2013 Holiday Gift Guide: Gadgets

Adults like toys too, so if you’re on the lookout for a memorable gift for your spouse or just treating yourself to an early Christmas present, a cool gadget is always a great option. Of course, prices run the gamut in this arena, so you’ll need to be careful, but whether you’re shopping for the latest and greatest tablet or something to please that audiophile in your life, you can find something that fits almost any budget.

Click on the image next to each item to purchase it online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

Seiki 4K TV

4K TV is very real. By that, I don’t mean that it simply exists, but rather that it is the heir apparent to HDTV as the next format of television which will become standard. However, you should be cautious. 4K is an improvement over HDTV like Blu-ray is an improvement over DVD. That is to say that it’s noticeably better looking, but not necessarily mind blowing. Not to mention, the technology is still in its infancy. That being said, if you want to get in on 4K now and don’t want to pay a price too ridiculous to do so, the absolute best way to go is Seiki’s 4K model, which routinely goes for around $1,000 for its 50-inch model and, for a limited time, around $500 for the 39-inch model on Amazon. It’s the cheapest 4K on the market to be sure, but having sampled it earlier this year at CES, I can say with some confidence that it is far from a bargain model in quality. Sooner or later, keeping up with the Jonses will mean buying a 4K TV. If you need that to be sooner, the Seiki is the way to go.

Sceptre LED HDTV

By now, most people have some sort of HDTV in their home, but if you still haven’t gotten around to upgrading and don’t have the money to splurge on a higher-end brand, Sceptre makes some pretty nice budget-friendly LED and LCD HDTVs that are worth checking out. The company’s newest 40-inch model features a FullHD crystal clear viewable area, 1920×1080 panel resolution and 3 HDMI ports for as cheap as $250 depending on where you look. And if you don’t need all the fancy add-ons (like Wi-Fi, entertainment apps and 3D capabilities) that some of the more expensive brands feature these days, that’s a really good deal for a TV that isn’t too far off in terms of quality. It also boasts a lightweight and slim design, which makes it perfect for mounting on a wall, and is Energy V6.0 compliant, with an estimated yearly energy cost of about $13. You really can’t ask for more from an HDTV that costs less than most tablets.

Apple iPad Air

Ah, the iPad. Since the very first iPad model was released, gift guides have featured one iPad model or another, and for very good reason. However, the iPad market has grown more crowded than it once was with many consumers wondering just what model is right for them amongst a sea of options. While it’s difficult to account for personal needs, if you’re looking for the best iPad period it’s hard to argue against the iPad Air. Its $499 price tag may be daunting, but for it you get a model that is in a league of its own among full-sized tablets. No other product in the field can possibly compare to the iPad Air’s enticing paper-thin design, crystal clear display or flex-worthy processing muscle. The debate on the best overall tablet period is not an easy one, but if price is not an issue, then it’s a conversation that begins and ends with the iPad Air.

Google Nexus Tablet

Of course, outside of the price there are still reasons you may not want an iPad, with the biggest being a preference for Android. While the android tablet market is growing every year and making the choice more and more difficult, yet again the nod has to go to the Google Nexus. Whether in its 7-inch incarnation or the full-sized 10-inch model, the Nexus represents a level of design quality and functionality that many other Android tablets have begun to get closer and closer to, but no one has really been able to match or surpass. Even better, regardless of whether or not you catch them on sale, either Nexus retails for a much more wallet-friendly price that feels more than fair for what you get. Looking outside of the iPad for your next tablet purchase can be a daunting proposition, but take comfort in knowing that you can’t really go wrong with the Nexus.

Karma 4G Pay-As-You-Go Wi-Fi Hotspot

Wi-Fi hotspots may becoming more frequent these days, but that doesn’t mean the quality of the connection is going to be very good. Thankfully, you don’t have to depend on shaky Wi-Fi networks at coffee shops and airports anymore with this 4G pay-as-you-go hotspot from Karma. There are a lot of great things about this little white box, but the biggest one is pricing. It only costs $14/GB, there’s no contract and data never expires. That means you only pay for the data that you use. Speeds average a respectable 3-6 Mbps and the Clearview 4G network that it runs on is available in most major U.S. cities. It’s also the first social hotspot that rewards you when other people in the area to join your network. Every time someone new hops on, you receive 100MB of additional data, and you don’t even have to be connected in order to reap the benefits. Pretty cool, right? Eight devices can be connected at a time and it runs on a rechargeable battery that lasts for around 8 hours. This awesome gadget practically pays for itself.

