It's a pretty fair bet that someone on your shopping list is going to want a gadget this year. And while the odds aren't quite as good, there's still a better-than-average chance that you're going to indulge them.
The Consumer Electronics Association predicts tech spending this holiday season will hit $33.76 billion, as consumers seek out the latest and greatest tech toys. Sorting out those hot items from the ones destined to end up in the clearance bin can be tough, though. If you're looking for a perfect tech gift for a friend or loved one, here are a few can't-miss suggestions.
—By Chris Morris, special to CNBC.com
Posted 10 Nov. 2014
Amazon's Paperwhite was already far and away the best e-reader on the market, so it's a pleasant surprise to see the company raise the bar so much with the Voyage. The resolution is incredibly sharp. It automatically senses the ambient light and adjusts the screen brightness as necessary. Adding a page-turn button on the side makes it easier to read without interruption. And it's lighter. You'll pay a premium for this model, but it's worth it.
Apple rolled out two new phones this year, but it put the bulk of its weight behind the iPhone 6 Plus. Feature-wise, the larger phone is the clear winner, with optical image stabilization (versus less-effective digital stabilization) and a significantly better battery life. And for those who want a phone with a bigger screen, it certainly fits the bill. Just be careful about putting it in your back pocket and sitting down.
OLED TVs have been the unfulfilled dream for videophiles many years. And with LG's 55EC9300 model, reality may be even better. The set features, hands down, the best visual quality we've ever seen in a TV, with perfect black levels and extraordinarily vibrant colors. It's pencil thin, measuring just ¼ inch thick on most of the body. And it makes any image look better. It's a regular HD set—not 4K ultra high definition, which seems to be where the TV industry is headed—but you'll be so mesmerized by the lifelike quality of the onscreen images that you won't particularly care.
Sony's new console has been winning the sales battle over the past year, with gamers (and game developers) praising its features. Though light on exclusives this year, the PlayStation 4 is the console of choice for "Destiny," and next year's "Uncharted" game is certain to be a smash. It no longer enjoys the $100 price advantage it used to, but there's a lot of life, and momentum, left here.
The first step in improving your golf game is tracking your strokes. (The second is not hitting the ball into water hazards.) While previous trackers haven't quite lived up to the hype, Arccos seems to have cracked the code. The sensors, all equipped with a mini computer but still virtually weightless, go on the end of your clubs and communicate with your smartphone, tracking shot distance. You can use that information while you're on the course to better choose the next club or review your game later. It's the merger of Big Data and Big Bertha, and while it won't turn you into Tiger Woods, it may lower your score a bit.
Microsoft's new game system stumbled a bit at launch, but the company has certainly worked hard to make up ground since then. A rapid series of price cuts has made the Xbox One less expensive than the PS4, and Microsoft has been hard at work sewing up exclusive titles for console, led by "Sunset Overdrive" and "Halo: The Master Chief Collection" this year, and "Halo 5: Guardians" and "Rise of the Tomb Raider" in 2015.
Microsoft's tablets haven't been especially competitive, but the company raised its game with the Surface Pro 3. The lightweight device is loaded with processing power and is the first table that truly acts as a laptop replacement, letting you do everything you could on a standard PC. The downsides, which aren't insignificant, are the system's limited battery life (about half of the iPad Air 2, according to some reports) and the all-but-necessary keyboard cover is still sold separately. Still, it's nice to see a new competitor in the tablet/hybrid space.
Ultra-high definition TVs, with four times the visual clarity of today's high definition sets, are generally for those on the bleeding edge. This year, Vizio changed that with its P-Series, slashing entry-level prices down to $1,000 and making them affordable for the masses. The set is, as you'd expect, gorgeous and the picture fantastic. There's still not a lot of 4K content available, but the set supports streaming options from Netflix and Amazon. And its picture quality with "regular" HD images is superb.
GoPro has been a leader in the sports camera market for a while now, but the Hero4 line has set a new bar. Both the Silver and Black editions are excellent mountable cameras for everyone from sports enthusiasts to those who want to view the world through a dog's point of view. The Black, though, records in 4K ultra-high definition. It also records at a lightning fast 120 frames per second, meaning images stay crisp when you put them in slow motion in your edits. Better still, the user interface has been improved. If you're looking for something to film extreme sports or anything where you're on the go, this is the way to go.
Even adults may appreciate this tech gadgets for kids. The Elo storytelling pillow reads stories to children as they are in bed, soothing them to sleep. The hook: If they raise their head off the pillow, the story stops, encouraging them to stay in bed—and not wander into the living room to inform you that they can't sleep after two minutes of trying. The pillow comes loaded with several stories, but more can be purchased from Elo's online store.