WiFi HiFi Holiday Gift Guide 2020: Special Gifts for Troubled Times

We’re back with the WiFi HiFi holiday gift guides! Each week, we’ll release a new themed gift guide, chocked-full of great tech gift ideas for different people on your list. This week, we’re looking at some thoughtful gifts in trying times.

As the pandemic rages on, so do our emotions dealing with isolation, mood swings, and a longing for being with people we love and faraway places. This is collection of holiday gift ideas that connect in a personal way with special people in your life, ranging from big and small-budget items.

Epson Perfection V850 Pro Photo Scanner and SureColor P700 13-inch Inkjet Photo Printer

Epson Perfection V850

I miss travel, don’t you? The planning, anticipation, flying above the clouds, arriving and the excitement of being somewhere far away from home. Trip memories fade quickly, especially the little details. I like to recapture those travel moments and discover new ones without leaving home, using some serious hardware like the Epson Perfection V850 Pro Photo Scanner ($1,499) and Epson SureColor P700 13-Inch Photo Printer ($1,095). Pricey? Yes, but at a fraction of a typical overseas adventure, it’s a good way to make use of your unused travel budget.  

So dig up your old prints, negatives, or slides and discover details you missed the first time you were there. Here are four examples.

The V850 scanner excels in shadow detail (it has 4.0 DMax capability) like the lower foreground on my super wide Parthenon (original negative) midnight moon photo. Also note the backlit detail of the crowd and columns in my telephoto fireball Parthenon photo below (original Kodachrome slide).

Parthenon fiireball sunset had a lot of shadow details

The V850 uses two lenses depending on what type of scanning you require, reflective or slides/negatives. It comes with double sets of every film size holder and slides so you can prepare mounting photos as the other one is being scanned.

Better scanners can scan more information and detail in old prints, slides and negatives

Highlights in photos like the same overexposed moon and the details in my cousin’s white dress from a 65-year-old album print come out, too.

10X blowup scan with the Epson Perfection V850 Pro Photo Scanner

Film cameras were able to capture an extraordinary amount of detail. The 10X zoomed black & white huge 1.4 Gigapixel equivalent negative scan, at 6,400 dots per inch, yields a close-up look at visitors on the Parthenon showing what was fashionable tourist attire 50 years ago (I’m a septuagenarian).

The Rome Coliseum with Epson SureColor P700 13 inch wide meters-long panorama on canvas

The P700 printer prints photos on any size sheets up to 13” wide, including meters-long panoramas on roll paper, most impressive in canvas texture. Epson has a  selection of uniquely textured photographic and fine art paper like Metallic Photo Paper Luster, Legacy Baryta II cotton fiber or a Signature Worthy Sample Pack for throwback photos you can share with special folks. What else distinguishes the P700 over the endless shelves of affordable printers? A 5,760 x 1,440 top resolution, sharper than the best smartphone screen, and 10-colour cartridges including three black variants for the all important shadow detail.   

Philips Sleep and Wake-up Light

Philips Sleep and Wake-up Light

Having a good night’s rest as we settle to a new way of life is important. The Philips Sleep and Wake-up Light (formerly known as Somneo) $220, helps you fall asleep relaxed and wake up refreshed simulating sunset and sunrise with multiple light changes and sound. Following one of the seven rhythms of light intensity or sound with eyes shut keeps me calm. The sunset simulation decreases the light intensity and hues. Optional set sound duration takes some getting used to for a guy who usually falls asleep clutching his smartphone, but the unique consistency dulls the edges of my thoughts finding it a pleasure to abandon my phone. Light starts increasing in intensity 30 minutes before your alarm time starting with red gradually changing to orange and then a bright yellow. By then the built-in natural sounds or your FM radio preset kicks in readying you for another day. Notice how there is no connection of the Sleep and Wake-up Light with your phone? I kinda like this analog separation when one prepares for sleep.

