Life & Technology – 2GB 21st December, 2014

I can't believe it's almost Christmas! Only four days left to finish your shopping! In case you haven't, this week we've been taking a look at the best gadgets for Christmas.


Personally, I’m betting that wearable technology will be the number one stocking stuffer this year.


At the high end we’ve got gadgets we’ve talked a lot about this year, the LG G Watch R and the Moto 360 – the first two smartwatches to have circular faces. These will cost around $350, but are a great gift for someone you can never get in touch with. It’s pretty hard to ignore notifications when they’re on your wrist.


On the lower end of the price range, we have fitness trackers like the Fitbit Zip and the Jawbone Up Move, both of which are basic pedometers designed to track your steps through the day. These both cost under $100. 


Just be careful who you give a fitness tracker to, you don’t want them to get the wrong idea!


The iPad Air 2 is a great device, but it’s not the be all and end all when it comes to tablets.


One of our favourite Android tablets of the year is Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact. Retailing for around $500, the Z3 Tablet Compact is a thin, light tablet that’s also waterproof – perfect if you’re using it around the pool at summer. It’s also got a feature called PlayStation 4 Remote Play


In terms of a mid-end device, we’ve got the Toshiba Encore 2, which is a 10-inch Windows tablet that runs the full version of Windows and comes with a year’s subscription to Office 365. With a Bluetooth keyboard, it can easily be a laptop replacement.


And for just $99, there’s the HP 7 Plus, a cheap tablet that’s surprisingly decent. It doesn’t have Bluetooth, HDMI or GPS, the camera is awful, and the battery life is only about 4 hours long, but if you just want a quality, low-cost tablet for web browsing and the occasional game of Candy Crush Saga, the HP 7 Plus is worth taking a look at.


I’ve always liked the gift of music, and a gift card to a music streaming service like Spotify or Rdio is a great way to update it for the 21st century. These can be typically be purchased in amounts that equal 1 month, 3 months, half a year or a year of the service, and allow the recipient to listen to unlimited music on their phone, on their tablet or on the web for that period of time.


Of course, you also need something to listen to music through; headphones. One of our favourite pairs of in-ear, no-thrills headphones is the Senheisser CX300-II, a fairly simple pair that sound great, are comfortable to wear and will set you back about $75.


In terms of over-ear headphones, the Plantronics BackBeat Pro wireless noise-cancelling headphones are some of the best we’ve used all year, and one of the few products we’ve given 5 stars to on CyberShack. They’re not audiophile quality, but still sound great, the noise-cancellation is excellent and they have a massive battery life. These cost around $300.


If you’re looking for something a bit more old school, have a look at the Audio Technica LP120 USB turntable. Not only is it a great, fully featured turntable with a built in pre-amp, the LP120 makes it easy to digify your vinyl collection.


If you need more gift ideas check out Christmas Gift Guides on CyberShack. We've got three at the moment, gadgets under $100, gadgets under $300 and gadgets under $1000.


The holiday period is great for travel, so its not surprising that Vodafone have a new international roaming offering. I got in touch with Stephen Smyth, Vodafone's General Manager of Postpaid to learn a bit more about what the telco are doing. New Vodafone customers subscribing to plans billed at $100 or more per month are now eligible for free global roaming when they travel; traditionally they'd have to pay a very reasonable $5 per day. Existing customers can take advantage of this offer by upgrading their plan. Upgrading a plan will not extend the contract length. 


I also had a chat with representatives of two very cool crowd-funded projects this week.


The first was Luke Trevitt, the founder of Flint, a Sydney-based start-up. Flintu is planning to manufacture a nifty gadget called Plan V. Plan V is a key ring that can turn into a smartphone charger. Flipping it open reveals the space for a 9-volt battery, which can be locked in and used to give your phone a quick top up. Luke told me that the idea to use a 9-volt battery came about because they are so commonly available: if your phone really needs a top up, you can easily buy one. Plan V is being funded through Kickstarter, and versions for iPhone and Android devices are being manufactured. You can take a look at the Plan V Kickstarter here


The second was Marcel Pal, the CEO and co-founder of Brewie. Brewie has been working on what it calls the first fully automated brewery, also called Brewie. The self-titled gadget is essentially a giant box for home-brewing beer that is activated with the push of the button. You pop the ingredients in, then can pick from one of 200 pre-loaded receipes or create your own through altering various parameters. Considering my only experience with home-brewing didn't quite go to plan, I'm very interested to give Brewie a go! You can take a look at the Brewie Indiegogo here.