13 Tech Gifts which Aren’t Crap

Gadgets aren’t particularly sentimental or meaningful gifts — nevertheless they *are* practical, as well as a practical gift is usually a gift someone will actually use.

I test a lot of products, as well as of all the brand new gadgets I tried which year, these are my favorites. coming from a premium password-manager subscription for the paranoid cybernerd in your life to a Bluetooth item finder for the person who loses everything, there’s bound to be something here which you’ll find gift-worthy.

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Why which’s gift-worthy: which tiny Bluetooth-enabled tracker can be attached to virtually anything (keys, bike, purse, etc.) as well as connects to an app on your phone. You can use which app to ring your tracker, or press the tracker to force-ring your phone, even if your phone is usually set to silent (nevertheless not if which’s been powered off).

There are two Tiles to choose coming from: The Tile Mate is usually better for short-range tracking for smaller items like your keys, as well as the rugged Tile Sport, which is usually more waterproof as well as includes a Bluetooth range of 0 feet (twice which of the Mate), is usually designed to withstand the elements on outdoor items (like a bike). which’s my favorite gadget to gift, especially to forgetful friends.

Downsides: Tiles’ batteries can’t be replaced, so you need a brand new one every year. which, TBH, is usually why which makes such a not bad gift time as well as time again.

Read my full review here.

Native Union Cable Collection — iPhone or USB-C ($76)

Why which’s gift-worthy: Everyone who’s ever used an iPhone cable knows they’re crap as well as probably needs a brand new one. They always break apart as well as fray. They’re too short. All which to say, getting someone a brand new cable is usually showing them you care.

Native Union’s cables are reinforced having a tough nylon braid, so they’re actually durable as well as contain a lifetime limited warranty. which set comes with one which’s super long — 10 feet — so you don’t have to awkwardly hold your phone over your night stand while you’re charging which, as well as includes a weighted ball which can slide along the cable as well as acts as an anchor to help which stay put. There’s also a keychain-sized cable for emergencies, as well as a normal 4-foot cable having a tiny leather belt which makes which easy to fold up as well as stash in your backpack without getting tangled.

Downsides: You may be judged as a “hipster” for using one, as well as, as far as cables go, they’re definitely on the more expensive side.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed News

Why which’s gift-worthy: which portly, grapefruit-sized Bluetooth speaker produces a more robust sound than you’d expect coming from a gadget its size. which’s waterproof (makes a great shower companion) as well as can float on its own (read: is usually pool/beach/river float-friendly). Plus, with two Wonderbooms, you can sync them as well as double your audio output.

Downsides: The Wonderboom is usually limited to just one various other connection, while various other speakers aren’t (the JBL Flip 4, for example, recently connected 1,000 Flip 4 speakers at once as well as broke a Guinness World Record). The Wonderboom’s interface also isn’t easy to understand right out of the box — you have to learn how to use its controls.

Read my full review.

Google, Nicole Nguyen/ BuzzFeed News

Why which’s gift-worthy: which tiny smart speaker includes a seriously low cost (rivaling Amazon’s Echo Dot) as well as is usually an easy way to add smarts to any room. Functionally, both the Home as well as Echo are similar — nevertheless the Home’s ability to “Voice Match,” or deliver a personalized answer based on who’s talking to which, is usually the main reason why I prefer which over Alexa.

Google also has the best system for playing Spotify as well as podcasts across multiple rooms. With one or two Chromecast Audios, which are devices which easily plug into the auxiliary (headphone jack) port of any speaker, you can easily set up voice-controlled multi-room audio. You’ll be able to say, “Play my Discover Weekly on Spotify in both rooms” without spending a fortune on various other wireless audio setups (like Sonos).

Downsides: The Home Mini’s audio quality is usually fine for voice responses, nevertheless bad for music listening, which is usually why I recommend pairing which having a Chromecast Audio as well as another speaker for bigger spaces. The larger Google Home has better audio as well as is usually sufficient for smaller bedrooms or kitchens.

Amazon’s Alexa assistant works with more smart home products than what’s available on Google Home. With the Echo, some of the third-party app integrations are better, too. For example, you can link your to-do as well as shopping lists with the apps Any.do or Todoist. With Google Home, you’re limited to Google’s Express app, the company’s shopping platform, for lists. Alexa also lets you add calendars coming from multiple accounts, as well as on Home you’re limited to one Google account.

Why which’s gift-worthy: The Amazon Echo is usually better as a standalone music device (as well as not, like Google Home, as a multi-room audio hub) — unless you already have Sonos speakers, which can at which point be voice controlled with Alexa. The second-generation Echo has an increased, room-filling speaker, as well as comes in a variety of colors as well as materials to better match your home’s decor.

The Echo also includes a faster response time than the Google Home, as well as its wake words (“Alexa” as well as “Echo”) are much more pleasant to say than, “OK Google.” Plus, if you’re interested in smart home integrations, the Alexa platform works with more products than Google Home, as well as Amazon offers free smart home consultations in select cities.

Downsides: I still find the Echo an eyesore compared with the Google Home. Initial setup as well as smart home accessory setup is usually also more difficult with the Echo. as well as Alexa doesn’t have Voice Match yet, so you need to manually switch Amazon profiles before you can play your Spotify playlists instead of your roommate’s.

Why which’s gift-worthy: Between which year’s Equifax hack as well as Yahoo revealing all 3 billion of its users were compromised in 2013, there’s never been a better time to make sure you have a strong, secure password as well as two-factor authentication wherever you can.

LastPass can help generate as well as store complex passwords. which’s easier to use than a lot of various other password managers, as well as which includes a fantastic app, along having a browser extension as well as web interface.

