Category Archives: Holiday Gift Guide

Last Minute Holiday Gift Ideas

Epson EcoTank ET-2850 is Family Print Ready

The EcoTank ET-2850 Wireless Colour All-in-One Cartridge-Free Supertank Printer for $400 is a gift that will outlive most, especially toys. It allows kids of all ages to let their imaginations run wild with printing projects. With up to 2 years printing with Epson’s exclusive EcoFitin ink bottles in the box, the equivalent of 90 traditional cartridges saves you 90% over ink costs using traditional cartridges. Kids can fully immerse themselves in any printing activities without the fear of running out of ink or their allowance! From transforming basic cut-outs into detailed decorations, creating picture collages for gallery walls or stencils for DIY tote bags, they won’t run out of creativity. The ET-2850 has impressive print quality producing sharp text, colour photos and graphics on virtually any paper type. Plus, if the kids are tech savvy, they can voice command printing or easily print from their smart device with the intuitive Epson Smart Panel App. Compared to its older sibling model theET-2850 is quieter and has a larger 1.4” colour display for navigating manus easier. It also has auto two-sided printing saving on paper and a high resolution scanner for copying and printing old album photos. Parents will like the extended two-year warranty with registration.  

Ninja Blast Portable Blender

The battery armed  Ninja Blast Portable Blender  is an ideal gift for folks who are on the go. It’s an ice-crunching high-speed blending power with a cordless, hand-held design. A large capacity 18-oz. vessel is perfect for smoothies, protein shakes, and frozen drinks. Ninja’s BlastBlade Assembly is easy to maintain – a 30-second blend with rinsing water and a drop of dish soap is all you need. But its easy to disassemble and dishwater safe. The built-in battery housing in the bottom of the non-slip case is chargeable via the included USB-C cable. The one-handed, easy-open sip lid and sturdy hinged carrying handle make drinking your favourite blends easier than ever. Think of traveling and quickly picking fresh fruits and vegetables on the way to the airport or hotel ready to blend at last minutes notice. The ribbed glass vessel creates a vortex for the durable, stainless steel BlastBlade stainless steel blade blasts through ice and frozen ingredients. One full two-hour charge gives you about 15 blends . It comes in four fresh colours. For safety, the Ninja Blast has separate power and blend buttons to prevent unintentional blending.  

Helight Sleep For a Good Night’s Rest

Most folks are aware of seasonal SAD light therapy energizing you during long dark winter nights with blue light. Say hello, rather “goodnight” to Helight Sleep which improves sleep by using a special red light frequency of 630 nanometers signaling the end of day to the brain encouraging production of melatonin. The new sleep technology is gaining traction from NASA research and multiple vendours. It’s sleep cycle starts with the bright red light on for 14 minutes, then gradually dimming to off in the remaining 14 minutes. It works best when used in the dark with no TV or smartphone nearby. I have been using it for the past two weeks and have noticed a difference looking forward to a good night’s rest sans my trusty smartphone. I turn it on by my night table, get into my most comfortable position and close my eyes. No worries, the light penetrates through your eye lids. Helight, a small Canadian family business, claims 95% of the first 50,000 customers kept the device after the now 60-day trial. It comes with a USB charging cable that works off computer USB ports or phone wall chargers.

Philips Sonicare 4100

The very affordable  Philips Sonicare 4100 $60, is a smart electric toothbrush that cleans teeth effectively removing uo to 7x more plaque than a manual toothbrush. Using new BrushSync technology that detects and synchronizes the smart brush head to the handle, it pushes toothpaste bubbles between the teeth for hard-to-get-to spots.  it also tracks and reminds to you when to replace your brush head, for an effective clean every time. Pressure Sensors let you know when you’re brushing too hard, to protect your teeth and gums. An easy-start program eases you into brushing with Sonicare, by gradually building-up the brushing power over time.

