13 Tech Gifts That Aren’t Crap

Gadgets aren’t significantly sentimental or significant items — however they *are* sensible, and a sensible present is a present somebody will truly use.

I check plenty of merchandise, and of all the brand new devices I attempted this 12 months, these are my favorites. From a premium password-manager subscription for the paranoid cybernerd in your life to a Bluetooth merchandise finder for the one that loses all the things, there’s sure to be one thing right here that you just’ll discover gift-worthy.

Tile Mate ($25), Tile Sport ($35)

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed News

Why it’s gift-worthy: This tiny Bluetooth-enabled tracker may be connected to nearly something (keys, bike, purse, and so on.) and connects to an app in your telephone. You can use that app to ring your tracker, or press the tracker to force-ring your telephone, even when your telephone is ready to silent (however not if it’s been powered off).

There are two Tiles to select from: The Tile Mate is healthier for short-range monitoring for smaller gadgets like your keys, and the rugged Tile Sport, which is extra waterproof and has a Bluetooth vary of 200 toes (twice that of the Mate), is designed to face up to the weather on out of doors gadgets (like a motorbike). It’s my favourite gadget to present, particularly to forgetful buddies.

Downsides: Tiles’ batteries can’t get replaced, so that you want a brand new one yearly. That, TBH, is why it makes such a very good present time and time once more.

Read my full review here.

Native Union Cable Collection — iPhone or USB-C ($76)

Native Union

Why it’s gift-worthy: Everyone who’s ever used an iPhone cable knows they’re crap and possibly wants a brand new one. They at all times break aside and fray. They’re too brief. All this to say, getting somebody a brand new cable is exhibiting them you care.

Native Union’s cables are strengthened with a tricky nylon braid, in order that they’re actually sturdy and include a lifetime restricted guarantee. This set comes with one which’s tremendous lengthy — 10 toes — so that you don’t should awkwardly maintain your telephone over your night time stand when you’re charging it, and has a weighted ball that may slide alongside the cable and acts as an anchor to assist it keep put. There’s additionally a keychain-sized cable for emergencies, and a traditional Four-foot cable with a small leather-based belt that makes it straightforward to fold up and stash in your backpack with out getting tangled.

Downsides: You could also be judged as a “hipster” for utilizing one, and, so far as cables go, they’re undoubtedly on the costlier aspect.

UE Wonderboom ($80)

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed News

Why it’s gift-worthy: This portly, grapefruit-sized Bluetooth speaker produces a extra strong sound than you’d anticipate from a gadget its measurement. It’s waterproof (makes an amazing bathe companion) and may float by itself (learn: is pool/seaside/river float-friendly). Plus, with two Wonderbooms, you possibly can sync them and double your audio output.

Downsides: The Wonderboom is proscribed to only one different connection, whereas different audio system aren’t (the JBL Flip Four, for instance, lately linked 1,00zero Flip Four audio system without delay and broke a Guinness World Record). The Wonderboom’s interface additionally isn’t straightforward to know proper out of the field — you need to learn to use its controls.

Read my full review.

Google Home Mini ($29) + Chromecast Audio ($35)

Why it’s gift-worthy: This tiny good speaker has a critically low worth (rivaling Amazon’s Echo Dot) and is a straightforward approach so as to add smarts to any room. Functionally, each the Home and Echo are related — however the Home’s means to “Voice Match,” or ship a customized reply primarily based on who’s speaking to it, is the principle cause why I choose it over Alexa.

Google additionally has one of the best system for enjoying Spotify and podcasts throughout a number of rooms. With one or two Chromecast Audios, that are units that simply plug into the auxiliary (headphone jack) port of any speaker, you possibly can simply arrange voice-controlled multi-room audio. You’ll have the ability to say, “Play my Discover Weekly on Spotify in each rooms” with out spending a fortune on different wi-fi audio setups (like Sonos).

