Tech the Halls: 12 Must-Have Tech Toys for 2018

Remember how exciting it was to fill out a holiday wish list when you were a kid? So let’s re-create that thrill as an adult. It’s time to put together your tech wish list—and we’re here to help.

We asked our resident Global Knowledge techies for their favorite gadgets of 2018. You’ll notice that our list covers a wide swath of tech toys, from video cameras, to wearable speakers, to a banana phone (You never knew you wanted one until now).

Here’s our list of the 12 must-have tech toys this year.

 

12. Bluetooth Banana Phone ($40)

How it works: It’s a phone … but it looks like a banana. It’s wireless and Bluetooth-enabled. When fully charged, the handset allows for 10 hours of talk time. Just imagine interrupting a friend mid-sentence, saying “sorry, I have to take this,” and pulling out your banana phone. Well, at least you’ll sound important.

Coolest feature: Again, it’s a phone that looks like a banana. You’ll probably get some funny looks when walking down the street talking into a piece of fruit. Also, the tagline is amazing: Talk more. Smile more. Save gorillas.

Brent Brandow, Product Marketing Manager: “If I’m being honest with myself, a bluetooth banana phone will actually make my life more complicated. But I want to be the guy talking on a banana phone. For me, it’s worth it.”

 

*Not the actual Bluetooth Banana Phone. Though you will look this cool using it.

11. Garmin Forerunner 235, GPS Running Watch ($250)

How it works: The Garmin Forerunner 235 tracks distance, pace, heart rate and more for the runners out there. It’s also waterproof, so it documents your activity when you take your workout to the pool. The Forerunner does it all, capturing your daily steps, distance, heart rate and calorie count. And it can connect via Bluetooth to your phone too, so get email, text and calendar notifications on your wrist.

Coolest feature: It’s completely customizable. You can download data fields and widgets from the Connect IQ, Garmin’s app store, to change what you see on the watch’s display. Whether you prefer a sleek display or you want to see all the data, all the time, you have your choice of theme. 

Ryan Day, Content Marketing Manager: “I used to have a Fitbit but wanted to upgrade so I could track my running using GPS. The Forerunner captures much more than time and distance—I can see speed, elevation changes, heart rate and sleep patterns. I can also view my route on a map, which is all I need to prove to my wife that I actually moved from the couch today.”  

 

10. Google Home Hub ($149)

How it works: The Google Home Hub allows users to easily manage all Google and media accounts from one device. Controlled by touch or voice, the Google Home Hub has a 7-inch display and is fully customizable, allowing you to set up personalized morning or evening routines. Do you like to unwind every day to the tune of ‘90s sitcom theme songs? Who doesn’t? Google can take care of that for you. 

Coolest feature: There are many features that stand out, including smart home integration and Google Assistant. But the coolest may just be the voice match feature, which learns to recognize the voice of each person in your home so that it can respond appropriately. 

Joshua Burdick, Account Manager, Northeast Sales: “I want the Google Home Hub because it will not only connect to other smart home devices such as lights, the Nest Thermostat and security systems, it also integrates with all of my Google accounts like YouTube, Google Photos and Gmail so that I can make sure I am always connected.”

 

9. Movo MFF400 Premium Motorized Follow Focus and Zoom Control Video Shoulder Rig for HD DSLR Cameras ($400)

How it works: Focus and zoom on the move with the Movo MFF400 shoulder rig. Whether you’re an amateur or professional, this rig allows you to capture quality, dynamic shots. Three focus rings are included—65mm, 75mm and 85mm—and the new rig design allows for an unobstructed view of the LCD.

Coolest features: This rig comes with four focus presets, allowing for quick and simple refocusing. The motor has also been upgraded from previous versions and is built for heavy, on-the-move use.

Tom Tuttle, Product Marketing Manager: “I had a short stint in the music entertainment industry as owner/producer for a small live broadcasting company. This was right around the time DSLR cameras were starting to record more than 3-minute video clips. Now, DSLR recording is a favorite among prosumer video production folk. The MFF400 shoulder rig with motorized follow focus by Movo is a little bit of affordable awesomeness. It provides professional-level functionality in a rig that is within the budget of enthusiasts like myself. On the make-life-easier-scale, it’s somewhere between twisting zoom and focus rings yourself, and having a dedicated focus puller.” 