Deco BE95 from TP-Link

Put this under the ultimate tech gift for Wi-Fi starved homes. The next-gen Deco BE95 WiFi 7 from TP-Link whole home network system costs a whooping $1,700 for the two-unit kit but it delivers unheard of performance speeds between connected devices and Internet in a two-story home. For tech geeks, here are the stats:  Combined speed of 33 Gbps: 11,520Mbps on two 6GHz bands, 8,640Mbps on the 5GHz band, and 1,148Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. What does this mean? Now, your Wi-Fi connected home for your fastest data-thirsty devices will be as fast as your Internet cable service is for your desktop. Streaming and downloading other data will be at it’s fastest. And that with little interruption or throttling because the Deco BE95 is designed for simultaneous data transmissions. It’s faster than 5G smartphones top 20 Gbps connection speed in comparison to the 33 Gbps combined performance of the BE95 Wi-Fi 7. Basically, the faster the Internet connection from fiber optic connected Internet providers, this Wi-Fi 7 system will be able to handle and pass on the speed benefits beyond your desktop. There’s more. The innovative 6GHz band ensures a pristine connection free from the interference of other legacy (slower) devices at home. The extra trio of 320MHz channels enable multiple high-speed transmissions simultaneously. This means different legacy devices will work in a separate ban not affecting your faster connected devices. Installation is non-technical with the Deco smartphone app.  Follow the clear instructions for the first Ethernet connected Deco BE95 unit and the second Wi-Fi 7 unit will be discovered and added on automatically. In my case it worked with new and old smart Nest and Eco Bee thermostats, new and 11-year-old laptops (updated Aspire S7) three generations of Sonos speakers and my three Ring Alarm external units.

Huawei Freebuds Pro 3

The premium Huawei  Freebuds Pro 3, is packed with impressive technology that delivers. The Ultra-Hearing Dual Drivers including an 11 mm ultra-mag bass driver that seems to go through your bones and with digital cross-over technology, the treble sound can soar to 48 kHz3 or drop all the way to 14 Hz. HUAWEI FreeBuds Pro 3 for $299 supports the L2HC 2.04 and LDAC codecs, and is certified by both HWA and Hi-Res Audio Wireless to deliver high-resolution audio. The triple adaptive EQ algorithm keeps every note, tone, and tune true-to-life. The algorithm detects volume level, ear canal shape, and wearing status in real time, and applies the optimal sound level and EQ settings on the go. Distraction-Free Calling with Huawei’s Pure Voice 2.01 does a commendable job when taking or receiving voice or video calls, including a 80% improvement on wind noise cancellation over the previous model, even when you are on a bike. A redesigned bone conduction voice pick-up (VPU) microphone that stays closely fixed to your ears adds to the bud’s effective Active Noise Cancellation( ANC). Three additional microphones form a 4-mic system for impressive ANC. I tested this pair on a recent flight with ANC on completely removed the cabin noise. In a crowded restaurant it was second to Apple. Fully charged, the buds run for 6.5 hours with ANC off or 4.5 hours with ANC on. The included case, delivers 31 hours keeping the buds constantly topped off, or 22 hours with ANC on. Connect to two devices at the same time, and switch audio even between iOS and Android devices without having to repeatedly pair and disconnect. A much improved groove design to pinch or tap ten settings on each bud and IP54 dust and splash resistance impress.


The HUAWEI WATCH GT 4 is loaded with many new features but the number one outstanding feature, a signature of the Huawei watch line if you wish, is it’s ability to run for up to two weeks with one charge. And that is with a few metrics still left on.

Heath management features:

