What to get Dad? It's a perennial problem every June. But fear not, children, spouses, and friends of fathers everywhere. For I have... stuff. In this article, and the accompanying video, I'll show you a bunch of great wild and wacky geeky gifts that Dad is sure to love.
Before I show you all of these great gift ideas, I'd like to share with you why I picked these particular items. I wanted to find items that would be new and exciting for Dad, not just stuff he's seen at his local Walmart.
I dug through all the new product announcements I've received over the past few months and selected just a few items I thought would make Dad's day. I also chose a few discoveries I've made over the year that Dad is sure to enjoy.
Also, since Prime Day 2021 begins the day after Father's Day (our theory is so Dad can buy himself whatever he didn't get), you might want to consider giving him an Amazon Gift Card. Nobody doesn't like a gift card.
My goal was to present you with items that were both very cool and very affordable. Many of the gift ideas I'm going to show you are well under a hundred bucks. There are a couple of more premium items, but there are some great selections here no matter what your budget.
We got a whole bunch of products to cover, so let's begin.
I'm starting off with my top Father's Day gift recommendation for 2021, the Pi-top  robotics kit. This takes the celebrated Raspberry Pi single-board computer and turns it into an accessible, powerful, and very flexible learning environment.
Now, to be fair, this is one of our most expensive recommendations, but we think it's worth it. Not only will Dad derive endless fascination with all the projects he can build, but it's great for an ongoing series of parent/child bonding experiences.
The kit starts with a Raspberry Pi base that's been retooled to be more like a LEGO or an Erector set. The parts and cables all snap together. With the right set of add-ons, Dad can build a notebook computer, a robot, a robot that's part notebook computer, or even a notebook computer that's also a robot.$99 at Wellbots
Next on the list is something much less expensive. I bought this a few weeks ago and immediately put one of the cables to use. It turned out to be a great value has great presentation, which will make it nice for Dad to receive as a gift.
No, it's not big and fancy. But everyone always needs more USB cables and this kit provides two 3ft cables, two 6ft cables, and a 10ft cable, all for about 12 bucks.
It's useful, obvious, affordable, and with nice stranded cabling and an LED on the USB C port that indicates there's power, it's just a high-quality product at a value price.$13 at Amazon
These next two have been around for a while, but they're still great Dad gifts. I've been really grooving on the Fire TV products recently. I converted an old, non-smart big screen TV into a smart TV with the little Fire TV 4K stick. This is an ideal present because, at $39-49 (depending on sales), it's both inexpensive and very powerful.
If you gift this to Dad, you'll be able to give him a complete streaming solution that has Alexa built right into the voice remote. That gets you access to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video (of course), Paramount+, Disney+, and more. And if Dad's TV and network connection supports 4K, he can watch those streams in glorious 4K.$40 at Amazon
If you really want to up Dad's easy chair game, gift him an Alexa cube. This is essentially a Roku, an Echo, a Harmony smart remote, and an equipment manager, all in one $100 to $150 box (price depends on whether there's a sale on). Like with the Fire TV 4K, Dad can enjoy all his favorite streaming services.
Where the Cube doubles down on Alexa convenience is in how it can control Dad's entire entertainment system. First, there's a full Alexa device in the cube, so Dad can talk to it without pressing the Alexa button on the remote. While it works over Wi-Fi, it has an Ethernet port, so Dad can stream without any signal interruption.
But the cake under the icing is the device's control over the entertainment system. Through Alexa voice commands and the included IR blaster, it can turn on and off the TV and all the other devices in your entertainment system, switch services, switch channels in most of those services, and even choose programs, seasons, and episodes to watch. Dad no longer needs to pick up a remote to choose what he's going to watch, like a caveman.$119 at Amazon
Here's another great, affordable gift for Dad. In these days of Zoom meetings, we all need to use webcams. While many laptops come with built-in webcams, their image quality is sometimes lacking, as are their microphones.
This little webcam by Emeet is a nice step up. With a 90-degree field of view, a 1080p camera, and two microphones, Dad will look better than he ever has online. What makes it great for you, though, is its price. It's under $40.$32 at Amazon
Earlier, we talked about how the pi-top robot kit would be great fun for Dad and the kids. Here's another gift that offers great parent/child bonding opportunities -- an old-school set of walkie-talkies.
I know, I know. Who needs walkie-talkies in a world of smartphones? But hear me out. These walkie-talkies don't need a cell tower, so even if Dad is way out in the sticks, he and the kids can talk to each other. They have a 30-mile range. They're waterproof, so if Dad drops one while crossing a stream, they'll still work.
But you want to know the best feature? Dad and the kids can stay in touch while camping -- and leave the smartphones in the car. Rather than everyone playing Minecraft in the woods, the family can actually talk and do things together. Now, that's the real gift.$70 at Amazon
While we're outside, here's another great gift for Dad. It's the Lutron PD-15OUT-BL Outdoor Smart Plug. And while that was a mouthful to say, it's actually a very simple product packed inside of a weatherproof shell.
This is a smart plug, just like every other smart plug. Plug stuff into it and you can control it via your phone or voice command assistants. The difference is that it is part of Lutron's home control ecosystem, which improved on basic Wi-Fi for home management.
