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Dangerous tech gadget gifts & safer alternatives

Last minute Christmas shoppers take note: Some of the hottest holiday tech gifts could be the most dangerous.

So-called hoverboards, which don't actually levitate, but instead rely on a user's balance in order to operate, have raised a red flag at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is investigating safety concerns.

"We are looking at the issue from the source to consumer and across the whole product line," agency Communications Director Scott Wolfson told CNBC in a phone interview. Lithium batteries appear to be a major cause for concern, but Wolfson said his agency can't warn consumers about specific brands until investigations are complete.

"They're cool, they're a trend and every kid wants one," said Andrea Smith, executive producer at Living in Digital Times, a conference production firm that partners with the Consumer Electronics Association. Smith said that those who plan to buy a hoverboard should choose a brand name like Swagway, whose hoverboards can cost $400 or more but aren't likely to contain cheap parts.

Drones have also been on Christmas wish lists, and of those being sold in stores now, the kid-friendly, $90 Sky Viper drone, which shoots HD video, is one of Smith's favorites.

A Skyrocket Toys Sky Viper drone takes flight.
Source: Skyrocket Toys
A Skyrocket Toys Sky Viper drone takes flight.

But as of Monday, even recreational drone users are required to register their drones with the Federal Aviation Administration. Only users age 13 and older can register them, according to the FAA, which has been concerned about possible crashes with manned aircraft..

For a more practical last-minute Christmas gift, Smith suggests a tablet. For shoppers willing to spend $1,000 or more, she recommends the Microsoft Surface Pro 4. That tablet, which attaches to a keyboard, actually has the capacity to serve as a replacement for a PC. But at $50, 7-inch Amazon Fire tablet starts is a much more affordable option, Smith said.

— CNBC's Zack Guzman contributed to this story.