The Best Tech Gifts You Can Buy This Year

Gadgets aren’t particularly sentimental or meaningful gifts — but they *are* practical, and a practical gift is a gift someone will actually employ.

I test a lot of products, and of total the fresh gadgets I tried this year, these are my favorites. From a premium password-manager subscription for the paranoid cybernerd in your life to a Bluetooth item finder for the person who loses everything, there’s bound to be something here that you’ll find gift-worthy.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed News

Why it’s gift-worthy: This tiny Bluetooth-enabled tracker can be attached to virtually anything (keys, bike, purse, etc.) and connects to an app on your phone. You can employ that app to ring your tracker, or press the tracker to force-ring your phone, even whether your phone is set to silent (but not whether it’s been powered off).

There are two Tiles to choose from: The Tile Mate is better for short-range tracking for smaller items like your keys, and the rugged Tile Sport, which is more waterproof and has a Bluetooth range of 200 feet (twice that of the Mate), is designed to resist the elements on outdoor items (like a bike). It’s my favorite gadget to gift, particularly to forgetful friends.

Downsides: Tiles’ batteries can’t be replaced, so you need a fresh one every year. That, TBH, is why it makes such a generous gift time and time again.

Read my full review here.

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

Why it’s gift-worthy: Everyone who’s ever used an iPhone cable knows they’re crap and probably needs a fresh one. They always demolish apart and fray. They’re too short. total this to say, getting someone a fresh cable is showing them you care.

Native Union’s cables are reinforced with a tough nylon braid, so they’re really durable and near with a lifetime limited guarantee. This set comes with one that’s super long — 10 feet — so you don’t absorb to awkwardly hold your phone over your night stand while you’re charging it, and has a weighted ball that can slide along the cable and acts as an anchor to befriend it stay set. There’s also a keychain-sized cable for emergencies, and a orthodox 4-foot cable with a small leather belt that makes it easy to fold up and stash in your backpack without getting tangled.

Downsides: You may be judged as a “hipster” for using one, and, as far as cables trip, they’re definitely on the more expensive side.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed News

Why it’s gift-worthy: This portly, grapefruit-sized Bluetooth speaker produces a more robust sound than you’d expect from a gadget its size. It’s waterproof (makes a worthy shower companion) and can float on its own (read: is pool/beach/river float-friendly). Plus, with two Wonderbooms, you can sync them and double your audio output.

Downsides: The Wonderboom is limited to just one other connection, while other speakers aren’t (the JBL Flip 4, for example, recently connected 1,000 Flip 4 speakers at once and broke a Guinness World Record). The Wonderboom’s interface also isn’t easy to understand right out of the box — you absorb to memorize how to employ its controls.

Read my full review.

Google, Nicole Nguyen/ BuzzFeed News

Why it’s gift-worthy: This tiny smart speaker has a seriously low price (rivaling Amazon’s Echo Dot) and is an easy way to add smarts to any room. Functionally, both the domestic and Echo are similar — but the domestic’s ability to “Voice Match,” or deliver a personalized retort based on who’s talking to it, is the main reason why I prefer it over Alexa.

Google also has the best system for playing Spotify and podcasts across multiple rooms. With one or two Chromecast Audios, which are devices that easily plug into the auxiliary (headphone jack) port of any speaker, you can easily set up voice-controlled multi-room audio. You’ll be able to say, “Play my Discover Weekly on Spotify in both rooms” without spending a fortune on other wireless audio setups (like Sonos).

Downsides: The domestic Mini’s audio quality is fine for voice responses, but unfriendly for music listening, which is why I recommend pairing it with a Chromecast Audio and another speaker for bigger spaces. The larger Google domestic has better audio and is sufficient for smaller bedrooms or kitchens.

Amazon’s Alexa assistant works with more smart domestic products than what’s available on Google domestic. With the Echo, some of the third-party app integrations are better, too. For example, you can link your to-effect and shopping lists with the apps Any.effect or Todoist. With Google domestic, you’re limited to Google’s Express app, the company’s shopping platform, for lists. Alexa also lets you add calendars from multiple accounts, and on domestic you’re limited to one Google account.

Why it’s gift-worthy: The Amazon Echo is better as a standalone music device (and not, like Google domestic, as a multi-room audio hub) — unless you already absorb Sonos speakers, which can now be voice controlled with Alexa. The moment-generation Echo has an improved, room-filling speaker, and comes in a variety of colors and materials to better match your domestic’s decor.

The Echo also has a faster response time than the Google domestic, and its wake words (“Alexa” and “Echo”) are much more pleasant to say than, “OK Google.” Plus, whether you’re interested in smart domestic integrations, the Alexa platform works with more products than Google domestic, and Amazon offers free smart domestic consultations in select cities.

Downsides: I still find the Echo an eyesore compared with the Google domestic. Initial setup and smart domestic accessory setup is also more difficult with the Echo. And Alexa doesn’t absorb Voice Match yet, so you need to manually switch Amazon profiles before you can play your Spotify playlists instead of your roommate’s.

Why it’s gift-worthy: Between this year’s Equifax hack and Yahoo revealing total 3 billion of its users were compromised in 2013, there’s never been a better time to earn certain you absorb a strong, secure password and two-factor authentication wherever you can.

