15 best tech gifts: Headphones, tablets, video doorbells and more
We’ve rounded up the best giftable gadgets and gizmos
Whether you fancy gifting (or receiving) a pair of headphones, a cool speaker, a portable games console or a way to enjoy blisteringly fast wifi, there are gadgets below to suit.
This year has seen the usual move towards faster and more powerful gadgets for the same price as before – the latest Apple iPad is the clearest example of this with its new, super-value tablet.
But there has also been a trend towards smarter connectivity, like the move to 5G as an alternative to wired broadband or a video doorbell that can let you know when someone’s at the door, wherever you are.
The latest gadgets offer something genuinely new, like the first Sonos speaker to include Bluetooth, the best ebook reader yet from Amazon with its new Kindle Oasis and sensationally good noise-cancelling from a tiny pair of wireless in-ear headphones in the form of the Apple airPods Pro.
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Sonos Move: £345, Amazon
This is the first portable speaker from Sonos, though to be fair, it’s big and heavy at almost 3kg, so you won’t to trudge it around everywhere with you. It’s also the first from the company with Bluetooth as well as wifi. It can connect to your existing Sonos speakers, but you can also take it outside or beyond the range of the wifi network. The sound is outstanding, rich, bassy and powerful. It has Sonos’s trueplay system built in which optimises the sound according to the speaker’s surroundings, so it recalibrates this every time it’s moved.
Twelve South AirFly Pro: £54.95, Apple
This is a spectacular stocking filler for frequent flyers. If you have your own wireless headphones, it’s frustrating that you can’t use them to listen to the inflight entertainment. The airfly pro plugs into the plane’s headphone socket and then connects wirelessly to your preferred headphones. Neat and simple to use, it also works to connect to your gym’s TV system, for instance.
Amazon Kindle Oasis: From £229.99, Amazon
The slickest, most advanced ebook reader on the market has a high-resolution display that’s larger than most (7in) and is slim, light and waterproof. The battery is long lasting (weeks rather than hours) and downloading a new book takes less than a minute. You can choose between gold and graphite finishes, wifi or wifi plus 4G connection.
The latter is more expensive but gives 4G connectivity for the life of the product, so you can download another book anywhere there’s a mobile signal (so you probably don’t have to get off your sunbed to do it). The Oasis screen is sharp and attractive, and easy to view in bright sunshine even through sunglasses. Easily the best reader of its kind.
Away’s Bigger Carry-On: £245, Away
Away bags are light and well made. The TSA lock means that when you travel to the States the authorities can open your bag if they need to check it without breaking the lock. There’s also a powerful battery to recharge your tablet or phone. To fit in with airline requirements, this is ejectable so you can check the bag into the hold without it. Away’s cases come in a range of colours and a gorgeous aluminium finish, though it’s £50 dearer.
Vodafone 5G GigaCube: £50, Vodafone
If your home broadband is slow, this could be a game changer. The GigaCube has a SIM card in it for 4G and 5G signals. If your home is in the growing Vodafone 5G signal area, you can see astonishingly fast speeds with no need for wires, apart from the power cable. The monthly tariff isn’t cheap (£30 to £50 depending on data bundle) but it doesn’t require a landline, so if your home phone does nothing but drive you mad with scam calls, this solution offers an extra benefit.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700: £349.95, Bose
The latest headphones from Bose look and feel great. And the sound is amazing, with noise cancelling that is second to none. Tap one of the ear cups to reduce or increase the noise-cancellation level. In quiet situations or when you’re walking, say, you can set it to a low level, saving level 10 for aircraft, for example. It’s also great for making phone calls so both you and your caller can hear each other even if you’re in a noisy environment.
Mous iPhone 11 Clarity Case: £39.99, Mous
Mous uses a unique shock-absorber technology called AiroShock which means that if you drop your iPhone, it’ll be fine. Even from quite a height onto a hard surface. Mous makes a range of finishes but the Clarity models look the best thanks to a transparent back that is scratch resistant and doesn’t yellow over time. The protective edges of the case creep round to the front of the phone to protect the screen if it falls face down.
