ready to splurge in a moment of holiday self-indulgence? Either way, this year's technology gift guide features options for all budgets. Take a look.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (Lenovo.com): If it's time for you to upgrade your laptop, or you're simply tired of carrying both a laptop and a tablet, look no further than the ThinkPad X1 Yoga, Lenovo's premium business-class convertible. The Yoga is the standout among the X1-branded ThinkPad, ThinkCentre, and ThinkVision products Lenovo has released in 2016. The X1 Yoga can be used in laptop, stand, tent, and tablet modes and supports an active digitizer stylus pen that recharges inside the notebook. Lenovo touts the Yoga, at 2.8 pounds with a 14-inch touchscreen display, as the lightest 2-in-1 of its kind.

What really sets the Yoga apart, however, is that it offers buyers the ability to pair its business-class computing power with an optional organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display. The OLED screen's contrast and color saturation are amazing to behold—and unmatched among business-class 2-in-1s. In addition, as you might expect from the world's No. 1 manufacturer of business computers, the Yoga provides professional performance with almost identical dimensions and technical specifications as the standard ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook. In addition, because it's a convertible, the Yoga allows you to enjoy the tablet experience without having to carry a separate device.

  • Pricing: Starts at $1,394.10 ($1,682.10 with OLED display) (as of Oct. 12).
TiVo BOLT+

TiVo BOLT+ (tivo.com/shop/bolt-detail): The TiVo BOLT+ Unified Entertainment System allows you to replace your cable box with a device that accesses your cable TV feed and offers the combination of a best-in-class DVR along with content-streaming capabilities, enabling you to watch live or recorded TV shows, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, YouTube, and more—all from a single unit. Do you want to play back content on your smartphone, tablet, or another TV? No problem! The TiVo BOLT can stream content to iOS and Android devices or other TVs using the optional TiVo Mini extender. In a hurry? Users can use QuickMode to view content 30% faster and even skip commercials on prime-time TV recordings with the push of a button. The TiVo BOLT+ can record up to 450 hours of HD content on six channels simultaneously, easily making this device the ultimate whole-home entertainment solution.

  • Pricing: The TiVo BOLT+ storage model costs $499.99 for 3 TBs. Select the 3TB storage model from the dropdown menu on the tivo.com/shop/buy-bolt page to get the BOLT+. The other two choices are TiVo BOLT models. TiVo service plans are $14.99 monthly, $149.99 annually, or $549.99 for the "all-in service" plan (lifetime service). Prices are as of Oct. 12.
Pebble 2 + Heart Rate


Pebble 2 + Heart Rate (pebble.com):
Pebble continues to innovate and refresh its smartwatch lineup with its "2 series" products— the Pebble 2 + Heart Rate and the Pebble Time 2 + Heart Rate. As of this writing, the Pebble 2 was shipping, with the Pebble Time 2 scheduled to launch in January. What's new with the 2s? Both models sport a built-in heart rate monitor and larger, easier-to-read displays in addition to the features that distinguish the Pebble brand in the smartwatch space: They are waterproof, have iOS and Android smart mobile device compatibility, and provide famously long battery life (7—10 days)—all for a much lower price than the Apple Watches and many of the Android Wear watches. If you've been a smartwatch holdout or are looking to upgrade older models that might already be collecting dust, the Pebble 2 and Pebble Time 2 are compelling options.

  • Pricing (as of Oct. 12): $129.99 for the Pebble 2 + Heart Rate; $199 for the Pebble Time 2 + Heart Rate.
Bragi Dash


Bragi Dash (store.bragi.com):
Looking to cut the cord between your smartphone and tethered in-ear buds? With many interesting choices quickly coming to market, Bragi Dash has emerged as the first truly high-end wireless earbuds. The waterproof Bragi Dash packs a powerful microcomputer with more than 150 micro components, 27 sensors, and a 32-bit processor into each earbud unit. The Dash connects to iOS and Android smart devices via Bluetooth 4.0, or you can load as many as 1,000 songs into the earbuds, which have an onboard music player and 4 GBs of storage. Either way, the Dash provides as much as four hours of direct wireless play time (15 hours of standby) and recharges in less than two hours via its portable charger. Early reviews on the Dash indicate that the earbuds do remarkably well at staying in your ears—even when you are running, cycling, swimming, or otherwise moving—and also provide quality sound when the connection is good. The connection reportedly can be spotty at times, however, which can affect sound quality and the device's ability to track your fitness, especially during swims. In addition, while the Dash has a companion app for your smartphone, the device itself is controlled by taps on the earbuds—a process than can be inconsistent and confusing. That said, the Dash represents a step forward in the world of wearables—one you might like to check out.

