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19 Of The Best Tech Gifts You Can Give This Year

Legitimately cool gadgets for people you (actually) like.

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1. The Nest Protect 2 ($99) is a smoke detector that sends alerts to your phone, even when you aren't home.

❄️ Main takeaway: Protect is designed to work with the entire Nest ecosystem (Thermostat and Cam), but you don't need them. One of the best features of the Nest Protect app is the ability to silence the alarm from your phone.❄️

A common theme among the Protect's thousand+ Amazon reviews is how easy it is to install the smoke detector and use the Nest app. The Protect knows the difference between burning pizza and a severe fire in the living room, and sends a notification to your phone when the battery is low. Plus, it acts as a nightlight by glowing when someone walks beneath it.

Note: The best-selling Nest Cam is Wirecutter's top pick for security camera because of its image quality. But it's poorly reviewed on Amazon mostly because the new version removed a geofencing feature that turned the camera on when you left the house, and off when returned. Nest claims it is reintroducing geofencing soon but, until the company delivers on its promise, I suggest you hold off on this purchase.

2. Amazon Echo ($180) is a voice-activated speaker with a virtual personal assistant built-in.

Amazon

❄️ Main takeaway: Alexa, the software that powers Echo, is a virtual personal assistant that will wow techies and non-techies alike. ❄️

The Amazon Echo hardly has any buttons because it's always listening for your voice command. You can prompt the Echo by saying "Alexa," before any question. Ask about things like traffic conditions, information from Wikipedia articles, or when a restaurant closes. You can also ask Alexa to turn off your lights or play an album from Spotify. PC Mag claimed that the Echo has incredible voice recognition but as a speaker, doesn't perform well with heavy sub-bass tracks or at high volumes.

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3. The Ring Video Doorbell ($200) detects when someone approaches your home, then lets you see and speak to them.

Ring

❄️ Main takeaway: Ring is a high tech way to keep your home secure. Most Amazon reviewers say Ring is easy set up. Some, however, complain that the motion detector is too sensitive and mostly captures footage of visitors leaving. ❄️

Ring has an HD camera, a microphone, speaker, and motion detector built-in to its small hardware. The camera itself has a fish-eye type lens that can capture a wide range. It connects to WiFi and can ping your smartphone when someone's at the door, wherever you are. There's an option to record every activity detected by motion sensors to the cloud for $30 per year or $3 per month.

4. Google's Chromecast ($35) is the best TV streamer under $50.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

❄️ Main takeaway: This little gizmo is a very affordable, very easy to set up option for cord cutters. But it does lag occasionally (as one would expect from a $35 device). ❄️

The puck-sized streamer is portable and remote-free (you control Chromecast with your smartphone). The Chromecast is best for those who stream content from services like Hulu, Netflix, and HBO Now. It doesn't play well with iTunes or Amazon content.

Read my full review here.

5. The Apple TV 4 ($149) has a new voice-enabled Siri remote with a trackpad (no more arrow buttons!!).

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

❄️ Main takeaway: Third-party apps are what make the Apple TV great. It's the best streamer for people with iOS devices (not so friendly with Android or Windows Phone, unfortunately). ❄️

The Apple TV's most outstanding feature, however, is its new software, TV OS, which supports third-party apps. There's an App Store, just like on an iOS device, where viewers can download games, fitness workouts, and cooking tutorials in addition to streaming services like Netflix. Gaming on the Apple TV is also surprisingly fun.

Read my full review here.

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6. The Fitbit Charge HR ($145) is a heart tracking, sleep monitoring, and step counting activity tracker.

Fitbit

❄️ Main takeaway: The Charge HR is solid fitness tracker, but a downside for some people is that it can't be worn while swimming. If you don't care about heart rate tracking, opt for the cheaper Fitbit Charge ($90).❄️

Here's what sets the Charge HR apart from the competition: it has a nifty display, so it can actually tell you the time (unlike the Jawbone UP3) and its battery life lasts 5 days (unlike the day long Apple Watch). The Charge HR is Wirecutter's top pick because the Charge HR monitors sleep automatically and the Fitbit app's challenges are "fun and interactive."

