‘Tis better to give than receive

10 ways to make someone smile with these gifts that keeps on giving.

By Marc Saltzman

It’s an ideal time to reflect on gifting some of the hottest gadgets of the year or perhaps drop hints about what might be on your secret wish list.  From retro gaming cabinets to upgraded earbuds, super sleek tablets and even smarter TVs, there is something new and noteworthy for everyone on your list, even Mom and Dad.

Retro rocks
Perfect for a man cave or she shed, Arcade1Up has a number of cool arcade cabinets that resemble the classic coin-operated machines of yesteryear.

Consider the Bandai Namco Legacy Edition ($599), a 12-in-1 cabinet featuring Pac-Man, Galaga, Galaxian, Dig Dug, and eight other Bandai classics. The original graphics, sounds and joystick controls will be immediately familiar to seasoned gamers. With the iconic yellow Pac-Man branding on the outside, this cabinet is a 3/4 size replica of the original coin-op machine, but a riser is included to bring it to full height.

Similarly, the Midway Legacy Edition ($599) arcade cabinet, which also includes a matching riser, houses Mortal Kombat II, Defender, Joust, Gauntlet, Paperboy, Rootbeer Tapper, and other classic arcade games from the ,80s. Naturally, two-player controls are included for head-to-head fun.

New this year is the Arcade1Up virtual pinball machine ($849–$1,149). It features 10 games in one. Yes…. Marvel Pinball, Star Wars Pinball and Attack from Mars Pinball, each with a 24-inch LCD playfield, 8-inch LCD score screen, authentic flipper feedback, and real plunger and buttons. Similar to its arcade machines, these tables are a 3/4 scale compared to the originals. They’ll sure play a mean pinball!

Keeping tabs
While Apple’s latest iPad Air (from $719) is stellar, those on the hunt for something really unique should lay their hands—and eyes!—on Lume Pad from Leia ($849), the world’s first 3-D Lightfield tablet.

Essentially, it’s a powerful 10.8-inch Android tablet that can project three-dimensional images—as if it were coming out of the screen—with no special glasses or wearable headset required to see the effect. Imagine photos, videos and games with incredible depth, almost like a hologram, resulting in a much more immersive experience. Lume’s 16-megapixel “stereo” camera can capture images in 3-D, plus it can take any 2-D photo or video you have (or the countless hours of content on YouTube) and apply
the effect. Of course, you can disable this feature, if desired.

Hey buds
Speaking of audio, those looking for best-in-class private audio should look no further than the Sony WF-1000XM4 ($399) Wireless Noise-Cancelling Headphones.

These teeny earbuds are powered by a new Integrated Processor V1 that cancels more noise than previous iterations, thanks to a new driver unit and clever noise-sensing microphones. Even on windy days you’ll hear and be heard clearly. And if you prefer, Ambient Sound mode means it can capture more of the sound around you so you can stay aware of your environment (like traffic).

Along with high-resolution audio (powered by 6mm drivers), which transmits approximately three times more data than conventional Bluetooth audio, the WF-1000XM4 has a Speak-to-Chat featured that automatically pauses the music and lets in ambient sound if you start talking with someone (handy)!

Plug ‘n’ play
Perhaps your giftee is perfectly happy with their existing TV but would enjoy diving into the streaming revolution. Then I recommend the Roku Ultra ($159), a top-of-the-line media player that will plug into your television’s HDMI port.

Not only does this small black player have a clean interface and more than 1,000 on-demand channels to choose from—such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Cineplex Store, YouTube, and Roku Channel (with exclusive content from the now-defunct Quibi service)—but it supports 4K HDR TVs to deliver four times the resolution of 1080p HD.

The remote will give them a microphone so they can search by voice, a remote finder feature, and headphone jack for private listening (headphones included), in case their partner is trying to catch some shut-eye.

Screen dream
If you’re looking to surprise the family with a stunning OLED TV, LG’s G1 Series (from $3499 for 55-inch) offers improved brightness to complement the exceptional contrast that OLED is known for, and in turn, makes colours more vibrant. It also has Dolby Vision IQ for an even sharper picture, and Dolby Atmos in the sound department.