The Wall

The Wall by Fluidstance

Here’s a novel way to organize your thoughts and stay productive whether you are working from home or at your workplace. the Wall by Fluidstance is a sleek, portable tabletop whiteboard that fits anywhere. And it’s analog! With a 24” by 20” frame and 720 square inches of writeable space, the vertical whiteboard has a small footprint adding more space on your desk. It’s great for jotting down notes and ideas while cooking in the kitchen, or brainstorming strategic ideas from your office space. It’s magnetic, so you can also use it is as pin-up board with magnets to hold pictures, inspirational clippings, and more, making maximum use out of its mixed “analog” media capabilities.

Nomad USB Universal Cables

Nomad Universal Cable USB-A left and Universal Cable USB-C right

Do you have a tangled mess of USB cables? The Nomad USB Universal Kevlar-tough 1.5 meter cable ($64) with micro USB, USB Type-C, and Lightning connectors is long, flexible and will cut down on the number of USB cords in your life. The USB-C version ($61) with universal adapters is the fastest USB-C charging cable for your MacBook Pro, other USB-C, and micro USB devices. Quickly transition between USB-A, USB-C, and micro USB connectors to charge your devices.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G

The mighty S Pen makes the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra stand out from all conventional smartphones

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G ($2,250, outright with dizzying affordable options from all carriers) is the top flagship from the Korean electronics giant and is simply the best phone I’ve tried out this year, with state-of-the-art design, material, functionality and overall photo quality (important to me). Anything else less expensive will simply have fewer features.

It rivals the Huawei P40 Pro in lens range from ultra-wide to extreme telephone thanks to its 108MP camera. And off course smooth 8K video. It can shoot the best 10X zoom photos finally besting the P40 Pro and Motorola’s long gone Hasselblad True (Optical) Zoom add-on camera. But the piece de resistance is the S Pen, copied poorly by others and offering meaningful annual improvements over my first 2012 Note.

Bluetooth-enabled, the stylus runs for up to 24 hours on a Lithium Titanate Battery and offers 4,096 pressure levels. What all does this digital stylus do? With a pen tip diameter of 0.7 mm, it offers IP68 water resistance, Air actions from up to 10 meters away, Air view, Live message, Samsung Notes, Screen off memo, Smart select, Screen write, Translate, Bixby Vision, Glance, Magnify, PENUP, Coloring, AR Doodle, and Write on calendar. Check out my Galaxy Note 20 Ultra launch review.

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G

The Galaxy S20 FE billiant colours

I get dizzy with all the smartphone models Samsung has been launching, but one phone stands out with the right combination of top features for folks with a smaller budget. The Galaxy S20 FE 5G, and FE standing for fan edition ($1,179) has much of the same S20 series DNA. It comes in a wide choice of colours including Cloud Red, Cloud Orange, Cloud Lavender, Cloud Mint, Cloud Navy and Cloud White. It bumps its selfie camera to a pro-grade 32MP and boasts a decent 30X Space Zoom.

Sonos Move Smart Speaker


The Sonos Move portable speaker $499, has the same DNA as its Wi-Fi-based siblings with one big difference: it can go virtually anywhere, even if there is no Wi-Fi. Although it can be part of any number of Sonos WiFi connected home speakers, like pairing two for portable stereo, the Move can be on its own anywhere, streaming music via Bluetooth. It is a smart speaker too, being voice compatible so you can switch tracks or adjust volume hands-free from the shower or pool! The smartly designed charger also serves as a slim speaker base and the battery lasts up to 10 hours per charge.