Read BuzzFeed Health's full fitness tracker comparison here.

7. Ringly ($195) is a Bluetooth-enabled smart ring that buzzes whenever you get a smartphone notification.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

❄️ Main takeaway: Ringly is a very expensive gift, but a good pick for someone who's fashionable and on the move. ❄️

As far as wearable technology goes, rings are a unique form factor and Ringly is as stylish as it gets. Through the app, you can customize Ringly's light color and buzz pattern for a number of different notifications from apps like Uber, Slack, Twitter, and more. It's ideal for people who interface with customers all day or take a ton of meetings where phones are forbidden.

Read my full review here.

8. The Apple Watch Sport ($350) and Moto 360 ($300) are the best smartwatches for iPhone and Android, respectively.

❄️ Main takeaway: If you *must* have the newest gadget, then opt for the cheapest model of the Apple Watch and Moto 360, because the next generation of smartwatches is poised to be much better. ❄️

These are undoubtedly the two best looking smartwatches available. Each watch's voice-activated personal assistant – Siri for Apple Watch and Google Now for Moto – will help you look for information, text friends, and create reminders. Both watches have OK battery life (~14 hours), which means that no matter what you'll need to charge it over night.

Don't care about the display? Opt for the more affordable, e-paper Pebble Steel ($150), which has a better battery life and similar notification functionality.

Read BuzzFeed's full review of the Apple Watch here.

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9. Mrice's E300 earbuds ($19) are crazy affordable and beloved by audiophiles.

Amazon

❄️ Main takeaway: For sound quality this good, at this price, these earbuds are a no-brainer. ❄️

It sounds too good to be true. Buds under $20 that are hardcore audio geek-approved? Wired discovered that Mrice's cult-loved E300s "outperform some name brand models costing ten times as much." One caveat is that you have to wear the in-ear headphones sideways, then secure them with tape for maximum sound isolation.

10. Jabra's Move Wireless ($60) on-ear headphones are actually set up-friendly, unlike most Bluetooth sets.

Jabra

❄️ Main takeaway: If comfort and simplicity is a priority, these headphones are your best bet. Plus, there's an included 3.5mm cord if you don't want to bother with Bluetooth. ❄️

From personal experience, Jabra's headphones are the most comfortable I've ever tried (thanks to their cushy memory foam pads). Wirecutter claims the Move Wireless is the best choice for Bluetooth because of its easy-to-use on/off and Bluetooth pairing mode toggle switch.

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11. The JBL Flip 3 ($97) is essentially the best of all worlds: portable, loud, splashproof, and budget-friendly.

JBL

❄️ Main takeaway: There are a lot of bad portable Bluetooth speakers out there, and the JBL Flip 3 is not one of them. It's not fully waterproof, but it sounds fantastic, which is all you can ask for in a speaker. ❄️

Scores of Amazon reviewers agree that the Flip 3 produces great bass despite its compact size and price. Tom's Guide named it the best Bluetooth pick under $100 because it's an "all-around top performer."

12. The redesigned Sonos Play:5 ($499) delivers bigger and brighter sound.

Sonos

❄️ Main takeaway: Sonos is a great multi-room audio system that doesn't need any wires. As with any wireless technology, Sonos comes a certain amount of bugginess (think your worst Bluetooth "ready to pair" nightmare) – so it may not be the best for people who aren't used to troubleshooting. ❄️

There's a lot to love about Sonos, a home audio system (Wirecutter's top pick in that category) that connects over Wi-Fi instead of physical cables. First, there's the simplicity of the app, which can move the podcast you're listening to from the living room to the bedroom and stream from multiple sources. Then there's the lineup of speakers to choose from, of which the Play:5 is the best in its class.

Inside of its casing, the new Play:5 has six speakers (three tweeters and drivers, for you audiophiles) versus five and in Wired's testing, sounded "brighter and more vibrant" than the previous version.

