12 great Father's Day gifts: Unique, geeky, affordable and sure to thrill

You say your dad already has a $50 smartphone-controlled drone? No problem: Here are 11 more tech toys you won't find at your local Walmart.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

It's time to pick that perfect gift for your dad. In this guide and the accompanying video, I'll show you affordable robots, drones, robot drones, grill cleaning robots, remote-controlled robotic cameras, and more.

Plus, when your dad's all done playing with his wonderful toys, I'll show you some tech-enabled goodies to help him get a good night's sleep.

Before I show you all 12 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 your dad, not just stuff he's seen at his local Walmart.

Two companies with a wide selection of unique gadgets, GearBest and Wellbots, were kind enough to give me the run of their catalogs and let me select a few items I thought would be perfect as gifts.

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I also 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 your dad's day.

My goal was to present you with items that were both very cool and very affordable. Most of the gift ideas I'm going to show you are well under $100. There are a couple of more premium items, but there are some great selections here no matter what your budget.

We have a dozen products and your dad's waiting, so let's begin.

Get geeky for Father's Day 2018

Gearbest TIANQU XS809W Foldable RC Quadcopter

I'm starting off with my top Father's Day gift recommendation for 2018. First up is the TIANQU XS-809-W Foldable RC Quadcopter from GearBest. Want to know what makes this special? It's $50!

Beyond the included remote control, your dad can also fly this thing in first-person view from his smartphone. He can fly the thing, looking down from the sky via the drone's camera, plus capture video and still images.

The camera is decidedly low-res, but for $50, your dad gets a fully functional, smartphone-controlled drone. If you're on a budget and you really don't know what to buy, this is my go-to recommendation. It's unique, cheap, and very cool.

Casetify Red and Black Apple Watch Band

You can tell I'm incredibly fashion conscious by looking at my fantastic ensemble today. Yep. T-shirts is about as fancy as I get. And that's been the case with my Apple Watch band. I bought a black watch, so I got a black band.

The folks at Casetify decided to attempt an intervention. They sent me this very nice band that matches ZDNet's colors. Clearly, an Apple Watch band isn't for everyone (not everyone has an Apple Watch, after all).

But if your dad does have an Apple Watch, bling him into the 21st century. At $52, it's actually more expensive than the drone, but if you're determined to give you dad some style, this is one way to go.

Sphero BB-8 Star Wars app-enabled droid

Robots? Did someone say robots? If you saw The Force Awakens, you know that the standout character was the little BB-8 droid. That little guy is almost as cute as my puppy. Makes you want to go squeee.

The folks at Wellbots sent me the $124 Sphero version of BB-8, which looks exactly like the one in the movie, except this guy is size of a baseball. This is an app-controlled robot with a ton of features and games.

If you give this to your dad, I guarantee he'll have hours of fun annoying you -- and probably the dog, too.


Let's switch to something near and dear to every your dad 's heart: Food. I gotta tell you, I love my grill. OK, to be fair, it's not really the grill I love, it's the ability to make steaks and hot dogs, and burgers. Mmm...

You know what I don't love? Cleaning the grill. For years, my solution had been to ignore the problem. My theory was that the old gunk and funk on the grill added to the flavor. My wife disagreed. Grilling now has an added step: Cleaning.

If your dad feels like I do about cleaning, what could be more freeing than a robot? Here, then, I present you with the Grillbot. Your dad can charge it up, put it on his grill -- make sure the burners are off -- and let it scrub away.

This thing ranges from about $120 to $140, depending on whether you get a case to go with it.

Reolink Keen remote camera

I never used to care about the idea of an indoor security camera, until two things happened: I got a dog, and I started 3D printing. In both those cases, I've long wanted to hook up some remote viewing method so I could easily see whether Pixel or one of the printers got into trouble and needed some intervention.