Wren V5 Wireless Sound System

If you’re in the mood to really spoil the music lover in your life, buy them this wireless sound system from Wren, because it’s a remarkable piece of hardware that oozes quality and sophistication. Bose may be the more popular brand when it comes to high-end audio equipment, but their speakers aren’t nearly as gorgeous as the Wren V5, which features a sleek design and classy wooden finish available in real rosewood or bamboo. Powered by a 50-watt, DPS-controlled class D amplifier, this speaker is an absolute beast that delivers rich and superior sound at any volume level. And trust us when we say that it doesn’t hold back one bit. In fact, there’s even a silicone pad base that stabilizes the frame and absorbs cabinet vibration so that the speaker can play at high volumes without shaking the entire room. It also easily connects to Apple or Android devices over your home network and can wirelessly stream music up to 150 feet from the designated Wi-Fi router or access point. If there’s a better speaker like this on the market, we certainly haven’t tested it yet.

bēm Wireless Boom Box

For a slightly smaller but much more portable option, the bēm Wireless Boom Box delivers above-average sound in an extremely durable package. It’s also incredibly easy to set up; not only does it sync with your device of choice right out of the box, but the speaker can either be plugged into an outlet or powered wirelessly for 10 hours on a single charge. The 2.1 Stereo Sound (capable of outputting 105dB) will satisfy most people’s everyday needs, but the bēm Wireless Boom Box doesn’t get nearly as loud as you might expect, even losing some quality in the higher volume levels. Additionally, there are only three control buttons available (volume up, volume down and play/pause), making it impossible to change the track without having your phone/tablet nearby. The 25-foot wireless range is sufficient, and the simple but stylish design is a fun callback to the classic boom box look, but it’s definitely not for audiophiles. Instead, this is geared more towards use during backyard BBQs and trips to the beach.

SYNC by 50 Bluetooth Wireless Portable Speaker

Those in the market for a portable speaker that isn’t quite so bulky should consider adding the new wireless Bluetooth speaker from SMS Audio to their holiday wish list. It’s not the kind of speaker that you’ll be able to rely on when throwing a party, but the professionally tuned 50mm drivers offer dynamic, crystal clear audio that’s perfect for the office or living room. Its sleek, compact design looks good in any home and is also great for someone who frequents airports and hotel rooms. The speaker boasts touch sensor controls and even has hands-free capabilities, but the coolest feature is the ability to switch between five distinct, pre-tuned EQ settings. (Our favorite was Live, which delivers a natural and soft 3D sound that makes you feel like you’re at a concert.) And with 15 hours of talk time, 12 hours of music and a whopping 800 hours of standby mode, you don’t have to worry about charging the unit very often – a big plus for anyone who has more electronic devices than wall outlets.

V-MODA Crossfade M-100 Over-Ear Noise-Isolating Metal Headphones

The sound quality on these headphones is incredible. If you’re looking for high-quality headphones with superior sound, look no further. Featuring the award-winning M-Class sound tuned by over 200 audiophile aficionados, we were particularly impressed with the clean deep bass and the detail you can hear. Everything is precise and the sound never feels bloated. They’re also beautifully designed and perfectly comfortable. The carrying case is sleek and the headphones fold in perfectly. These headphones are more expensive than most, but they are definitely worth the price.

SYNC by 50 On-Ear Wireless Headphones

The premium headphones craze has really exploded in recent years, but there’s still a pretty large gap separating the top brands from the budget wannabes. SMS Audio’s SYNC by 50 line falls into the former category, and though it doesn’t have the name recognition of Beats by Dre, it’s a worthy substitute that’s comparable in just about every way. Featuring professionally-tuned 40mm custom drivers for high quality sound with an impressive dynamic range, the On-Ear Wireless Headphones sound great, even when connected via Bluetooth, which isn’t always the case with other headphones. The on-board play/pause, volume and track controls are also a nice touch, especially those who like to listen to music at the gym. Granted, they’re not as stylish as you might expect for a fashion-forward rapper like 50 Cent, but they’re surprisingly lightweight, incredibly comfortable (thanks to the super-soft earpads and inner headband), and their ability to operate wirelessly makes them an ideal gift for on-the-go music lovers.

Soul Combat+ and Loop Headphones

Not to be outdone by Dr. Dre and 50 Cent, fellow rapper Ludacris launched his own line of premium headphones recently, and the company’s latest additions are its best yet. While a majority of the headphones these days look pretty similar, the Soul Combat+ Over-Ear Headphones are unique in that they’ve been designed almost exclusively with athletes in mind. From the breathable, wide grip headband, to the interchangeable earpads (each set comes with a pair made of Comply memory foam and mesh), to the sweat-resistant speaker covers, the Combat+ delivers excellent sound without having to worry about ruining your investment in the process. Soul also offers a more female-friendly on-ear model called Loop that, although it doesn’t boast the same great features of its celebrity-endorsed bigger brother, provides a more affordable and lightweight alternative without sacrificing style, comfort or audio quality. They may be much smaller than the rest of the Soul line, but the Loop doesn’t disappoint where it matters most.

