2014 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 the links to purchase each product online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

Apple iPhone 6


Just when everyone was starting to question Apple, the company comes out with the bigger iPhone 6 and massive iPhone 6 Plus. Sales have exploded and competitors that relied on having bigger screens to differentiate their phones suddenly saw their sales decline. The new iPhones are a huge hit, and an Apple box is becoming almost as desirable as the iconic blue box from Tiffany. The bottom line is that you can never go wrong with an Apple gift. We prefer the iPhone 6 and only recommend the 6 Plus for someone who has made it clear they want a huge phone. We were happy with the size of the older iPhones, but that changed quickly after using the new 6 for a couple of days. It’s thinner, so it seems like the perfect size now after you add a case. We also found it to be much faster and the charge lasts long as well. The phones are expensive, so in order to get a deal, you’ll need to have information about the applicable carrier and phone plan, but the work will be worth it.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S


If there’s one tablet that has what it takes to compete with the Apple iPad mini, it’s the Samsung Galaxy Tab S, although your decision will ultimately depend on which operating system (iOS or Android) you prefer. Those that fall into the latter camp will absolutely love what Samsung’s newest tablet has to offer, including a Super AMOLED display (available in either an 8.4-inch or 10.5-inch screen), a 1.9GHz Quad-Core processor, a built-in 8-megapixel rear camera and 2.1-megapixel front camera for photos and video chat, 16 GB of onboard memory, and a microSD card slot that allows for an additional 128 GB of memory… all packaged in a super sleek design that measures just over a 1/4-inch thin and weighs less than a pound. This thing is about as mobile as they come, and it boasts some great features as well, like the ability to use two apps side-by-side (for instance, you can watch a YouTube video while typing an email), a Kids Mode to limit what child users can access, and a fingerprint scanner that captures and stores multiple fingerprints for added security. Though we’ve had some bad experiences with Android tablets in the past, there’s a good reason why Samsung has become the go-to device for Android users, and the Galaxy Tab S is their best one yet.

ZVOX SoundBase 555

If you want the benefits of surround sound, but don’t have the money or room for a typical multi-speaker arrangement, the ZVOX SoundBase 555 is one of the best alternatives on the market. Standing at only 3.5” high and capable of fitting under most TVs up to 55”, this single-cabinet surround sound system is made of real wood and uses five high-performance speakers, a built-in powered subwoofer and a 70-watt Class D digital amplifier to deliver vibrant, realistic and high-impact sound. The system also employs PhaseCue virtual surround to create 3D theater-style sound, and although it doesn’t give you quite the same effects of a standard 5.1 system, it’s still really good. The ZVOX 555 also goes one step further by including additional features designed to improve your listening experience. For instance, Dialog Emphasis mimics the functions of a hearing aid so that human voices are emphasized and other frequencies (like loud background music) are minimized, while Output Leveling uses a compression system to make soft sounds louder and vice versa. The results are pretty remarkable for a single-cabinet speaker that costs less than $250, which is why this is a no-brainer for anyone looking to give their home entertainment system a much-needed boost.


Star Wars STREET by 50 On-Ear Headphones


With a new film coming to theaters next year, it was only a matter of time before Star Wars fever took hold, and SMS Audio has kicked things off with these awesome collector’s edition headphones. Featuring professionally-tuned 40mm custom drivers for high-quality audio and quiescent passive noise cancellation to help block outside distractions, you can enjoy your music the way it was intended wherever you go. But while they sound great and are extremely comfortable to wear thanks to the Oval-Fit soft leather memory foam cushions, chances are you’re not buying these sleek headphones purely for their excellence. Available in four different styles, you can either join the Dark Side with the black-and-red Galactic Empire, support the good guys with the orange-and-grey Rebel Alliance, embrace your inner bounty hunter with the green-and-red Boba Fett, or suit up with the white-and-black Stormtrooper. The headphones also come with an embossed carrying case, design-specific stickers, a certificate of authenticity and a First Edition poster, which suggests that there may be more styles (ones shaped like Yoda ears and Princess Leia hair buns, perhaps?) to come in the future.