Apple iPad: £299, Currys PC World
This is the entry-level tablet from Apple but it’s mighty capable and amazing value. A fast processor keeps it running at speed, and newly updated software means that it’s in many ways as versatile as a laptop. You can even attach a keyboard cover to complete the effect. This iPad has a larger display than previous entry-level models – 10.2in – and it’s compatible with the Apple Pencil smart stylus.
Anden Domino: From £149, Made By Anden
Anyone with an Apple Watch knows that the charging puck you need to use every night is the only less-than-elegant thing about the whole smartwatch experience. The Domino by London-based Anden is a solid, classy accessory. The Apple puck slides satisfyingly into the wooden domino which then attaches to the handsome metal base – choose from anodised aluminium or solid brass – to create an object that looks great, whether the Apple Watch is on it or not. You can also choose between cherry and walnut for the domino wood.
Arlo Pro 3: £549.99, Amazon
A smart camera is a great way of ensuring peace of mind when you’re out of the house. The Arlo Pro 3 is simple to set up and can be configured to track motion in your front garden but not the pavement beyond, for instance. There’s two-way audio with noise cancellation to make it sound the best it can, and even a siren built in. Features include the camera turning off automatically when you’re at home, if you want it to. For extended recording capabilities you need a monthly subscription. Battery life is between three and six months. You can choose how many cameras you include – this price is for two cameras and a hub.
Gearbox Automatic MkII Turntable: £549, Gearbox
The design of this turntable is inspired by Dieter Rams’s Braun PC 3 SV record player from the Fifties. A valve inside means the acoustic is warm and smooth. It can be plugged straight into any line input on a speaker or hifi, for instance, making it easy to set up. But it’s a high-tech device thanks to a Bluetooth transmitter which can send the audio wirelessly to a compatible speaker. Even better, music recognition technology means it can add records you play to your Spotify playlist.
Apple AirPods Pro: £249, John Lewis & Partners
These are not cheap in-ear headphones but, oh my, they’re fantastic. The new design is smaller and fits the ear better than previous AirPods (and they look different enough for everyone to know you have the new model). There are three different sizes of ear tips to ensure a great fit. But the standout feature is noise cancelling, which is tremendous, masterfully keeping the noise of the outside world at bay.
There’s also a transparency mode which uses external microphones to let you hear whoever’s talking to you while the music plays in the background. Though, to be honest, it’s more polite to take an earbud out when you’re in conversation, in which case, removing one AirPod pauses the music until you put it back.
Nintendo Switch Lite: £199, John Lewis & Partners
Nintendo’s latest console is a portable device but has a 5.5in high-resolution display. It plays the rich, extensive games found on the more expensive Switch console (providing they have a handheld mode, which most do) but unlike the Switch, the Lite doesn’t connect to the TV. Still, it’s easy to carry around, has a good battery and a fast processor so the games play with superb smoothness.
Google Nest Hello: £229, Currys
Nest, part of Google, makes great-looking, high-performance gadgets which talk to each other. The Hello is a video doorbell with high-resolution camera, microphone and speaker. So, when the doorbell rings, you can see on your phone who’s there whether you’re upstairs or half a world away. You can then talk to your visitor and instruct them where to leave the parcel. The Hello records all the time, so you can see if someone’s loitering even if they don’t ring the bell. It can even recognise if it’s a familiar face at the door – though this requires a subscription.
Withings Move ECG Smartwatch: £129.95, Withings
The Withings Move ECG is a great balance between a traditional watch with analogue hands, and the health extras a smartwatch brings. So, in addition to a regular watch face, there’s a smaller dial which counts your steps and shows how near you are to reaching 100 per cent of today’s target. The battery lasts for a year, so there’s no worry about it running out. And it has one great extra feature: a built-in ECG monitor means you can track your heart rate by recording an ECG any time. The smaller dial helpfully counts down the 30 seconds as you do it. It also tracks sleep and is water resistant to 50 metres. Great value, too.
The verdict: Tech gifts
There’s plenty to choose from here at different price points. For sheer audio excellence and ease of use, the Sonos Move wins out, but the Apple iPad and Withings Move ECG smartwatch both offer outstanding value.
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