It’s that time of the year again, so I am sharing my recommendations for all gadget lovers of the world to be happy this holiday season!
Notebook: Dell XPS 15 9550
For many years I used the Sony Vaio Pro 13. It was the lightest 13” notebook by far, weighing an incredible 2.34 pounds despite having a touch screen. It was an amazing notebook with an amazing battery life. However, given how much time I spent traveling I started longing for a bigger screen. Last year I switched to the MSI GS60 Ghost Pro. It’s an incredibly light 4.2 pounds. It has a super powerful NVIDIA GTX 970 and the raided SSD drives are insanely fast. Its real downside was that its battery life was really limited and was still bigger than I would prefer.
The Microsoft Surface Book has been garnering a lot of attention of late. It’s an amazing tablet and notebook computer and a great choice, but it did not quite fit my needs. It weighs 3.34 pounds despite only being 13.5”. It’s also unclear what discrete NVIDIA chip they offer.
The new Dell XPS15 is amazing. It’s the world’s smallest 15” laptop. It has a Skylake 6th generation Core i7 processor, an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M, an amazing battery life and weighs only 3.9 pounds. I bought the $1,699 version with 512Gb SSD and 16Gb of Ram. Note that I would NOT recommend getting the 4K monitor as it’s too small to see text in that resolution on a 15” screen, it increases the weight to 4.4 pounds and decreases the battery life.
Game Console: Xbox One
Last year I recommended not buying a new console because there were no new great games that came out that made them must buy devices. However, if you had not played the best last generation games, I recommended buying a PS4 playing the remastered versions of those games: Grand Theft Auto V, Tomb Raider, The Last of Us and Drake Unchartered Collection. If you have not played those games, I would still recommend buying a PS4 and playing those games.
With the latest software update on the Xbox One, the interface is simplified and the graphics quality and speed are improved, though the PS4 remains a bit better on both fronts. The reason I am recommending the Xbox One this year though are the Xbox One exclusives available this holiday season, especially Rise of the Tomb Raider & Halo 5.
Note that I will probably recommend also buying a PS4 once Drake Uncharted 4 comes out 🙂
Video Games: Rise of the Tomb Raider, Halo 5 and Company of Heroes 2
I loved the Tomb Raider reboot in 2013 and the sequel that just game out is even better. It’s the best third person adventure game I ever played. It’s extraordinarily playable, even more so than The Last of Us and Drake Unchartered, and has extraordinary graphics.
The world is huge and rewards exploring. Combat is superb with a staggering variety of options to choose from. The crafting system is exceling. Even on the hardest mode I felt it was a bit easy, so I would recommend playing at that difficulty level.
If you like third person action adventure games, this is a no brainer. Buy this game!
I have to admit I finally got tired of playing the annual new release of Call of Duty and found Call of Duty: Black Ops3 underwhelming. Ultimately it felt liked too much of the same. Halo 5 is now my shooter of choice and has the most fun multiplayer of all FPS games!
On the PC, I am still playing Company of Heroes 2. I am really pining for a rich and complex RTS like Rise of Nations or Age of Empires, ideally one that mixes the tactical unit control of Company of Heroes with the strategic depth of those games (read: Let’s reinvent PC gaming!).
It does not have huge improvements over its predecessor, but it’s gorgeous and I love the game play. Note that I exclusively play it online 2 on 2 or 3 on 3, which I find to be most challenging and rewarding. I don’t typically play the campaign in strategy games as the AI is never challenging enough, unless it cheats. Also the strategy used to defeat the AI is rarely useful online.
Router: Asus RT-AC87U
This is the best router on the market. It’s superfast and the longest usable range of any router I ever played with. It’s also very easy to setup.
e-Reader: Kindle Voyage
The Kindle Voyage is the best e-reader ever. It’s Amazon’s lightest touchscreen model ever, with the best resolution and contrast to date, better built-in lighting, a flush glass front and dedicated page-turn buttons.
At $199, it’s also Amazon’s most expensive Kindle ever. It might be overkill for most. I read over 50 books a year so it’s totally worth it for me to have a fast Kindle. If you only read a few books a year, you are probably better served by the new Paperwhite Kindle now has the same 300 ppi display and is an amazing e-reader and a much better deal at $119.
Regardless of which Kindle you get, I would not get the 3G. I never use it as I always have many books I am waiting to read on the device. Worse comes to worse you can just turn your phone into a hotspot to download whatever book you need.