The couch potato gift guide: Top tech & entertainment toys

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Suggesting gifts for the couch potato in our lives feels different in 2021, given many of us are still working from home and likely spending much more time on the sofa than normal. That said, there are still plenty of top-quality products out there to help make extended periods at home more enjoyable.

There are video game consoles plus smart home entertainment devices in the form of projectors, surround sound systems, smart lighting, streaming boxes and more. We’ve even included a wireless surround system and a robotic vacuum cleaner that not only cleans your floors, but also uses an embedded camera to act as a roving security bot when you’re away from home.

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Note that prices are accurate as of publication. 

Enclave Audio CineHome II Wireless Home Theatre System –$1,099.98

One thing a couch potato doesn’t like to do is hard work. Setting up a wired surround system for your home theatre can be challenging. Enclave has a wireless surround system called Enclave Audio CineHome II Wireless Home Theatre System. This 5.1 surround sound system works exclusively on a wireless connection to support surround sound at a high level without any wiring. It’s easy to set up and can support Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Digital, DTS Digital Surround and PCM. It retails for $1,099.98 on the company’s website and Amazon.

Enclave Cinehome

Xbox Series S – $299

At just $299, it is hard not to recommend the Xbox Series S as the perfect holiday gift. Not only is it significantly cheaper than the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 despite still playing next-generation games, it is also more readily available than the sold-out alternatives.

It doesn’t play games natively in 4K resolution, but it upscales content, costs $200 less than its Series X bigger brother and is considerably more compact, too. As well as playing Xbox games new and old, the Series S can double as a fully-fledged media streamer, with access to 4K content from Netflix, Amazon and others (although Apple TV is missing from all game consoles).

If your budget can stretch further (and you can find one in stock), the more powerful Xbox Series X is also available, but costs $499. 

Xbox Series S

PlayStation 5 – $399

If your loved one is in the PlayStation camp instead of Xbox, then good news: Stores are restocking the PS5 for the holidays. It is more expensive than the Xbox, with the PS5 starting at $400 for the digital-only model without a disc drive. The PS5 with a disc drive is $500.

PlayStation 5

Roku Streaming Stick 4K – $49.99

Roku’s new streaming media device is called Roku Streaming Stick 4K. It features the Roku Voice Remote Pro for users looking to upgrade their streaming experience with a rechargeable, hands-free voice remote. 

This new Roku device is 30% faster than previous models and supports Dolby Vision, HDR10+ and has a redesigned long-range Wi-Fi receiver that can deliver up to 2x faster Wi-Fi speeds. It works with both Alexa and Google Assistant-enabled devices. You can use Apple AirPlay 2 to stream and control content directly from your iPhone, iPad or Mac. And if you have Apple HomeKit setup, you can ask Siri to control your Roku devices. 

Roku’s new 4k media streaming device comes in two versions: Roku Streaming Stick 4K and 4K+. The Roku 4K costs $49.99 and 4K+ is $69.99. Note: Roku Streaming Stick 4K+ comes with the new Roku Voice Remote Pro which features TV controls, personal shortcut buttons, private listening, hands-free and push-to-talk Roku voice support. Either of these devices will make a great holiday gift for your couch potato friend or family member.

Roku Streaming Stick 4k

Philips Hue Play light bars – $79.99

Smart lighting is a great way to improve your TV and entertainment area. We have previously recommended attaching an LED light strip to the back of your TV, but a new alternative from the Philips Hue portfolio is the Play light bars.

These can stand up vertically, lay horizontally or attach to the back of your TV. They then cast an attraction puddle of light onto the wall behind and to the side of your TV, creating the perfect atmosphere for movie nights, gaming sessions and box set binges.

If you have a larger budget, add in the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box (Read the GearBrain review here) to have the lights change color to match whatever is on the TV.