 

8. AWS DeepLens ($249)

How it works: Amazon’s AWS DeepLens is the world’s first deep learning-enabled video camera. It allows developers of all skill levels to get started with deep learning—a machine learning technique that uses neural networks to learn and make predictions—by providing sample projects with practical, hands-on examples. With over 100 gigaflops of compute power on the device, it can process deep learning predictions on HD video in real time.

Coolest feature: You can easily get started in less than 10 minutes by using the DeepLens sample projects, which cover some of the most popular computer vision use cases, like face detection and activity recognition. As your skills and ideas develop, you can build custom deep learning models in AWS using Amazon SageMaker. Let DeepLens detect every time your dog jumps on the couch!

Paul Tocatlian, Director of Engineering: “AWS DeepLens helps put deep learning in the hands of developers, literally, with a fully programmable video camera, tutorials, code, and pre-trained models designed to expand deep learning skills. It’s a fun way to put your AWS and Machine Learning training from Global Knowledge to work—or should we say, to play!”

 

7. Bose Soundwear Companion Wireless Wearable Speaker ($299)

How it works: This wearable speaker is hands-free and ears-free—it sits comfortably on your shoulders. You can use it to make calls, access your phone’s virtual assistant feature and listen to music that comes from sources other than an AM/FM radio. Imagine that.

Coolest feature: The upward-facing speakers surround the device, creating a unique and immersive sound experience. It’s like surround sound for your head!

Darryl Waldon, Director of Sales Engineering and Client Solutions: “I have to admit that the reason I want this thing is because of how the idea of it transports me back to the early 1980s and reminds me of a gadget called the Bone Fone. My dad had one of these things and it was actually pretty awesome for its time. The sound was truly conducted through your bones using a combination of vibration and sound. I wore it around like a musical scarf. I was the coolest.”

 

6. DJI Mavic 2 Zoom Quadcopter ($1,249)

How it works: The Mavic 2 drone is small and portable, so you can take it with you anywhere you go. It has a 31-minute flight time, currently the longest for a consumer drone. The Hasselblad L1D-20c camera captures 20-megapixel aerial shots in beautiful color detail.

Coolest features: The features of this drone that really stand out are the extended flight time, the wind speed durability, improved RF connection over Bluetooth for a more reliable signal strength, and most importantly it’s the first zoom lens camera drone.

Alexandra DiFresca, Digital Marketing Manager – North America: “The zoom lens allows you to shoot tight and wide shots without having to change the position of the drone while it’s in the air. I’m not a photography expert but I love taking photos and videos of my travels which I often put on canvas for decoration in my house so I think this drone would really help me take some unique shots.”

 

5. Samsung Class 105S9 Curved 4K TV ($120,000)

How it works: It’s a TV, just way bigger and way, way more expensive than the one you have. Its curved panel creates a panoramic effect. The Auto Depth Enhancer analyzes regions of each image and adjusts contrast to produce more depth. PurColor focuses on more colors than your average TV.

Coolest feature: Did we mention this TV is 105 inches? OK, so the 55-inch version is probably more in your price range. We get it. If anything, just read the Amazon.com customer reviews for the 105S9 TV, they’re hilarious. Our favorite: “Great as a second monitor.”

Traylor Bame, Team Lead, Northeast Sales: “I understand that to get this 105” TV I’d have to be a millionaire…but that’s why it’s called a WISH LIST, right? This TV has precision black local dimming, which dims LEDs behind the darkest area of the screen for superior contrast and darker blacks. I want to watch the NC State Wolfpack football team win on a 105” TV—can’t get much better than that.” 

 

4. Nest Learning Thermostat ($250)

How it works: This thermostat is all about energy efficiency. It learns your habits—when you’re at work, when the whole family is home, etc.—and automatically regulates the temperature. It’s truly a “smart” thermostat—when you’re not home the temperature automatically goes down. Sure, your 9-year-old self is making fun of you for having a thermostat on your holiday wish list. But your grown-up self is super pumped for lower energy bills.

