Columnist Marc Saltzman shows off awesome gadgets that are easy to set up and use.

You’re walking down the aisles of your favorite electronics retailer and spot something awesome for a loved one.

But then you remember that family member, friend or co-worker is more tech-shy than tech-savvy.

“Will they appreciate this gift?” you ask yourself. “Or worse, will it become a source of frustration?” To err on the side of caution, you put it back and move on.

It’s true many of today’s tech toys suffer from a steep learning curve, perhaps due to complicated setup or an unintuitive interface.

That said, if you’re looking to pick up something for those intimidated by the latest gadgets – which could also be yourself – then take heed to these following products that are very simple to use.

Wham cam, thank you ma’am

If you’re looking to pick up a non-intimidating Wi-Fi video camera, Oco ($149.00) lets you keep an eye on your home, its contents or most importantly, your loved ones, from any iOS or Android smartphone or tablet in the world. With Oco, you can live stream HD video; access cloud-stored video (free for a year); enable sound or motion alerts so you’re immediately notified if triggered; and engage in two-way audio chats with those at home (sure, even pets, why not). Set-up takes less than 60 seconds, and has a cleaner, easier-to-understand app interface than most competing products (even Nest Cam). No monthly monitoring fee is required. The app supports up to 16 cameras.

Stick it to me

You’ve heard of Chromecast – that small stick you can plug into a television to access streaming services – but what if that stick was a full-blown computer? As the name suggests, the Intel Compute Stick (from $84.99) turns your TV, monitor or projector into a fully functional computer. Simply plug in the stick into an available HDMI port and wirelessly connect a Bluetooth keyboard or mouse (or use the free Intel Remote Keyboard app on a smartphone or tablet), and you can use your choice of operating systems, such as Windows 10 or Ubuntu. Stream content from services like Netflix and Hulu, or snap social media feeds on the side of your screen while you watch a flick. Powered by a quad-core Intel Atom processor and Intel HD Graphics, this stick also includes Wi-Fi, 32GB storage, and a microSD and USB port, too.

Tanks a lot

There’s nothing more frustrating than running out of printer ink – just when you need it – and then paying through the nose for a tiny cartridge. This might be a thing of the past with the new Epson EcoTank family of printers as they let you print for up to two years before you need to refill the ink tanks (and at just $13 a bottle, per color, after that). Starting at $379.99 for the Epson Expression ET-2500 EcoTank All-in-One Printer, this Wi-Fi-enabled printer/scanner/copier has an ink yield of 4,000 black and 6,500 color prints, and can print up to 9.2 pages per minute for black and 4.5 pages for color. Pouring the bottles of ink into the color-coded tanks is also a lot simpler than replacing an ink cartridge for technophobes.

Sound advice

What’s the only thing easier than pairing two Bluetooth devices? The answer is “near field communication,” or NFC, which lets you simply tap to pair compatible devices. Available in multiple colors, the JBL Charge 2 Portable Bluetooth Speaker ($99.99), for example, makes a digital handshake with any NFC-enabled phone, tablet or tablet; simply touch the two and you can start streaming music to the speaker. Despite its small size, this speaker offers loud 15-watts of power, plus a built-in woofer delivers thumping bass. If your smartphone needs some power, you can plug it into the JBL Charge 2 – hence the name, perhaps – as it houses a long-lasting 6,000mAh lithium-ion battery for up to 12 hours of playback. An aux-in jack lets you connect wired devices.

Look ma, no hands

While it technically came out in 2014, Amazon’s Echo ($149.99) still makes the list for top tech of 2015 because Amazon has added a number of features, such as Pandora radio, real-time traffic and sports scores, and the ability to control your lights and switches at home — with your voice (say “Alexa, turn on the hallway light,” or “Alexa, turn on the coffee maker,” and so on). In case you haven’t yet tried this cylindrical-shaped gadget, simply have it join your Wi-Fi and thanks to its sensitive microphone, simply say “Alexa” anywhere in the room, followed by a question or command (like “Alexa, what’s happening in the news?” or “Alexa, remind me to call my mom tomorrow at 9am”). “She” can even read you audiobooks while you’re cooking dinner. Take that, Siri.

Game on!

Xbox is on a tear. About a dozen Xbox One bundles are now available, which includes a game or two to get you playing out of the box, and the latest one announced is the Xbox One Rise of the Tomb Raider Bundle ($399.99). This includes a 1-terabyte Xbox One console, wireless controller and headset, and full-game downloads of Rise of the Tomb Raider — one of the most critically acclaimed games of the year — as well as a copy of Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, with the exclusive Tactical Survival Kit Content Pack. Developed by Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal and published by Microsoft, Rise of the Tomb Raider is a prequel that follows the iconic adventurer Lara Croft in her first tomb-raiding expedition. Played from a third-person perspective, Lara is in search of an ancient artifact that is said to hold the secret of immortality.

Lap it up

Remember when computers were so difficult to use, you’d want to throw it out of the window (blue screen of death, anyone)? Thankfully, faster processors, better battery life, new interface options (including touch and voice) and more stable software is changing all that. Case in point: Lenovo’s Yoga 900 (from $1,199.99) is a “convertible” or “2-in-1” PC with a 13.3-inch screen on a watchband hinge. That is, you can use it like a laptop or bend it back all the way to enter tablet mode. Alternatively, “tent” mode is like an upside-down “V” on a table or desk for watching videos or video chatting, while “presentation” mode for when you want the keyboard tucked underneath. Powered by Intel’s latest 6th generation Core processor, the Yoga 900 offers up to 9 hours of performance between charges. Color options include orange, gold and silver.

Columnist Marc Saltzman writes on tech devices and trends for USA TODAY. Follow Marc on Twitter: @marc_saltzman. E-mail him at techcomments@usatoday.com.

  • Apple's most downloaded apps of 2015

    Apple’s most downloaded apps of 2015

  • Apple names the most innovative app of the year-- Workflow

    Apple names the most innovative app of the year– Workflow

  • Jefferson Graham's 5 top tech innovations for 2015

    Jefferson Graham’s 5 top tech innovations for 2015

  • And the app of the year is...Periscope

    And the app of the year is…Periscope

  • Great tech gifts for non-techie people

    Great tech gifts for non-techie people

  • Getting a drone for Xmas? Here's how to fly legally

    Getting a drone for Xmas? Here’s how to fly legally

Read or Share this story: http://usat.ly/1YaIdl4