Philips Hue Sync Box

Philips Hue Play Gradient Lightstrips – $230 (requires Sync Box)

If you have a larger budget, then the Hue range also offers the new Play Gradient Lightstrip. This is designed specifically to fit the back of a television, then hook up to the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box and adjust to match the colors on-screen. This is the first Hue light strip capable of showing several colors at once instead of just one at a time, creating a far more immersive experience.

It isn’t cheap though, as the strip retails from $230 (for a 55-inch TV) and requires the $230 Sync Box to function. You can read the GearBrain review here.

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Skullcandy Crusher ANC Noise Canceling Wireless Headphones – $319.99

Skullcandy’s latest pair of wireless headphones is their Crusher ANC, which features a personal system that makes your music sound noticeably different. They come with their own case, noise-canceling feature, a sound profile tool to improve your sound quality and are wireless. They are the perfect gift for sitting around on a couch listening to music. Read the full GearBrain review here.

Skullcandy Crusher ANC wireless headphones retail for $319.99 but are available for less on Amazon, Best Buy and other consumer electronics stores.

Skullcandy headphones

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K – $50

There are a lot of options when it comes to streaming sticks and set-top boxes. At $50, the Fire TV Stick 4K by Amazon is great value as it has 4K resolution, Dolby Vision and Alexa built into the remote. That way, you can press a button and ask Alexa to find something to watch, then control your TV with voice commands.

The Fire Stick gives access to Amazon Prime Video, plus HBO, Hulu, Netflix, Sling, ESPN, YouTube, Disney+, Apple TV and more. Amazon claims there are 500,000 movies and TV episodes to watch in all. Having Alexa means you can also use the remote to control any compatible smart home devices and ask the assistant to show video feeds from security cameras on your TV.

Fire Stick 4K

Apple TV 4K (2nd Gen) – $179

Another great streaming option is the Apple TV 4K (2nd Gen). It’s more expensive than most at $179, but it is one of very few to offer both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, ensuring you get access to the most quality movies and TV money can buy. The Apple TV also plays games downloaded from the AppStore and acts as a hub for the company’s HomeKit smart home system.

For the holiday season, we are starting to see deals on the original Apple TV 4K. We found Best Buy selling Apple TV 4K (1st Gen) 32GB for $129.99 and $179.99 for 64GB. The biggest difference between 1st Gen and 2nd Gen is the remotes and wireless connections. The 2ndGen comes with the new Siri Remote and works on Wi-Fi 6 connection and Bluetooth 5.0 connections. (You can learn more about the differences between Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K here.)

Apple TV

Google Nest Mini – $49

If your couch potato pal is yet to invest in a smart home, then the Google Nest Mini smart speaker is the perfect place to get started. It retails for $49 but is on sale now for just $24.99. This mini smart speaker gives you full access to the Google Assistant, which you can speak to for music or the radio, read out news headlines and weather forecasts, look up directions and local businesses, and ask Google just about anything.

The Nest Mini also taps into the Google Home ecosystem, so can be used to control a huge range of smart home devices by other manufacturers, including smart plugs, lights, thermostats, locks, cameras and much more. You can even ask it to order takeout, but we’re afraid collecting food from the front door isn’t yet possible.

Google Home Mini

Trifo Max Home Surveillance Robot Vacuum – $400

A bit of a left-field suggestion, but one we think fits the bill well. This robotic vacuum cleaner works like most others, diligently driving itself around your home, plotting a route around the furniture and cleaning the floors. But unlike most others, it also has an integrated security camera.

That way, when you do finally leave the sofa and head out for more Netflix binge supplies, the Trifo can be set to clean up the chip crumbs and act as a roving security guard. It will alert you via a smartphone app when motion (such as an intruder) is detected, and there’s a microphone and speaker for two-way audio. You can find it at Walmart. Read the GearBrain review here.

Trifo robot vacuum

Check out our smart home compatibility checker to see the other compatible products that work with, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa enabled devices.

