IT’S A GREAT TIME to be gadget-obsessed—and it would be even greater if one had, say, $10,000 to spend.
As the holiday season approaches, there are tons of release events to livestream, spec sheets to devour and, as always, bait. (Don’t be fooled by that $70 smart water bottle.)
But before diving into our fantasy shopping spree, consider a reality check: Which items will actually enhance your life?
Below, our 10 “Buy Nice, not Twice” picks which together would come in under $10,000, as well as four options worthy of blowing the whole amount.
1. Hardcore fitness enthusiasts are flocking to a version of the stationary bike that might still be in your parents’ or grandparents’ garage. Some feel fan bikes, like the Assault Bike Elite ($1299) from Assault Fitness, offer a more grueling, productive workout than those used in spin classes. As you pedal, you get more resistance from the movement of the fan blades. Plus, no hectoring spin instructor!
2. Is taking a brisk shower equivalent to swimming laps in a pool? Not really. But because North American tap water contains trace amounts of chlorine, it can feel that way to your hair. Filters, like AquaBliss SF100 ($60) help prevent damage that hard water can do to your hair and lengthen the lifespan of salon treatments. It syncs with most commercial showerheads and requires six-month replacements.
3. Instead of worrying about whether your TV has a “4K display,” pay attention to the technology being used to achieve that resolution. Unlike LED sets, OLED TVs like the LG C2 ($1,800) are able to individually light each pixel on your screen. That means that you get super sharp contrast, good color volume—fancy, manufacturer speak for bright colors—and deep, inky blacks, whether you’re playing a grisly first-person shooter or taking another crack at the “The Irishman.”
4. Picking up an instrument well into adulthood can be tough, but synthesizers differ from pianos and clarinets. Because they require some programming, they challenge—and fulfill—even the preternaturally gifted. The Elektron Syntakt ($999), while designed for pro-caliber producers, can function, with judicious use of YouTube tutorials, as part puzzle, part art project. It’s equipped with 12 tracks of analog drums and synths, and so needs no accompaniment to create airy ballads or raucous, clubby anthems.
5. Sleeping in a red-light mask and getting mistaken for a slasher villain only happens in the “Bodies Bodies Bodies” cinematic universe; in reality, the technology is quite well-researched. During what’s called photobiomodulation, red light penetrates and stimulates cellular mitochondria, which can reduce inflammation and even rejuvenate skin. Full body devices like Mito Red Light’s MitoMEGA ($999) are favored by athletes as a frictionless way to heal. Just stand (or sit) in the light for a few minutes a day.
6. Earlier this year, “Ambulance,” from Michael Bay, a director known for frenetic films, garnered warm reviews from a small circle of cinephiles. More specifically, many praised Mr. Bay’s imaginative establishing shots of Los Angeles. Cinema drones, like DJI’s Mavic 3 ($2,049), allow amateur filmmakers to approximate this dramatic flair. The drone’s four-thirds camera shoots in the correct ratio for cinema, and its 28x optical zoom allows for tight shots. It hovers well, too, in case your magnum opus requires multiple takes.
7. For someone who hikes, runs or just likes going places with scant cellular coverage, a GPS multi-sport watch is a more capable companion than a smartphone. The new Garmin Enduro 2 ($1,100) includes on-board topoactive maps—that provide topographic information, as well as heat maps, trails, streets and monuments—and a beefy battery that can be recharged by the sun. It also has a powerful flashlight, helpful for retracing your steps to your tent, or heading to the fridge, at midnight.
8. A suit-first carry-on will ensure you’ll never again have to hurriedly Google “How to Fold a Suit No Wrinkles” before heading for the airport while your partner patiently waits with the Uber. The narrow Lat_56 carry-on ($399) achieves this with the help of the company’s Red-Eye Garment bag. Zip up to two suits inside, roll them up, and tuck the package into the case’s graduated compartment. There should be enough room left for a pair of shoes, your toiletries and a few outfits.
9. It is usually obvious when outdoor gear has been designed more for aesthetics than function, especially if it rains. But there exist plenty of high-functioning accessories that do not compromise on looks. Case in point: Snow Peak’s Land Breeze Pro 1 ($750), a capable tent for year-round camping, made to resist all the elements and packed with nice touches like a few mesh skylights. It’s a fine place to start for someone who only dresses like a camper.
10. We all live in homes full of sundries we don’t want. A label printer like Arkscan’s 2054A (from $210), offers a simple way to make space. Once you’ve made a shipping label, easy with the help of third-party services like Pirate Ship, getting those square-toed shoes out of your apartment and onto the feet of some Zoomer is as easy as parading around your neighborhood with an “I Voted” badge.
YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU / Four superlative devices that justify spending it all in one place
TURN IT UP TO 11
In the streaming era, speaker design can sometimes be an afterthought. New models tend to be both portable and practical—bluetooth numbers that don’t require wires or clip-on speakers, and can go on a bike ride. Even the more high-end
wireless speakers, designed expressly for streaming music, look…fine? But the past few years has seen new audiophile-approved options with curb appeal. The wireless, connected speakers in Bang&Olufsen’s three room set ($7,797) offer vivid sonic variety and audio clarity, while keeping a visual through-line with their classic models. The Balance, a two-leveled tower, is futuristic; the Level is an angular portable soundbar; and the circular A9, a showpiece, is retro, with a classic midcentury look. Taken as a whole, the package is organic, but modern. And, conveniently, the Level works well for a beach trip.
Bike long enough and you’ll ride into a world defined by a tyranny of very small differences. To a serious cyclist, the mountain biker’s jagged, geared ride exists as a different species from a shaggy track cyclist’s single-speed bike. And each sits apart from the e-bike, with its urbane, docile commuter rides. But lately, manufacturers have been producing e-bikes with frame shapes closer to that of more elite bikes, and using lighter and upgradeable components. Though great as a daily commuter, the Santa Cruz Heckler ($8,800), an e-mountain bike, is designed to cover serious ground on hills and trails. Set to low, the motor assist doesn’t detract much from a workout; when it’s set to high, the bike rides faster and easier. It’s a fine compromise between taking a mountain and taking it easy.
OLD SCHOOL SNAPPER
Stand-alone cameras are, these days, redundant. They’re bulky, finicky and not always easy to use, especially when compared to the cameras we all carry in our pockets that occasionally make calls. But some newer analog-digital hybrid cameras marry the tactile feel of favored older models with modernistic capabilities that make them just as easy and fun to use as your phone. The new Leica M11 ($8,995), for example, pairs a powerful megapixel camera with throwback manual focus, housed in an inimitable body that’s shown up everywhere, including Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona” and “The Godfather: Part III.” There are tradeoffs: It lacks Leica’s traditional molded hand grip and doesn’t shoot video. But the red dot’s still there, and it connects directly to phones and computers, through Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Leica’s classic M mount is compatible with a number of lenses; consider getting a few.
GET A BUZZ
Picking up home-espresso brewing as a hobby is a rabbithole with no end. Managing the wide range of inputs—the beans, the weight, the water pH, the pull—requires mastery, understanding and, frankly, investment. Even knowing this, we’re somehow powerless when faced with the red hot appeal of new machines like the La Marzocco Legacy Linea Mini ($7,200). The Mini updates 1992’s Linea Classic, designed in concert with baristas, with a color scheme out of Connery-era Bond films. Unlike anything in those movies, the machine can connect to a smartphone, which allows it to brew on a schedule, pre-boil water and turn off after use.
The Wall Street Journal is not compensated by retailers listed in its articles as outlets for products. Listed retailers frequently are not the sole retail outlets.
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