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Professor Rob’s Favorite Tech Gifts Under $50

Tech devices make great gift choices because of the wide variety that appeals to just about any interest. I have each of these five devices in my home and enjoy the various ways they’ve added fun and convenience.

Philips Hue Smart Lightbulb

($44.99, philips-hue.com)

Connected by Bluetooth or WiFi, the Philips Hue smart bulbs enable advanced light control in your home. The bulbs come in different sizes to fit almost any lamp or fixture, and the app comes with a wide assortment of preset scenes. You can also simply set the color to match your mood. With Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant integration, custom-voice commands let you turn on or off any light in your home. One caveat: If you want to connect by WiFi or connect more than a few bulbs, you’ll need to separately purchase the Philips Hue Bridge ($60).

Google Nest Mini Smart Speaker

($49.99, store.google.com)

In our case, we put a Google smart speaker in each of our kids’ rooms and use it as a whole-home intercom system (“Hey, Google! Broadcast ‘Time for dinner!’ ”) My kids also use them to play music and answer the random questions teenagers often ask. A switch on the bottom turns off the microphone as desired. The Amazon Echo (Alexa) and Apple HomePod Mini (Siri) are also solid choices.

Roku Streaming Stick 4K

($49.99, roku.com)

I have recommended the Roku for years due to ease of use and a wide range of available services. Plug it into an open HDMI port on your TV, connect it to your WiFi and even a “dumb TV” is now a smart TV. There are several available models, and even Roku-based TVs, but the Roku Streaming Stick 4K hits the sweet spot for most people. Bonus: The Roku Channel features many free movies and series. Double bonus: Several local broadcasters (WLFI, WTHR, WRTV) have their own Roku channels where you can stream their local newscasts for free.

Pura

($49.99, pura.com)

Invigorate your home (or your car) with this smart air freshener. This app-controlled device holds two fragrance bottles you can diffuse on demand or on a schedule, and it doubles as a nightlight. Choose from hundreds of refreshing and seasonal scents on pura.com; my favorites are Volcano and Bamboo.

Kasa Smart Plug

($25.99 for a two-pack, kasasmart.com)

“Siri, turn on the Christmas tree!” No more light-switch shenanigans for all the aspiring Clark Griswolds out there. The Kasa Smart Plug connects to your home network and enables voice-command activation, remote control and custom scheduling for any plugged-in device. Even better: The latest models monitor real-time and historical power consumption to help you manage your energy use.

Rob Ford

Rob Ford

Rob Ford is Tipmont and Wintek's communication director, a role he's held since 2015. Rob has a bachelor's and a master's in Communication from Purdue University. He lives in West Lafayette with his wife and three children and has a life-sized Yoda statue in his office. Away from the office, you’ll find Rob working on his golf swing, jump shot, or hope for a Purdue basketball national title – all futile endeavors.

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