The best Father’s Day tech gift ideas for 2021
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Parents! Where would we be without them? Nonexistent, is the answer, and so we must thank them for our existence in this world. No matter how Philip Larkin feels on the subject, it’s that time of the year where we celebrate our parents and reward them for raising us. If you’re looking for a gift for your father, or the person who held that role in your life irrespective of their gender, we’ve got a list for you.
A lot of gift guides these days like to pretend that our parents were born during the baby boom, even if that’s nowhere near true anymore. After all, if your parents are knocking on 50, then the first war they can remember likely featured Luke Skywalker. That means they’re likely as plugged-in to gadgets and technology as the rest of us. It’s just that they’re waiting for you to splash out on some gifts they perhaps wouldn’t have bought for themselves.
Anker PowerWave 4-in-1 charger
It’s highly possible your dad is. carrying more than just a smartphone. After all, it’s thought that around 100 million iPhone users are also toting around an Apple Watch, with similar numbers of AirPods being sold over the last few users. That’s why we recommend a charging dock like Anker’s PowerWave 4-in-1 to keep all of that gear fully powered.
As the name suggests, the 4-in-1 lets you charge four devices at once, including wirelessly charging for compatible iPhones. In addition, a vertically stacked Lightning port allows you to charge your AirPods, while an Apple Watch pad lets you do the same for your wearable. Rounding out the quartet is a USB-C port for charging any spare devices you have lying around, like an iPad.
It’s not cheap, but considering that one such device will unify your charging needs in one place and free up several sockets, it’s definitely worth it — especially if your dad is already in the habit of dumping all of his tech onto the nightstand when it’s time for bed. Plus, it’s from a credible brand with a long history in the charging business, as opposed to some flaky company you’ve never heard of.
Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones
It’s likely that your parents will want a pair of good-quality headphones just as much as you do. Sony makes some of the best noise cancelling headphones on the market: the romantically named WH-1000XM4. It’s a pair of ANC cans which Sony has gradually refined from a powerful contender to a world beater since its original launch in 2018. By this point, these headphones have everything your giftee needs, plus plenty of things they never knew they did.
The XM4 is lightweight, comfortable to wear and has touch-sensitive earcups, as well as a battery rated for 30 hours. It also comes with a Speak-To-Chat tool that automatically pauses the audio when it detects that you’ve started to talk. Similarly, built-in motion detection halts the audio when you take the headphones off and resumes when you’ve put them back on. Plus, it incorporates Sony’s 360 Reality Audio tech, should your dad be the sort who’d possibly pay for a high-definition audio streaming subscription.
Nanoleaf Triangles starter kit
Interesting lighting setups are not the exclusive province of YouTubers and game streamers. If your dad has a den that they want to jazz up with some smart lighting, consider one of Nanoleaf’s starter sets. The company didn’t invent smart lighting by any stretch, but its innovative system of interlocking shapes require no prior knowledge to install.
We especially appreciate that they provide a canvas for artistic expression, letting you arrange them in your own pattern across your home. You can of course can then set your own lighting sequences in the companion apps, or even pair them with the right accessory to react to music in the room. The only danger, really, is that your parents spend your inheritance decking out their home in nothing but Nanoleaf panels.
Withings Body Cardio scale
Withings makes some of the best smart weighing scales on the market today, with a litany of features beyond just measuring your weight. Its flagship Body Cardio can check your heart rate, body fat percentage and now offers a score to monitor your cardiovascular health. Those are all good metrics, especially if your parents are thinking more about staying healthy as they get older.
There are a couple of other things that set the Body Cardio apart from other scales, including automatic person recognition. Since most people don’t weigh the same as their other family members (and if you do, well done), the scale can automatically track who’s using them during every weigh-in. That means the whole family can use the scales without having to worry about tagging their stats to their own profile afterward. Hardware aside, one of the best things about Withings is its companion Health Mate platform, which has been around for years. Not only is it well designed, but it lays out all of your health data in a way that’s easy to understand.
Mackie CR-X computer speakers
There are lots of generally fine Bluetooth speakers out there, but perhaps your audiophile dad wants something a little classier. Maybe a pair of high-quality desktop or bookshelf speakers are the sort of thing he’s been hoping to receive as a gift. Perhaps he’s a hobbyist music maker and wants to listen to his projects in higher quality. Either way, he needs something better than the sort of junk speakers you find on an aisle-end at Best Buy.