  • Sleep habits, including Sleep Breathing Awareness which scans for breathing irregularities during sleep and giving users additional insight to their respiratory health during sleep.
  • Menstrual Cycle Management 3.0, Intelligently analyzing and learning physiological indicators, such as heart rate during sleep, body temperature, breathing rate, and more, to predict menstrual periods.
  • 24/7 heart or instant on demand spot monitoring are handy and accurate compared to predssional monitors like my annual heart stress test in my doctor’s office. Whether a casual glance while relaxing, a brisk walk or after waking up, it’s kinda nice to know that my most vital organ is still ticking!
  • PPG Arrhythmia Analysis (ECG) Monitoring technology incorporating multi-channel signal enhancement algorithms providing users more accurate readings of their heart health even during dynamic activities or low temperature environments Note: like other new ECG capable health watches arriving in Canada this feature has to be approved by by Canadian regulators before becoming available here, which historically takes a few months.
  • With new TruSeenTM 5.5+ technology, the HUAWEI WATCH GT 4 has improved on the Activity Rings Feature providing a quick overview of daily fitness statistics, including calories burned, exercise duration, and standing activity. Users can earn medals for completing all three rings and choose from over 100 sports modes (yes) for a more active lifestyle. The Stay Fit Caloric Management App utilizes real-time health data to offer holistic recommendations for better health management.
  • This data can be viewed in helpful quick glances on the watch face, but more details and suggestions can be viewed on the Huawei Life app phone app.  

The online gallery, features more than 25,000 watch faces ranging from many free and up to $7 for sophisticated designs and impossible multiple watch/gearlgraphics movements. Although Huawei Wallet (purchases with your phone) is not supported in Canada, you can use your credit card/PayPal.  All look great on the AMOLED 42mm 1.32” colour screen with a resolution of 466 x 466 pixels and 352 PPI pixel density. The 46mm screen has a 1.4” screen and a resolution of 466 x 466 pixels and a pixel density of 326 PPI.  

                                                                                                                                                                                                         An upgraded dual-band five-system high-precision GPS, increases positioning accuracy by 30%, from previous models even in densely structured urban areas is ideal for expeditions and running challenges. My facourite unique Huawei Route Back feature helps you find your way back by reversing your GPS route. Very handy if your walk or run route was in a forested area or you wanted to make sure you go by a store front that previously caught your eye when you started.

The tiny onboard speakers have impressive audio quality for receiving and making phone calls when in bluetooth proximity to my Samsung phone or hearing encouraging comments during an outdoor walk (without phone, with GPS turned on the watch) and sound even more impressive when playing uploaded music – up to 500 songs. You can assign your music playback to any Bluetooth device. I often play a soothing tune while in bed with my wrist close to me ear in low volume so to not disturb my partner.  

Added features, include a new launcher for smooth installs, quick messaging and replies, as well as support for third-party applications for music, navigation, and more. The smartwatch offers an impressive battery life of up to 2 weeks. It seamlessly integrates with both iOS and Android devices, providing users with access to all these features. In the online manual, HuaweiCanada  points out it is ensuring the protection of privacy and data, offering peace of mind when accessing industry-leading technologies.

Available in Canada, it comes in two designs that fuse technology and fashion – the HUAWEI WATCH GT 4 46mm $439 showcasing a bold octagonal design in a black fluoroelastomer strap, grey stainless-steel strap, or a green composite strap while the HUAWEI WATCH GT 4 41mm $328 featuring a sleek pendant design comes in a fluoroelastomer strap, a jewelry-inspired light gold Milanese strap, and a white leather strap option. Available at big box Canadian stores but if you purchase the Watch GT 4 at HUAWEI Official Store and My HUAWEI App you get an exclusive free gift of FreeBuds 3 subject to availability.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

The S23 Ultra inHyperlapse Mode captures trailing stars, comets and the Aurora Borealis in a six hour overnight exposure, speeding the 4K video up 300X to show motion we normally don’t see when looking up at the stars. This is a frame grab which the phone lets you get.

