2012 TECH GIFT GUIDE PART 2: Kuerig Vue single-serve coffee brewer, Dropcam HD, and more
Keurig Vue Brewer
Nowadays, most of us are always in a hurry, but we still like to have our coffee in the morning. One of the solutions that has come up in recent years to this dilemma is the single-cup coffee brewer. Among the leaders in this area has been Kuerig, whose machines started popping up a few years back and have continued to grow in popularity -- both for office and home use.
I recently tried out one of their newer models, the Kuerig Vue Brewing system, and found it to be a very positive experience overall. The way the system works is you get small packages of coffee, filter included, and place one into the machine. Hit the Brew button, and boom, you have an 8 ounce cup of coffee. (or tea, or hot cocoa, whichever you prefer).
As far as convenience and easy of use, you can’t really beat a machine like this. There are, of course, competing machines on the market, but the Kuerig models have the advantage of their name being out there for some time now.
The bottom line on whether something like this works you comes down to price.
The machine itself costs a little over $200, and the way the math works, you’ll spend about 75 cents per cup of coffee with this Vue machine when you buy the Keurig “V cups” that fit the machine, which are available in a wide variety of flavors. (Note, “K cups” from previous Kuerig machines won’t fit this one.)
If you are dropping $4 a day at Starbucks and want a less expensive alternative for your morning drink, the Vue system will probably be worth it to you. Even if you double up and make two in the morning, it’s much less than coffee chains are charging these days.
But if you’re used to buying a big tub of coffee and making a big old pot, the 75 cents per cup will be a bit of a price increase for your coffee use. Of course, this is aimed at people who just want a cup, not a pot, so the heavy coffee drinkers might not even consider something like this.
And as far as work use, it’s a nice thing to have out for customers waiting in the lobby, for example. (the first time I used one of these machines was at my dentist’s office, actually, while waiting for my wife.) That way you don’t have to brew a whole pot for your guests.
Not everyone needs this kind of speed and one-shot convenience in their coffee maker, but if you know someone in your family who does, the Kuerig Vue system could come in very handy for them this holiday season and beyond.
For more information, visit www.kuerig.com.
GOgroove Pal Bot
If you’re looking for a fun gift for the music fan, there’s something called the GOgroove Pal Bot.
What’s that, you ask?
Well, it’s a little speaker whose design is inspired by the green Android robot logo. It has a retractable cord in its back that you can pull out and plug into any device that plays music, such as your smartphone or tablet, or computer or mp3 player.
The sound isn’t huge and won’t fill up big areas, but it’ll do if you’re just listening at your desk or in a room in your house, for example.
It offers six hours of music play per charge, though the battery life is longer if music is played as lower volumes.
The eyes of the Pal Bot will let you know if it’s running low on battery life by turning red, signalling the need to charge it.
In the back of the Pal Bot, there is a volume dial, as well as an on/off (or rather, awake/asleep) switch.
The Pal Bot price varies depending where you buy it, but at Amazon.com it was as low as $19.99. To learn more about the GOgroove Pal Bot, visit www.accessorypower.com.
Of course, toys are a big part of holiday shopping, and I recently tried out a couple of them with my
1-year-old to see if they met her standards.
First, I tried the Alphabet Activity Cube from VTech. This is what I would call a great educational tool that your child will also have lots of fun with. There are 13 blocks with a letter on each side, so the whole alphabet is represented. A very cool feature is that on one side of the cube, you can place the letter blocks in a little slot and it will say the letter out loud, helping your child learn the alphabet.
There is also a row of pegs on top of the cube, where kids can insert the blocks and then remove them when the want to play with them again. The blocks can also be stacked on top of each other.
There is also a storage area where you can place the cubes when not in use so they don’t get lost (my daughter was kind enough to take to placing them back there herself at times).
Other features on the cube teach about cause and effect -- such as a pin maze, a shape sorter that leads to the storage area, sliders, turning gears, a mirror and more.
And In addition to the blocks, you get piano keys, a little telephone, and the usual array of buttons and keys that play all kind of musics, animal sounds, numbers and more. There is quite a bit for kids to experience here, and it will help them learn a lot over time.
Target age of the toy is 9 to 36 months, and cost is about $50, though you can find it online for closer to $40.
Visit www.vtechkids.com for more information.
Baby Einstein Discovering Music Activity Table
Another toy my daughter got to enjoy was the Baby Einstein Discovering Music Activity Table, which also costs about $40.
Aimed at children 6 months to 3 years, it’s a pretty basic machine at first glance, but upon further viewing it has a lot inside to offer.
The basic setup is that it’s a piano that kids can play, but also has other features like a drum station, and buttons to hear sounds from several other instruments. This type of toy exposes young kids to music at an early age, and that’s a good thing in m book. The piano keys light up, and a voice will count out numbers -- in either English, Spanish or French, giving you the opportunity to start your child on the road to knowing more than one language. My only concern with this toy is that it’s pretty light and easy to tip over. If you kid starts to do that, you can always remove it from the legs and make it a floor toy.
Visit babyeinstein.com for more information
There are many reasons to keep the next item on this list.
Maybe you’re a business owner who wants to see what’s going on when you’re not there.
Maybe you want to make sure your child care giver is doing their job properly.
Maybe you just want to have video calls with your family without ever making a phone call.
What product does this?
I’m talking about the Dropcam HD.
I recently tested one out, and it was very impressive.
Basically, this is a small camera, which works with your home’s wireless network to upload its feed to the Internet.
That means that on any computer or your iPhone or Android smartphone, you can open up an app or the website at dropcam.com, and see what’s going on wherever your camera is. It’s a live streaming feed of your home, business or anywhere else you’ve left the camera.
You can even record video, and view it whenever you like (though there are some monthly fees for this DVR feature).
Setup was a breeze, literally taking a few minutes. You just connect the camera to Wifi, create a Dropcam acccount, and then your camera is viewable whenever you want to see it, as long as it’s on of course. Even those folks who are terrible with technology won’t have an issue setting this camera up.
Images from the Dropcam are very clear, sound is impressive too, and the bottom line is that if you want your eyes on any place for any reason, the Dropcam will do that for you without a problem. You can keep an eye on your pets, your nanny, or anything else.
You can talk through your phone or computer and the voice will come through the Dropcam, which I tested out when I contacted my house through the Dropcam. I was able to see my family as I spoke to them, just as you would through something like a video call, straight from the Dropcam website or a phone app. You can also watch on your iPad.
If you leave your Dropcam HD on, it can also alert you when it detects motion. So you’ll know if someone’s in your house when they shouldn’t be. If you have some video shot on the Dropcam HD that you want to share with family, you can make the camera public and let them view it online.
The Dropcam HD retails for $149.
See www.dropcam.com for more information.
Matt Myftiu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MattMyftiu