LastPass can befriend generate and store complex passwords. It’s easier to employ than a lot of other password managers, and it has a great, brilliant app, along with a browser extension and web interface.

As far as two-factor authentication goes, it’s far more secure to employ a security key, like YubiKey’s, than it is to procure a code over SMS. It’s a physical accessory that you plug into your computer’s USB port and can act as your “moment factor” to add an additional level of protection on Google and Facebook. Just earn certain you set up Google Authenticator (for iPhone or Android) on your phone, which generates backup codes, in case you lose your key or are logging into an account on your phone.

Downsides: It does require some technical know-how, so not ideal for friends/family members who still examine you how to send emojis.

Why it’s gift-worthy: How much I fancy the BeatsX earphones is a huge surprise: I’ve never liked the over-bassy sound and plastic-y feel of Beats by Dre headphones, but I fancy *these* earphones because they’re light and comfortable enough for total-day wear, don’t plunge out while you’re running, and absorb a dependable mic for taking calls.

With the W1 wireless chip, they’re designed to automatically pair with iOS and Mac devices connected to your iCloud account. The weighted neck loop doesn’t hit the back of your neck when you flee (unlike Beats’ Powerbeats wrap-around buds). I even sent the BeatsX through the washing machine accidentally, and they survived. Best of total, they charge via Lightning cable, and five minutes of charging time gives you two hours of playback.

I’ve tried Apple’s AirPods wireless earbuds and liked them, but I still prefer the BeatsX. The AirPods are extraordinary for people who absorb short hair. Long strands, however, tend to wrap around the AirPods’ “stem,” sending them flying toward the ground.

Downsides: Android users don’t procure the benefits of the easy-to-pair features of Apple’s wireless W1 chip. You absorb to charge them regularly (battery life is eight hours), and the earphones don’t work while charging.

Why it’s gift-worthy: This super-luxe, additional-fancy e-reader is waterproof, so it’s a worthy pick for bookworms who like to read in the bathtub or at the beach. It has a bigger screen, looks and feels worthy, and is ultra-light too.

Downsides: It’s absurdly expensive compared with other Kindles, which, in its own way, makes it the perfect thing to gift. Your giftee, perhaps, wouldn’t spend that kind of money on an e-reader whether they were buying it, but they would fancy to procure it as a gift. That being said — whether they don’t *need* the waterproofness, the $119 Kindle Paperwhite is a perfectly fine choice.

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

Why it’s gift-worthy: The Bose QC 35s are still my top noise-cancelling headphone pick because they’re lightweight and easy to pair with any device. And whether you absorb an iPhone or Android phone without a headphone jack, easy pairing things. This year’s version (Series II) has a button committed to activating Google Assistant that can be used to set timers, play podcasts, listen to what’s on your calendar, read the day’s headlines, or add reminders, without looking at your phone. It’s like having a Google domestic built right into your headphones.

Downsides: Having Assistant is useful, but it doesn’t work without service, which is when you’re most likely using your noise-cancelling headphones — when you’re on a plane or underground, in a subway. Additionally, whether you’re an iOS user, some capabilities are limited. For example, you can’t employ third-party apps, like WhatsApp, to send messages or set alarms. whether that total sounds unnecessary, opt for the Series I, which doesn’t include Google Assistant integration.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed News

Why it’s gift-worthy: Chromebooks are worthy grab-and-trip laptops designed for people who rely primarily on online services (Gmail, Spotify, Netflix, etc.) for work and play. Samsung’s Chromebook Pro has a few more bells and whistles than your average: There’s a built-in stylus for sketching and note-taking in tablet mode, and it has a processor that’s powerful enough for serious multi-tasking.

Downsides: The Chromebook Pro is touted as a two-in-one laptop-tablet hybrid that can also flee Android apps, in addition to the browser-based Chrome operating system. The Android experience is subpar, though. Additionally, people who prefer to optimize their digital workspaces with different apps might find the cookie-cutter Chrome environment 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 flexibility of a tablet-laptop hybrid, with the reliability of a high-performance machine that could absolutely replace your laptop. It’s external-display-friendly, which means you’ll be much more comfortable working at a desk for long periods of time. The type cover’s keyboard is satisfyingly bouncy, and it now features backlit keys (helpful for typing in sunless classrooms).

Downsides: It runs Windows 10, an operating system that tends to overcomplicate simple tasks. For example, there’s a Settings app *and* a Control Panel app, and some settings options are in one and not the other, and vice versa.

Read my full review.

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

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed News

Why it’s gift-worthy: The fresh MacBook doesn’t absorb the oomph of a Pro — but what it lacks in performance, it makes up for in outta-this-world lightness and thinness, making it an ideal laptop for someone who’s always moving around. Plus, unlike an iPad, it can flee desktop apps, like the full version of Photoshop, and it’s much better for multitasking.

Downsides: It only has one port (USB-C), which means you’ll need to tote around a small army of accessories whether you need to associate, to put through (telephone), say, your iPhone and charge the laptop at the same time.

Read my full review.

contemplate I missed something? Leave your recommendations in the comments. 🙂

Nicole Nguyen covers products and personal technology for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.

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