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This article originally appeared on GearBrain.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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14 holiday gift ideas for people who hate gifts

14 holiday gift ideas for people who hate gifts

Most of us end up giving tangible presents to family and friends, especially during the holidays. Wrapped in paper and bows, gifts seem to be an immovable fixture of the holiday season.

If you have a millennial or GenXer in your life, then you may have discovered that buying gifts may not be your best option. These days it’s all about collecting “experiences.”

Younger generations tend to place less value on owning things. Think about it. The most successful retailer in America right now, Amazon, has no stores. The largest transportation service, Uber, doesn’t own any vehicles, and the most popular place for people to stay while traveling, Airbnb, doesn’t own any hotels.

Younger generations are also increasingly living in rentals instead of owning houses. And with the rise of Marie Kondo and the minimalist aesthetic, people are decluttering their lives rather than acquiring new things.

All of this can make getting gifts for your children and grandchildren a daunting proposition. You may feel that buying an “experience” is a cop out. But, according to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, giving an experience as a gift instead of a thing “forges stronger bonds between people.”

With that in mind we have put together a list of fantastic experiences you can gift to your friends, family, and little ones this holiday season.

These gifts may not fit in a stocking, but they will create memories that can last for a lifetime, the gift that keeps on giving if you will.

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Give the gift of the great outdoors. An annual National Parks pass costs $80. This covers entry for two people for 12 months into any of the 2,000 federal recreation sites including the 58 National Parks, which span over 84 million acres.

If your loved one is in the Military, the pass is free, and if you are giving this as a gift to a Senior (defined by the parks as some over over 62) it is $80 for a lifetime pass and $10 for an annual pass. Go explore.

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Escape rooms are wildly popular right now. These experiences are like video games brought to life. An escape room is a live action adventure game where you and your team are placed in a themed room and must solve clues and puzzles in an hour in order to escape.

Clues are hidden under rugs, secret codes are written in books and the tasks requires teamwork and skill to complete.

To find a local escape room use a service like Google or Yelp to locate one in your area, and you can also read the reviews to make sure you find the best theme to fit the interests of your recipients.

Some themes include; criminal investigations, escaping zombies, rescue missions and even something as innocent as cake baking! Great for a day of family fun.

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You could of course buy tickets for a family trip to the circus, but why only watch when you could take part? Circus classes have been hugely popular in the fitness world for a number of years now and they appeal to both adults and children.

Most circus schools offer a variety of classes in disciplines such as; trapeze, silks, juggling, stilt walking and tightrope. If you’re not sure which class to invest in, most schools also offer a sampler class. This class, or series of classes, usually includes a little of everything so that your recipient can sample the many different skills it takes to be a circus performer. Perfect for adults or kids – together or separately. Clown shoes and teeny-tiny car not included.

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Most of us have done scavenger hunts as kids. I remember an epic one my dad created for my 9th birthday which ended with us literally digging up a box of treasure in the yard. The fact that I can still remember it is testimony to the fun a scavenger hunt can be.

For this gift you can purchase a professional hunt here that takes you all around your local city or you could even create your own. Great for smaller children, a scavenger hunt can take many forms and even end with a little prize or toy.

Don’t worry too much about the prize though, I don’t remember what my dad put in that treasure chest, but I do remember the fun we had trying to find it.

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Spa days were once for “ladies who lunch” but these days spas are for everyone. In many cities, spas are now free standing establishments not merely sequestered in fancy hotels. Korean day-spas for example, can be found in many major cities all over the US and they provide a spa experience at a very reasonable price.

Treatments often included in day-spa packages include, saunas, steam rooms, salt rooms, mineral baths, with massage treatments available for an additional cost. The spas usually include a place to have lunch and often a rooftop deck to relax on too.

Turkish hammams offer a similar experience. Great for mothers and daughters.

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While we’re on the topic of wellness, why not consider gifting a stressed-out family member a yoga retreat for the post-holiday season?

