News & Analysis

Electrifying inspirations from Santa

7th December 2022
TME
Paige West

Choosing a Christmas gift for an electronics hobbyist or a DIY enthusiast may be challenging. Whether the gift recipient is a girl or a boy, a woman or a man, the principal problem is to find a really useful present.

However, not every Santa is an expert in electronics! Even if they are, they may or may not manage to choose something special. This is why we invite you to read about some holiday gift ideas – products that are available directly from our warehouses (fast delivery), and always at good prices.  

Tools and equipment

Our review of ideas starts with presents that will be suitable for every DIY enthusiast – tools and measuring equipment. Note that those devices are not only useful for professional engineers. Many are part of essential household equipment.

Universal screwdriver and bits set

A universal screwdriver is an excellent gift – such a tool is useful for every house, flat or car owner. The handy screwdriver has a built-in storage space for essential driver bits in its handle. Thus, it may prove helpful in many emergency fixes and urgent technical troubles. Being a product from a renowned brand Wiha, the tool is robust and reliable, and all its components are well-fitted and designed to work for years. The anti-slip handle is very ergonomic and well-fitting to the hand. The screwdriver may be also a great gift for a young family member – because everyone should have their own set of tools, in particular when they are about to start an adult life soon.

Storage compartment for bits is built into the screwdriver handle

 

Hex-Plus set of hex wrenches

The wrenches are colour-coded to facilitate their identification and finding when dropped

Allen wrenches/keys (hex(agonal) wrenches) belong to essential household accessories – such tools are used while assembling and disassembling most furniture, and many types of equipment. Allen keys from Wera are coded with bright colours, which helps to identify the right tools, and makes it difficult to lose them. They are made of hard and resilient metals and are resistant to breakage while handling stubborn screws and bolts. The longer arm ends with a spherical tip to enable angled operation, which is especially useful in hard-to-reach installation spaces (e.g., while fixing a car seat or handling a bolt located in a narrow slot of a cabinet).  

Soldering iron with a heating element

A soldering iron is not only a tool for electronics engineers. It may be used to make holes in plastic objects, welding together cracked plastic parts or woodburning (pyrography). Their most popular use is, however, for making and fixing electric solders. A soldering iron should be in every household toolbox. We recommend a tool from a recognised and respected manufacturer, namely Weller. By purchasing such a tool, you may be sure of its quality and durability, but also that the gift recipient will be able to easily buy compatible spare parts (e.g., soldering tips or heating elements). The Weller brand offers tools of the highest quality that are user-friendly, fitted with an elastic cord and anti-slip, pleasant-to-the-touch, ergonomic handle.

The world-renowned brand guarantees high-quality products

UNI-T electronic distance meter

A distance meter is a handy and time-saving tool for field (outdoor) work

It proves useful in many situations, whenever accurate and rapid measurement of distance, area or volume/cubature etc. is needed. The device allows for constant measurements (in relation to moving objects) in metres, inches, or feet (imperial units). For the UNI-T device, the measuring range is 50m. The distance meter has a large, backlit screen and many useful features: automatic poweroff, a laser sight, automatic diagonal calculation function (according to the Pythagorean theorem), memory of 50 measurements, built-in classic, and laser levels.  

Digital multimeter with Bluetooth

The multimeter has many functions – more than necessary for most users. Still, let us admit it, the basic features (AC and DC voltage measurement, continuity tester) may prove very useful really unexpectedly. It is electronics engineers who use multimeters most frequently, but please take note of the following: no hobbyist, geek or professional electronics engineer has ever had too many multimeters. Many measurements are carried out using at least two devices. For example, one is used for constant monitoring of a selected parameter (e.g., amperage) and the other one is for intermittent measurements of the remaining ones (e.g., voltage).

The multimeter is an excellent gift for every technical DIY enthusiast

Our recommended multimeter by OWON has a really wide range of features. It measures basic parameters (current, resistance, etc.) but also signal frequency, temperature, and capacitance, has a built-in spotlight and contactless voltage detector, a HOLD feature, and, of course, a Bluetooth module for wireless transfer of data to external devices.  

Not only for electronics engineers

The TME offer includes mainly electronic components and devices and various electronic equipment. However, many of our products may also be used in other ways. That includes some of our electronic devices that are not necessarily for professional use only.

