Posts with «vmholiday2020» label

The books and movies we’re gifting this year

Having somehow made it through a second year of global pandemic and political unrest, give the loved ones on your holiday shopping list the greatest gift of all: an alternative to doom-scrolling. In Engadget’s 2021 Media Gift Guide you’ll find a diverse selection of books — fiction and nonfiction alike — as well a host of streaming content suggestions that will keep their recipients entertained through the holidays and beyond. If you’ve got a book, show or movie that you think would make the perfect present, tell us all about it in the comments below!

Fiction

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

NYT bestselling author, Rebecca Roanhorse — the literary force behind Star Wars: Resistance Reborn — has done it again. Her latest fantasy series, Between Earth and Sky, takes readers on an epic journey of trauma, healing, vengeance, and eventual redemption. The first book in the series, 2020’s Black Sun, weaves a masterfully engrossing — and markedly inclusive — tale that eschews the common Arthurian Legend retellings in favor of a unique fantasy world inspired by pre-Columbian America cultures. If you’ve got a fan of fantasy on your holiday shopping list, pick up Black Sun for them before the sequel, Fevered Star, drops next April.

Buy Black Sun at Amazon - $13

Age of Madness trilogy by Joe Abercrombie

The ending of Game of Thrones was nothing short of a slap in the face to fans. I mean, really, all that and Bran wins? GTFOH. If you’ve got a fan of George “Double R” Martin on your holiday shopping list, do them a favor and turn them on to Joe Abercrombie’s Age of Madness trilogy. Set in a world in which the seeds of industrialization have just taken hold even as the age magic and mysticism stubbornly refuses to be uprooted, AoM tells a tale of mighty nations at war while the powerful elites who rule them vie for control over both their countries’ external fates and their courts’ internal politics. Packed with captivating characters, political intrigue, incredible reversals of fortune and stunning betrayals, Age of Madness is a grimdark masterpiece where everybody, for once, gets exactly what they deserve.

Buy Age of Madness trilogy at Amazon - $35

1414º by Paul Bradley Carr

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Whether we like it or not, this is Jeff Bezos’ world and the rest of us just live in it. Our current slate of 21st century techno-robber barons have achieved unfathomable wealth and unassailable power; but as Paul Bradley Carr’s latest novel, 1414º, illustrates, you can’t spend that money or wield that influence when you’re dead. If you’ve got a fan of high-tension whodunnits and techno-thrillers on your holiday shopping list, 1414º will be a surefire hit.

Buy 1414º at Amazon - $5

Fugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries) by Martha Wells

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Martha Wells can’t stop, won’t stop, dropping Murderbot hits. The reigning queen of hard sci-fi released Fugitive Telemetry — the sixth book in her Hugo, Nebula, Locus and Alex Award winning series — earlier this year and let me tell you from experience, it is a banger. Our self-aware SecUnit anti-hero is back in another standalone adventure, this time on the trail of a vicious murderer aboard Preservation (space) Station. If the sci-finatic on your holiday shopping lists enjoys space intrigue and robotic mysteries, you can’t go wrong with Fugitive Telemetry.

Buy Fugitive Telemetry at Amazon - $12

Undying Mercenaries series by B.V. Larson

The year is 2052 and Earth finds itself unwillingly annexed into a galactic empire it didn’t even know existed and is presented with a simple choice: provide our new alien overlords with a viable commercial product or face extermination. Thus, Earth’s mercenary legions are born. Armed with alien-made weaponry and a mysterious technology that allows soldiers to be reconstructed after being killed in battle — like reloading from a previous save point but far more gooey — Earth’s legions set out across the stars to fight the wars that the galaxy’s elder races are too self-important to fight themselves. Already 16 books deep, author B.V. Larson continues to lead the genre of military sci-fi from the front, so if you’ve got a fan of Starship Troopers, Aliens-style space marines, or Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow on your holiday shopping list, congrats! You can cross them off now.