Downsides: The Home Mini’s audio high quality is okay for voice responses, however dangerous for music listening, which is why I like to recommend pairing it with a Chromecast Audio and one other speaker for larger areas. The bigger Google Home has higher audio and is enough for smaller bedrooms or kitchens.

Amazon’s Alexa assistant works with more smart home products than what’s out there on Google Home. With the Echo, a number of the third-party app integrations are higher, too. For instance, you possibly can hyperlink your to-do and procuring lists with the apps Any.do or Todoist. With Google Home, you’re restricted to Google’s Express app, the corporate’s procuring platform, for lists. Alexa additionally enables you to add calendars from a number of accounts, and on Home you’re restricted to 1 Google account.

Amazon Echo 2 ($100)


Why it’s gift-worthy: The Amazon Echo is healthier as a standalone music gadget (and never, like Google Home, as a multi-room audio hub) — except you have already got Sonos audio system, which might now be voice controlled with Alexa. The second-generation Echo has an improved, room-filling speaker, and is available in quite a lot of colours and supplies to raised match your own home’s decor.

The Echo additionally has a quicker response time than the Google Home, and its wake phrases (“Alexa” and “Echo”) are far more nice to say than, “OK Google.” Plus, in the event you’re all for good residence integrations, the Alexa platform works with extra merchandise than Google Home, and Amazon provides free smart home consultations in choose cities.

Downsides: I nonetheless discover the Echo an eyesore in contrast with the Google Home. Initial setup and good residence accent setup can also be tougher with the Echo. And Alexa doesn’t have Voice Match but, so you want to manually change Amazon profiles earlier than you possibly can play your Spotify playlists as an alternative of your roommate’s.

Premium LastPass subscription ($24) + YubiKey safety key (USB-A, $18; USB-C, $50)


Why it’s gift-worthy: Between this 12 months’s Equifax hack and Yahoo revealing all 3 billion of its users have been compromised in 2013, there’s by no means been a greater time to ensure you have a robust, safe password and two-factor authentication wherever you possibly can.

LastPass might help generate and retailer advanced passwords. It’s simpler to make use of than plenty of different password managers, and it has a unbelievable app, together with a browser extension and net interface.

As far as two-factor authentication goes, it’s far safer to make use of a safety key, like YubiKey’s, than it’s to get a code over SMS. It’s a bodily accent that you just plug into your laptop’s USB port and may act as your “second issue” so as to add an additional degree of safety on Google and Facebook. Just ensure you arrange Google Authenticator (for iPhone or Android) in your telephone, which generates backup codes, in case you lose your key or are logging into an account in your telephone.

Downsides: It does require some technical know-how, so not very best for buddies/members of the family who nonetheless ask you how one can ship emojis.

BeatsX Earphones ($150)

Beats by Dre

Why it’s gift-worthy: How a lot I really like the BeatsX earphones is a big shock: I’ve by no means appreciated the over-bassy sound and plastic-y really feel of Beats by Dre headphones, however I really like *these* earphones as a result of they’re gentle and comfy sufficient for all-day put on, don’t fall out when you're working, and have a dependable mic for taking calls.

With the W1 wi-fi chip, they’re designed to routinely pair with iOS and Mac units linked to your iCloud account. The weighted neck loop doesn’t hit the again of your neck while you run (not like Beats’ Powerbeats wrap-around buds). I even despatched the BeatsX via the washer by accident, and so they survived. Best of all, they cost by way of Lightning cable, and 5 minutes of charging time offers you two hours of playback.

I’ve tried Apple’s AirPods wireless earbuds and appreciated them, however I nonetheless choose the BeatsX. The AirPods are superb for individuals who have brief hair. Long strands, nevertheless, are likely to wrap across the AirPods’ “stem,” sending them flying towards the bottom.

Downsides: Android customers don’t get the advantages of the easy-to-pair options of Apple’s wi-fi W1 chip. You should cost them usually (battery life is eight hours), and the earphones don’t work whereas charging.

