Rich Warren | Stuff stockings with these excellent products

Rich Warren | Stuff stockings with these excellent products

Stuff a stocking or two with these suggestions for a smile on Dec. 25 or one of the seven days of Hanukkah.

While a few companies caught up with Bose with noise-canceling headphones, none combine the array of attributes found in the Quiet Comfort 35, Series II, wireless Bluetooth headphones. While they cost almost as much as round-trip air fare between Chicago and New York, they're worth every penny of the $350 Bose asks for them.

I won't fly without them. While you can't make the coach seats larger, you can expand the silence around you. To save a few dollars, you can choose the wired version of the same headphones.

Numerous internet reviews proclaim that the new Nokia 7.1 smartphone may be the best bargain in phones. With a 5.84-inch HD screen, at $350, it incorporates 90 percent of the features and performance of the $700 and up flagship phones. It even includes a headphone jack. Find it at Amazon or Best Buy.

Rumors are flying through the internet that Google may release a budget version of its $800 Pixel 3 phone, but it won't arrive in time for Christmas.

If you prefer a tablet to a phone, Apple offers its basic 9.7-inch iPad for $329 with 32 GB of memory. Like with the Nokia phone, the basic iPad delivers about 90 percent of the performance of the iPad Pro for about half the price, although admittedly the entry iPad Pro comes with an 11-inch screen with Apple's liquid Retina display. Many users will never notice.

If $329 sounds too pricey, head over to Amazon, which offers its Fire HD10 tablet with a 10.1-inch screen for a mere $100. It provides about 80 percent of the performance of the iPad for less than one-third the price.

Its main drawback is that it's neither pure Android nor iOS, but rather uses Amazon's custom version of Android operating system without access to the Google Play Store. On the plus side it includes Alexa, works with Kindle books and offers multiple perks for Amazon Prime members. Not that long ago, a $100 tablet was pure junk, but the Fire HD10 is a serious product.

Speaking of tablets and e-readers, here's a relevant reader question: "Many years ago, a friend gifted me a Barnes & Noble Nook 1st Edition. I prefer paper books, but used the Nook sporadically and have added numerous books. This past June, Barnes & Noble notified me they would no longer support the Nook 1st Edition. Access would be via their reading apps. I have a laptop but would prefer a small (medium?) tablet to use as a reader. I have looked at tablet information, but I'm not sure how to proceed. My only takeaways are No. 1: I'm not an Apple person, so it needs to be an Android or Windows operating system; and No. 2: Get one with that a micro SD card can be added. I read your articles in The News-Gazette, and this morning the light bulb went off. Ask Rich for his opinion about tablets. I look forward to your comments."

The Amazon Fire HD10 may solve your problem. It runs most (but not all) Android apps, and it includes a slot for a micro HD card. I can't guarantee it will run the Barnes & Noble app. If a 10.1-inch screen is too large, Amazon makes an 8-inch version, the HD8 for $80.

As a general recommendation, stay away from the Nook as the future of Barnes & Noble may be uncertain. The new Amazon Kindle Paperwhite for $120 with advertising and somewhere around $150 without ads (Amazon currently lists that version as out of stock) received rave reviews from all sources. It surpasses the now discontinued Kindle Voyage, which cost $200. Even if you prefer paper books, it's hard to beat a Kindle when you travel.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. Email him at hifiguy@mchsi.com.

Topics (2):Internet, Technology
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