Acer Swift 5

Acer Swift 5 with antimicrobial chassis and screen

Laptops come and go and darn it, the good ones just cost too much. The new Acer Swift 5 $1349, nicely balances performance and price and addresses today’s hostile environment, medically speaking. It features an antimicrobial chassis and 14” 1920×1080 Corning Gorilla Glass4 touch display screen. Weighing in at 1 kg, it’s 14.951 mm thin with an impressive 90% screen-to-body ratio. In my 3DMark tests it outruns competitors in its class which have dedicated graphics from Nvidia and AMD with its powerful Intel Iris Xe graphics and new (EVO/Tiger-Lake chipset) Intel 11th Gen Intel i5 Core 2.4 GHz Quad Core Processors and up to 17 hours of battery. It has a 512 GB SSD drive and 8GB RAM.

Telus Online Security

Woman using smart phone in cafe. hand holding smart phone white screen

Give the gift of online safety against cybercrime with Telus Online Security. Although most of us are aware of how to protect ourselves and others against COVID-19, only 18% of Canadians protect themselves against increasing identity theft according to Telus Online Security. With more online activity during the pandemic, 42% of Canadians have encountered some type of online security threat according to Statistics Canada.

You do not have to be a Telus customer to sign on. Last May, Telus partnered with NortonLifeLock to provide Canadians with national all-in-one protection for their devices, online privacy, personal information credit inquiry alerts, and more. Although Canadians can sign in directly with Norton for other services, that won’t include NortonLifeLock products, like identity theft protection, only available with with packages ranging from $6 – $30 per month.

Google Nest Audio

Nest Audio speakers pair in stereo mode for even better sound

By now you’ve heard about Google’s newest Nest Audio speakers ($130), which offer amazing sound quality, with well-balanced audio and rich bass, complemented by the clean look. If you think one Nest Audio speaker sounds good, then consider buying a pair for amazing stereo and save $25.

Google Nest Thermostat

Spending more time at home? Of course you are. The Nest Thermostat ($180) replaces its original sibling with a sleek slimmed down size and gorgeous curves. The energy-saving thermostat can be controlled from anywhere with the Google Home app. If you are gifting one, I suggest you include the Nest Thermostat Trim Kit ($20), as it will likely come in handy to cover previous installations, including the original Nest. Both come come in Snow, Charcoal, Sand, and Fog.

Alienware 34 Curved Gaming Monitor

Dell Alienware 34 inch curved gaming monitor

If your gonna spend a lot of time at home then go all out on the gorgeous sculptured 34” Alienware curved gaming monitor. On sale now for $1,300, it costs more than Dell’s regular line models but it’s armed with full colours from IPS Nano Color (98% DCI-P3) technology and a 2ms response time. Featuring a 1900R WQHD resolution and 21:9 display ratio, it’s a solid choice for a serious PC gamer on your list. 

Huawei FreeBuds Pro

New compact minimal design

The completely redesigned HUAWEI FreeBuds Pro ($269) have evolved into one of the nicest earphones I have tried to date. They are compact with a much reduced and less protruding control shaft with lots of slide and pinch gesture controls. The first true wireless stereo (TWS) earphones support Intelligent Dynamic Active Noise Cancellation to automatically adjust noise cancellation depending on your environment. Or, go manual if you want. They make music easy to listen to with clear highs and a defined bass you can feel. Checkout my earlier hands-on review for more details.

Lee Valley Leather Cord Keepers

Leather cord keepers at Lee Valley Tools

Finally an affordable gift suggestion handmade by an independent Canadian leather worker, a set of three cord keepers is $17 and it’ll be one of the nicest-looking ways to keep cords from getting tangled when not in use. Slits cut into the strap let you thread it on to a cord, and a button snap closure is used to secure the bundle. The leather and nickel-plated steel hardware stands up to the wear and tear of daily use, and will develop a pleasing patina over time. Supplied as a set of three 3″ long cord keepers, they come in assorted colours for colour-coding. If you know someone or a family with tons of electronic devices that can cause a clutter of cords, these will make perfect stocking stuffers.

Didn’t find what you were looking for? Check back as this gift guide will be updated through to the end of 2020, and check out more gift suggestions in our other Holiday Gift Guides.