The S23 Ultra is still my favourite go-to camera phone. It has power, speed, can compete in quality with professional interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras, and shoot in any light condition. It was a bige leap from the previous S22 series with larger 200MP images in addition to the 50MP and 12MP normal shooting. As a professional photographer wanting to capture the most detail of places I may not visit again as a septuagenarian, both the 200MP and 50MP settings as well as the Expert Raw setting for capturing virtually noiseless night scenes  have been priceless to me. The rapid 100-frame in a several seconds long shooting burst has captured countless of moments of people interacting, impossible to get otherwise. From 10X optical zoom to sharp panoramas to .6 super wide the colour is consistent. The astrophotography capabilities of the S23 series still astound. Hyperlapse mode for example captures star trails, when left on for more than several hours and automatically creates a 4K accelerated video of quickly passing star trails accelerated 300X. A single frame capture of a Hyperlapse 4K video shows stunning detail, easily done on the phone. Then, there’s the 8K 30FPS video recording which will astound when viewed on a Samsung 8K TV. 8K video yields still frames three times larger than the normal 12MP photos the camera captures. This allows me to capture high quality stills shot at 30 FPS never missing a moment. Then there’s the S Pen stylus for scribbling notes, converting to text and gesturing controls without touching the screen on the Ultra. With 500GB memory you can shoot thousands of high quality photos and hours of 8K video which the phone can also downsize onboard to 4K and 1080p for use online. Check my in-depth WiFiHiFi review for more details and examples.

Epson ET-8550 prints much cheaper Than its own competition

A 13” wide printer that prints pro-quality photos on a myriad of stock including exhibition art paper, canvas, thin vellums, archival acid and lignin free paper to even posterboards up to 1.3mm thick.

It even takes on work, home and school duties including scan and auto print up to legal paper size documnets, auto 2-side printing, two front and one rear paper feed with different papers, direct wirless printing from your smartphone and more.  

Yet it won’t break the bank like traditional ink cartridge replacements do, nor will it cost a small fortune spent on quality photo lab prints.

Epson EcoTank Photo ET-8550 All-in-One Wide-format Supertank Printer,

Say “I love you” to the Epson EcoTank Photo ET-8550 All-in-One Wide-format Supertank Printer, $1,100. Its secret is the included EcoTank 70ml bottles of six colour inks, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black, Photo Black and Gray. As you read on, you will appreciate what a great opportunity the ET-8550 offers for photo enthusiasts to finally print affordable professional quality prints up to 13″ x 19″.

The 6‑Colour Claria ET photographic dye inks produce exceptional colour and black & white photographic print quality. The additional Photo Black and Grey ink add tone richness and depth in color and exhibition quality B&W poster printing.

What the ET-8550 Printing Quality Means

A full $140 ink set equates to 230 13” x 19”colour Photo prints costing a fraction of what online photo labs charge. That’s 60 cents of six color ink for each 13″ x 19″ glorious print. At “Best” 5760 x 1440 dpi quality there are no visible inkjet droplets, the closest thing to traditional photographic paper…that’s as close to real life it visually as it gets folks.

Compare ET-8550 Cost of Ownership With Other Pro Epson Printers

The Epson Surecolor p700 13” printer with the same top printing resolution costs almost $500 to replace all 10 traditional cartridges compared to the ET-8550 $140 full replacement set. With all that more ink you go for years not months between refills. This represents 85% savings. Sure the extra three light primary colours, additional violet colour cartridge and carbon black of this cartridge based printer may add more punch and depth in certain kinds of photoss, but when comparing dozens of personal travel photo enlargements and high-rez scans I made against the ET-8550 I could hardly tell the difference in visual quality. And they were both EXACTLY just as sharp.

Measuring My Ink Usage

  • 13 B&W prints (Documents)
  • 551 color, a mix of album size and 8.5″ x 11″
  • A total of 564 prints

The above shows the ink usage on my test ET-8550 from the start, using the out-of-the box ink (20% was used for the first ink install) The most use was the Gray ink meaning the majority of printing was done in colour, thus still leaving more than half of the Black and Photo Black. This comes close to the ISO measurments Epson provided.quality.

Print Costs

Unquestionably, the cost of ownership counting paper and ink consumables on the EcoTank ET-8550 is a fraction of what you pay for an 8×10” print online or a local consumer lab.

