I get it, shopping for tech-heads is tough. Most of the time when you try to get us something tech related, we make a patronizing face and say either “Oh, I already bought this six weeks ago” or “This is nice. Do you have the receipt?”
No more, I say! With this list in hand, you should be able to grab a gift for even the most difficult to shop for tech lover.
For the Reader
Kindle Paperwhite ($129) – But they already have a Kindle you say? Unless they’ve purchased it in the past couple of months, this one is better. Amazon’s latest Kindle Paperwhite is an impressive leap in technology over the previous Paperwhite. With an all-new flush-front design and case materials that are soft and grippable, it’s even easier to hold for extended reading sessions. It’s thinner, the case is just a little bit smaller, and it’s waterproof. The Kindle Oasis still has a few more bells and whistles, but not enough to justify being nearly double the price. The new Kindle Paperwhite is Amazon’s true premium reader. Grab one, grab a cute cover (unfortunately the waterproof ones appear to be out of stock until after Christmas) and you’re done!
For the Outdoorsman
Garmin Instinct ($299) – Have someone on your list that thinks spending all weekend lost in the woods is a good thing? When you talk to them, do they casually drop that they signed up for yet another ultra race? Likely they already have a watch, but get them this anyway. The Garmin Instinct’s fiber-reinforced polymer case is thermal, shock, and water resistant (up to military standard 810G). It has a chemical hardened, scratch-resistant display to soak up all those falls and collisions. It also gives you activity, stress, and sleep tracking, will keep track of you via GPS and GNSS satellite positioning, and provides persistent heart rate monitoring and smartphone alerts. It’s a lot of functionality in a device that’s surprisingly inexpensive for Garmin. There’s a Flame Red version for the hunters on your list, a white version for those who don’t go into the woods unless there’s at least six inches of snow on the ground, and an attractive Graphite Grey version for everyone else.
Leatherman Skeletool ($65) – I know, I know, this is a tech list, but when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere, sometimes the best devices are those don’t need any electricity to power them. The Leatherman Skeletool sports a bit driver (with heads for both flat and Phillips head screws), a combination needle nose pliers/standard pliers/wire cutter, and a 4-inch knife (with straight and serrated edges). Oh, and a bottle opener. Everyone needs one of those! I really like the new Coyote tan finish, but if you want to personalize your gift, Leatherman currently offers four tools that you can customize with a dizzying array of patterns and images.
For the Fashionable
Withings Steel HR Sport ($199) – With step tracking, sleep tracking, multi-sport workout tracking, support for notifications from 100 different apps, GPS tracking, and an astounding 25-day battery life the Withings Steel HR Sport is an amazing “lite” smartwatch in an attractive analog package. The face is a dual dial system, with a sub-dial that keeps track of your activity throughout the day. At the top of the dial is a surprisingly readable OLED screen that displays heart rate during workouts and scrolls through app notifications. The whole package is housed in an attractive stainless steel case, with a band reminiscent of Apple Watch’s sport bands. The waterproof Steel HR Sport can track running and swimming and 30 more sport activities. When paired with a smartphone it can use GPS to track pace, distance, elevation, map your run, and determine your VO2 max. And it does this all without looking like a smartwatch.
For Wannabe Time Management Wizards
Google Home Hub ($149) – You’ve got that one friend that seems to be everywhere at once. Cross posting to a dozen different social media sites, while showing up on time to gatherings and meetings, even when there’s traffic. Who seems to know the answer to everything, always, and never misses a birthday, anniversary, or, well anything. Then there’s that friend who is the exact opposite of all that. This gift is for them. Google Home Hub is a countertop smart device that keeps your calendar, reminds you of when to leave for appointments, plays music, makes calls, controls your smart home (either directly or through a myriad of apps), it even can hook up to your photos and cycle through them when you’re not actively using it. But for all of its capabilities, that’s not what I love about the Hub the most. It’s how seamlessly it integrates into your daily life. You say good morning and it tells you what the weather is like, what you have going on for the day, and gives you a news briefing. Say good night and it’ll shut your house down for you. Ask for a recipe and it will read off the ingredients and steps for you. And it does this all in an attractive device with a pleasing to use interface. If you’ve never used a countertop assistant, try it for a week and I promise it will be revelatory.
For the Connected Audiophile
JBL Link 10 ($59) and JBL Link 300 ($249) – For those that prefer not get a touchscreen hub, but would still like to be connected…and enjoy some tunes while they’re at it, something from the JBL Link line is the perfect present. The Link 10 is a portable, wireless, waterproof speaker that can pump out tunes with a clarity and volume that you’ll swear is live (seriously – my teenage son thought someone was singing in the house the first time he came home and I had this playing in the other room). It can last 5 hours on a charge, but it manages its power supply well, shutting down automatically when you aren’t using it. I’ve had mine for weeks and haven’t had to charge it once. The Link 300 is the larger, wired version. If you thought the Link 10 was loud, the 300 is practically a sonic weapon. What these speakers have in common is their connectivity. Both work with Bluetooth and, more importantly have Google Assistant built right in. So they can answer all the same questions the Hub can, and play back music with a significantly higher fidelity. With multi-room syncing, you can start music on your 300 and then carry the 10 around with you, playing the same music. It’s an awesome way to make sure everyone gets to enjoy your holiday playlist.
