In previous years' Cool Yule Tools holiday gift guide, we've offered health and fitness gadget gift suggestions, but this year we decided to expand this category to include "grooming" tips as well. Looking good is always important, and technology is being added to new things to help us stay that way.
Here are some suggestions of products that we liked this year. Take a look!
Note: Products are listed in no particular order or preference. Prices are also rounded-up estimates from either the product's website or Amazon.com. Better deals may be offered online during the holiday season.
While not your typical gadget in the sense of consumer electronics, the ProGlide Styler from Gillette does have an on/off button and runs on a AA battery, giving it a small bit of gadgety goodness.
The razor combines three different grooming tools in one handy device. First, there's a powered trimmer that can trim sideburns and other facial hair quickly and evenly. The unit comes with three different comb sizes for easily trimming goatees, beards and mustaches. The shaver part then clips on top of that, giving you a 4-blade wet razor. The third tool is an edger, which can provide defined lines for edging (goatees and sideburns, I'm assuming).
The on/off button is mainly used for the trimmer, but you can also use it for the shaver, which provided an odd feeling when shaving. I'm not completely sure if the power button helped my shave, but it didn't harm it either.
If there's someone on your list who likes to grow facial hair on a regular basis (sadly, I can't do this as much as I'd like), this makes for a nice handy gift that provides several shaving tools in one handy package.
- Keith Shaw
This light and comfortable shaver features three circular blades that pivot, providing a smooth shave in all those hard-to-get places. Because the shaving surface doesn't have a straight edge, there's no way to trim sideburns or other facial hair. But not to worry, there's a little pop-out trimmer blade that's enclosed with the back of the shaver and pops out when you push a button.
In my experience, an electric shaver doesn't deliver the close shave that a Mach 3 or some other manual razor does. But if you like the convenience of a light, portable, ergonomically well-designed electric shaver, this would make a great gift. It comes with a charger, and the device features a battery gauge, so you know when your power is running low. The blades themselves pop out and are washable. The box says this shaver has "black diamond technology'', which, if you read the fine print, actually means "diamond-like carbon'' but, hey, for $50 you can't expect actual diamonds, right?
- Neal Weinberg
We've seen versions of Plantronics' BackBeat Go wireless headphones in previous years, but we think this year they really nailed it. These very light stereo headphones connect wirelessly via Bluetooth to your music player or smartphone, giving you the ability to hear music (and take calls if you want, there's a small microphone on the wire connecting the two earbuds) without a dangly cable getting in the way.
If you work out, you'll appreciate this fact immensely. During a recent walk on a treadmill, I popped out the cord on another pair of headphones several times, disrupting the walk and almost breaking the music player.
In the case of the BackBeat Go earbuds, the only cable is a small one that connects the left and right side. You can loop the cable behind your head, so when your arms are swaying back and forth during a walk or run, you won't have to worry that it's going to violently tug the cable out of the music player.
These headphones also offer some moisture protection - previous versions tended to short out if you sweat or got some water in them (running in the rain). Plantronics says the earbuds have nano-coating that can protect the earbuds against rain, sweat and other small bits of moisture. You can't go swimming with these things on, but you should be OK during a small drizzle.
The earbuds come with three sizes of ear tips to provide a good fit inside your ears, as well as two stabilizer hooks that help keep them inside your ears without the need to jam them inside your ear canal. Connecting via Bluetooth is about the same process as a phone headset, and the battery life will give you up to about 4.5 hours of listening to music before it needs a recharge.
If you have a runner on your holiday list, check these out.
- Keith Shaw
For some reason, we only see advertising for electric razors around the holidays. Maybe it's the animatronic snowman that rides around on a shaver, or maybe it's because people are always wondering about gifts to buy for hairy men. I'm not sure, but when I heard about the ShaveTech USB travel shaver, I had to try one out.
Basically, this is a small electric razor that gets its power from a rechargeable battery. A built-in USB cable (it pops out from the bottom) recharges the shaver.
Having this in the travel bag can be very useful for men who grow very heavy 5-o'clock shadows - after a long day of work, using this can help you get ready for a client dinner or going out without needing to break out the razor and shaving cream.
Unfortunately, we think we had a bad test unit (we hope), because every time we charged the unit up, we got about three seconds of shaving power before it went dead. This drops our encouragement for this device greatly.
- Keith Shaw
I was pretty skeptical of the Emmi-Dent when I first took it home for this review. It's an "ultrasonic" toothbrush, which means that, according to Emmi-Dent's description, it uses special toothpaste and ultrasonic vibrations to create millions of tiny bubbles that sandblast bacteria and crud from your teeth. Makes sense to me.
It looks pretty much like a regular old electric toothbrush, and hums in your hand when activated. It really doesn't feel like it's doing much when you use it - they tell you to just hold it lightly against your teeth for a few seconds instead of scrubbing back and forth - but it does seem to do an admirable job of "brushing." My mouth felt quite clean after using it, somewhat reminiscent of the feeling you get after a visit to the dentist, even though the process doesn't take an especially long time.
