When it comes to the holidays, gadgets perennially top people's wish lists — and retailers are happy to oblige.
Some 65 percent of all adults plan to buy a tech gift this year, according to the Consumer Electronics Association, with one out of every three shoppers looking to buy a tech gift in an emerging field, ranging from smartphones to VR to drones. Sorting out the hot items from the ones destined to end up in the clearance bin (or an upcoming garage sale) isn't easy, 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
Posted 11 Nov. 2015
Gear VR ($99) — Virtual reality is poised to become the next big thing in entertainment over the next 5-10 years. And the Gear VR is a way to get in on the ground floor. It's a technology that really can't be adequately described, but will take your breath away when you do experience it. Note that you'll need a Samsung phone released in 2015 to use Gear VR, so it's not an ideal gift for iPhone users. And half the fun of owning one of these is strapping it to your friend's heads and watching/filming their reactions. It's early in the technology's lifecycle, but it's already captivating.
Nikon D750 (Starting at $1,900) — Nikon's top-end DSLR is a lot more camera than many people need, but if you've got an especially skilled shutterbug on your list (and a lot of money to burn), it's absolutely the top of the line. With an incredible 24 MP full-frame sensor and one of the best autofocus systems around, you can capture incredible images. The 6.5 frames-per-second shot rate ensures you'll always capture a moment. A tilting LCD screen lets you see what you're shooting, regardless of angle. And the camera's built-in Wi-Fi lets you share pictures directly and use your smartphone as a wireless remote control.
iPhone 6s (Starting at $649) — The new iPhone is always a reliable hot seller, but this year's version offers some notable improvements. Everything is faster — from the processor to the Touch ID sensor. The cameras — both front and rear — are dramatically better. Live photos are a fun addition that add a "Harry Potter" touch to images. And the new 3D Touch pressure-sensitive screen opens up a new world of possibilities and shortcuts for apps (and already makes many Apple default apps easier to use). It's a real innovation that works. For people who have the iPhone 6, it's an iffy upgrade, but it's an easy choice for anyone with an older version.
Riva Turbo X ($349) — Riva's Turbo X speaker runs neck and neck with the best that Bose has to offer. It easily pairs with any Bluetooth device and offers a great balance of high, mid and low sounds. It comes with a plug, but can run for more than 20 hours using its battery. But the two real remarkable features are the instant surround sound button, which recreates a full surround sound system — and the Turbo button, which comes in handy when top volume just isn't loud enough and you need to turn things up to 11.
Kindle Paperwhite (2015) ($120) — Amazon's Kindle Voyage, released last year, has been far and away the best eReader on the market, but it certainly wasn't the cheapest. This year, the company gave its Paperwhite line a significant update — and unless you're an especially picky e-Book reader, it's the one to go with. The resolution has been increased to 300ppi, on par with Voyage. And the battery lasts even longer. The design hasn't changed, but the reading experience is effortless, making this an easy choice for anyone in the market for an eReader.
Dell XPS 13 (Starting at $800) — Laptops are attempting to stage a comeback against tablets this year, and the XPS13 (or its larger cousin, the XPS15) makes a pretty convincing case. Both systems offer a near-borderless display along with Intel's sixth generation CPU. That means a longer battery life — up to 15 hours. It's also an incredibly light machine, making it perfect for business travelers. And aesthetically, it's a PC that rivals the Macbook, with a razor-thin design and weighing less than three pounds.
LG Flat OLED 4K TV (EF9500 series) (Starting at $3,000) — Make no mistake, OLED TVs are expensive, but this is truly a case of getting what you pay for. The good news is prices on the sets are falling fast. LG has upgraded its impressive entry in the field from last year, adding 4K, which makes the best pictures around even better. The EF9500 series has perfect black levels and extraordinarily vibrant colors. It's a TV that improves the picture of any show you're watching and really shines with ultra high-definition content.
Samsung T1 Portable SSD ($150-$500) — Portable hard drives may not be the sexiest gifts around, but they can be among the most useful. And Samsung's T1 SSD is the best on the market. It's light and thin and remarkably fast. It's especially useful for bringing specialized programs to remote devices and instantly use them, rather than having to reinstall them. And it all comes in a device that's smaller than a business card and thinner than a pencil.
BB-8 Sphero ($150) — Anything "Star Wars" is going to be hot this year. But this little robot is a standout. The app-enabled droid from Sphero quickly captured people's imaginations. It's a fun toy that is loaded with personality, and it really feels like a miniaturized version of the droid you've seen in the trailers for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." He'll explore your home and office via voice commands or directions given from your smartphone. If you're looking to keep the excitement over the film alive and are willing to spend a bit more than you would on other "Star Wars" toys, it's a great choice. Just be sure to move fast. These are already hard to find.
Sengled Pulse (Starter kit: $170) — Looking to add speakers to a room unobtrusively? The Pulse is an LED lightbulb that also doubles as a wireless speaker. Connect via Bluetooth and you can customize your setup, stringing together up to eight speaker/bulbs at once. The sound quality isn't on par with Bose, but it's certainly not bad. The light quality is superb, though the size of the bulbs makes them best suited for floodlight canisters. Installation couldn't be easier, however. And the ability to string them throughout the house makes them especially appealing.