For the On-the-Go Gamer
Razer Blade Base Edition ($1,599) – The Razer Blade has already had a good year. With it’s early 2018 redesign, it’s set itself apart as a stylish, well mannered laptop, but with performance chops that far outstrip everything but the most audaciously outfitted competitor. The Blade is the laptop for those who don’t need the ultra portability of the Stealth, but also don’t want to break their backs carrying around the desktop replacement that is the Pro. With the new base model, it’s nearly $1,000 less than the standard Blade, making it a reasonable buy that doesn’t sacrifice gaming performance. On the base model, you get dual storage configuration with a traditional hard drive paired with a super fast SSD, an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q design graphics card, an 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8750H 6 core processor, and 16 GB of upgradable system memory. The Full HD screen is impressively crisp and the resolution difference between it and the standard’s 4k is really only noticeable when you put them side by side. The keyboard is solid, as are all of Razer’s laptop keyboards. The base model uses a single-zone, Chroma-supported backlight, both to reduce cost and save power (like on the newly updated Stealth). If you want to spend more and get a faster graphics card and higher resolution, you can always go with the standard model. Or if you want to gift a more understated look, grab the White Mercury Edition with white aluminium, black USB ports, and a distinct lack of logo-glow.
Razer Phone 2 ($699) – Yeah, the Razer Phone 2 might not be the Android phone that’s all over your TV screens right now, but it is the phone you’ll want to pick up if the only thing you care about is making sure your gametime never, ever lags. The Razer Phone 2 is a pleasing brick of a device, with a 120Hz display that makes you want to watch and play everything on your phone. The dual front facing speakers are surprisingly crisp. The phone stays cool through long play sessions with vapor chamber cooling (tech that Razer borrowed from their laptop development). And when you do need to recharge, you can do so wirelessly (and there’s even a Chroma-enabled charger available so that even when the Chroma-powered logo is hidden, you still have that LED goodness). It’s a distinctive device and perfect for anyone who loves mobile gaming, consumes tons of video on the go, or just loves Razer enough to have it be the only brand they support.
Razer Hammerhead USB-C ANC ($99) – Razer’s latest Hammerhead headphones are an absolute must for anyone with a USB C device (like, say, the Razer Phone 2?). These in-ear headphones sport active noise cancellation and come with foam tips that you can custom fit to your ear. The takeaway is that once you have these in, there’s absolutely nothing in the outside world that’s penetrating. The braided cable stays blissfully untangled, even when you unceremoniously dump them into the bottom of your travel bag. For a wide array of phones, you can take calls, activate Google Assistant, and more from the in-line remote. What’s nice is that, with the ANC and foam tips, I don’t feel compelled to shout, making conversations over the built-in mic much more pleasant for me and whoever’s on the other end of the line. An absolute necessity of an accessory.
For the Cord Cutter
TiVo BOLT OTA ($256) – TiVo’s Roamio OTA replacement is a better device in every way than its predecessor. Sporting either a 512gb or 1TB hard drive, 4 tuners, and a first-in-class software package it’s exactly what you need to finally make the break from cable. Packaged with a VOX voice remote, the BOLT OTA is the quickest and easiest way to access all of your streaming shows. And while that’s not a new trick, there are a lot of streaming devices on the market, being able to plug in a digital antenna and record over-the-air live TV takes the BOLT to the next level. Streaming live TV is only in its infancy, and even then you have to subscribe to it. Free digital TV is out there for anyone that has an antenna and a device to watch it on. And with the BOLT OTA, you don’t have to go back to the days where you’re beholden to broadcaster schedules. You get all the recording and commercial skipping you enjoy with your regular BOLT, but without the pesky monthly cable bill.
For the Forgetful
Tile Pro ($35) – Tile needs to be in everyone stocking so that it can be on everyone’s keys in the new year. Period. Tile’s products have saved me literal hundreds of dollars in the years that I’ve been using them. The new Tile Pro is the cream of the crop, with an even louder speaker and a replaceable battery. So while you might have held off on giving Tile as a gift previously because they had to be replaced annually, now you can gift and now you’ve given someone a lifetime of never having to lose their keys ever again. With the new Premium app service, there’s even more Tile users can do as well, like set up alerts for when they’ve left their keys at home and much more.
For the Butterfingers
Otterbox Symmetry Series Galactic Collection ($45) – I’m not a case guy. People will point out cracks on the corners of my iPhone XS Plus and I will say it’s “working as designed.” I am the platonic ideal of the Steve Jobs Kool Aid drinker who will attest to the end that iPhones were meant to be used without cases. But dangit if Otterbox’s amazing Star Wars line of cases doesn’t make me want to completely ditch that sentiment and buy every single one of them. The new R2-D2, Darth Vader, and Boba Fett cases in their Symmetry Galactic Collection are their sharpest yet. Even if your gift recipient already has a case, if they’re a Star Wars fan, any of these would be a more than welcome gift.