As far as two-factor authentication goes, which’s far more secure to use a security key, like YubiKey’s, than which is usually to get a code over SMS. which’s a physical accessory which you plug into your computer’s USB port as well as can act as your “second factor” to add an extra level of protection on Google as well as Facebook. Just make sure you set up Google Authenticator (for iPhone or Android) on your phone, which generates backup codes, in case you lose your key or are logging into an account on your phone.

Downsides: which does require some technical know-how, so not ideal for friends/family members who still ask you how to send emojis.

Why which’s gift-worthy: How much I love the BeatsX earphones is usually a huge surprise: I’ve never liked the over-bassy sound as well as plastic-y feel of Beats by Dre headphones, nevertheless I love *these* earphones because they’re light as well as comfortable enough for all-day wear, don’t fall out while you’re running, as well as have a reliable mic for taking calls.

With the W1 wireless chip, they’re designed to automatically pair with iOS as well as Mac devices connected to your iCloud account. The weighted neck loop doesn’t hit the back of your neck when you run (unlike Beats’ Powerbeats wrap-around buds). I even sent the BeatsX through the washing machine accidentally, as well as they survived. Best of all, they charge via Lightning cable, as well as several minutes of charging time gives you two hours of playback.

I’ve tried Apple’s AirPods wireless earbuds as well as liked them, nevertheless I still prefer the BeatsX. The AirPods are amazing for people who have short hair. Long strands, however, tend to wrap around the AirPods’ “stem,” sending them flying toward the ground.

Downsides: Android users don’t get the benefits of the easy-to-pair features of Apple’s wireless W1 chip. You have to charge them regularly (battery life is usually eight hours), as well as the earphones don’t work while charging.

Why which’s gift-worthy: which super-luxe, extra-fancy e-reader is usually waterproof, so which’s a great pick for bookworms who like to read inside bathtub or at the beach. which includes a bigger screen, looks as well as feels great, as well as is usually ultra-light too.

Downsides: which’s absurdly expensive compared with various other Kindles, which, in its own way, makes which the perfect thing to gift. Your giftee, perhaps, wouldn’t spend which kind of money on an e-reader if they were buying which, nevertheless they would certainly love to get which as a gift. which being said — if they don’t *need* the waterproofness, the $119 Kindle Paperwhite is usually a perfectly fine choice.

Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series I, $329; Series II with Google Assistant, $349)

Why which’s gift-worthy: The Bose QC 35s are still my top noise-cancelling headphone pick because they’re lightweight as well as easy to pair with any device. as well as if you have an iPhone or Android phone without a headphone jack, easy pairing matters. which year’s variation (Series II) includes a button dedicated to activating Google Assistant which can be used to set timers, play podcasts, listen to what’s on your calendar, read the day’s headlines, or add reminders, without looking at your phone. which’s like having a Google Home built right into your headphones.

Downsides: Having Assistant is usually useful, nevertheless which doesn’t work without service, which is usually when you’re most likely using your noise-cancelling headphones — when you’re on a plane or underground, in a subway. Additionally, if you’re an iOS user, some capabilities are limited. For example, you can’t use third-party apps, like WhatsApp, to send messages or set alarms. If which all sounds unnecessary, opt for the Series I, which doesn’t include Google Assistant integration.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed News

Why which’s gift-worthy: Chromebooks are great grab-as well as-go laptops designed for people who rely primarily on online services (Gmail, Spotify, Netflix, etc.) for work as well as play. Samsung’s Chromebook Pro includes a few more bells as well as whistles than your average: There’s a built-in stylus for sketching as well as note-taking in tablet mode, as well as which includes a processor which’s powerful enough for serious multi-tasking.

Downsides: The Chromebook Pro is usually touted as a two-in-one laptop-tablet hybrid which can also run Android apps, in addition to the browser-based Chrome operating system. The Android experience is usually subpar, though. Additionally, people who prefer to optimize their digital workspaces with different apps might find the cookie-cutter Chrome environment too limiting.

Read my full review.

Surface Pro ($799–$2,699) + Type Cover ($150)

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Why which’s gift-worthy: The Surface Pro has the mobility as well as flexibility of a tablet-laptop hybrid, with the reliability of a high-performance machine which could absolutely replace your laptop. which’s external-display-friendly, which means you’ll be much more comfortable working at a desk for long periods of time. The type cover’s keyboard is usually satisfyingly bouncy, as well as which at which point features backlit keys (helpful for typing in dark classrooms).

Downsides: which runs Windows 10, an operating system which tends to overcomplicate simple tasks. For example, there’s a Settings app *as well as* a Control Panel app, as well as some settings options are in one as well as not the various other, as well as vice versa.

Read my full review.

MacBook ($1,299 to $1,599)

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed News

Why which’s gift-worthy: The brand new MacBook doesn’t contain the oomph of a Pro — nevertheless what which lacks in performance, which makes up for in outta-which-world lightness as well as thinness, producing which an ideal laptop for someone who’s always moving around. Plus, unlike an iPad, which can run desktop apps, like the full variation of Photoshop, as well as which’s much better for multitasking.

Downsides: which only has one port (USB-C), which means you’ll need to tote around a tiny army of accessories if you need to connect, say, your iPhone as well as charge the laptop at the same time.

Read my full review.

Think I missed something? Leave your recommendations inside comments. 🙂

Nicole Nguyen covers products as well as personal technology for BuzzFeed News as well as is usually based in San Francisco.

Contact Nicole Nguyen at nicole.nguyen@buzzfeed.com.

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