Buy Undying Mercenaries series (16 books) at Amazon - $110

Nonfiction

JGalione via Getty Images

Bright Galaxies, Dark Matter, and Beyond by Ashley Jean Yeager

Far from a household name, astronomer Vera Rubin’s pioneering research helped convince the scientific community of the possibility that dark matter — the mysterious materials that make up a vast majority of the universe but cannot be observed — actually exists. In Bright Galaxies, Dark Matter, and Beyond (not to be confused with Bright Galaxies, Dark Matter, a collection of Rubin’s own essays), author Ashley Jean Yeager takes readers on an inspiring biographical journey through the astronomer’s early year before examining the challenges she faced working in an often hostile, male-dominated field, and her eventual vindication and professional triumphs — looking at you Vera C. Rubin Observatory. If you’ve got a younger someone on your holiday shopping list who’s interested in pursuing STEM, this could well be the book that puts them on a path towards scientific greatness.

Buy Bright Galaxies, Dark Matter, and Beyond at Amazon - $15

N-4 Down by Mark Piesing

During the Zeppelin’s heyday, airships weren't just a means of the well-to-do to slowly get to distant destinations in comfort and luxury, they also offered a new means of (albeit pokey) exploration. N-4 Down by Mark Piesing takes readers on a thrilling, nail-biting adventure of the largest arctic rescue operation in history as famed Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, rushed to save the surviving crew of the airship Italia, which crashed during its attempt to land men at the North Pole in 1928. The history and aeronautical buffs on your holiday shopping list are going to absolutely love it.

Buy N-4 Down at Amazon - $15

Under a White Sky by Elizabeth Kolbert

For the last 10,000 years, humanity has had an unprecedented and largely destructive impact on the environment around us. But as climate change increasingly wreaks its own havoc on us in return, humanity must now work to reverse or at least mitigate the harm that we have caused. In Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Kolbert examines just what we can do to make things right with Mother Earth and avoid a catastrophic climate crisis.

Buy Under a White Sky at Amazon - $13

The Quiet Zone by Stephen Kurczy

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Green Bank, West Virginia is, technologically speaking, stuck in the 1950s. And for good reason! This bucolic Appalachian town is home to the ultra-sensitive radio telescope at the Green Bank observatory, which necessitates that basically every device that can emit a radio signal — everything from iPads to microwaves — be heavily restricted. In The Quiet Zone, journalist and author Stephen Kurczy, embeds himself in Green Bank to give readers a firsthand look at what life could be like without our precious digital tech. The Quiet Zone is the perfect gift for the aspiring luddite on your holiday shopping list.

Buy The Quiet Zone at Amazon - $13

Streaming

thianchai sitthikongsak via Getty Images

Given the myriad COVID-induced supply chain challenges that retailers are girding for this upcoming holiday season, finding physical copies of these titles could prove to be a bit of a challenge. So, perhaps consider gifting the book worms on your holiday shopping list the Kindle Paperwhite and a subscription to Amazon Kindle Unlimited? Virtually every one of the books listed above are available on the digital service along with millions of others as well as magazines and periodicals.

But there’s only so much one can read during those long winter nights so why not curl up on the couch with a nice cup of hot cocoa and watch some sterling examples of our new Golden Age of Television? If you’ve got a Trekkie on your holiday shopping list, you really can’t go wrong with a subscription to Paramount+. The $5 - $10 a month service unlocks a plethora of Star Trek shows including the Emmy award-winning Picard and the hilarious Lower Decks.

For the cinephile on your list, assuming you can’t get your hands on the upcoming Criterion 4K collections, an HBO Max subscription works just as well. For $10 a month, you’ll give the gift of a massive movie selection as well as popular weekly news and interview series like Pause with Sam Jay and This Week Tonight with John Oliver, not to mention incredible documentaries like Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street.

Got someone with small children on your gift list? Throw them a bone with a Disney+ subscription. The service hosts nearly the entirety of Disney’s massive, decades-deep archives along with new family-friendly series and episodes arriving daily.

Small, affordable gadgets that make great stocking stuffers

It’s easy to think that the best gadget gifts are the fanciest and most expensive things. But there are plenty of options out there for the techie in your life that don’t require you to empty your wallet. If you’re struggling to come up with the right present for the early adopter in your life, we’ve gathered some of our favorite things that are both small and affordable. The best part? Everything comes in at $50 or less.

Chromecast with Google TV

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

If you’re at a loss when it comes to a good, cheap gift for the techie in your life, you can’t go wrong with a Chromecast. The latest Chromecast with Google TV is the one to get right now and it doesn’t matter if your giftee uses Google products already. Like other Chromecasts, this one lets you stream movies and TV shows from major services like Netflix, YouTube, Hulu andHBO Max, among many others.

