Rich Warren | Go virtual when it comes to gift-giving | Science-technology

Skip supply chain bottlenecks. Conjure up Christmas gifts that don’t arrive by truck, but via the Internet. Skip the line-up or risk of COVID-19 to give someone a gift. Instead, subscribe to Hulu, Netflix, Apple TV +, Disney +, Amazon Prime, Showtime, HBO, Peacock, Paramount, Pandora, Spotify, or any other entertainment streamer.

Annual subscriptions range from around $ 65 to $ 150. Content providers vary prices based on the presence of ads and / or the number of screens / devices you can enjoy them on. Netflix bases costs on video quality, with 4K resolution costing far more than basic SD DVD quality.

When the recipient sits down to enjoy, he / she will keep thinking of you more than a physical object.

You can also give away easy-to-use streaming devices that enable all of these video (and audio) services, provided you want more flexibility than something called a “smart TV”. Prices start at $ 18 for the basic Amazon Fire TV stick, with the 4K version for $ 25, and go all the way up to the Apple TV 4K box for $ 180. In between there is a wide selection of Roku sticks from $ 20 to $ 86 and Google Chromecast TV sticks from $ 25 to $ 95. A standout device for video connoisseurs, the Nvidia Shield is priced at $ 150.

E-books from Kindle and other online book sources can also be easily ordered and delivered to friends and family. After receiving an email announcing your gift, just click on a few links. The book appears on your e-reader, tablet, phone and / or computer. This also applies to audio books.

Another virtual but tangible range of gifts includes software and applications that are simply sent to someone for download. Just make sure the app you choose works on the specific phone (Apple or Android) or computer (Mac, Windows or Linux) of the recipient.

Most free apps have more useful and elegant versions when you pay for them. Wunderground-Wetter, for example, arguably the best online weather app, does without advertising and offers extended information if you pay for the subscription. Sometimes paid antivirus software is more effective and has more features than the free version.

Bitdefender and Kapersky rate the best antivirus programs. Likewise, every Windows user should use a third-party backup program that goes beyond what Microsoft offers. Here, too, the paid software offers some important functions that are missing in the free version. Macrium Reflect is a great backup program.

Most online apps and software come with a money-back guarantee. So if the recipient isn’t thrilled, they can trade it in for something more useful or cancel it and get a refund. You can then ask what the person might prefer.

The beauty of offering “intellectual property” instead of “stuff” is that it doesn’t waste any resources on packaging, freight, or delivery. The box doesn’t need to be recycled as there aren’t any.

However, if you want to make a big statement, big screen TVs may never be less expensive. Despite the current shortage of chips and delivery bottlenecks, large screen televisions remain available in sufficient quantities at seductively low prices.

Headphones, especially models with noise cancellation, have competitive prices. While Bose is only lowering older QuietComfort models, Sony has significantly reduced the price of its comparable, current and popular models.

To keep up, other brands followed suit. One of the best, most versatile over-the-ear headphones with true wireless noise cancellation, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is priced at $ 100 off the list price of $ 349. The in-ear WF-1000XM4 is now also selling for $ 249 or less.

We’ll have a full review of the WH-1000XM4 in a month’s time, but first impressions rank it well ahead of the Bose QuietComfort 35, which is $ 50 more.

My father gave me my first electronic Christmas present, the Koss Pro4AAA, under the tree. He put it in a suit pocket for fun, knowing clothes weren’t my thing. Small and easy-to-pack bag without a suit makes headphones an ideal gift.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime consumer electronics reviewer. Send him an email at