Desktop magnifier with backlight

A ring of LEDs provides very good lighting for whatever you are looking at

The desktop magnifier with backlight is an excellent aid for any precision work. In electronics, such devices are (mainly) used for mounting or inspecting small electronic circuits. However, the possibility to see tiny objects under bright light is very much appreciated also in other fields: modelmaking, manicure services, creating or restoring various pieces of art. Our recommended magnifiers by NEWBRAND are available in black or white versions. The magnifying glass may be covered with a movable lid, to protect it against dirt and dust. The device has an arm with three joints to facilitate easy positioning of the light source. The lamp is fixed to the edge of a desk with a clamping screw. An additional advantage of the product is very low power consumption (8W) and LED lights arranged in a ring to minimise shadows cast on the inspected objects.  

Headphones with a microphone, also with Bluetooth

Headphones belong to our most universal recommendations. Products from LOGILINK and QOLTEC are available from the TME catalogue in many versions. They are standard headphones for a smartphone or a player, which may be used for listening to music and talking (many models have built-in microphones). There are headphones with a cord (with a 3.5mm ‘jack’ plug), and others with wireless communication with any device fitted with a Bluetooth module. Moreover, we also have headphones with USB connectors, intended for users who often use Internet communicators (for private and business purposes, e.g. during remote working). Such headphones are also a must-have for gamers especially those into in multiplayer games, streamers etc. The TME offer includes headphones in many colours and sizes (padder earphones, earbuds), so a gift may be fitted to individual preferences of the recipient.

The headphones’ design is as important as the sound quality they offer

House surveillance with a Wi-Fi security camera

The Sonoff security camera is delivered with a set of mounting bolts

The security camera is useful not only for protection against burglars, although indeed, it is usually installed for this purpose. It may also prove helpful for remote pet sitting during the owners’ absence, surveillance of a baby room, watching a driveway or the space before the front door.

The main advantage of the Sonoff camera, making it an excellent gift option, is its simple installation. It requires only basic skills to install the application on the smartphone with an Android or iOS system and plug the power cord. The camera connects to the Internet via Wi-Fi or LAN (standard cord with an RJ-45 plug). After completing automatic configuration, the device is ready for use.

The Sonoff proprietary software enables remote control of the camera motion in two dimensions (axial rotation, rotating angle), recording of sound and video, saving selected frames – and, of course, real-time video transmission. The feature of night vision mode may turn out to be an asset. However, if you prefer a classic, low-maintenance security camera, just use a TF card (micro-SD) – after placing it in the slot, the device will automatically save a 40-second-long video whenever any movement is detected in front of the camera.

The device comes with a set of mounting components, to affix it to a wall or a ceiling, but it can also be operated while just stably rests on a desk or a table.  

WISVA LED strips

If you seek user-friendly, handy and eye-pleasing electronic components for both a hobbyist and a home DIY enthusiast, make sure you look at the offer of coloured LED strips by WISVA.

LED lights are the basic source of home lighting nowadays. They consume very little power and may be applied in many ways, giving designers many options. In the case of LED strips, the light sources are placed on a PCB support, which can be cut at marked points to produce sections of the desired length. This, as well as using the COB technology, make it possible to make a strip that appears to be emitting light as one, uninterrupted line – which is a very neat and attractive way of illuminating interiors, furniture, building fronts, shop windows and making warning signs (e.g., marking low ceilings). It is also often used in art installations. The LED strips are usually self-adhesive to facilitate mounting (however, proper cooling must be ensured, as the optoelectronic components generate heat).  

The strips emit uniform light, without the individual LED points being seen

WISVA LED strips are available in different shades of white light – from cold white to neutral and warm. There are also LED strips emitting blue, red and green light, and RGB strips that may emit mixed red/green/blue light in different proportions giving any desired colour of light. It is worth mentioning here that some products have an ingress protection rating of IP65, which means that they are moisture-proof and even splash-proof. LED strips need an appropriate, efficient driver (12 V or 24 V DC).  

Something for a hobbyist and a professional

Let us focus once again on gift ideas for electronics engineers – both amateurs and professionals. All the products introduced below allow for a wide range of applications, but their final use depends, of course, on the gift recipient. There is no need to worry that the gift will be a wrong one – provided, of course, that the user is interested in electronics or just wants to explore it.

Classic Arduino UNO board

Arduino is one of the most popular electronics products (for both amateurs and professionals) of the last decades. Arduino UNO is a basic but most recognised model from the manufacturer’s offer.

