The Ultimate Geek Guide to Travel Tech 2018

The World’s Most Popular Podcast™ has the gadget guide for anyone looking to make their escape this holiday season. And a quick getaway to somewhere warm doesn’t mean you have to give your tech the cold shoulder. Here’s the Ultimate Geek Guide to Travel Tech 2018:

Nintendo Switch

The most sought-after video game console of 2018 is clearly the Nintendo Switch. And what’s neat about it is it works both as a home console and one while on-the-go. Dad wants to watch the game on the big screen TV? No problem. Pull the Nintendo Switch out of the HDMI connected charging dock and you’ve now got the most powerful handheld game machine on the market. Mom wants to sun somewhere warm? The Nintendo Switch travels well. Slide the brightly coloured Joy Con from the sides and flip the kickstand on the back of the console to rest it on the table. 

Extra Joy Con controllers allow up to four people to play together — which makes Super Mario Party an awesome post-dinner party (or poolside) game.  Games for the Nintendo Switch can be purchased in-store or through digital downloads. And the Nintendo Switch sports an industry standard memory card format that ensures you can always add more games.

Pros: Super portable, reasonably priced, 1,000 games

Cons: With a recommended age of 6-12, your teenaged twitch gamer may be stuck on PC gaming.

Price: $380, available at all major retailers

OMEN by HP laptop

If you or someone in your life needs high-powered PC-based gaming, HP’s OMEN is a good choice, and a bad omen for your competitors. Sporting the 8th generation Intel i7 2.2ghz processor and a GTX 1060 graphics card, OMEN is capable of powering today’s high end Virtual Reality headsets or your more traditional 2D shooter. 

The red backlit power button glows as you beat up baddies and shows WASD gamers some love with highlighted keys and dedicated functions.

A perfect gift for the gamer in your life, especially if it’s you.

Pros: Plenty of horsepower for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive Pro VR headsets as well as traditional games.

Cons: The incredibly solid build quality comes with a price in weight. 

Price: $1,700 at www.hp.ca

D-Link Full HD Outdoor Wi-Fi Camera

While you’re away, you’ll want to keep an eye on the house. That’s where D-Link’s DCS-8600LH has your back. Designed for extreme Canadian weather, the IP62 compliant camera can withstand up to -25 celsius without breaking a sweat. The home monitoring is done with a full HD 1080p camera with automatic day/night viewing, and sound and motion detection to alert you when someone approaches the house. You can even use the built-in two-way voice communication to let the Amazon guy know it’s okay to leave the package behind the planter. 

It also makes your smart home smarter. The D-Link Outdoor Wi-Fi camera is compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and the insanely great IFTTT (“If THIS, then THAT”) service that allows incompatible smart technology to talk to each other. 

You can record to the cloud via a mydlink account or to a microSD card.

Pros: Doesn’t require an annual fee to be useful, connects to all the major smart home technologies.

Cons: Not guaranteed to work in Iqaluit below -25.

Price: $199, Online and in stores in December

Goose

With the cost of a hospital visit in the United States as much as $16,000 a day, a couple of bucks for travel insurance is always a wise idea.

Goose wants to cover your tail feathers (ha-ha!) with it’s simple Android and iOS app that gives you up to $10,000,000 in insurance coverage with a few taps on your smartphone. You can literally sign up while waiting in line at the airport to take off your shoes and belt for the TSA. And anyone who downloads the app gets 10 bucks in insurance credit.

But perhaps the most important feature is one you hope you’ll never need: to make a claim. Goose is backed by one of the biggest insurance companies on the planet, it’s partner Industrial Alliance.

Pros: Super simple and inexpensive sign-up

Cons: You need a smartphone

Cost: As little as $4/day.

LG G7 One

Want an Android phone that can translate signs for you? If you’re headed abroad and worried about a language barrier, don’t panic: The LG G7 One is LG’s first premium Android One device — and Canada gets it first. It sports a flagship phone look without the price, and features Google Lens, the ability to point the camera at a sign and it will translate it. Point it at some artwork in a museum and it will tell you everything you wanted to know, without the annoying tour guide and the tourists that come with it. 

And it’s smartly secure, too: the LG G7 One includes monthly security updates for 3 years: twice as long as the average smartphone owner keeps their device. 