Because of its incredible thinness, at just 23.1mm, this TV is like a piece of art you can mount flush to a wall, or prop it up on the optional Gallery Stand.

Also available in 65- and 77-inch sizes, it’s wonderful for gamers too, as it features four HDMI 2.1 ports that support 4K resolution at 120Hz (for smooth motion), as well as integrated Google Stadia and GeForce Now (two cloud-based gaming platforms).

Sounding off
Audio lovers, listen up.
Available at Best Buy, JBL Charge 5 ($239) is a small but very powerful wireless speaker with exceptional lows, mids, and highs. In fact, it boasts a 30-watt subwoofer for incredible bass—especially out of a diminutive device (more compact than a football). Ideal for a home or a cottage, the JBL Charge 5 is IP67 waterproof and dustproof, so you can bring your speaker anywhere outdoors.

Wirelessly connect up to two smartphones or tablets, simultaneously, to share the DJing with a friend, or enable the “PartyBoost” feature, which lets you pair two JBL speakers for stereo sound.  Battery life tops 20 hours between charges, plus it has an integrated USB port to charge up your smartphone or other high-tech items you may have with you.

Sleep aid
A must-have for any household, the newest Google Nest Hub ($129) is a “smart display” that lets you verbally ask
a question and hear—and see—a response from what many of us have come to recognize as a trusty personal assistant. The touch screen is great for playing videos, accessing recipes, or whatever your heart desires.

Voice or fingertip can be used to control your smart home devices, like a Wi-Fi thermostat, video doorbell, smart lighting, and more.

On your night table, however, nest also uses motion and sound to monitor your sleep and can detect light and temperature in the room. It can help track when you go to bed, when you wake up and how long (and well) you’ve slept, and then give customized suggestions for improvements over time.

Reading between the lines
If you like reading, you’ll love the newest and most ambitious e-reader on the market: the Kobo Elipsa ($499).

Sure, it’s a premier reading experience, with its massive 10.3-inch e-ink touchscreen, but it’s also ideal for notetaking, sketching and annotating as it includes a Kobo Stylus pen. You can mark up ebooks or PDFs or flesh out a billion-dollar idea. On the same device you can also flip through the latest New York Times bestseller.

With 32GB of storage, there is enough memory to hold several thousand downloadable books and countless pages of written text or sketched images.

Along with the stylus, there’s also a Kobo Elipsa SleepCover to protect the screen when not in use.

Laptop it up 
Not all laptops are created equal.
If you’ve got a healthy budget for a laptop you’ll have for several years—for work and play—the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo 15 OLED (model # UX582), from $3,299, is the best of the best as I see it.

An uber-powerful and ultra-elegant companion for on-the-go productivity and creativity, it features an amazing 4K OLED HDR touchscreen. You can also expect to enjoy the innovative ASUS ScreenPad Plus secondary 4K display with a brand-new tilting design that offers effortless ergonomics and seamless workflows.

As for specs, this 15.6-inch powerhouse has an Intel Core i7 9750H processor to start (upgradeable to Core i9), 16GB of RAM (system memory), a 1-terabyte PCIe SSD for storage, and NVIDIA RTX 2060 graphics.

Seatbelt not included!
Watch this.
While Apple Watch Series 7 may be out by the time you read this (as Apple typically unveils a new model each fall), even last year’s Apple Watch Series 6 (from $529) is an extraordinary “wearable” for those who own an iPhone.

Not only does this watch track your activity, let you take calls and see texts, and let you tap to buy retail items, on the health front it includes an embedded ECG that can detect unusually high or low heart rates, or irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias), as well as a Blood O2 monitor (pulse oximeter) to assess the amount of oxygen carried in the body by sending light into your wrist. Wow!

Especially ideal for older adults, and/or those with a medical condition, this watch also has integrated fall detection, which can call emergency services and select contacts if it detects a sudden drop and you don’t confirm you’re ok.

For the past 25 years, Marc Saltzman has been a recognized expert in consumer electronics, business tech, social media, and automotive trends. You can see him on CTV, Global TV, and as a keynote speaker across North America. Follow him on Twitter @ marc_saltzman.

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