13. Those with an iPhone 5S or below should upgrade to the iPhone 6s ($649 or $35/month) — everyone else should wait for the 7.

RC Rivera Photography for BuzzFeed

❄️ Main takeaway: There isn't much of a difference between the 6 and 6S, aside from the 👌 new rose gold color. ❄️

Apple's new flagship phone has two new *big* features: Live Photos, which records the moments before and after you press the shutter, creating a GIF-like image; and 3D Touch, which is a right click-esque window that's enabled by pressing down firmly on the screen. Other newfangled upgrades include an even larger camera (12MP vs. 8MP) and front-facing flash.

Read my full review here.

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14. Nexus 6P ($499) includes an amazing camera, a lightning-fast fingerprint sensor, and the new Android M operating system.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

❄️ Main takeaway: The Nexus 6P is the best Android phone yet. It's so good, even iPhone users will want to switch. ❄️

Huawei's 6-inch Nexus 6P phablet was unveiled in November. One of the downsides of the device is that it's too big, and it's smaller 5-inch brethren, the Nexus 5x, while decent, just isn't fast enough for people that spend a lot of time on their phones.

Read my full review here.

15. The Olloclip 4-in-1 lens ($80) offers the most options, without any extra parts.

Olloclip

❄️ Main takeaway: This is a great gift for avid mobile photographers. Plus, it comes with a wearable keychain-like pendant that'll give you easy access to the lens. ❄️

You'll get fish eye, wide angle, macro 10x, and macro 15x in one set. The Olloclip 4-in-1 also comes in a version for Samsung Galaxy S5 and S5.

16. The Samsung Gear VR headset ($99) is a great gift for futurists.

Samsung

❄️ Main takeaway: There are some promising gaming options and viewing experience, but this accessory will only work with new Samsung devices. ❄️

But beware! It only works with the Note 5, S6, S6 Edge, and S6 Edge+. The Gear VR is a fantastic introduction to virtual reality, though it isn't as robust as "true" headsets like the Oculus Rift. With the Gear VR, for example, you can't peep around a corner but you can look left and right.

Read BuzzFeed's full review here.

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17. The Mophie H2Pro ($130) and Fre Power ($100) are waterproof cases with battery packs built-in.

❄️ Main takeaway: In terms of features, the two are pretty much the same. I personally like the rounded look of the Mophie case better, but the Lifeproof is more budget friendly. ❄️

Both of these cases provide complete waterproof protection (Mophie = 1.2 meters for 30 minutes, Lifeproof = 2 meters for an hour), plus one full extra charge. Mophie is backordered for 1 to 2 weeks, so if you're getting one as a gift, Lifeproof is probably your safest option. Neither comes in an Android option, unfortunately. They're iPhone 6 and 6S compatible only.

Read my full review of the Mophie H2Pro here.

18. The iPad Pro ($799 to $1099) isn't very mobile (it's terrible in bed) – but the Apple Pencil (which only works with the Pro) is damn cool.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed

❄️ Main takeaway: The iPad Pro is not very ergonomic and at its best when it's on a desk. The Pro's best feature is actually an accessory, the Apple Pencil. ❄️

The colossal 12.9-inch iPad Pro is less mobile, and more device. It's not a full desktop computer replacement, but its fast processor and big display make it a fitting replacement for someone who just wants to Internet and write emails. The new Smart Keyboard is too expensive and wobbly if you want to use the tablet on your lap – but the Apple Pencil stylus ($99), which has virtually no lag, is a marvel.

Read my full review here.

19. The Surface Book ($1,499 to $2,099) is a sleek, well-designed laptop-tablet hybrid that's incredibly powerful.

Microsoft

❄️ Main takeaway: The display is stunning and the included Surface Pen is very responsive. It's a good pick for anyone who wants the power of a laptop, and the mobility of a tablet in one device. ❄️

Microsoft's first ever Windows 10 notebook is fast (as fast as a high-performance laptop) , Laptop Mag's performance tests shows. The Surface Book has an impressive 12 and a half hour battery life too, although Engadget notes it only has a three-hour battery life in tablet mode.

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