Pros: Can translate signs, no bloatware added to the Android One operating system

Cons: Pricing depends on your relationship with your carrier

Price: Talk to your carrier

Oral-B Genius 9600

I never thought a simple toothbrush needed an upgrade until now. Your smartphone isn’t the only device in your hand with a gyroscope and accelerometer chip anymore. The Oral-B Genius 9600 sports position detection technology that monitors where you are — and where you aren’t — brushing. And to protect both your teeth and gums, it is pressure sensitive. Find you wear out your toothbrush faster than your spouse? You’re probably brushing too hard. This smart toothbrush will warn you to back off and let its 3-dimension head movement do the hard work for you.

The free app keeps track of everything associated with brushing your teeth, and Oral-B even includes a mirror suction cup mount for your phone. 

And you can even charge your phone with the travel case!

Pros: can show you where you’re missing

Cons: Still won’t floss for you

Price: $290 on amazon.ca

After attending the Toronto Nikon Z Series launch event in September, G&B Segment Producer Christa Sampson had the opportunity to test drive a Z7 demo unit. She filed this report:

Despite the fact that Nikon’s mirrorless Z7 camera and available accessories are professional grade equipment, the technology and components are quite user friendly.

The demo kit included the following items:

  • Nikon Z7 with NIKKOR Z 24-70mm lens
  • NIKKOR Z 35mm lens
  • FTZ mount adapter
  • Nikon 24-120mm VR zoom lens
  • XQD 32GB memory card

Technical Disclaimer

Let me begin by saying that I’m an amateur photographer.  I know my way around the camera on my iPhone 7+ and I have decent Instagram skills.  My husband is the photographer in our household and the primary operator of our DSLR.  However, as I expand my horizons in the blogging world, taking photos with a proper camera has become more important.  Given my limited skills, I was a bit nervous to use this fancy camera.  My nerves gave way to excitement when I realized how easy it was to use.

Experience vs. Functionality

The auto-focus capabilities are flawless.  With the Z-mount lenses, all you have to do is press the shutter button halfway down and the lens zeros in on your subject.  Changing between lenses is simple, even when using the FTZ adapter.  The FTZ adapter allows you to use original Nikon F-mount lenses on the Z Series units.  Attaching the adapter is a minor step.  I’m sure that it wouldn’t be an issue for an experienced photographer who would switch between various lenses on a single shoot.

Although I’m no professional, I managed to capture some great photos.  Which begs the question: is it the camera itself or the photographer’s skills that make the picture?  I would venture that the answer is a little bit of both.  Take a look at these sample shots:

There is no way that I would have achieved the depth, true-to-life colour or contrast using the camera on my phone.  Sure, with online filters you can change the entire look of a picture taken with your phone.  But, these are raw, unedited photos.  Imagine what they would look like with enhancements.

WiFi Enabled

Social media platforms are an essential marketing tool for anyone who runs a business, especially those working in a creative field like photography.  With built-in WiFi on Nikon’s Z Series cameras, you can wirelessly download photos from your camera to your phone via SnapBridge.  The app is available from both the App Store and Google Play.  You can go from photo shoot to Instagram post in mere minutes.  I’m no tech wiz either, but using the SnapBridge app was, literally, a snap!

Screen shot of SnapBridge app on Christa’s phone

And the Oscar Goes To

Another remarkable feature of the Z7 is full frame video.  We’re not just talking about the HD output here – the Z7 shoots 4K cinematic-quality video. Check out the clarity of this short clip featuring my husband and son riding their bikes on our street.  This video doesn’t have the grainy, home-movie look that you get from using your phone or a basic video camera.

Overall Impressions

The Nikon Z7 mirrorless camera was a pleasure to use.  If you’re a regular Nikon user, the weight of the camera body itself will come as no surprise.  For someone like myself who has not previously used a Nikon camera, the heaviness took little getting used to.  Actually, the ergonomics of the Z7 are so comfortable that I barely noticed the weight.

The quality of both the photo and video output on the Z7 is so clear and life-like.  Also, there is definitely more intimacy in the overall photography experience when it is just you, the subject and a camera.  For someone whose primary camera is her phone, I enjoyed not having the distraction of notifications popping up when framing a photo.

Again, I am not a professional.  However, I do think that professional photographers and photography enthusiasts alike would relish the high-end capability of the Nikon Z7.  The Nikon Z7 is currently available through your local Nikon dealer or http://en.nikon.ca/index.page and is priced from $4,699.95 for the camera body.  Lenses and accessories are sold separately.

Disclosure
The items above were provided by a public relations firm at the request of the companies involved. They backed a big truck up full of money to get Michael to talk about these gadgets. He had one condition: he would veto anything he didn’t like. G&B policy is to not review items that suck because we’re rather lazy and would prefer to put our energy into things we do like. We hope you’re okay with Michael using his geek brain to put food on the table.
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