Arduino UNO may be powered through a USB or 5.5mm socket

To put it briefly: Arduino is an electronic circuit with a microcontroller, which may be computer programmed. Once the code is developed, it may be transferred to the device through the USB. Then, the board is able to operate the functions of the saved programme, being the centre of many, sometimes very complex, projects. In a sense, it is an affordable, compact computer, which may be used to build personalised devices, e.g., automatic home equipment, remote sensors, lighting driver, motors etc. As Arduino is very energy-efficient, those projects may be powered from batteries.

You can find, literally, tens of thousands of applications for this product on the Internet. The popularity of Arduino translates into a vast amount of free educational materials, tutorials, articles, and projects to help even the complete beginner get started. It is also an excellent and friendly way to introduce yourself to the world of programming and prototyping your own circuits. At the same time, Arduino lets you understand how our ubiquitous electronic devices work.  

Arduino UNO MINI Limited Edition

Those who already know Arduino will surely appreciate this product – it is a limited, collector’s edition of the UNO board. Its functionality is virtually no different from the classic version, yet the product has a number of distinctive features. The most obvious ones are its size and appearance. The black-and gold PCB board with polished edges and edge contacts will be an impressive part of the projects which should be aesthetically pleasing. Moreover, this version includes the good old Uno in the space that is four times smaller than the original one. Another difference is the use of a modern USB-C connector and connectors with a dense pin spacing. Note that the UNO Mini Limited Edition boards have unique serial numbers and are delivered with an enclosed handwritten letter from the brand founders. It will certainly be a nice gift for any member of the international Arduino community.

A board from the collector’s edition is miniaturised but fully functional

TME Education kit

Numerous components are ergonomically distributed on the board

If a gift is intended for an electronic newbie, consider choosing a board developed by our team – TME Education rev. 2. The product is intended for students to provide them with a user-friendly but extensive learning platform for microcontroller programming, using the Arduino UNO system. Once the device is connected to the computer, the user can immediately start working, learning about the operation of basic and commonly used electronic components (LCD and OLED screens, buttons, microphones, potentiometers, light and temperature sensors), and the methods of communication with component subunits (I2C, GPIO, SPI etc.). The extended version of the free user’s manual available on the product’s website (link in our catalogue) covers detailed but an easy-to-understand description of all important microcontroller features. The TME Education Kit allows – through enjoyable experimentation – to gain the basic knowledge that is necessary for any future engineer.  

OKYSTAR Robots

The Arduino and the kit designed to master its basics are excellent educational resources, but for many young electronics learners, the most attractive (and encouraging!) way to learn is to build their own robot. Here comes OKYSTAR, a brand which provides multi-component construction kits which make it possible to translate theoretical knowledge into the practice of electromechanics and automatics.

The offer of OKYSTAR includes frames and chassis, driver boards and interfaces – as well as full sets of components such as OKY5004, designed to build an autonomous vehicle powered by the ATMEGA328 microcontroller (which ensures compatibility with Arduino). The assembled robot may be configured at the user’s discretion, but the manufacturer provides several example operating programmes. Its main features include following the line (so-called tracking, line follower), avoiding the obstacles (with the use of an ultrasound sensor), remote operation via Bluetooth or a remote-control device. The kit includes electronic components (communication modules, driver, buzzer, sensors), electromechanical modules (stepper motors, servomechanism) and bolts, nuts adjusted chassis components and a compartment for a lithium-ion battery (the most popular format is 18650) with a charger.

The OKYSTAR kit has both mechanical components and a set of modules

ROCK 4 SE single-board computer

The ROCK 4 SE computer from OKDO is barely bigger than a credit card

We said that Arduino was like a small computer but ROCK 4 SE is literally one. It offers basic features similar to those in standard computers (web browsing, using office software, programming learning and movie watching), but with having the size of a credit card.

To start operating the computer, you will need a monitor with an HDMI connector, a mouse and keyboard with a USB interface, a 9...12 V DC power supply (and 3 A rated current) with a USB-C plug, and a mini-SD card with Linux/Android operation system (these environments offer a graphic user interface). It is worth mentioning that the software is available free of charge. Rock 4 SE can be handled as both a miniature equivalent of a standard PC, but also as an educational platform.

ROCK 4 SE has a 40-pin GPIO connector (input and output lines). It may be used for connecting additional components, modules, and peripherals (e.g., buttons, potentiometers or motor drivers), and then operating them using programs developed with higher-level programming languages (e.g., very popular Python). Other interfaces of the board include Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or M.2 – the latter will make it possible to connect compact and spacious SSD drives or eMMC memory. The ROCK 4 SE has high computing power, similar to laptops produced a few years ago. It may serve as a development tool but also as a working device.  

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