The Reolink Keen camera is interesting because it's a set-it-and-forget-it remote-operated robotic camera with pan and tilt. It's battery powered and has Wi-Fi, so all your dad needs to do is plug it in, connect it to Wi-Fi, and watch it from the web or his phone. It's $129 and worth it for the added peace of mind.

3Doodler Create Pen

Speaking of 3D printing, let's talk about the 3Doodler Create Pen. At just under $100, this thing takes in plastic filament, heats it up, and lets you apply it to whatever you want. Think "glue gun" but with plastic instead of glue.

The possibilities for your dad are endless. He can extrude plastic to sculpt whatever he might want, use it to connect things together, and to make repairs. My interest in it, as a 3D printing explorer, is using it to weld plastic parts together and possibly add highlights and accents to the things I create.

When you give it to your dad, his first reaction will be probably "What am I supposed to do with this?" But give him a day or so, and he'll be plastic doodling everything in sight. Guaranteed.

ZeroTech Dobby Pocket Drone

You didn't think I was going to leave this video without showing you another drone, did you? Of course not. Now, I'll caution you. This little drone is $179. But then again, it's a lot more advanced than the $50 one I showed you before.

The Dobby is also smartphone controlled, but it has much more granular control and a far better camera. This thing can capture 4K video, beating even the new DJI Spark, which is more expensive and limited to 1080p.

It might be a bit of a stretch money-wise for a Father's Day gift, but as an entry-level smart drone -- that's the size of a phone -- it's a worthy contender and your dad will love it.

MGCOOL Explorer Pro 4K 30fps Sports Camera

If you want to give your dad a 4K camera and don't want to spend $300 or more, I present to you the very cool McCool Explorer Pro.

Sent to me from GearBest, this is basically a GoPro, but at under $40, it's a lot cheaper. It's even got a screen on the back.

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What's always bothered me about GoPros is that they're too expensive for the action they're supposed to film.

But at a penny under $40, attach it to your helmet, strap it to your skateboard, or gaffer tape it to your hockey stick. If it breaks, it's no great loss. Just buy another one.

API Panaview Aquarium Kit with LED Lighting and Power Filter

When I grew up, my Dad 's main hobby was tropical fish. We'd go down into the basement in our New Jersey home and there were tanks all along the wall. I never took up fish as a hobby, but I now have an actual fish tank (sort of).

This is the API Panaview Aquarium Kit, which I picked up on Amazon for about forty bucks. I'm going to use it to film dissolving 3D filament for future videos, but it's a real fish tank kit, complete with lights and a filter.

If you want something fun and wholesome for your dad, tropical fish may be a way to go. My Dad certainly loved them.


Sugru is a visco-elastic polymer, kind of like a rubber that's a glue that's also moldable. This is one of those cool, futuristic materials that if you traveled back in time to 1999, no one would know what it was or how it worked.

Think of Sugru as the duct tape of rubber. You know how duct tape can solve almost any problem that you have, as long as you're willing to strap things together? Sugru is like that, but more silly putty than tape. And it's strong.

Give it to your dad and he can mold it, squish it, and use for an almost infinite number of fixit projects. At about $20 for a kit complete with an idea guide, you know this is something your dad will immediately put in his toolbox.

Helping your dad relax

I'll end our 2018 gift guide with two related products, both designed to help your dad relax.

The first is the 1Voice headphones and eye mask. This thing is a padded mask with speakers in each side. It's soft enough that your dad can lay on his side, hear his tunes, and not feel the discomfort of an earbud. It's also great on an airplane.

Next is the DreamPad. This is a pillow with a flat speaker inside. It's unique because there's both sounds and a bit of vibration, which can help remove distractions. The big win is that your dad can comfortably lay on this pillow, hear whatever he's listening to, and not disturb your mom.

The 1Voice eye mask headphones are about $30. The DreamPad ranges from $150 to $180. One important note: Both require wired headphone jack connections to your phone unless you add a separate Bluetooth dongle.

Happy Father's Day

Well, there you go: 12 unexpected and unusual products that your 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.

And have a wonderful Father's Day.

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

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