  • Pricing: $299 (as of Oct. 12).
Bose QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones


Bose QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones (bose.com):
Ready to quiet the outside world and restore some calm to your day? The latest Bose QuietComfort headphones work like magic. Like earlier QuietComfort models, the QC 35 features world-class noise cancellation and volume-optimized equalization for balanced audio performance at any volume. But thanks to its Bluetooth connection, the new model accomplishes a trick any magician would envy—an excellent performance with no wires. In addition to supplying high-quality audio, the QC 35 headphones provide up to 20 hours of listening enjoyment per charge and include a noise-rejecting dual-microphone system for clear smartphone calls even in noisy environments.

  • Pricing: $349.95 (as of Oct. 12).
Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo (amazon.com): Referred to as a "smart voice-enabled wireless speaker," the Amazon Echo is somewhat like having Apple's Siri in a tennis ball can. Once you connect the Echo to the internet with the Alexa app (Alexa is Amazon's answer to Siri), you can issue voice commands to tell Alexa to play streaming content (music, news, and audiobooks), make or update to-do lists, set alarms, and provide weather, traffic, and other real-time information. You can add functionality by turning on Echo's "skills" in the Alexa app. Skills essentially connect the Echo with other services, allowing you to complete tasks such as ordering pizza from Domino's or scheduling a ride with Uber or Lyft. New skills are being added all the time, but the Echo's core functionality is its smart home feature, which turns the device into a true home automation hub that can control smart connected devices (lights, switches, and thermostats, etc.) with voice commands through Alexa. The Amazon Echo is facing stiff competition in the smart home automation market with Google Home, which was introduced on Oct. 4 but wasn't immediately available for review. Apple also wants to play in this space, so the next 12 months should be very interesting.

  • Pricing: $179.99 (as of Oct. 12).
Ring Stick Up Cam

Ring Stick Up Cam (ring.com/products): Weather-resistant and wire-free, the Ring Stick Up Cam security camera allows users to see, hear, and speak with visitors via any connected smart mobile device—whether at home or on the go. And like other Ring products, the Stick Up Cam features motion detection activation, two-way audio interaction, night vision, and cloud video recording, making it the perfect addition to any home security system. The Ring Stick Up Cam isn't the only competitor worth a look in this space, with the Nest Cam Outdoor (nest.com) perhaps the best of the rest. If you're looking to keep a (video) eye on your home, these products are worth investigating.

  • Pricing: $199 (as of Oct. 12).
Anova Precision Cooker

Anova Precision Cooker (anovaculinary.com): The Anova Precision Cooker gives aspiring home chefs everywhere the ability to cook food to perfection using the sous vide method. What is sous vide? Quite simply, it is a culinary technique in which vacuum-sealed food is immersed in a water bath and cooked at a precise temperature until the food heats to the temperature of the water around it. Even the most challenged cook can now prepare beef, chicken, pork, or fish perfectly using this method. And because the Anova Precision Cooker has built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, users can start the cooking process anytime and receive alerts from their mobile device when the food is done. Cooking the perfect meal is now easy and fun.

  • Pricing: $199 (as of Oct. 12).

About the author

David Cieslak (dcieslak@arxistechnology.com) is a principal in Arxis Technology and a popular technology speaker known as Inspector Gadget.

To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Jeff Drew, senior editor, at jdrew@aicpa.org or 919-402-4056.


AICPA resources

Article

"The 2015 CPA Technology Gift Guide," Dec. 2015

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