That said, however, it's still an almost-$200 toothbrush that requires its own specialized toothpaste to function properly. It's a neat product, to be sure, but unless you've got plenty to spend this holiday season, it's tough to call the Emmi-Dent a particularly good value.
- Jon Gold
Wow, how totally rad! The Walkman is back! Well... sort of. The name is back, but the product is very different. Essentially now, the Walkman is a 2GB MP3 player (also available in 4GB). The cool part though is that it's wireless. The device is built into the headphones, so it's all just one piece; no wires, no fuss!
I was first very nervous about the MP3 player part; if it's not an Apple product, how hard is it to to transfer music? Fortunately, it wasn't difficult. The Walkman will sync with Windows Media Player, iTunes, or you can just migrate music folders onto the Walkman's drive when plugged into your computer. The device will also work through a playlist or use a "shuffle" mode.
I'm a little less enthused about the headphones part. This may just be me, but I found them a little confusing to properly put on my ears. It probably took me about five or six attempts before getting it correct. Then, I found them a little heavy and the headphone strap is way too big for my head, but I have a small head. The strap isn't adjustable. The sound quality was good, but I worried about what if something happened to one of the headphones. It's not like with other devices where you could just buy new headphones. If you damaged a headphone here, you'd have to buy a new Walkman.
I still think this is a neat gift, but it's probably ideal for someone with a larger head (a man perhaps) who is really into having cool and non-cumbersome running gear. Especially because the headphones are sweat-proof and it comes with a little booklet from Olympian and marathon runner, Meb Keflezighi, featuring running and nutrition trips, as well as suggestions for a playlist. Personally, I liked Keflezighi's musical suggestions, and his tips were helpful. The Walkman is a neat idea, it just didn't fit me well.
- Jen Finn
I’m sure this would make a really cool gift for someone, unfortunately, I’m not that person. The Armband Water Bottle has some cool features, my favorite being the detachable see-through pocket. It’s ideal for holding a house/car key, money, a card such as an ID or a credit card, and a phone or an MP3 player.
You can access the touch screen through the pocket’s clear plastic front, but there is nowhere for headphones to come out except the top, where the pocket should be closed with Velcro. I know my iPod would then have to be upside down, although that’s not really a huge issue. The idea that the pocket is detachable is nice though, allowing you to get everything in the pocket, without awkwardly cramming them in next to the bottle. Plus it lets you clean and fill the bottle and the case without worrying about the contents of the pocket.
The water bottle itself is a 16 oz., lightweight aluminum bottle, with a wide mouth for easy fill. Of course a refillable bottle is more eco-friendly than a plastic water bottle. And it securely attaches to your arm with 2 lightweight (yet thick) armbands.
So why is this water bottle not for me? For starters, I have thin, non-muscular arms, and even when empty the water bottle felt bulky. I am the type of runner who runs with a water bottle, but I like being able to switch which arm carries the bottle as I run. With this secured to one arm, I felt off balance the whole time and by the end of my run, my right side ached a little.
My number one reason for disliking it though, was that it’s hard to drink from. It’s awkwardly strapped to your arm! I wasn’t sure if the designers wanted me to take the bottle off my arm every time or if I was supposed to drink from it while wearing it, but that’s easier said than done.
After examining the packaging more closely, I see that it suggested to leave the Velcro flap off the bottle and open, therefore allowing the water bottle to be removed from the arm band. But then where do they want you to put the open flap? And wouldn’t that make the bottle less secure, no longer held into the sleeve, and more likely to bounce around?
I also was a little nervous about the mouthpiece being sharp. I never cut my lip, but I was worried about that with every sip. I may have struggled getting the cap back on a few times... but that might just be a problem with my dexterity.
Overall, sure, some larger man may really enjoy this water bottle that allows him to be hands-free. It might be great for a walker or a hiker. But it fell a little short for a small, female runner. I’ll stick with carrying my bottle of water.
- Jen Finn
These are the best headphones that I’ve tested this year. The sound quality is awesome and the enhanced bass that the box promises is delivered. Plus, the way the earbuds are designed, they securely fit into your ears, blocking out surrounding noise as well as not letting the sound escape.
If you’re wearing these at the gym or in the office, you won’t have to listen to anything around you, nor will anyone nearby question your music choices. The way the earbuds are designed, they fit really securely in the ear and are unlikely to fall out, even if you accidentally pull the audio cord.
The box promises that the earbuds will fit under most helmets, while I didn’t test this out because I’m not a biker, I imagine this is true. They fit snuggly in the ear, with an over-the-ear design. They don’t feel bulky or stick out from the ear much at all.
Some of the other perks to these headphones include a 51-inch, tangle resistant, noise-free cord; a shirt clip; a sliding cable cinch to keep the cords for the individual earbuds together at a length that works for you; and the earbuds are sweat-resistant.
I feel a little like Dr. Seuss and Green Eggs and Ham with these headphones: I love these headphones, Sam-I-am, I love them in the gym, I love them in the office, I love them on the bus, they simply are no fuss! I’m sure I’d love them on a train or in the rain!
- Jen Finn