The other difference is that it is weatherproof, so you can plug in lights and other items outside and control them without worrying about the weather.$80 at Amazon
If you want to get Dad a great pair of workout earbuds, these Adidas RPD-01s may well be the way to go. First, they're water-resistant, which means they're essentially sweatproof and splashproof. That means, if Dad works up a sweat while working out, he can still listen to his toons without worry.
As much as I like little tiny earbuds, I much prefer the wraparound style because there's far less of a chance they'll get lost, especially if Dad needs to headbang while doing cardio.
What more can I tell you? Well, they have about 12 hours of playtime, cost less than a third of what a pair of Apple Airpods will set you back, and come in a weird light green tint, gray, or black.$70 at Amazon
Speaking of ears, well... OK, this is weird. I haven't yet decided if it's cool -- or even safe -- but it will certainly make a great conversation starter (or conversation killer) for Dad. I'm introducing it here in the spirit of finding you unusual products. But this is definitely a time when you need to use your inner knowing (or inner sense of humor) to decide if this is right for Dad.
Okay, so let's start with the unfortunate name: Axel Glade Spade. The spade refers to a tiny spoon-like device that Dad sticks in his ear to scrap out ... wait for it... ear wax. Now, stick with me for a minute. It gets better. At the end of the scraping device is a tiny endoscope.
Have you put it together in your head yet? Dad can look inside his ear and see where the ear wax is, so he can scrape it out. Seriously. You can't make this up. I haven't been brave enough to try it, but a similar device sold on Amazon, the BEBIRD Ear Wax Removal Endoscope, has more than 5,000 reviews averaging 4 1/2 stars. So clearly folks out there wants to see what's inside their heads.$99 at Axel Glade
And that brings us to another health-related tech product: the Gunnar Intercept Onyx Amber glasses. Gunnar is famous for offering glasses that are supposed to reduce eye strain, specifically for folks staring at screens. The Amber version takes that one step up, adding an amber coloring to block blue light and make it easier to sleep.
So, are they worth it? I don't know. Gunnar sent me a custom prescription for these glasses and I did wear them at night for a few weeks. It took a while to get used to reading and watching TV through amber-colored glasses, but after a while, it wasn't bad. But did it help me get better sleep? For me, probably not. Did reduce eye strain? Again, for me, probably not.
But I've been a night person for as long as I can remember, so sleeping at night has always been difficult. And I spend 80+ hours a week in front of a screen, so it's unlikely anything can reduce my eye strain except for stepping away from the computer. That said, there are positive reviews that report reduced headaches and even better sleeping. So, while I again recommend you tap into that inner voice, you might want to give these a try. They could really help Dad.$69 at Amazon
Next up is a fun, inexpensive gift that any Dad would enjoy getting. The Speks Geode is a fidget toy. It consists of a dozen hexagonal plastic pieces with a rare earth magnet on each side. Dad can assemble the pieces in any of about a hundred different combinations.
At about $25, it's a gift that can keep Dad occupied and calm for years to come. Scientific American published an article a few years back showcasing some benefits fidget toys have for adults. So, there's that, too.$25 at Amazon
Finally, we wrap up with a topic that's near and dear to most Dad's hearts: Grilling. What I have here is a grill from a company that goes back to 1829. Back then, a blacksmith named Carl Schmidt went into business making swords. Fast forward almost 200 years and those swords have been beaten into grills, culminating in this Carl Schmidt Sohn indoor smokeless electric grill.
Designed so that all the main components can be detached and safely washed in a dishwasher, it has two separate grilling surfaces: A flat griddle for eggs and pancakes, and a traditional grooved surface for those groovy grill marks. Plus, it's got a turbo smoke extractor (basically a fan and a filter) and has smart overheating protection.
Now, I know we're heading into summer where outdoor grilling can be wonderful. But keep in mind that winter is coming, and when it's too unpleasant to go outside to grill, Dad will love having this available to cook up all kinds of wonderful foods. I've made a mean grilled cheese and some mighty fine hot dogs on it.$145 at Amazon
OK, so this one is more than $150. But let's stay on our entertainment and video theme for one more gift, the XGIMI Halo Projector. This is a full Android TV built into a powerful, portable projector. You're watching a video behind me, and while it does look a bit washed out, remember that I'm filming here with full studio lights. Most TV watching spaces will be considerably darker and TV watching quality will be considerably better.
What really excited me about this device is that it can run on internal batteries or corded power. It even has a tripod mount, which is what it's using right now to project while I'm filming this segment. It's small, it's powerful, it's versatile, and it's portable. What's not to like?$800 at Amazon
Well, there you go: Unexpected and unusual products that Dad is sure to love. If you decide to give any of these, please feel free to share about the experience in the comments below. If you have other great Father's Day ideas, or if you're a Dad and there's something you'd like to get, let us know in the comments below as well.
For ZDNet's DIY-IT series I'm David Gewirtz. If you'd like to see more of these videos, please tap that subscribe button. If you found something you liked (or, you just like clicking things), hit the thumbs-up button.
Have a wonderful Father's Day.
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