Mackie’s CR-X speakers are affordable, but offer the sort of sound you’d expect to pay a lot more to listen to. They’re not as good as studio-quality monitors, but they’re close enough that only the most sensitive of ears will notice. And, you know, at this sort of price, that’s nothing to sniff at. The CR-X offer open, deep and transparent sound, but are neat enough that they can sit on a small desk, filling your room with sound. You’ll also get balanced TRS and unbalanced RCA inputs, as well as built-in Bluetooth on these X-series models.
Now, for this guide I’ve picked the CR3s, which combine a three-quarter-inch tweeter with a three-inch woofer and built-in Bluetooth. That’s a great “all-round” option that will make most things sound like honey, especially if you’re upgrading from a $50 speaker. But those three-inch models do suffer from a little bass rolloff since they’re constrained by their small size. If you have the budget and space, you should opt for the four-inch, or five-inch versions to help mitigate that issue.
Apple Watch Series 6
For the majority of people, the Apple Watch is the only smartwatch they need to consider. Sure, you need an iPhone to use it, but there’s no watch on the Android side yet that quite matches Apple’s timepiece. If your parents have iPhones and are interested in tracking their fitness, monitoring their health or just staying in touch, just go with this.
Obviously, there are plenty of reasons why buying an Apple Watch for your parents is a good idea, from the ease of use to the health-monitoring features. If your dad has a heart condition, or is worried about keeping trim, having a blood oxygenation and ECG on their wrist seems like a good idea. Then there’s Fitness+ which, should you feel like buying, will let them access on-demand exercise classes.
By now, Apple has smoothed out many of the early-day kinks that might have turned away prospective shoppers. The watch’s display is now always-on, the UI is more intuitive, the software is smarter and, well, that’s enough. Even if the Apple Watch does seem a bit staid at this point.
Garmin Approach S42
Did you spring forth from the loins of someone whose identity has coalesced around the sport of golf? Do they talk of nothing but improving their handicap, watch nothing but The Masters and wear nought but beige chinos? Fear not, because you won’t have to buy them another set of monogrammed tees since that’s the only golf-related thing that’s available to buy. Instead, consider Garmin’s Approach S42, a dedicated golf smartwatch for the serious puttist.
The S42 has gnarly fitness-watch styling, meaning it’s a world away from the oft-copied squircle design of the Apple Watch. It has a 1.2-inch color screen, which is easy enough to read, and it comes with 42,000 different golf courses pre-loaded. You can also use it to track your shots and can even integrate with a dedicated golf club sensor for better data. Plus, you know, it’s a Garmin, so you’ll get basic smartwatch notifications, fitness tracking and a battery that will outlast your phone five times over.
SteelSeries Apex Pro
Parents can be fussy and obsessive — at least, some of our parents, anyway. Thankfully, Steelseries makes a keyboard catered to persnickety types, with electrically controlled actuation that does away with the notion of swapped switches. The Apex Pro is a pricey gaming keyboard for people who crave the sort of customizability few others could dream about. (And don’t worry, you can disable the rainbow lights if dad isn’t a capital-g Gamer.)
The secret to its adjustability is the OmniPoint Adjustable Switches, which use magnetic sensors to register a key press. Keys can set that to be remarkably shallow for fast-twitch gaming, or long and deep, for the more operatic typists out there. A small OLED display at the end of the function row enables you to store various profiles and switch between them without the use of a desktop software manager, too.
Apple iPad Air
Apple’s newest iPad Air splits the difference very neatly between the beautifully affordable iPad and the iPad Pro. The tablet packs a 10.9-inch display and Apple’s A14 Bionic system-on-chip, offering the sort of performance that iPad Pro users have been boasting about. Even better, the unit comes with a USB-C port, enabling you to connect any compatible accessories you have lying around. And, of course, buying an iPad over a generic Android tablet can save you plenty of time in tech support, especially if your parents aren’t the savviest.
