2016 Daniel's Favorite Things

Lots of people look to tech as their source of gift inspiration around this time of year, and I'm fine with that — I enjoy a good phone or connected doorbell with the rest of them. But I also encourage you to gift a great book, movie or, depending on your proclivity, coffee-making apparatus, to mix things up. Here are my favorite things from this year.

Google Pixel

No surprise here, but the best phone of the year is easily the Google Pixel. It's fast — faster than any Android phone before it — and stable. It's also smart, with plenty of special sauce from Google to make it just that much more enjoyable to use. It's the little things, like the smooth launch animations as you swipe up to reveal the app drawer, or the handy Moves gestures that get better with each release. And it's the amazing camera, that captures great photos in almost any situation. But mainly it's the always-latest software that I can rely on to be performant and secure.

From $649 Buy Now

Moto Z Play

The dark horse of 2016 for me, the Moto Z Play is an excellent device at $400 or any price. I love its no-BS software, and its better-than-expected camera, but I'm all in for its two-day battery life and Moto Mods extensibility, which brings even longer uptime, or an amazing speaker for parties or an awesome zoom camera, or, soon, even a Tango add-on.

$449 Buy Now

Fitbit Charge 2

I don't really wear a smartwatch anymore, mainly because the Fitbit Charge 2 does everything I need, and more. In addition to counting steps and automatically tracking my workouts and heart rate, it sends call and text notifications, and does so on an easy-to-read screen that lasts five days.

$149 Buy Now

Sonos Play:1

I love this thing. I use it every day, in my living room, bedroom and office. Yes, I have three — and that's OK, because when I want to fill the house with sound I group them together and dance around in my underwear. Sorry for that mental image.

$199 Buy Now

Chromecast Ultra

I use the Chromecast for everything, from playing music from my excellent TV speakers (slightly better quality than the Sonos Play:1 above) to streaming basketball games from the NBA app. I love its versatility, its ease of use, and how many apps support it. It's a really great protocol, and though I don't have a 4K television I know that my living room will grow into the "Ultra" part of the Chromecast Ultra.

$70 Buy Now

Nest Outdoor Cam

I live in a big city, and whether it's random people or random raccoons trying to get into my things, having a Nest Outdoor Cam pointing at the activity gives me peace of mind, and a history of what's happened when I'm not home — and when I am.

$186 Buy Now

Ring Wi-Fi Video Doorbell

The other essential piece of my connected home, Ring's connected doorbell, which alerts you when someone is by the front door and allows you to see and chat with the person on the other side, is absolutely incredible. A great app, inexpensive cloud subscription, and excellent video and audio quality, Ring has saved me from having to pick up a missed package at the post office more times than I can count.

From $195 Buy Now

Booq Saddle Pro laptop bag

I didn't expect to love this business-oriented laptop bag, but Booq creates products with such care and thoughtful precision, every pocket, pouch and zipper feels like it's there for a reason. I take it everywhere, mainly because the padded strap is comfortable and there is plenty of space for a laptop, tablet and all my stuff.

From $295 Buy Now

Aeropress Coffee Maker

What? You didn't think it would be all tech, did you? This is tangentially related to tech, in that I can only do my job by drinking my weight in coffee each day, and the Aeropress makes a great cuppa. Easy to pick up but difficult to master, Aeropress emulates espresso for a fraction of the price.

$30 Buy Now

Baratza Encore Coffee Grinder

If you're serious about coffee, you want need a great grinder — you're not buying pre-ground coffee, are you? — and the best deal in town is Baratza's Encore coffee grinder. Unless you're making espresso, this will give you the perfect grind every time, from filter to pourover to Aeropress.

$130 Buy Now

Google Daydream View

In my brief time with it, Google's Daydream View headset, and the Daydream platform in general, has proven to be the most accessible, and enjoyable, mobile VR experience I've had. From the 3D-friendly YouTube app to the excellent selection of Daydream-exclusive apps and games, there's something for everyone here, and it's well worth the relatively small investment if you have a Google Pixel.

$79 Buy Now

Amazon Tap

Yeah, the real Echo has voice control, but when you're always in a different place around the house like I am, the Tap proves far more useful. Now that Spotify works with Alexa, I'm able to stream music and podcasts with the touch of a button, and I couldn't be happier. Thinking of buying a second one because, you know, stairs.

$130 Buy Now