Kindle Oasis ($249)


Why it’s gift-worthy: This super-luxe, extra-fancy e-reader is waterproof, so it’s an amazing choose for bookworms who prefer to learn within the bathtub or on the seaside. It has an even bigger display screen, seems and feels nice, and is ultra-light too.

Downsides: It’s absurdly costly in contrast with different Kindles, which, in its personal approach, makes it the right factor to present. Your giftee, maybe, wouldn’t spend that sort of cash on an e-reader in the event that they have been shopping for it, however they’d like to get it as a present. That being stated — in the event that they don’t *want* the waterproofness, the $119 Kindle Paperwhite is a wonderfully tremendous alternative.

Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series I, $329; Series II with Google Assistant, $349)

Bose / Google

Why it’s gift-worthy: The Bose QC 35s are nonetheless my prime noise-cancelling headphone choose as a result of they’re light-weight and straightforward to pair with any gadget. And in case you have an iPhone or Android telephone with out a headphone jack, straightforward pairing issues. This 12 months’s model (Series II) has a button devoted to activating Google Assistant that can be utilized to set timers, play podcasts, take heed to what’s in your calendar, learn the day’s headlines, or add reminders, with out taking a look at your telephone. It’s like having a Google Home constructed proper into your headphones.

Downsides: Having Assistant is beneficial, however it doesn’t work with out service, which is while you’re almost certainly utilizing your noise-cancelling headphones — while you’re on a aircraft or underground, in a subway. Additionally, in the event you’re an iOS person, some capabilities are restricted. For instance, you possibly can’t use third-party apps, like WhatsApp, to ship messages or set alarms. If that each one sounds pointless, go for the Series I, which doesn’t embrace Google Assistant integration.

Samsung Chromebook Pro ($549)

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed News

Why it’s gift-worthy: Chromebooks are nice grab-and-go laptops designed for individuals who rely totally on on-line companies (Gmail, Spotify, Netflix, and so on.) for work and play. Samsung’s Chromebook Pro has just a few extra bells and whistles than your common: There’s a built-in stylus for sketching and note-taking in pill mode, and it has a processor that’s highly effective sufficient for critical multi-tasking.

Downsides: The Chromebook Pro is touted as a two-in-one laptop-tablet hybrid that may additionally run Android apps, along with the browser-based Chrome working system. The Android expertise is subpar, although. Additionally, individuals who choose to optimize their digital workspaces with totally different apps may discover the cookie-cutter Chrome surroundings too limiting.

Read my full review.

Surface Pro ($799–$2,699) + Type Cover ($150)

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed News

Why it’s gift-worthy: The Surface Pro has the mobility and adaptability of a tablet-laptop hybrid, with the reliability of a high-performance machine that might completely exchange your laptop computer. It’s external-display-friendly, which suggests you’ll be far more comfy working at a desk for lengthy durations of time. The sort cowl’s keyboard is satisfyingly bouncy, and it now options backlit keys (useful for typing in darkish school rooms).

Downsides: It runs Windows 10, an working system that tends to overcomplicate easy duties. For instance, there’s a Settings app *and* a Control Panel app, and a few settings choices are in a single and never the opposite, and vice versa.

Read my full review.

MacBook ($1,299 to $1,599)

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed News

Why it’s gift-worthy: The new MacGuide doesn’t have the oomph of a Pro — however what it lacks in efficiency, it makes up for in outta-this-world lightness and thinness, making it a really perfect laptop computer for somebody who’s at all times shifting round. Plus, not like an iPad, it will possibly run desktop apps, like the complete model of Photoshop, and it's significantly better for multitasking.

Downsides: It solely has one port (USB-C), which suggests you’ll must tote round a small military of equipment if you want to join, say, your iPhone and cost the laptop computer on the identical time.

Read my full review.

Think I missed one thing? Leave your suggestions within the feedback. 🙂

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