A yoga retreat promises to relax body, mind, and soul by taking the practice of yoga and meditation in a beautiful, natural setting. A retreat can allow you to reset, connect with nature and feel a sense of rejuvenation, health, and happiness. Who wouldn’t want that? One of our favorites is Kripalu in Massachusetts, but many other are available.

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Immersive theater differs from traditional theater by removing the stage and immersing audiences within the performance itself. Often, this is accomplished by the use of a specific location, allowing audiences to explore the various sets and converse with the actors.

Shows take places in venues that typically are not traditional theater spaces, old hotels have been used in shows, as have office buildings and even an abandoned psychiatric hospital.

This type of theatrical experience is best enjoyed with a friend or family member as you can explore together, or have you own adventure and compare notes later. Immersive theater companies are located throughout the States and many of them tour too.

A great one to catch if you can is the British group Punchdrunk Theatre Co. who actually created the genre, they often tour the US and have an ongoing collaboration with St Anne’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, NY. A cool and unusual gift.

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I recently heard a child refer to an aquarium as “the liquid zoo” and it was too good not to share here. Kids love aquariums, and with new exhibits opening regularly, it pays to have a pass. What a sweet gift to give to a child who loves animals.

According to USA Today the top aquarium in the country is the Monterey Bay Aquarium, so if you’re based in that neck of the woods I’d say a season pass is a must.

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With the global success of dance shows such as Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance, ballroom and latin dance classes are making a huge comeback.

Unlike ballet, ballroom and latin dancing is incredibly sociable and you’ll find lots of newcomers in the classes. Check out your local schools to find the right class for your friends or family.

If you’re looking for another form of dance to try why not give Brazilian Zouk a shot? Brazilian Zouk is a partner dance that became popular in the 90’s and evolved from the dance known as the Lambada. Improvisation plays a large role in this dance style so it’s perfect for beginners.

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Home economics used to feature heavily in schools, but these days it’s almost non-existent. A cooking class can set up a youngster with skills for life, as well as being a fun day spent whipping up treats.

If you have a friend who is a lover of The Great British Baking Show, maybe look for a cake decorating class. Other options include pasta-making, Indian cookery, and even sushi classes.

The options are endless and, if you’re lucky, they may bring around the fruits of their labor for you to sample!

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Traveling is one of the most rewarding experiences, but it can be incredibly expensive. Consider gifting a loved one vouchers for a flight or hotel (or both) that they can use at their leisure.

While you may not cover the cost of the entire vacation, you can make an out of reach destinations more manageable. Hotel vouchers can even be used for weekend getaways.

Combine this voucher with the promise of babysitting and you’ll have some very happy and grateful kids. This gift is also great as a wedding present.

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This unusual hobby is a great form of exercise and also a perfect kid’s party idea. You can gift a class pass or even purchase a party. It’s pretty fun for the grown-ups too, not to mention it’s one hell of a workout combing strength and cardio.

Climbing gyms have been popping up all over the country. Get on Google to find your local indoor rock climbing center.

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Even though physical gifts may not be right for your children or grandchildren, gifts are a great way to give back to your community. Instead of exchanging presents with your family, pool your resources and spend an afternoon together creating gift baskets for local charities and shelters.

Women’s refuges constantly need donations. Before you create your baskets call the shelter to ask about their donation policies but, commonly requested items include, diapers, feminine hygiene products, books, transportations passes, old cell phones and toiletries.

You can spend time with your family and know you are helping another family to have some comfort.

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One of the most precious gifts we can give another person is our time. A fun way to offer this is to create a book of love coupons. Styled like a traditional coupon book, you can label each one with things to do together.

For example “baking cookies with grandma,” or “a trip to the park” or “a night’s baby-sitting.” The recipient can use these whenever they like, all they need to do is present you with the voucher and pick a date.

Be creative and you may even find your social calendar is filled up before the end of January.

Have a wonderful holiday season this year and enjoy creating memories together, and being present – that’s the real gift.

This article originally appeared on Considerable.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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Featured Image Credit: manaemedia / istockphoto.

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