Tech the Halls: Gadget Gifts for Kids and Kids at Heart
Our gadget gift guide features several gift ideas for everyone on your list — and covering varying tastes and budgets. Photo: Tarik Kizilkaya/Getty Images
It’s the most wonderful time of the year — unless you’re feeling overwhelmed while holiday shopping. This may be especially true for non-techy types who want to buy cool gadget gifts for family and friends. After all, no one wants to gift a dud, am I right?
Of course, presents aren’t what Christmas is all about, but since you’re likely buying for loved ones anyway, you’d much rather see a big smile on their face once the wrapping paper hits the floor. If you don’t know where to start, our gadget gift guide features several gift ideas for everyone on your list — and covering varying tastes and budgets (from $38 to $899).
Shopping for a TV lover? Billed as Roku’s fastest and most powerful media streamer, the new Roku Ultra ($129) plugs into an available HDMI port on your television and lets you use the voice remote to turn on the TV, ask for something to watch, adjust the volume and more.
Misplaced the remote? Say “Hey Roku, find my remote” and listen for a little chime to find it.
Access thousands of TV shows and movies from free platforms (like YouTube) and paid services (like Netflix), including support for 4K video, with Dolby Vision and HDR10+ picture and Dolby Atmos sound technology.
You can even stream audio privately to Bluetooth headphones or hearing aids.
If you want a bigger picture than what your TV can muster — and something you can bring to the backyard or cottage/cabin in the summer — the BenQ GS50 Portable Projector ($899) is ideal for splashing a movie up to 112 inches on a screen or wall, inside or outside.
(Speaking of splashing, the GS50 is IPX2-rated, which means it can resist water that hits the projector at a 15-degree angle or less.)
Delivering 500 lumens of brightness for 1080p Full HD viewing (with a minimum 20,000-hour lifetime), this cube-shaped projector is also equipped with a 2.1-channel, 20-watt Bluetooth speaker for clear audio. For connecting devices, ports include USB-C, USB 2.0 and HDMI.
Speaking of the backyard, if the loved one you’re shopping for doesn’t already own a Traeger grill/smoker, the next best thing is the Meater Plus ($149), the first truly wireless smart meat thermometer, which can be used with any barbeque. When paired with the Meater app on a smartphone or tablet, it will help you cook the perfect steak, chicken, turkey, lamb or fish, by measuring the ambient temp of the grill as well as the internal meat temperature (two sensors on one probe).
You can even stay in your home to be notified when it’s time to flip your meat or serve it, as the built-in Bluetooth repeater means it extends the wireless range up to 50 metres (about 164 feet).
Budget permitting, another great idea is gifting a robot that can do your dirty work for you. Ideal for hardwood floors, tile and carpet, the iRobot Roomba i3+ EVO ($699) sucks up dirt, dust and pet hair in neat rows, and then drives itself back to the Clean Base Automatic Dirt Disposal to empty itself for up to 60 days.
By learning your home and creating smart maps, you can schedule it to clean daily on its own, whether you’re home or away, or select what room you want using the app or your voice (such as saying “clean the kitchen”) via a nearby smart speaker.
For the Fitness Fanatic
Smartwatches are one of those things you don’t think you need — until you wear one.
Not only do they calculate your activity (and motivate you to get moving), but they can also analyze your sleep, push notifications to your wrist (like text messages) and can often stream music to wireless earbuds when out for a walk.
The new Apple Watch SE (from $329), for instance, is both fashionable and functional, with its huge collection of watch faces and colours (to match your ensemble), plus you can wave your wrist at the checkout counter to buy something, find your parked car or use your voice to control your smart home.
New to this year’s model is Crash Detection, which can detect if you’ve been in a car accident and call 911, your emergency contacts and share your location info.
Ideal for Android phone owners, Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 5 (from $389) is also a water-resistant smartwatch that features a sapphire crystal face, advanced sleep coaching and the Samsung body analyzer that can track body composition based on weight, body fat, body mass index (BMI), skeletal muscle and more.
For a lot less, the Fitbit Luxe ($99) is a stylish fitness tracker that doubles as jewelry. It could track your activity and health (such as detect irregular heart rhythm) and has a battery that lasts up to five days between charges.
For Music Lovers
Featuring plenty of smarts and great-sounding audio, Amazon’s 5th Gen Echo Dot Smart Speaker ($69) fuses an intelligent and responsive Alexa personal assistant with tens of millions of songs from music services like Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify (just go ahead and ask it to play a song, album, genre and so on). The speaker enjoys clearer vocals and deeper bass than previous models.
Alexa can answer virtually any question you throw at it, plus it’s an alarm clock and timer, joke and storyteller and, you can control your smart home, hands-free. You can ask Alexa to find your misplaced smartphone (if perhaps stuck in the couch cushions) or make free phone calls to any number in Canada, the U.S. U.K., and Mexico — even if there’s no phone nearby.
For louder sound, including what’s coming out of your television, the LG SK1 Sound Bar ($149) is simple to connect and sits just beneath your television to amplify audio out of your TV shows, movies, sports and games. For added convenience, you can control this 2-channel 40-watt sound bars with your existing TV remote (from most top television makers).
Integrated Bluetooth wireless connectivity means you can stream music from your smartphone, tablet or laptop.
For private listening, not only are a pair of wireless earbuds or headphones ideal for those who love music, but they can also be used to listen to podcasts and audiobooks, stream audio from a Bluetooth-enabled smart TV and allow you to take calls, hands-free, via a nearby phone.
For just $38, the Xiaomi True Wireless Earbuds Redmi Buds 3 Lite are small, comfortable and stay in your ears while exercising. Pair them with an iPhone, iPad, Android device or Windows PC to stream music up to 5 hours between charges (up to 18 hours with the case).
While costlier, Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II ($379) sound extraordinary and also feature Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), therefore smart for those who want some peace of quiet by blocking out ambient noise around you (perfect for airplanes).
These buds also feature CustomTune technology, which optimizes performance based on your ear canal’s unique shape.
If you prefer larger, over-the-ear headphones, the Sennheiser HD 450BT ($149) are super comfortable and feature Bluetooth 5.0 technology for strong and clear wireless connectivity with whatever you pair it with — or flip on the noise cancellation to block out everything (and everyone!) around you, even with nothing playing at all.
Peace and quiet never sounded so good.