Check the 8×10 print prices in Canadian local or online photo print labs against the ET-8550:

  • Poster Jack               $5.00
  • Easy Canvas Print $7.90
  • Henry’s Photo         $3.99
  • Costco                      $1.99
  • ET-8550                   $1.05 (ink and Epson Ultra Premium Photo Paper included)

Examples of Small and Big Print Enlargements

I based Epson’s best Ultra Premium Photo Paper glossy 20-pack, averaged out between full list and discounted sales and averaged ink yield out between the ET-8550’s initial setup using 20% of the included Eco Tank 70ml ink bottles with full use of ink in the next subsequent refill:

Epson’sout of the box official full Photo ink yield is 1,800 4″ – 6″color photos off the included six EcoTank 70ml bottles. A one-time initial setup consumes 20% of that ink. This means the first out of the box ink yield of 1,800 4″x 6″ color boarderless prints was averaged out with the first refill, which would yield 2,300 prints.

Conversly, the ET-8550 prints 5,500 document pages (black) , our 4,900 pages full color. Again, after the first refill on a full 100% EcoTank bottle set yields 6,700 black, 6200 color documents and 2,300 4″ x 6″ Photo quality prints.

Document print speeds are 16 ppm black and 12 ppm color. Not bad for such wildy flexible large format printer.

The cost of 4″x 6 ” boardeless Epson Photo quality print on the ET-8550 is $0.09 (9 cents) including paper. Compare that to other online or local labs who charge $0.35 per 4″ x 6″ print.  

Conversely, a full set of six Eco Tank bottles $140, would yield 230 13”x19” glossy prints costing $3.32 per print and ink compared to the $12 -$6  per print cost range across Canada.  

Canvas prints are also much cheaper on the ET-8550. A 13 x 48” print off a roll of Epson 13” x 480” Canvas paper roll (which costs $98.80) costs $9.88 compared to the $99 for a single similar size panorama easy Canvas Prints charges. See below on printing on roll paper with the ET-8550

Printing Roll Paper on the ET-8550

I even crossed the product manual boundaries with roll panoramic 13” paper for those willing to try extra wide 13” wide panoramas (it works). Check out expert Keth Cooper’s YouTube on how to do it.

Every square inch in this multi funcyion printer is carefully accounted fo making ather compact for all its functions

More About EcoTank

With all those gorgeous color prints you might wonder about ink costs. Don’t. Instead of printing for months before a refill with traditional cartridge printers, EcoTank technology savings of up to 80% on ink supplies means you can print full color for pennies per print instead of dollars and save up to $2,500 with each Eco Tank replacement set compared to cartidges. ET Epson printers cost $100 – $200 more than their cartridge counterparts but you are ahead after a third traditional cartridge replacement you would have had with a cartridge printer.

Fortunately, in non-Photo mode, the ET-8550 meets enough of most folks everyday printer needs to replace their old printer, despite its size…unless you want to autofeed multiple scans and larger load trays, a small price to pay for being one of the best photo printers I have seen.


Just time for the Holiday season Amazon Canada aims to keep its lead in smart speakers with new sleek designs, more power and new features:



Still can’t decide on that perfect gift? This collection boasts uniqueness, practicality and smarts not to mention having something to brag about.

The Sage universal fit in-ear monitor from  $772 from Noble Audio is not your every day audio earpiece. It features two proprietary Knowles balanced drivers per piece that result in a true to life flat accurate sound, suitable for phones or portable amps. It’s meticulously crafted with an aluminium shell and non-twisting pull-out cables, ending in a natural twist to securely fit around each ear. The packaging oozes gifting with a generous supply of earbud adaptors, a small brush to keep the components tidy and a tough weather proof carrying case with a personal engraved metal contact card which helps lost units find themselves home. You can upgrade the Sage fitted with striking one-off universal acrylic pieces (pictured in photo)  for $1,028. There are eight in-ear models to pick from, with up to 10 proprietary balanced armature drivers per side like the Kaiser Encore $2,341. For a bit more and several weeks of patience, artist John ”the Wizard” Moulton will fit the Encore in an acrylic customized shell (choice of uploaded custom art work, laser engraving, glow in the dark, 24K gold nugget or wire filament) for $2,700.