Jawbone UP24

There are a lot of different fitness bands on the market these days, but Jawbone consistently ranks among the best thanks to its minimalist but stylish design and one of the more accurate activity monitors in its price range. Though the original UP was a great product, the new UP24 (available at RadioShack) is an improvement in just about every way, beginning with the ability to connect via Bluetooth, which provides real-time feedback so you can keep track of your goals wherever you go. In addition to precise step tracking and workout logging, you can also set Idle Alerts to remind you to move throughout the day and add friends to your team to cheer you on. The UP24 is about more than just tracking your movement, however, because it tracks your sleep as well, using graphs to show the good and bad of your nighttime habits. The UP Insight Engine then discovers hidden connections and patterns in your day-to-day activities in order to create personalized tips designed to help you reach (and exceed) your goals. The inclusion of a food tracker is a nice option, as is the connection to popular apps like Wello, Whistle or RunKeeper, but if you just need some extra motivation in leading a healthier lifestyle, the Jawbone UP24 is exactly what the doctor ordered.


ROCCAT Gaming Gear

If you’re a hardcore gamer, chances are that you’re already familiar with the awesome line of peripherals from ROCCAT, and the company’s recent partnership with Alienware – one of the biggest names in PC gaming – is only going to raise their profile in the coming years. You really can’t go wrong with any of ROCCAT’s products, but the Kave XTD Gaming Headset is one of our favorites, featuring an ultra-light and durable design, a fully-equipped desktop remote, and an inbuilt multi-channel sound card for rich, interference-free audio. The Kone XTD Gaming Mouse, meanwhile, is one of the most innovative mice on the market thanks to its Pro-Aim R3 laser sensor (which offers incredible precision with zero lag), eight programmable buttons, 576KB of onboard memory to store macros and profiles, and Easy-Shift[+] technology for setting dual functions to each mouse button and the scroll wheel. For a truly personalized experience, you can even use clip-in weights to customize the feel of the mouse or change the color of the LED light rails on the sides, and that customizability to a range of ROCCAT gear, including the heavy-duty Ryos MK Series Keyboard, which is also loaded with Easy-Shift[+] technology and boasts per-key illumination for endless possibilities. It’s pretty amazing just how much technology ROCCAT manages to pack into their peripherals, and although these items are surefire winners, you can satisfy the gamer in your life with virtually anything from their catalog.


NETGEAR Nighthawk X6 Tri-Band WiFi Router


As far as home network routers go, the NETGEAR Nighthawk X6 is in a class of its own, almost to the point of overkill. With a combined Wi-Fi speed of up to 3.2 Gbps for uninterrupted streaming, six high-performance antennas that provide maximum coverage, and a lightning-fast 1GHz dual-core processor and three offload processors, you never have to worry about your internet connection slowing you down. What’s really cool about this tri-band router is that it has the capability and intelligence to assign each wireless device to the Wi-Fi band where it can connect at its maximum possible speed, so you don’t have to worry about faster devices (which share two 5GHz bands) being hindered by the slower, older devices on the 2.4GHz band. It’s a little pricey for a router with more power than the average consumer requires, and the bulky, insect-like design looks like something you’d expect to find at a government black ops site, but for those that refuse to be a slave to bottleneck bandwidth, you won’t find a better option around.

NETGEAR AC1200 WiFi Range Extender


There’s nothing worse than a wireless device that doesn’t work in your own house, either because you’re too far away from the main router or said router doesn’t have a strong enough signal. The NETGEAR AC1200 Wi-Fi Range Extender is designed to remedy that problem by boosting your existing network range and speed with a dual-band Wi-Fi connection up to 1200 Mpbs. The 700 mW high-power design features a pair of external antennas for ultimate range, while the powerful dual-core ARM A9 processor enables maximum performance. Additionally, it boasts a feature called FastLane Technology that uses both Wi-Fi bands to establish one super high-speed connection (which is great for HD streaming and online gaming), and includes five gigabit Ethernet ports to connect wired devices and a USB 3.0 port to quickly share photos and videos across your network. The AC1200 is also a really sleek device that fits in with almost any décor and, perhaps most importantly, is incredibly easy to install. We just wish it didn’t cost more than the actual router that the typical household likely uses.

808 HEX TL Wireless Speaker

If you’re looking to get someone portable speakers for their smartphone, the 808 HEX TL offers a great option, as it’s a little bigger than many of the portables out there, but is still manageable in size. More importantly, the sound is impressive and can power a small party or gathering. It’s also extremely flexible, as it has Bluetooth capability and provides two power options with an AC power adapter or batteries for up to 12 hours of portable listening. The 808 HEX TL has the largest bass resonator in the 808 Bluetooth speaker line, so you get the thumping base many of us crave along with clear highs via a dedicated tweeter and a balanced response from a full-frequency driver. The elegant design comes in three colors and will look great on a bookshelf or in a dorm room, which makes it very easy to start a party.