Hi-tech gifts: this season’s home-related games, gadgets and great big screens

’Tis now the season to start shopping for family, friends and colleagues — and to maybe get a little something for yourself after another challenging year.

There’s no shortage of home-oriented tech toys: sleek screens, great games and smart gear. A few thought-starters to suit varying budgets and tastes:

Game on

Would you believe the median age of a Canadian gamer today is just shy of 40 years old? This is according to the Entertainment Software Association of Canada. You can’t go wrong with any of the “big three” consoles:

  • The XBOX SERIES S — Gilded Hunter Bundle ($379) includes an Xbox Series S, Xbox Wireless Controller (in Robot White), and add-on content for mega-popular videogames including Fortnite, Rocket League, and Fall Guys. If you’re shopping for a gamer who already has an Xbox, Xbox Game Pass ($11.99/month) lets you play hundreds of high-quality Xbox games as part of the subscription service.
  • PlayStation fans, on the other hand, would love unwrapping a new PlayStation 5 bundle, PS5 + God of War Ragnarök (from $599 for digital version), that includes the console, matching wireless controller, and copy of the hit new game God of War Ragnarök ($89 on its own). Scoring a perfect 10 out of 10 from IGN.com, this mature-rated game (for ages 17 and older) is a retelling of Norse mythology, where we find protagonist Kratos and his son Atreus in search of answers, while Asgardian forces prepare for an epic battle that could end the world.
  • Nintendo gamers who love the company’s exclusive titles — many of which are based on family-friendly characters like Mario, Luigi, Kirby, Donkey Kong, and Pokémon — would no doubt appreciate the Nintendo Switch Bundle ($399), which includes the versatile console (that you can play on your big-screen TV or while on the go), a digital copy of cartoon racing game Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and a three-month individual membership to the Nintendo Switch Online subscription service (an $89 value). There’s also the Nintendo Switch OLED model ($449) for an extraordinarily vibrant seven-inch screen, wide adjustable stand, and more.

Retro gamers with a nostalgic connection to the ’80s might opt for a stand-up arcade cabinet from Arcade 1Up (from $546), each housing a few games, or if you prefer an arcade cabinet that lets you download additional games to it, iiRcade Classic Bundle ($540, plus $50 U.S. for shipping) features 11 preloaded titles, including the laserdisc classic, Dragon’s Lair, and the beat ‘em up classic Double Dragon.

Featuring a 19-inch HD display, 100 watts of stereo sound, and authentic two-player controllers, the WiFi-enabled iiRcade can be used as a tabletop or bartop with its included stand.

Virtual reality (VR) headsets also make for great gifts, such as the Meta Quest 2 (from $609), which supports countless games and other immersive entertainment and fitness experiences. Unlike some other VR headsets, you don’t need to plug this into a PC or console to play.

Virtual reality is hot this season and Meta (formerly Oculus) Quest II (from $609) is a stellar pick that works with several hundred games.

TV time

If you’re looking to gift the family a new television for 2023, this year’s latest models did not disappoint.

  • LG’s C2 OLED evo TV (from $1,849.99) — available in 42-, 48-, 55-, 65-, 77-, and 83 inches — is a stunning and stunningly slim television. It features OLED evo technology, considered the most advanced self-lit pixel technology for an extraordinary picture, including highly accurate HDR (high Dynamic Range) performance and support for Dolby Vision IQ. On the audio front, the C2 has Dolby Atmos for outstanding sound (especially impressive given how thin this TV is). Integrated ThinQ A.I. (artificial intelligence) for voice control and personalized content.
  • Voted the best television on the market by RTINGS.com, Samsung’s S95B OLED 4K Smart TV (55-inch for $2,799.99, but discounted to $1,899.99 over Black Friday weekend), this 55-inch television fuses an OLED panel for extraordinary contrast with Samsung’s quantum dot filters for richer colours. Along with a fast processor, Samsung’s proprietary Tizen OS smart TV platform delivers a huge selection of apps and games. It’s also available in 65 inches.
  • For those on a tighter budget, the Hisense U78H Series Quantum Dot Google TV (from $799.99) offers a wide colour spectrum, thanks to its quantum dot technology, but is also ideal for watching sports and playing video games because of native 120hz panel (essentially doubling the standard 60-frames-per-second picture, resulting in much smoother motion). The 4K television is powered by Google, therefore the voice remote lets you activate the personal assistant to ask a question or control your smart home items, ask for something to watch, and download apps.
The Hisense U78H Series Quantum Dot Google TV delivers big and striking visuals, fast motion to keep up with video games, and a Google-powered Smart TV platform for voice control and apps.

To turn your existing (dumb) TV into a Smart TV, there are also stocking stuffer-sized (and priced) streaming players like the Roku family (from $24.99), Amazon Fire TV Stick (from $29.99), Chromecast with Google TV ($29.99), or new and powerful Apple TV 4K box (from $179.00). Apple TV 4K also works with the awesome Apple Arcade subscription service ($5.99/month) which give you access to more than 200 high-quality games with no ads.

Give the gift of streaming media. Apple TV 4K ($179) connects to your television and lets you access video streaming services, as well as ad-free games via the Apple Arcade service.

Smart home

Make your home a smarter one with these additional gift ideas:

Named as one of Oprah’s top gifts of 2022, the Amazon Echo Show 15 ($329, but $219 over Black Friday) is the company’s largest “smart display” to date, at 15 inches. Place this in a high-traffic area — like a kitchen — to keep the family organized: leave virtual sticky notes for others, synchronize calendars, access recipes, start a slideshow of photos of the kids or pets, stream movies while you’re cooking over the holidays, and control your smart home with your voice, via Alexa, or with your fingertips.

Markham, Ont.’s Lorex has a 2K Wired Video Doorbell ($229) that lets you see — and talk to — whomever is at your front door, even if you’re not at home. Unlike other video doorbells, including those from Amazon/Ring and Google, this one doesn’t require you to pay for “cloud” storage (to go back in time to see who was at your door a few hours or days earlier) because recordings are stored locally. The wired doorbell offers colour night vision, a built-in night light, and the option to play pre-recorded audio messages when someone rings the bell.

A practical present: the Lorex 2K Wired Video Doorbell ($169) lets you see and interact with anyone at your door.

Buying for an aspiring barbecue master? From Traeger, the new Meater Plus ($149) is a wireless smart meat thermometer that can be used with any grill. When paired with the Meater companion app on a smartphone or tablet, it will help you cook the perfect steak, chicken, turkey, lamb and fish by measuring both the ambient temp of the grill as well as the internal meat temperature. Ideal for winter months, stay in your home and be notified on the app when it’s time to flip your meat or serve it, as the built-in Bluetooth repeater extends the range up to 50 metres.

Meater Plus ($149), a wireless smart thermometer for grilled meat by Traeger, pairs with an app to show you when it's time to flip or serve.
Marc Saltzman is based in Toronto and covers consumer technology trends. He is a freelance contributor for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @marc_saltzman


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