Coolest feature: You’re cozy under a blanket on the couch. The only thing that would make it cozier? Another proverbial log on the fire. The problem is, you don’t want to get up. Well, Nest has the solution. The learning thermostat works with Alexa so you can control the temperature via voice control. Or, control your thermostat from your phone. It’s easier than ever to stay warm this winter.

Dan Stober, Global Portfolio Director of Project Management: “For the Nest Smart Thermostat, the main feature that makes this an attractive gadget is that it can learn what temperatures your family prefers, then build a schedule around what you like during certain times of the day. It can sense when you are home or away, and adjust the temperature in order to save energy and lower heating and cooling costs. There is also an option to put sensors in multiple rooms and prioritize them according to your preference.”

 

3. Zwift with CycleOps H2 Smart Trainer ($1,260)

How it works: Zwift pairs your bike with indoor training gear to provide a realistic riding experience. This bundle includes a one-year Zwift membership and a CycleOps H2 Smart Trainer. The 20-pound flywheel on the H2 helps replicate the feel of real roads and terrain.

Coolest feature: The virtual roads are what really elevate the experience. The Zwift trainer system allows cyclists to ride their bicycles on turbo trainers while navigating through five virtual worlds (Watopia, Richmond, London, Innsbruck and New York). Riders may cycle freely around the game world and join organized group rides, races or workouts with other users.

Clyde Duncan, Salesforce Administrator, Sales and Service: “My primary goal is to strengthen and fortify my race training miles through the winter by using the Zwift system. It’s a proven training method as a Tour de France participant trained solely using Zwift while recovering from a broken arm. If he can do that, it’ll definitely help me get better results in the 50 and Over age group I’m racing in this year on my mountain bike!”

 

2. Microsoft Surface Book 2 ($1,250)

How it works: The Surface Book 2 can be a laptop, tablet and portable studio. It has twice the power of the original Surface, including 17 hours of video playback. 

Coolest features: The Surface Pen, which is ideal for note-taking, and the front-firing speakers, which are perfect for streaming video. 

Johnathan Evans, Digital Ecommerce Manager: “As a tablet, the Surface Pen functions in tandem with the SP2 for sketching and taking notes, but the reverse stand mode and front-firing speakers are awesome for Netflix. Lastly, the SP2 excels as a productivity device due to a beautiful high-res IPS screen and island-style backlit keyboard. I grabbed a Surface Book 2 about two months ago as a result of a PC failure, which I luckily found at a discounted $500 on the Best Buy returns shelf. The SP2 has been an awesome device to work and play with due to the multitude of uses the device fulfills.”

 

1. Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless Noise-Canceling Headphones ($350)

How it works: The WH-1000XM3 is Sony’s latest wireless noise-canceling headphone that comes with a more comfortable design and fit, USB-C, and what many consider the best noise-canceling technology. Sony has completely overhauled things on the M3 with a new noise-canceling processor, which the company claims offers four times better performance than the previous generation. The USB-C port enables quick charging with five hours of playback after a quick 10-minute charge. As for regular battery life, Sony says that the M3 should get up to 30 hours of wireless playback (with noise-canceling on) from a single charge. 

Coolest feature: Touchscreen controls are all the rage—and the M3 doesn’t disappoint. You can put and hold your hand on the touch pad ear cup housing to momentarily pause your music and shut off noise cancellation. As if that weren’t enough, the adaptive sound control automatically detects your activity such as traveling, walking, and waiting, then adjusts ambient sound settings to you. 

Paul Tocatlian, Director of Engineering: “I love my Apple AirPods. But the batteries only last a few hours and the earbuds aren’t very effective in loud environments such as a roaring plane. The M3 demo unit I tried worked wonders—it was love at first sight. The ear cups fold flat so the headphones can be packed into a small carrying case. I hope Santa is feeling generous this year.”

 

What did we miss?

Let us know your favorite gadgets from our countdown or share your own personal wish list by tagging @GlobalKnowledge and using #TechtheHalls. Or comment below.

 

What tech toy will you buy with your training reward?

It’s time to treat yourself! Purchase a Global Knowledge training course and get a $500 gift card of your choice. With options like Amazon.com, Best Buy, Target and Walmart, you can make that gadget wish list a reality. Get your reward.


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