Tech the halls! Like every year, 2018 has brought us a truck load of shiny new things, and we've spent the the last 12 months testing and re-testing the new additions to the big brands' ranges, so you know which are fail-safe to gift (or to buy, as a “well done, me, for making it through the year” treat).
We've asked those crucial questions you need to address before making a big purchase – Is that a good deal? Is there a better version of these? Is this the latest model? And how long will that thing last without needing to be charged? – to help with your choices.
Think of it not simply as a load of hardware, but vessels to experience life’s joys: music, learning, communicating, reading. OK, that might be overdoing it a bit, but I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t like something on this list.
THE SMART WATCH FOR TECH DEVOTEES
Apple has got some cheek, making such lust-worthy tech, because it’ll bankrupt the lot of us, plus there are usually some just-as-good alternatives. But it’s no exaggeration to declare its latest watch, with the biggest screen ever and compatible with an iPhone 5S and all later models, is the best smartwatch on the market. As well as a host of apps to help you exercise, sleep, meditate and more, it’ll also detect if you fall and call an emergency contact.
THE CAMERA FOR CREATIVES
Cameras aren’t extinct just yet, and if the recipient is keen to get creative with their snaps, then gifting them a machine with a mirrorless camera is the way forward. Just as pro as a DSLR, mirrorless models are often smaller, thanks to its electronic viewfinder (over a physical one), and, crucially for wannabe Annie Leibovitz’s, they can still swap the lenses. This retro-looking snapper is great for beginners and will produce beautiful shots with very little fuss.
THE CHOICE FOR (BATH-LOVING) BOOKWORMS
Our favourite e-reader just got supercharged, with a waterproof coat for bathtime stories and even more storage. It’ll last for about three weeks if used for an hour a day, which is plenty of time to get through a fair chunk of literature. If the thought of the likes of Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter would appeal to whoever you're buying for, well, they'll be able to enjoy all Audible titles using Bluetooth headphones.
THE WIRELESS HEADPHONES FOR AVID LISTENERS
Any audiophile you’re buying for will want to get “lost in music”, as Sister Sledge suggested back in the day. Or be able to hear their favourite podcast over the noisy train engine on the commute. For this, they’ll need some noise cancellers, so that they can swap out those scraggly buds, which probably came in the box of whatever phone they’re using, for a pair of top-end cans. The noise cancelling will dial up or down depending the surroundings – they'll transform plane journeys, too, trust me, and their soft cushioning and award-winning sound will make someone's ears very happy.
THE PROJECTOR FOR FILM FANS
When you see projectors in other people’s houses you think, “that’s cool”, but seems all too much of a faff to commit to one. We can guarantee this one will go down very well with a film lover, who can share the love with other movie-fan mates, thanks to its portability. It's no larger than a can of fizzy drink, has built-in speakers, will stream Netflix and throw out a vivid picture up to 100 inches. Now, where's the popcorn?
The smart speaker for stylish audiophiles
Delivering both full-bodied sound and Alexa integration, there’s no better smart speaker money can buy – and this one looks stylish, too. Usually only available in black or white, a recent collaboration with Danish design brand HAY means you can now get your hands on an array of limited-edition colours: red, green, yellow, a chic light grey and a pastel pink, so there will be one that will work with the recipient’s decor.
THE GADGET FOR SCATTY GIFTEES
Buying for someone who is a serial key or wallet loser? Give them one of these super effective trackers that attach to valuables, so they can easily find them when they go missing. With a range of 300ft, it connects to the Tile app via Bluetooth, which will show them where it is on the map. A simple press of the Tile button will sound, making it easier to locate your keys down the back of a sofa. Unlike previous models, you can replace the batteries and it will also connect to Alexa and Google assistant, so, “Alexa, ask Tile to find my keys,” may become a familiar request in the recipient's home. Works with most phones.
The STEAM toy for clever kids
Aimed at children age eight and above, this is a clever robotic ball, powered through an app that’s designed to teach kids (and grown-ups) the fundamentals of coding. Users are guided through the basics, which will teach them to control the ball and create designs on its integrated screen. Then, for when their concentration inevitably wanes, there are games loaded up for them to consolidate their new skills.
The watch for sporty souls
Smartwatches are great, sure, but they’re often less than elegant, particularly those designed for sport. With that in mind, this model is my top pick for Christmas. With its simple, clean watch face, you wouldn’t know it was capable of tracking more than 30 sports, from skiing to volley ball – though the running, swimming and cycling functions might be more useful for the giftee. It also records sleep patterns, as well as displaying messages, calls and WhatsApp notifications. You can choose from a white or black watch face and the strap is interchangeable. Compatible with iOS and Android, the battery will last over 20 days without needing a recharge, making it a better option than competitors for tracking both exercise and sleep, if those two are on your resolution list.
THE SLEEKEST SMARTPHONE FOR SNAPPERS
Yes, a smartphone is an extravagant gift, but if you are splashing out or teaming up with siblings to split the bill, I'd suggest the Chinese brand's latest flagship phone, particularly if the recipient is a keen photographer (or selfie taker). The three-lens camera takes unbeatable night-time shots and alarmingly flattering selfies. It comes in two present-worthy iridescent colours, and the battery life is impressive, even after you’ve taken a bazillion videos at the work Christmas party.
Natalya Paul is the digital editor for Stuff.tv