Editor's note:

Dave Taylor is the technology columnist for the Daily Camera and Times-Call. This is his take on the best, brightest, and most affordable tech gifts out there this year.

It's the holiday season and the time of year when most everyone's attention turns to dreams of family time, holiday foods and treats, decorating the house and long-standing family traditions. Warm celebrations to offset the cold and darkness as we head into the winter solstice and (hopefully) snowmen and skiing.

But it's also a time of shopping and every merchant knows the anticipation of hoping you have the one trendy item in stock for this year that will help you make the sales to move your business firmly in the black. Gift giving also goes hand in proverbial hand with white elephants too, of course, gifts that even the giver doesn't like.

And so, one of the greatest questions on people's minds as we head into the latter part of December isn't about where to buy a tree or how to make that yummy hot toddy, but what gifts are surefire hits, which presents are going to light up a smile and prove to be something that the recipient remembers - and still uses! - months later?

That's what we'll tackle in this article. My list of the best tech gear and products on the market today and why I like them so much.

Smart security routers

As more and more devices join the Internet of Things world, the risks of someone outside your home hacking them goes up too. Is that video camera really safe? How about that Internet-enabled deadbolt? That's why the latest generation of wifi routers for the home are so terrific: they include security software and firewalls that ensure that hackers don't sneak into your home network and wreak havoc. Norton Core Router is one good choice, as is the Dojo.

The new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones are seen at a product launch event on October 4, 2017 at the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco, Calif.
The new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones are seen at a product launch event on October 4, 2017 at the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco, Calif. (ELIJAH NOUVELAGE / AFP)
In both cases, plug 'em in and ignore them, knowing you - and your home - are safe.

NORTON: https://us.norton.com/core

DOJO: https://dojo.bullguard.com/

Voice activated speakers

The concept of a speaker that listens to you and answers your queries might seem a bit daft on first glance, but when you realize it's a music player that offers access to millions upon millions of tracks, things get considerably more interesting. Hook it up to a favorite service like Pandora, Spotify or even I Heart Radio and you'll never lack for something to enjoy, whether it's Christmas carols, traditional East African music, polka or the hottest in rap or hip-hop.

There are a lot of competitors in this space but Amazon has emerged as a clear leader with its Alexa line and home automation connectivity. But don't buy an Echo from Amazon: My favorite in this space is the more expensive but considerably better sounding Sonos One. You get all the benefit of multi-room audio and it's Alexa-powered too. My house is never without music thanks to this excellent addition.

SONOS: https://www.sonos.com/en-us/shop/one.html

Video streaming devices

Noomi Rapace attends the world premiere of Netflix Films "BRIGHT" on December 13, 2017 in Los Angeles, Calif.
Noomi Rapace attends the world premiere of Netflix Films "BRIGHT" on December 13, 2017 in Los Angeles, Calif. (Rich Fury / Getty Images North America)

If you're an Apple fan, you might already own an Apple TV, but there are some splendid and considerably less expensive alternatives for a device that hooks up to your TV and lets you enjoy the extraordinary wealth of streaming options. My choice: The Roku Express, which makes watching Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video and so many other channels a breeze. Bonus: they all look fantastic too, and more so if you have HD or a UHD 4K television.

ROKU: https://www.roku.com/products/roku-express

Smart phones

Buying someone a smart phone is a tricky proposition because they probably already have their preferences and might already have the phone of their dreams. Then again, these products are evolving so fast that it's bewildering to try and keep up with the latest tech and trends. My two top choices if budget is no problem are the Google Pixel 2 for Android fans and the Apple iPhone X for iPhone fans. Both are truly state-of-the-art devices that offer so much more than just the ability to receive phone calls and text messages. And yes, both are quite expensive.

PIXEL 2: https://store.google.com/product/pixel_2

IPHONE X: https://www.apple.com/iphone-x/

Drones

I've flown a lot of drones in the last year and can tell you that there's an unfortunate reality about this space that most companies don't want you to know: cheap drones are no fun to fly. Because we live in an area that gets lots of wind and weather can change on a minute by minute basis, lightweight drones have a bad tendency to be pushed all over the sky and therefore become quite difficult to control.

Expensive drones like the DJI Mavic Pro work great and give you splendid results even in mediocre weather, but that comes with a price tag that puts it out of the range of most casual consumers. Don't be fooled by the sub-$100 units either: they're going to prove just as hard and frustrating to fly as last decade's RC helicopters.

DJI MAVIC: https://www.dji.com/mavic

Sleep sound machines

There's not a lot that's new for 2017 in this space but I'm such a firm believer in the benefits of a sleep sound or white noise generator machine at night that I carry one with me when I travel. Noisy hotel rooms? No thanks, I'd rather listen to the soothing sound of ocean waves or a rainforest at night. Turns out that not all of these devices are designed the same, however, and only the very best are built upon multiple tracks of differing cycles so that there's never an obvious "loop" or restart point.

My choice for this remains the Sound+Sleep Mini high fidelity sleep sound system. It's small, portable, and loud enough to cover up even the most annoying nighttime sounds from the neighbors. Bonus: it's excellent for children who otherwise lay awake at night, listening to ambient sounds from the rest of the house.

SOUND+SLEEP: https://www.soundofsleep.com/

RFID shielded wallet

There are oodles of choices for this particular product on Amazon and eBay, and the prices range from startlingly inexpensive on up, but as you get more and more chip-enabled credit cards, having neutral shielded storage for them (and your passport) is going to prove more important. The easy solution is to get an RFID shielded wallet or purse. Simple. I have an attractive leather wallet that cost under $20 and still looks as good as the day I slipped my cards into it.

MY WALLET AMAZON LINK: http://amzn.to/2nOve2j

note: I don't know the vendor's site. This is just an Amazon link.

Motion sensor or voice-activated trash can

It's the last thing that seems like it needs a tech boost, but we've quickly grown to love our simplehuman motion activated kitchen trashcan. With pets it's always a mistake to have an open trashcan, but foot pedals? So 80's. Instead, we simply get near our new trashcan and the lid smoothly and silently lifts up. A few seconds later it descends back down to safely close and keep mischievous pets from marauding late at night.

SIMPLEHUMAN: https://www.simplehuman.com/trash-cans/sensor-can/sensor-can-with-voice-and-motion-control

Tech to skip

Having talked about lots of really cool tech gifts, let me also warn you against a few things. First off, virtual reality is still just a gimmick. If it's based on a smart phone you already have, a cheap headset is fine for play, but there's still nothing yet that makes the more expensive units compelling.

Action cameras seem to have come and gone too, with the GoPro no longer the belle of that particular ball. In fact, there are lots of knock off HD cameras that include waterproof housings and helmet mounts, all for a fraction the price of the GoPro. But will they be used after that initial burst of enthusiasm? I encourage you to assess that carefully before making a purchase.

Whatever you choose to gift your friends and family, however, I hope that it's enthusiastically received, that you get something fantastic and completely unexpected, and that your holidays are full of warmth, fun and love.