These cool tools will delight even your nerdiest family members.
The new iPhone X is one of the hottest — and priciest — gift ideas. So what’s new? Wireless charging, a prettier screen, and facial recognition software that takes a quick peek at your face to unlock the phone. The bad news: Prices start at $1,000. The more conventional iPhone 8 and 8 Plus start at $700 and $800, respectively.
For Android fans, Samsung has an impressive trio of high-end Galaxy models. The Note8 ($930 and up) has a gargantuan 6.3-inch screen; multiple biometric security options, including facial recognition, an iris scanner, and a fingerprint scanner; and a stylus for drawing and jotting down notes. The S8 and S8+ (starting at $725 and $825) have similar features with slightly smaller displays (5.8 and 6.2 inches, respectively) but no stylus.
Looking to save a few bucks? The OnePlus 5 is drawing high praise from tech reviewers for its great camera, long battery life, and relatively low price ($479 and up).
Tablets and Laptops
Amazon’s Fire HD 8 may be the best tech bargain around. Starting at just $80 for the 16GB model, this slim tablet has a bright 8-inch screen that’s great for reading, gaming, and streaming video. It runs for 12 hours between charges, and includes a microSD memory card slot for adding up to 256GB of stuff — books, music, movies, whatever. The built-in Alexa voice-controlled assistant is handy for to-do lists (“Alexa, add eggs to my shopping list”), checking the weekend weather forecast, tracking Amazon orders, and more.
The Chromebook, which is a laptop that pretty much only surfs the web, is the bargain alternative to conventional Windows and Mac machines. It’s great for anyone who spends all day online and doesn’t run standard PC apps. It’s secure, easy to use, and relatively cheap. The rugged Acer Chromebook 11 C771 ($280 and up) has a spill-resistant keyboard and can survive a 4-foot drop, making it a good choice for students. Its 32GB of storage can be expanded via a microSD card slot, and its battery life is a solid 12 hours. The touchscreen edition (C771T) starts at $330.
Streaming and Gaming
A media streamer — a gizmo for watching internet video services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime on a TV — makes a great tech gift for someone late to the streaming craze. Best buys include the Roku Streaming Stick and Amazon Fire TV Stick; each costs $40 and plugs inconspicuously into a TV’s HDMI port.
For the hardcore Xbox gamer who wants the latest and greatest, the Xbox One X delivers the goods. Microsoft’s high-end game console features dazzling resolution and an immersive experience that really shines on a gargantuan 4K TV. The $500 price tag is steep, so be sure to check out the $250 Xbox One S, which has less powerful graphics and delivers simulated 4K through a technique called upscaling.
Fans of old-school gaming — think Super Mario Bros. and Street Fighter – may prefer the Super NES Classic Edition, a miniaturized version of Nintendo’s classic ’90s home console. The bundle includes 20 classic games and two wired controllers to complete the retro experience. Even better, it’s only $80.
Virtual reality (VR) headsets are fun for immersive gaming, but some cost hundreds of dollars. Google Daydream View ($79) is the bargain alternative. Insert a compatible Android phone (sorry, iPhone fans) in the View’s front pouch and experience VR worlds, including virtual tours of the great museums, from the comfort of your sofa.
The Grab Bag
The Amazon Echo Dot ($50) is a handy voice-controlled appliance and the least expensive member of the Alexa family. In addition to playing music and reading news and audio books, it works with smart home devices for controlling lights, fans, garage doors, and more.
A subscription to Audible, an online audiobook store, is inexpensive and easy to give (no wrapping!). A three-month membership is just $45, and your recipient will receive one credit per month to access more than 180,000 titles.
A luxury pen is elegant, refined, and pretty darn cool — until you lose it. The Cross Peerless TrackR ($250) features a tracking device that lets you keep tabs on your pen’s location. Using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology, the Cross scribbler has a built-in beacon that you can track via an Android or Apple (iOS) mobile device.
The Ultimate Ears Wonderboom ($100) is a petite Bluetooth speaker that delivers big sound outdoors. Its compact, round design makes it easy to carry around, and it runs for 10 hours on battery power. It’s water-resistant too — great for rooftop pool parties and water balloon fights.
This article is featured in the September/October 2017 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.