For the past couple of years, my gadget gift guide has focused on audio products. But the truth is, this is now a relatively static market. New products come along, of course, but many of my recommendations remain unchanged, so check out last year’s guide for inspiration for music lovers. This covers in-ear and over-ear headphones, portable speakers, and home speakers.
This year, I’ve opted for a more eclectic range of gadget gifts, aiming to include recommendations at all budgets. However, I do, of course, need to make one obvious addition on the audio front…
The HomePod mini
The obvious smart speaker gift for Apple fans is, of course, the HomePod mini. At $99, it will fall within budget for many, and makes a decent first smart speaker – or an affordable way to bring multi-room audio to those who already have a living-room sound system. Amazon’s Echo Dot is an alternative for Android users. Your challenge for both may be finding availability for delivery before the holidays – you may well end up needing to gift-wrap a card with a homemade voucher promising delivery of the speaker later! If you have double the budget available, the original HomePod offers a big step up in audio quality, and can often be found on sale for around $200.
Other smart home products
There are a huge number of smart home products available now. If you’re buying for Apple fans, you’ll want to make sure they are HomeKit-compatible. An Amazon search will find plenty of options at all budgets. Devices I use and can recommend include Philips Hue lighting (a Starter Kit is a great option for those new to smart home products) and Eve smart plugs. Also, check out our separate gift guide for smart safety and security products.
Apple Watches and bands
The Apple Watch Series 3 and Apple Watch SE are now within gift budget for some. If you want to buy for someone who already owns an Apple Watch, a band can be a good choice — these are available at literally all budgets. Do check reviews of third-party bands, but there are some great options out there if you know the recipient’s tastes. One of the pricier ones, but very lovely, is the Nomad Titanium Band seen above — looks great, in a choice of silver or black, and is super-light.
I know, you can read ebooks on iPhones and iPads, but Kindles are lighter to carry than an iPad, more practical for reading in bed, and are available in a range of models to suit different tastes and budgets.
Mini photo printers
Everyone takes lots of photos on their smartphones, but most of them stay locked away where no one will see them.
Polaroid instant cameras were a hit back in their day, and the modern equivalent are mini photo printers intended to create quick prints from a smartphone. There are a whole bunch of similar ones here, mostly in the $50–$100 range. Good choices here include the Kodak Step and Polaroid Hi-Print.
Smart pens and notebooks
When it comes to writing rather than reading, a smart pen or notebook can be a great option for those who love paper. I delegated the review of the Livescribe Symphony to my girlfriend, who steadfastly sticks to paper over her iPad when it comes to notes and sketches. There are plenty of other options here, with Moleskine another popular one.
Video projectors were once premium devices found only in home cinema setups, but have become incredibly affordable over the past few years. There are even sub-$100 options designed purely for casual use in your yard, but you don’t have to spend too much more to get a halfway decent version for in-home use. Well-reviewed models include (from cheapest to most expensive) the ViewSonic M1 Mini, the Yaber Y21 and the Anker Nebula Apollo.
Exercise bike for MacBook users
If you know someone who likes to keep fit but spends a lot of time in front of their MacBook, the Flexispot Desk Exercise Bike (also available in black) is a pricey but handy piece of kit which also doubles as a standing desk. Check out my review here. The company also offers a wide range of standing desks and risers, with prices starting at under $100.
For the podcasters
It’s 2020, and the number one lockdown hobby appears to be starting your own podcast. If you have family and friends who’ve decided to do this, a decent-quality microphone to up their game could be a good pick.
The Blue Snowball is the budget mic of choice, offering far better quality than its price would suggest. The company offers options for higher budgets, right the way through to the Yeticaster Professional Broadcast Bundle. If they’re already set with a decent mic, a portable recording booth/shield to reduce echo is another good option, with options starting at under $50.
A great gift for grandparents, perhaps as a group gift from a number of family members, is a digital photo frame with the ability to be updated over the Internet. In this way, anyone in the family can remotely add photos of the grandkids, and other photos you think they might enjoy. I was impressed with the 15-inch Nixplay Smart Photo Frame – you can read my review here.
Unsexy gadget gifts!
I know, gifts are traditionally supposed to be fun or luxurious, rather than utilitarian — but for some recipients, the right “useful” gift can be perfect. So here are a couple of suggestions that are bound to hit the spot for some.
A robo-cleaner is essentially giving the gift of time. No more manual vacuuming, just let an automated device take care of it. Well-regarded options here are (from cheapest to most expensive) the Eufy RoboVac, Neato D7 Connected (my review) and iRobot Roomba i7. All three brands have other models available at a range of prices.
Similarly, a premium power bank can easily make a gadget lover’s day. Ones I’ve tested and liked (again, in price order) are the Chargeasap Flash (my review) and the Zendure SuperTank Pro (my review). Use the checkout code 9to5Mac to get 25% off the latter. Lower power and less expensive models are also available.
If you need to buy for a gadget lover who also loves the great outdoors, a beefy AC/DC power pack with something like 500Wh capacity is a wonderful if pricey gift. If they can wait until February, though, I’m currently testing the significantly more compact Zendure SuperBase 500, seen in the photo above. My review of this will follow shortly, but it’s possibly the ultimate transportable solution for those who need beefy amounts of off-grid power for a weekend or more – and can be coupled to a 100W solar charger to keep it topped up.
For iPhone photographers
I’ll have a separate gadget gift guide later for the iPhone photographers in your life, hitting the site on December 11.
In the meantime, check out our other gift guides, with more to come:
- AirPods vs AirPods Pro buying guide and the best accessories
- The best HomeKit gifts in 2020 for safety and security
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