What Are This Year's Must-Have Gadgets?

Wednesday 09 November 2016, 03:00 PM

Michael Briers
Journalist , Freelance

  • Christmas-Lists-Large

From stocking fillers to quirky gift ideas, we’ve compiled a handy buyer’s guide to ensure you’re fully prepared for ol’ Saint Nick lumbering down the chimney. 

Halloween is officially behind us for another year and that can only mean one thing — and no, we’re not referring to that dreaded trip to the dentist. 

As the jack-o’-lanterns come down and the spooky celebrations retreat to the shadows, chatter of Christmas begins to take hold and we’re sure that you, like us, have spied some decorations going up all across town. 

Such a change in season will either evoke giddy excitement or apprehension, and that largely comes down to how prepared you are in the gift department. Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of time left to get your festive ducks in a row, but why not stay one step ahead of the game with our buyer’s guide? 

Below, you’ll find a handy overview of this year’s must-have gadgets, ranging from the latest Amazon Fire tablet to a rather quirky gift known as the Bamboo Spark. Without further ado, let’s get to it. 

Amazon Fire HD 8 Tablet

Cost: £80-£90 

Available from: Amazon

In the market for a reliable tablet that won’t break the bank? Look no further than the Amazon Fire HD 8. It’s the latest, and possibly greatest, flagship tablet from the online giant that comes packing impressive specs — Quad-core MediaTek MT8135 CPU, for you tech aficionados — and a crisp, 8-inch screen. Available in 8GB and 16GB, the Fire HD 8 boasts plenty of storage for movies and books. With a microSD slot on the side, you’ll be able to add to the device’s internal storage as you see fit. 

Of course, Amazon Prime members will naturally get the most out of the company’s flagship tablet — Instant Video, the Kindle Store, Audible and the Amazon storefront are all available via the home screen — but with solid form factor and various colours to choose from, this is a device that’s perfect for your younger relatives. 

Mid-range camera aside, the Amazon Fire HD 8 is an affordable all-rounder, and acts as a welcome point of entry over the much fancier — and pricier! — iPad Mini. 

Apple Watch Series 2 

Cost: £369 

Available from: Apple

When it comes to the smartwatch market, relatively speaking, Apple were slightly late to the game. First unveiled two years ago, the Apple Watch initially came in four variants: Apple Watch Sport, Apple Watch, Apple Watch Hermès, and Apple Watch Edition. It was by no means a must-have gadget; performance issues and an eye-watering price tag cast a shadow over the product’s launch, and even to this day, the Apple Watch is very much considered a luxury product among luxury products.

But Apple fanboys are a passionate bunch, and with the Apple Watch Series 2, the tech giant has not only ramped up the internal specs, but the wearable is water resistant to 50 metres with “quick-on GPS” to boot. Going one step further, if your nearest and dearest happens to be a fitness freak, the Apple Watch Nike+ is specifically tailored to your fitness needs. With the second generation of Apple Watch, Apple has created a more inclusive product — even if that price tag leaves us quaking in our boots. 

Skullcandy Ink'd Wireless Earbuds

Cost: £30-£40

Available from: Skullcandy, Amazon

Mariah Carey, Michael Bublé, The Pogues, all stalwarts of the Christmas music scene year in, year out — now imagine how much better those festive tunes sound with capable headphones. Enter the Skullcandy Ink'd Wireless Earbuds. 

Featuring powerful, sculpted audio designed to maximise bass, the Ink'd Wireless Earbuds are Skullcandy’s latest and indeed affordable Bluetooth cans that hang around the neck using a flexible collar design. With black, blue, red, and white/gray models to choose from, there’s a wide variety available, and though audiophiles may take issue with the sound mixing — the Ink'd Wireless Earbuds essentially favor bass above all else — the budget-friendly model acts as a great stocking filler, and the perfect accoutrement to a new music player or phone. 

WACOM Bamboo Spark

Price: £79.99

Available from: Amazon, Currys

We’ve all been there. You’re on a bus, on a train — basically anywhere far away from a pen and paper — when suddenly an idea dawns upon you. If you’re the creative type, it could be the kernel for a new project or story; on the other hand, said brainwave could be something to add to the to-do list — a Christmas gift idea, perhaps. 

Sure, if you have your phone handy, you could jot that idea down before it passes, but the WACOM Bamboo Spark is the next step up. It is, essentially, a hybrid A5 paper notepad that tracks and records your idle scribbles and doodles in digital form, allowing you to easily export the page as a PDF, text file, or even a digital link to your smartphone via the Bamboo Spark app. 

It’s also set up in such a way that the Bamboo Spark boasts ambidextrous support, and putting aside those superfluous extra apps, it’s a quirky, affordable tech gift. For the creative type in your life, the Bamboo Spark makes for an usual gift which, in the right hands, could become an essential accessory. 

Amazon Echo

Price: £150

Available from: Amazon, Currys

As the Internet of Things begins to weave its way into our homes, the Amazon Echo is an early frontrunner in the field of smart speakers designed for domestic environments. Rubbing shoulders with the Google Home, Echo is a portable mini-tower that fills the room with immersive, 360º omnidirectional audio, and even allows for hands-free interaction via voice control. 

It’s aiming to be a cornerstone of your home, essentially, connecting to any compatible smart-home devices to allow control over lights, switches, thermostats and more. Curious to catch up on the latest news and weather while cooking dinner? Simply address Alexa with your question or query — heck, even ask the device to spurt out a joke — and the Echo will respond instantaneously. You’ll need to hold a Spotify subscription to take full advantage of the device’s musical capabilities, while Audiobooks can be pulled from your Kindle library.  

As far as personal bots go, the Amazon Echo is the one to beat and yes, the future is now. 

UE BOOM 2 Ninja

Price: £140-£150

Available from: Amazon, Ultimate Ears

Few wireless speakers can hold a candle to the UE BOOM 2 Ninja. It’s the latest flagship device that is designed to be used everywhere and anywhere thanks to its waterproof build, and with 360 degrees surround sound, the BOOM 2 is practically begging to be brought with you wherever you go. Much like its chief competitors, the device uses Bluetooth to hook up to nearby phones, tablets or computers — up to eight devices can be paired simultaneously — and the BOOM 2 comes packing an impressive 15 hours of battery life. 

If you’re on the hunt for a new audio companion, the UE BOOM 2 Ninja is the answer to problems you didn’t know you had. It’s a compact, eye-catching piece of kit that not only comes in a range of different colours, it’s also much more affordable than the likes of Bose and Sonos speakers. 

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