The Google TV interface has always been pretty easy to navigate, but it’s simpler than ever thanks to the remote that now comes included with the Chromecast. It has an Assistant button, giving you quick access to voice commands, plus a circular D-pad, shortcut buttons for YouTube and Netflix, and support for HDMI-CEC and IR, allowing you to control your entire TV with it. And, unlike larger set-top boxes or smart TVs that your recipient may already have, the Chromecast is portable, so they can take it with them to make binge-watching their favorite shows easier when they’re not at home.

Buy Chromecast with Google TV at Best Buy - $50

Apple AirTags

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Most of us have someone in our lives who misplaces everything — their keys, wallet, purse or backpack, the list goes on. If that person in your life happens to also own an iPhone, AirTags make great gifts and you can buy one for only $30. (You could even get an AirTag case for them, too, and still spend less than $50.) These quarter-sized Bluetooth trackers pair almost immediately with iOS devices and can then be tracked using the Find My app.

You can use them to keep track of nearly anything, but they work best on items that take clips or keyrings or things like backpacks that have small pockets. In addition to showing their location, the Find My app also lets you force the AirTag to play a loud chime so you can more easily find it in your home. And if you’re close enough to the missing item, Apple’s Precision Finding feature can literally guide you to it using the tech in your iPhone’s U1 chip.

Buy Apple AirTag at Amazon - $29

KeySmart Classic key holder

KeySmart

Those who have a mess of jangling keys weighing down their pockets may benefit from a KeySmart holder. The $23 Classic model is the best for most people as it’s slim and holds up to 14 keys in a neat little sandwich of sorts, in between two aluminum and stainless steel pieces. It’s easy to stack all of your keys on either end of the KeySmart and, once installed, you can rotate out only the key you need to unlock your door. The Classic also comes with a loop ring so you can easily attach your stuffed KeySmart to something larger like your car key.

Buy KeySmart Classic at Amazon - $23

Anker Nano II GaN charger

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Chargers like the Nano II GaN 65W adapter from Anker may not be the first things that come to mind when you’re exploring tech gift ideas, but they are some of the most useful gadgets out there. We all have so many devices — phones, tablets, smartwatches, headphones, earbuds, and more — and most of them need regular charging. An extra charger like Anker’s lets you power up more devices at once, but it also does so more efficiently. The gallium nitride technology inside this small cube prevents it from overheating even when charging up a larger device like a MacBook Pro. It’s also 58 percent smaller than the MBP’s own charging adapter, so it’ll take up less space in a bag or backpack when you’re on the go.

Most bricks of this size aren’t able to support fast-charging for multiple devices, but the 65W capacity of this Nano II model makes it a good option for all of your devices. Just before publishing this story, the 65W model went up in price by a few dollars, pushing it over our $50 threshold — but Anker sells 45W and 30W models as well, so you can get the same charging technology for even less.

Buy Anker Nano II (65W) at Amazon - $55Buy Anker Nano II (45W) at Amazon - $40Buy Anker Nano II (30W) at Amazon - $34

Anker USB-C to Lightning cable

Anker

As with chargers, we all could use an extra cable on hand in our living rooms, backpacks, on our desks at work or anywhere else where we need to power up. Anker’s got plenty of Powerline II charging cables for all types of devices, but arguably the two most useful are the MFi-certified USB-C to Lighting cable and the USB-C to C connector. The former supports fast-charging and has been tested to withstand the bends and twists necessary to fuel your iPhone in strange places. The latter can fast-charge many devices and it works with larger tablets and laptops as well, making it a good all-purpose cable for your various USB-C gadgets.

Buy Anker USB-C to Lightning cable at Amazon - $15Buy Anker USB-C to C cable at Amazon - $20

Joby GripTight One GorillaPod stand

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Joby

Joby’s GorillaPod stands aren’t just for aspiring social media stars or photographers. The GripTight One stand in particular is a handy tool that anyone will find useful when they need to take a quick family photo, prop their phone up to watch a YouTube video, or hold their phone at a better angle to take a selfie. Its clamp grip can hold all smartphones and its rubber feet prevent it from slipping. But the flexible legs are the kicker here — they let you wrap the stand around objects like railings so you can get the best angle possible when shooting photos or videos. And considering how compact and lightweight it is, Joby’s stand is one of the best options out there for a travel phone stand.