Plenty of people spend a lot of time pondering the best and biggest TV their living room (and wallets) can handle, but they often spend less time on the audio portion of their setup. If your dad is guilty of this, the Roku Streambar can elevate the sound of his home theater system. The Streambar is roughly the size of an egg carton so it’ll fit into almost any setup, and the installation is basically plug-and-play. Inside you’ll find the same streaming tech as the Roku Ultra, so it could also turn your dad’s previous “dumb” TV into a smart one. The audio quality is decidedly better than most TV internal speakers, while the Streambar doubles as a Bluetooth speaker, so dad can cast tunes to it when he’s not watching classic movies. It also comes with a voice remote that, with a few setting changes, can be used to control the TV as well.
Anova Precision Oven
If your dad is a cooking nerd, or wants to become one, you might consider splurging on Anova’s Precision Oven. It’s a combination convection-and-steam oven that can cook your food in either wet or dry heat, with precise controls over the humidity and temperature. Despite looking like a shopping channel toaster oven, Anova is pitching this at the sort of folks who want to customize how their food is cooked.
As a baker, it’s the sort of thing I’d love to own purely since you can fine-tune the steam injection to form a better crust on your loaves. (It’s probably safer than throwing a cup of water onto the bottom deck of your oven when you put the dough in, too.) Plus, with a built-in thermometer you can let the system keep an eye on the conditions to ensure your meat dishes are cooked to perfection. And, of course, this is Anova, so you can also do a “bagless sous-vide” and show off to all of your friends about how you can do fancy French cheffery.
The Power Broker
It was obvious decades ago that big cities need more affordable housing, comprehensive public transportation and better public infrastructure. Not only to make life easier for the people living there, but to help meet the world’s goals of avoiding a climate catastrophe. How, then, did New York City become such a car-centric metropolis despite a clear need for anything but?
Enter Robert Moses.
Moses was, broadly speaking, a civil servant who managed to amass so much power and influence over the city that he could throw his weight around like nobody before or since. This was despite the fact that he never sought elected office, and so never had to explain himself to the public.
Robert Caro’s profile is subtitled “The Fall of New York,” as the tome is a breathtaking look at power, and its abuses. Caro outlines Moses as a fallen idealist who ruled (and) lived like a king, and used the power of city planning to further his goals. Perhaps the most notable example is Moses’ policy of building bridges too low for buses to pass under. That was, according to the people Caro spoke to, a subtle way of preventing inner-city (read: non-white) families from easily accessing the beach. Even if you don’t live in New York, however, it’s the sort of exhaustively-researched book that, despite its age, tells us so much about the society we find ourselves living in.
Live From New York
Your parent either pretends not to know what Saturday Night Live is, or they’re loudly insisting that it was way cooler when Gilda Radner / Jan Hooks / Molly Shannon / Kristen Wiig /etcetera was there. Either way, this oral history of the show’s first four decades on the air is a riveting read as a bunch of kids are thrust into the spotlight.
With so many contributors involved, including (almost) all of those who passed through the hallowed halls of Studio 8H, it’s exhaustively researched. The oral history format works well, with the authors cross-cutting the anecdotes from all of the people who were involved at the time. It’s also funny, biting and acidic as old grudges and myth-making clash with everyone’s varied recollections of what really went on. Sure, there are plenty of books about SNL, but this is the only one that’s essential.
Under The Skin
Sometimes, a book will sit with you long after you’ve finished it, to the point that you’re just not sure if you’ll ever get it out of your head. Michael Faber’s Under the Skin is one such book, a novel set on the highways and coastlines of rural Scotland. It tells the story of Isserley, an alien who kidnaps hitchhikers to send back to her home planet, where human flesh is a delicacy.
It’s at times a gruesome book, but one that’s less obsessed with grim spectacle as exploring what it means to be human, and humane. Faber uses the story to explore the ethics of plastic surgery, factory farming and how society treats those left behind. If you ever needed to convince someone that they might need to cut down on the beef, this may be the book to give them.
Whatever you do, don’t watch the film “adaptation” starring Scarlett Johansen and directed by Jonathan Glazer. That film throws out everything from Faber’s novel beyond the premise, as well as abandoning the interiority and depth of the characters and story. Instead, hand this to your parent and get ready for a four-hour phone call when they’re finished.