Christmas is two days away
And you haven’t done any shopping yet. All is not lost. Well, it might be if you need to ship something since the holiday falls on a Sunday this year (2016). If you are looking locally for that last minute gift for that special tech fan in your life, fear not. There are still plenty of cheap and easy options that are sure to please anyone.
For the Gamer:
- No Man’s Sky – Probably one of the biggest games this year
- Destiny – Always a favorite for the online gaming set
- Battlefield 1 – The biggest war game of the year
- Grand Theft Auto – Always a favorite
- The Lego video games – for the younger gamers in your life
For the Media Consumer:
- Amazon Fire Stick – Great for streaming the latest movies and tv shows
- Google Chromecast – Great option for turning a less than smart TV into an entertainment powerhouse
- Amazon Fire Tablet – Perfect for streaming content or surfing the web. Seriously the best tablet deal right now
- Google DayDream VR – Virtual Reality is the hottest thing this year
- Google Home Wifi – One of the best routers on the market, perfect for handling streaming video throughout the house
For the Music Lover:
- Google Play Music – Access millions of songs with a $10/month subscription (Also 3 month free trial)
- Bluetooth Headphones – Take you music on the road without the wires. Tons of options at all price points
- Bluetooth Speakers – For when they want to share their tastes with the party
- Turn Table – Vinyl is making a comeback. There is something more to the music with the cracks and pops
- Car Stereo – Media only decks make it easy to blast tunes in the car. Most places include “free installation”
For the Gadget Geek:
- Tile Locators – Never lose your stuff again. Attach a tile and use the app to locate it
- Google Home AI – Your personal assistant without all the mess of dealing with a human
- Amazon Alexa – Like Google Home, but works great if they already have an Amazon Prime subscription
- Universal Remote – No one likes 15 remotes laying around, make life easier with one remote to rule them all
- Raspberry Pi – Super Small computer with millions of uses and options
Hopefully, this gets you started and gives you ideas beyond just the “hey I got you a gift card” which is not a bad gift either.
Happy Holidays from all of us here at Average Guy Tech! Looking forward to sharing 2017 with you all. Make sure you get the latest content to your inbox by signing up for our email list. I promise no spam and we won’t sell your email address to anyone.
Why pay monthly for something you can buy today?
The cable company, or whoever provides the internet to your house is more than happy to rent you an all-in-one modem/router. Hopefully, it at least has Wifi built in. This becomes an easy way to save a little cash every month since you can just buy the same type of device to replace your rental. Now, the provider will tell you that if you rent from them, you will get the latest and greatest model when it’s time to upgrade.
I have never seen that happen. Not saying it doesn’t, but I wouldn’t put a lot of faith in it.
So what is this magic box?
How does the modem/router manage to bring the internets out of the wall and into your house? Simple. Well not really, but I will try to break it down.
Most modern cable (again as in earlier articles – Cable = Broadband Provider) modems are a two in one device, it works as a modem and as the wifi router. Some of them even provide phone service for VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) if you choose to get the bundled phone/internet option. The modem does the actual decoding of the internet signal from the provider. The router part is the networking device that serves that signal out to your network, either wireless or wired.
Let’s focus on the modem piece first. This is the critical part of the puzzle if you are hoping to free yourself from the shackles of the monthly fee. All the major providers like Xfinity, WoW, and Charter run on what’s known as the DOCSIS 3.0 Standard. As always, check with your provider to make sure this is true. Then all you have to do is find a modem that is compatible with this standard and roll from there.
You can buy a stand alone modem that you will then connect to your own WiFi router, but there are a lot of good hybrid devices also. Let’s look at a few pros and cons here.
The Hybrid, no it doesn’t get better gas mileage
The hybrid device is what is getting pushed by the providers more and more. It is easy for them to set up at your house or business and when you call for troubleshooting the customer service people will know the information of the key piece of your network infrastructure.
These devices work well, again so long as you get one that is compliant with the cable standard. Second to that, you want to make sure you get one with the latest WiFi standard 802.11b/g/n and 802.11ac. This will ensure you have the best signal going out for your devices. Again, look to my WiFi article for more details. There I go into the pluses and minuses of dual band routers. I have been using a dual band and letting the router select the best one for the device, and it has been working great.
You probably also want a hybrid that has a couple of ethernet ports too. WiFi is great, but for devices that need more throughput, like a smart TV or anything else that is dedicated to pushing fullHD (1080p) video and higher should have a wired connection. The benefit of the hybrid for this application is that you have one single device to locate near the display. I keep my cable modem/router behind my TV.
Really anything in the “Surfboard” family of devices are considered to be the industry standard of cable modems.
The downside of having the all in one device is that you cannot locate the router portion to a better location should you need to. So what if that is your situation.
Separate but equal, different jobs, working together
There are a lot of stand-alone modems out there also. Again, anything with the SurfBoard name. This allows you to separate the tasks of decoding the internet signal and routing it to your network. Also, should your provider change their signal standard (rare) you only have to replace the modem. Now you will have to have a way to connect the router to the modem, this is normally done with a Cat-5 (ethernet) cable.
This will allow you to have the modem in one location and connect to a router in a more advantageous location. Again you will want a router that can run 802.11b/g/n and 802.11ac. If you are on a budget you can skip the 802.11ac (5Ghz) option.
There are tons of routers out there from $20-$500. Depending on your need there is a router for you. If you plan to serve a lot of files, push 4K video, have multiple devices gaming or file sharing, you will want to spend a little more to get some of the newer features.
There is a great write-up over at PC Magazine about the best routers and what features they have to offer. You can read it here.
The flexibility provided by buying your own router is great. You can locate it wherever you need to to have the best signal, you will have to connect it to the modem still. You can buy a router more suited to your needs, instead of the one size fits most routers included with your bundle.
You have to look at your needs before you decide to go hybrid or the separate route. Both setups have their advantages and disadvantages. It’s really up to you. Read my article on WiFi to get a better feeling. The bottom line is this, no matter which approach you take, it’s better than giving your provider more money. That is where we all win.