Buy Joby GripTight One at Amazon - $35

Mophie 15W Wireless Charging pad

Mophie

Charging pads are like charging cables: It never hurts to have an extra wireless charging pad lying around. Mophie’s 15W pad is one of the nicer looking ones we’ve seen with its rounded square design, ultrasuede finish and LED indicator light. It’s compact enough to fit on a crowded side table next to your couch or on your desk. With 15W of power, it’ll fast-charge most smartphones and it works with cases up to 3mm thick. And, since it supports the Qi standard, you can use it to power up almost anything else with a wireless charging case, like those wireless earbuds you just bought.

Buy Mophie wireless charging pad at Amazon - $50

Bandai Original 90s Tamagotchi

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Suckers for ‘90s nostalgia will be thrilled to find an original Tamagotchi in their stocking. The digital pet from 1997 is back and, at least with this model, not much has changed. You’ll still be tasked with feeding, cleaning and taking care of your Tamagotchi using the three buttons on the egg-shaped device. Yes, you can even discipline the creature when it’s bothering you — just make sure not to neglect it to the point of starvation.

Buy Original 90s Tamagotchi at Amazon - $20

Bellroy Classic Pouch

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Some people have started to go back into the office and maybe you know someone who’s been trying to bring some small comforts from home into the workplace. Shuttling mice, charging cables, power banks and keys to and from anywhere can make it look like a bomb went off inside your bag. Bellroy’s Classic Pouch is a good way to tame that mess. Measuring 5.5 x 8.9 inches, this half-moon, zippered pouch can fit most small essentials that you’d want to keep with you at all times. Inside are a few organizational pockets, including one with a magnetic closure,. We also appreciate the nine sophisticated colors that it comes in, and many of the pouches are made of water-resistant, woven fabric created from recycled plastic bottles.

Buy Classic Pouch at Bellroy - $50

Samsung EVO Select microSDXC card (256GB)

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Samsung

It can be easy to underestimate the value of having more storage. Flash drives, memory cards, portable SSDs and the like are gadgets that many people don’t have when they need it the most. Samsung’s EVO Select microSD card would make a good gift for any number of people in your life: photographers, gamers and all-around nerds. Samsung’s memory cards are some of the most reliable out there and also the most versatile — this one has read speeds up to 100MB/s and write speeds up to 90MB/s. That makes this a great option for those who want more storage on their smartphone or tablet. It also comes with a full-sized adapter so those with DSLR cameras will make good use out of it, too. Lastly, this would make a great gift for someone whose Nintendo Switch is packed with games, allowing them to download and play more titles than they could before.

Buy EVO Select microSD card (256GB) at Amazon - $40

Yubico Yubikey 5 NFC

Yubico

Having a good password isn’t always enough, which is why you should turn on two-factor authentication for your most precious accounts whenever possible. The Yubikey 5 NFC gives you a physical way to unlock your devices when you’re asked to authenticate for a second time. This particular model has NFC, so you can simply tap it to a compatible device to verify your identity. It’s also a USB-A dongle of sorts, so you can plug it into your laptop so you’ll always be recognized when you’re using it. Yubico sells a USB-C NFC version as well, but at $55 it’s just a bit too expensive for this guide. We also appreciate that the entire Yubikey NFC series works with Windows, Mac, Chrome OS and most mobile devices, and that the keys are made from durable water- and crush-resistant fiberglass.

Buy Yubikey 5 NFC at Yubico - $45

PopSockets PopGrip for MagSafe

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget Popsockets

If you scoffed at PopSockets when they first came out, you’re not alone. But these circular doodads are actually great ways to better grip and prop up your phone. The only “problem” with older PopSockets is that they were a bit inconvenient to take off if you wanted to go socket-free for a time. But those with new iPhones don’t have to deal with that annoyance anymore thanks to the PopGrip for MagSafe, which is basically just a magnetic version of the classic PopSocket. It’ll attach to the back of any compatible iPhone and pop off which ease whenever you want to switch out your case. Also, the PopSocket itself has a swappable top, so you can add more of your personality to it with some of the company’s many interchangeable tops.

Buy MagSafe PopGrip at Amazon - $30