Gift ideas that charge - and super-charge
For holiday gifts, check out new celebrations of classic rock originals from Jethro Tull, Bob Dylan and the Eagles. You can upgrade your Samsung Galaxy S6 or newer phone with the improved ($90) Samsung Gear VR headset.
Like the concept of "a gift that keeps on giving"? Consider these reasonably priced, practical suggestions that are good to have around 24×7, 365.
Blinded by the light: Hyper-bright, 180-degree TripleLite flashlights are must-haves for a glove compartment or dark closet. The more easily pocketed Mini ($20, 259 lumens brightness) illuminates a path five feet across; the larger, switchable two-light-level Original (about $30) puts out 490 lumens max in a seven-foot-wide swath. Another bright idea? The integrated packaging of baby boom box and LED spotlight makes the Monster Firecracker a blast for camping trips. ($90-$99.)
Save those shots: As the modern storehouse of our precious data and images, a phone is sorely missed when it's lost or runs out of memory. To the rescue come two nifty backup storage devices for Apple phones and tablets, each $60 in 32-GB versions. A MEEM cable both recharges the Apple device and backs up its stored contacts, calendar, photos, video, and documents onto a mid-cable memory chip. Kingston's Data Traveler Bolt Duo is a plug-in flash drive that sucks up photos and videos, freeing memory space for more snaps.
Get a charge on: With Samsung and Apple now sharing a standard — the Qi (pronounced "chee") wireless induction charging format for smartphones — the floodgates have opened for Qi-compatible charging stations (as little as $16) so you can plop down a phone and skedaddle. Samsung's Fast Charge Pad ($24.99) earns top ratings. The unusual MusiQi Wireless Charger & Speaker ($49.99) also spreads phone-sourced music around the room.
TV transformed: Breathe new life into grandma's classic TV with a Roku Express+ streaming TV receiver ($40). It's the only Roku model that can hook up to a tube telly's analog video (yellow) and audio (red and white) inputs. Yet it still offers wireless access through your internet router to modern movie services and "light" pay-TV bundles such as Comcast's Xfinity Instant TV and Dish Network's Sling TV.
Sling service is also front and center in the Air TV Player, a friendly Android-based streaming services box with voice control and neat integration of free broadcast-TV channels (remember them?): $99 to $240 with a rooftop antenna installed by Dish.
Lock and roll: This gadgeteer has fallen for the clever kitchen gizmos of Pampered Chef — including a set of Emoji cookie molds ($10) and the nifty Ceramic Egg (and hot cereal) Cooker ($15.50), a perfect gift for the college student with access to a refrigerator and microwave but not a stove.
Bluetooth enabled padlocks — such as BIO-Key's TouchLock BT XL ($44.99) — prove anew that a mobile phone is the new remote control for everything. This model also opens with a scanned fingerprint.
Anyone with a Samsung Galaxy phone — S6 or newer — would be delighted to have the newly improved ($90) Samsung Gear VR headset. Adds a handheld controller that plays nicely with free virtual-reality experiences and dive-in games.
Paired wirelessly or hardwired to a computer, Logitech's fashionably round MX Sound speakers ($99.99 a pair) make such solid stereo it seems the screen's grown, too. Better sound can also be extracted from a computer with the Dragonfly USB DAC-Preamp-Headphone Amp plugged into a USB port. Decodes everything from a lowly MP3 to the best streaming music that Deezer (with FLAC encoding) and Tidal (with MQA-encoded "Masters") now offer subscribers. $99 in Black Edition, $199 in DragonFly Red form.
Strangest bathroom gizmo since the Toto heated/washing toilet seat? Flosstime Automated Floss Dispenser ($20). Sticks to a mirror or tile. Dispenses with a tap. Smiles after you floss and frowns when you forget.
Want to keep track of home and inhabitants, inside and out? We relish the high-definition, all-weather Arlo Pro2 home security cameras from Netgear. This $220 investment is rationalized with free online video storage of the last week's incidents and especially easy wireless setup. Just recharge batteries every three to six months.
Boxed to go: Loaded with extras — alt takes, lively audio and video concerts, surround sound mixes — these new celebrations of classic rock originals are born again for fans both fresh and mature: Jethro Tull, Songs from the Wood 40th Anniversary Edition (Chrysalis). The Moody Blues, Days of Future Passed three-disk Deram set (also catch their Great Performances special re-running Tuesday at 11:30 p.m. on WHYY-TV). A Boy From Tupelo (Legacy) documents Elvis Presley's breakout, including early broadcasts that introduced him as a "folksinger" and alt-country boy. Enjoy a three-disk stay at The Eagles Hotel California (Asylum). And saving the best for last is the riveting, nine-disk reappraisal of Bob Dylan's much maligned (then), now totally redeemed gospel rocking Christian morality stand Trouble No More (Columbia/Legacy). Hallelujah!