Tag Archives: roku 3

Tech Gifts for Grads

By Tracey Dowdy

Finding just the right gifts for today’s tech savvy grads can be challenging. But whether they’re heading off to college in the Fall or about to start a new career, the perfect gift is out there and we’re here to help you find it.


Everyone loves a good pair of headphones and whether your grad will use them to listen to “Eye of the Tiger” during a workout or catch a favorite podcast on the way to work, there’s a vast selection from which to choose.  Your options range from less expensive but good quality JVC HA-S400 Carbon Nanotube headphones for under $30, featuring comfortable padding, fold-flat capability and excellent sound quality for the price point, all the way up to $400 Beats By Dre with high-end sound quality, noise cancellation and a maid that will clean your grad’s apartment. Okay, maybe not the maid part.

Choose tiny ear buds that you can tuck in a pocket or purse or DJ-style padded over-the-ear headphones. There are also behind the neck headsets, waterproof headsets, and a variety of wired and wireless Bluetooth options.


Depending on the level of ambient noise in the room, the speaker volume of my iPad is less than adequate. I’d describe it as a loud whisper, like when your Nana wants to tell you a secret. If you are going to play music from your mobile devices, external speakers are a must.

Just as with headphone options, there are a multitude of wireless speakers that provide high quality sound at reasonable prices. The Logitech X300 Mobile Wireless Stereo Speaker (under $70) features a built-in rechargeable battery that lasts up to 5 hours and has a built-in microphone that doubles as a mobile speaker for phone calls. The Sol Republic Punk (under $50) is water- and shock-resistant and offers solid sound levels for its small size with minimal distortion. It has a sizeable battery life (8 hours) and offers an extended wireless range of up to 60 feet.

Wireless Keyboard

Touch screens are great until you need to compose a long message or type out an email. Wireless keyboards are ideal for when you need to turn that tablet or smartphone into an impromptu computer. The Logitech K480 Bluetooth keyboard works across all platforms – iOS, Android, Windows – and can link with up to three devices at a time. It offers a built-in tray across the top which acts as a stand for most tablets or smartphones and at under $50 it’s a bargain.

If your grad is all about going green, the Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K760 pairs with up to three Apple devices and can be charged by any light source, so you never have to replace batteries.  At just under $80 it’s a little more expensive than the K480 and Apple’s own Wireless Keyboard which is priced at $69.

Streaming Media Players

Help cut the cord literally and figuratively when you send them on the way with alternatives to cable. Whether grads are on campus or moving into an apartment, many are choosing to bypass cable and stream their entertainment choices instead. Price at $100, the Roku 3 has a speedy processor, user-friendly interface, and offers over 2,000 channels, including Netflix, Amazon Instant, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Pandora, MLB.TV, Amazon Cloud Player, Vudu and Youtube.  It can search across platforms for specific content, and the remote comes with a built-in headphone jack.

If your grad has a lot of Apple devices or has a significant library of music and videos on iTunes, Apple TV could be a better choice. Apple constantly refreshes content and has dropped the price of its Apple TV system to just $69.

It’s cliché to say but graduation isn’t the end, it’s the beginning. Heading out on that journey with fun and innovative technology in your backpack or briefcase can make that new adventure a little less scary and a lot more fun.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Top Tech Gifts for Under $100

By Tracey Dowdy

A co-worker of mine who has just made herself the target of my next April Fools’ prank reminded me the other day that there are only 9 more Fridays between now and Christmas. Good grief.

My family draws names with our extended families, so I don’t have a lot of people to buy for, but the older we get and the more settled we all are, the more challenging gift-giving can be. We all enjoy our tech, but finding gifts that come in under budget and are worth spending the money on can be tricky.

Here are a few suggestions to ease that “How many weekends until Christmas?” panic – all under $100.

Google Chromecast HDMI Streaming Media Player

Google-Chromecast200The Google Chromecast allows you to stream videos, music and photos to your TV via your smartphone, laptop or tablet. About the size of a USB device, it’s easy to install and use. Simply plug it into your TV and connect to your wireless network. Compatible with Android and iOS platforms, you can stream services like Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, Plex, HBO Go, Pandora, ESPN, MLB.TV, Google Play, Crackle, Rdio and several others. It’s listed at $35 but several places online like Amazon and Walmart offer it for less.

Roku 3 Streaming Media Player

Roku-3200The Roku 3 is Roku’s fastest and most powerful streaming device yet. Toss your cable or satellite subscription and watch Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Vevo, Spotify, and PBS Kids, as well as an additional 1,500+ channels for free. About the only thing missing is iTunes – you’ll need Apple TV for that. Roku also offers a free app on iOS and Android and you can stream videos and music from your smartphone or tablet to your HDTV.

There’s no subscription fee for Roku, but you will need to provide credit card information during set up should you want to purchase content from the Roku Channel Store. Roku even offers gaming options like Angry Birds Space and Jeopardy, and features a motion sensing remote with game ready buttons and games. MSRP: $99.99.

If you’re on a tighter budget, there’s the Roku Stick. It doesn’t offer all the same features but at half the price it’s still a great option for streaming TV.

Trendnet Powerline 500 AV2 Adapter Kit

trendnet200If, like me, your Wi-Fi doesn’t reach all the rooms in your house, then the Trendnet Powerline 500 AV2 Adapter Kit is a great solution. Powerline extends a hardwire connection from your router via your home’s AC power to anywhere in the house. The kit includes two TPL-408E adapters pre-encrypted for security. There’s no complicated installation process, adapters are literally plug and play – they auto connect straight from the box. The signal is strong enough to cover a 5,000sq foot house or 300 m (980 ft.) linear distance over electrical power lines. The adapters offer a power save mode that reduces electrical consumption by 80%. (MSRP: $85.99)

JVC HA-S400 headphones with Carbon Nanotubes

HA-S400200Referred to as “cheap headphones with rich sound” by one reviewer, the JVC HA-S400 headphones are an inexpensive alternative to higher-end headphones like Beats by Dre. At under $30, they don’t offer all the features of more expensive options, but they do offer a good sound quality and a hinged headband that allows users to fold them flat for easier storage. The foam padding allows for moderate sound isolation. (MSRP: $28.99)

JBL Flip 2

JBL-FLIP200The JBL Flip 2 is a portable Bluetooth speaker that offers big sound, has NFC capability, can be used horizontally or vertically, and has speakerphone capabilities. The Flip 2 weighs less than one pound and can be easily carried in one hand. The soft rubber in the casing makes it easy to grip, adding to its portability. As the second generation Flip, JBL has improved the quality of sound from the original. It comes with a hard cover carrying case, a Micro-USB cable, and USB power adapter. (MSRP: $99.95)

Kingston DataTraveler SE9

Kingston-DataTraveler-SE9200The Kingston DataTraveler SE9 storage drive has a metal casing tough enough to hang out on your key chain and comes with a five-year warranty and free tech support. It’s smaller than a house key, capless, and supports Windows 8, Vista, XP & Mac. The SE9 features 4 different storage capacities, from 8GB to 64GB. Plus, you can’t beat the price: the SE9 starts at around $8, increasing to just $28.95 for the highest capacity model (current Amazon prices).