Tech Savvy: Finding joy in tech under the tree or after the big day

If Santa or his elves didn't bring the latest most wanted tech gift this year, those gift cards will help enable you to get just what you wanted -- and here are some tech gifts to consider for yourself or to give if your gift-giving is still to come.

The Tertill Weeding Robot uses guards to protect small plants and then uses height to tell plants from weeds as it patrols gardens and controls weeds. Contributed / Tertill

So if the tech gift you really wanted wasn’t under the tree, there will be deals available before year’s end to make use of the money and gift cards that came your way.

Tertill high-tech garden assistants such as the Tertill Weeding Robot that “lives in the garden, runs on sunshine, and weeds every day.” They are solar-powered and weatherproof and kill pre-emergent weeds with specially designed wheels and it has a weed-wacker for sprouted weeds. There is no programming or mapping and the company reports setup is easy. The robot uses guards to protect small plants and uses height then to tell plants from weeds. It comes with row guards and plant guards, replacement wacker strings and a laminated garden planner. Tertill quotes the Cornell School of Agriculture as finding the robot as effective as hand weeding and, of course, not nearly the effort. So for those who don’t get the joy and relaxation of weeding, the robot provides the joy of seeing a garden with weeds in control and free Saturday afternoons. Cost: About $300.

In addition, Tertill has a gift giver bundle with more plant and row guards and additional replacement parts for $349. The company reports a free 60-day trial and one-year limited warranty and free shipping.

Backup images stored on cellphones or tablets. There are many options here with a variety of thumb drives and lots of price points to choose from.

The PhotoStick Omni describes its product as being “specially designed to find personal photos and videos on your laptop or computer. Just plug it in and select ‘Go’. It’ll take about 10-20 minutes to work its magic. It’s going through all of the folders and files in your entire computer to make sure it doesn’t miss a thing. Later on, it deletes all duplicate files, so you don’t have to do the tedious task of deleting them yourself. Just unplug The PhotoStick Omni and you’re good to go! All the photos and videos are now on that device. You can then put the photos on a different computer to share them with friends, or get the photos printed off!” A pre-Christmas price was about $60.


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Amazon Fire Stick TV with 4K Ultra HD streaming player and Alexa Voice Remote (second generation) for about $30. Looking for a better deal, consider a certified refurbished device.

Roku Premiere HD/4K/HDR streaming media player for about $20.

HomePod mini, Apple’s speaker with Siri smart assistant, now comes in multiple colors. Cost. $99.

HomePod mini is now available in three bold new colors — orange, yellow, and blue — in addition to white and space gray. Contributed / Apple

Apple AirTag or Tile to keep track of items. Have a habit of losing keys, wallets or even larger items, the little finders can come in handy. My only complaint was the thickness of the Apple AirTag made it not workable in my existing case without some sort of adhesive or way to include it on the outside.

But there are a host of slim wallets now built with a space for the AirTags that can carry ID and credit cards, typically four to eight with many less than $15. There are also options to put the AirTag inside a card made to enclose it and then place the card into a backpack, purse or wallet.


At home, Siri can help find a misplaced wallet. Farther away, the AirTag sends out a secure Bluetooth signal that can be detected by the Find My network and then located on a map in a process Apple reports is anonymous and encrypted to protect privacy. Apple notes an iPhone can lead the user to the AirTag and newer phones with Precision Finding will get direct info like “20 feet to your right.” AirTags start at $29.

Tile comes with a handy built-in hole to add to a keychain or a wallet-sized card called a Slim that also is designed to work as a luggage tag or is attachable to laptops with a Bluetooth range of 250 feet. It works with Alexa or Google Assistant to help find items around the house. The Tile attached to the keychain or wallet can also be used to find a phone by pressing the Tile logo button. The Tile app shows the last time the item was with you or able to be located and using the network can extend an ability to find Tile trackers. There is a premium Tile plan and to get a proactive Smart Alert when something is left behind. The Premium Protect plan for $99.99 a year includes reimbursement up to $1,000 if Tile can’t find the lost item. The Tile wallet and key finder Mate is about $20, but there were pre-Christmas sales for even less.

Amazon Basics Shiatsu Neck and Shoulder Massager with infrared heat and deep kneading rotation for about $45.