Phiaton Over-Ear Bridge Headphones

Phiaton sent us a new set of their over-ear Bridge headphones, and right away, we were very impressed with the design. We loved the machined aluminum style with the soft, black perforated leather and red accents. With headphones these days, everything starts with the design, because we all want to look good while enjoying our music in public. These new headphones are very comfortable as well, and the sound quality was excellent, with a deep bass response that provides a nice balance to your music of choice.

Tenqa Fit Bluetooth Headphones

They’re probably a little too pricey to consider as a potential stocking stuffer (although at $69, they’re actually quite affordable), but the Tenqa Fit Bluetooth Headphones are certainly small enough to fit into your pocket. That makes these earbuds ideal for people who like listening to music everywhere they go without worrying about how to store them, as is often the case with the bulkier premium headphones. Obviously, the sound quality isn’t nearly as great, but it’s good enough for those who don’t obsess over that sort of thing. They’re Bluetooth 4.0 compatible with all smartphones and tables, feature aptX audio and CVC active noise cancellation, deliver smart voice alert notifications and can even be paired with two devices simultaneously, which comes in handy more than you might think. And with a five-and-half-hour battery life, a single charge can last you the entire week or more depending on how often you use them.

Inventio HD Video Sunglasses

Start getting used to wearable video cameras. These sleek and stylish sunglasses have a video camera capable of shooting full HD point of view video. You can now easily record your activities like sporting events, hunting, skateboarding, mountain climbing, hiking, driving, or even just hanging out or walking around. The camera has advanced image stabilization, which smooths out the video. The glasses are very easy to use, as recording can be started and stopped with the press of a button. The battery will let you record continuously for up to two hours. These video sunglasses are a great gift idea for active people who would like to capture their adventures or anyone with an imagination.

Pivothead HD Recording Sunglasses

As video recording devices get smaller, we’re getting to the point where we can easily record countless aspects of our lives. Think about skiing down a black diamond run and recording everything you experience from your point of view. Or maybe zip-lining through the jungles of Costa Rica or hiking through the Grand Canyon. With the Pivothead HD recording sunglasses, capturing all of these experiences on video is not only possible, but very easy. Just wear these stylish sunglasses, or one of their other models, and you’re on your way with effortless, hands-free video and audio recordings. We tried out the Durango model pictured about and the videos turned out great. All of the controls are on the left side and very easy to use, and as you can see, the sunglasses look great, so you’ll fit right in and look good as well. Check them out for the gadget lover on your list.

ZEAL iON HD Camera Goggles

Here’s another POV HD camera gadget built around eyewear. In this case, it’s customized for skiing or snowboarding, built into goggles you can use on the slopes. Wouldn’t it be great to capture some of your incredible runs down the slopes? With the ZEAL iON HD camera goggles, you can do just that. ZEAL Optics recently introduced these camera goggles to help you document your adventures on the slopes. The slick design will make you want to wear them whether you’re recording or not, but now you’ll always have the option to capture your experiences with a point of view video. The goggles are also very comfortable. The ZEAL iON captures 1080p HD quality video and can shoot up to 8 megapixel photos for quick, easy POV videos.

PowerFlask Portable Power Bank

Every gadget needs something that sets it apart, and initially, the PowerFlask’s distinguishing feature does appear to be its strong resemblance to a flask. However, look beyond the gimmicky aesthetic and you may be surprised to find one of the most versatile and capable portable chargers currently available. Capable of charging three devices at once and compatible with nearly every major iOS and Android product, the exact specifics of how long the Powerflask will last are hard to nail down due to the numerous variable of how many of what kind of devices are plugged into it, but a formula for those figures reveals almost no combination of devices that the flask doesn’t beat the competition at in terms of longevity and performance. Not to mention, once you get past the novelty of the flask design, you actually start to see how the shape makes this a much more portable and diverse gadget. The Powerflask may grab your attention with a laugh, but we could all use a portable charger once and awhile, and the more you break the flask down, the more you see it is no joke.

Belkin WeMo Switch

There was an old “Looney Tunes” segment called “The House of Tomorrow” that really ruined me for my expectations of the future with its impossible array of incredible gizmos and fantastic gadgets. Sure, some of them came to be, but many of the more elaborate concepts remain elusive. The Belkin WeMo Switch feels like something that may have fit well in the House of Tomorrow. Consider it something of a “smart socket,” as it plugs into a standard electrical outlet and works with a native app on your iDevice to allow you to remotely control whatever is plugged into it. For example, if you want your stereo to be playing some welcome home music when you get back from work, it can be arranged relatively simply. Even better, it can read the devices plugged into it to monitor things like electrical costs. Practical and exciting, the WeMo Switch is also a perfect holiday gift, as it’s not really something you’d necessarily buy for yourself, but most anyone could find a nice use for it once they have it.