Intoval wireless charger to handle three things in one with room for an iphone, Apple Airpods and an Apple Watch for about $50.

PhoneSoap basic ultraviolet sanitizer for about $50.

RELATED: Tech Savvy gift guide: From small to large items, there are many options for tech gifts this holiday season

Apple AirPods Pro, normally $249.99, are on sale for $179.99. The in-ear headphones provide customizable fit with tapered tips to conform to individual ear shapes, active noise cancellation, spacial audio, a transparency mode when you want to hear what’s going on around you, and they are sweat and water resistant. With the sale. The Airpods Pro are basically the same cost as the AirPods 3rd generation but have the active noise cancellation and transparency mode the 3rd gen doesn’t offer.


The new AirPods feature spatial audio and industry-leading sound, longer battery life, and an all-new design. Contributed / Apple

Sunglasses with speakers. Yes, it’s a thing. CNET reports the sunglasses with the best sound and that are best for sports include a name known for quality speakers — Bose Tempo Frames.

“If you're looking for the best-sounding pair of audio glasses with the best overall performance — that includes call quality and battery life — the Bose Frames Tempo are the one to get,” CNET reports. “Bose's innovative eyewear is ostensibly a sports model designed for runners and bikers, and while it's a little bulky, it stays on your head securely.”

The Bluetooth sunglasses have polarized lenses and can fit prescription lenses. They also have eight hours of battery life.

Portable jump starter. CNET reports the Black & Decker Portable Power Station jump starter is the best all-in-one portable jump starter battery. It has multiple recharge options, a work light, a 120-psi air compressor, USB taps and a 500-watt AC inverter with two plugs to run small appliances. “It’s a heavy car battery at 20 pounds, but it’s also smartly packaged with a convenient grab handle. The Power Station does it all.” It charges with a standard household extension cord. Cost: About $116.

Automatic food dispensers for cats and dogs also have a lot of options. The Vremi version is programmable with a timer for up to four meals a day with a battery backup and voice recorder. It has an infrared sensor to prevent food from getting stuck. A great option includes a manual lever to give your pet a chance to get a snack. The voice recordings you can leave for your pet last 10 seconds and play during feeding times. Cost: about $70.

But for the more tech advanced, automatic feeders like Sure Pet Care connect to a pet’s microchip. For multiple pet homes, this microchip feature means one pet can’t eat the other’s food and their pal high and dry without a morsel to munch on. It also helps in managing diets for pets who may be on prescription food or limited in portions. It is compatible with microchips or a SureFlap RFID collar tag. It works with dry and wet food. A sealed bowl keeps food fresher and then opens for the right pet as the animal approaches the food. The issue here is that you’d need a microchip pet feeder for each pet. The feeders can be color coordinated. Cost: About $172. Additional feeders include Wi-Fi and phone app controls so people can feed their pet.


A game changer for those sharing their home with cats as the company reports the “CatGenie acts like a cat box, cleans like an appliance and flushes like a toilet." It would mean no more litter box changes. Contributed / CatGenie

To keep in the cat theme, the CatGenie offers an entirely new cat parent experience. “CatGenie acts like a cat box, cleans like an appliance and flushes like a toilet. Life with your cat will never be the same,” the company reports.

So how does it work? CatGenie uses septic safe “Washable Granules” that never need to be changed. After the cat uses the box, CatGenie reports liquids drain through while solids are scooped and liquified in an odor-trapping Hopper. The waste is then disposed of down the laundry drain or toilet. CatGenie then washes and dries itself and those granules.

The CatGenie can be set up to work after the cat uses the box or set at scheduled times each day. The appliance uses artificial intelligence collecting info on the cat’s behavior and can notify the owner via the app if there is a notable change. The CatGenie A.I. appliance is $439 with a mat $34.99 and a GenieDome for a covered box another $39.99 and a GenieDoor if desired on the entrance for $17.99. There are also maintenance items like additional Washable Granules, and SaniSollution Cartidges as well as a maintenance cartridge.

So it’s not an inexpensive proposition and it would also mean an end to buying regular litter on a regular basis and an end to cleaning litter boxes.

Tech continues to change our everyday lives.

Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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