20 No-Nonsense, Functional Tech Gadgets And Gifts – 2015 Edition


We got to try tons and tons of gadgets and tech gear this year. With technology being such a meaningful part of our everyday lives, everyone can benefit from more soldered-and-wireless gifts stuffed in their holiday stockings. Tech gifts aren’t just for the gadget-obsessed geeks anymore. Whether you’re on the hunt for affordable tech or big-ticket electronics, we hope you will find something on this rundown to make your Holiday shopping just a little bit easier.

1.Anker Astro 6700 2nd Gen – $20


This affordable USB power bank packs a powerful LG battery inside a sturdy, drop-tested enclosure, with a size that allows it to fit comfortably inside a jeans back pocket. With 6,700 mAh on tap, this portable battery can fully recharge an iPhone 5S three times, a Galaxy S5 one and a half times, and an iPad Mini once, all while doing it in the most efficient manner possible by automatically identifying the device and adjusting the battery output to ensure optimal performance.

2. Satechi Bluetooth Button – $25

The perfect way to control an iOS or Samsung phone while driving, this button can be stuck anywhere in the cabin for easy access, allowing you to launch Siri or S Voice without having to reach for the phone or take your eyes off the road – both of which have, undoubtedly, facilitated their own share of on-road mishaps. Aside from launching a virtual assistant, it can also be used to launch the Task Switcher, with additional buttons facilitating music playback and remote shutter functionalities, respectively.

3. Amazon Fire – $50


Sure, it’s far from the best tablet in the market, but a 7-inch tablet with an IPS display, quad-core CPU, and full Amazon integration for 50 bucks? Instant winner. Easily the best value tablet available today and a perfect stocking stuffer for the holidays.

4. Zolt Laptop Charger – $100


Measuring four times smaller and weighing three times lighter than conventional laptop power adapters, Zolt can easily be crammed into your pants pocket, making it infinitely more portable than any laptop charger you’ve used over the years. Even better, it comes with a pair of USB slots, allowing you to juice up two mobile devices at the same time your laptop is charging. Designed for universal use, it comes with swappable tips that allow it to work with over 90 percent of laptop brands in the market.

5. Samsung Gear VR – $100


Powered by Oculus’ virtual reality tech, the Samsung Gear VR offers an affordable way to enjoy VR content without being tethered by unruly wires to an equally cumbersome computer. It’s lightweight, wireless, and comfortable enough that having a gadget strapped to your face isn’t likely to detract from enjoying the thousands of content (360-degree photos, games, and apps) now available from the Oculus VR app store. Of course, you need to make sure your recipient owns a compatible Samsung smartphone (Note 5, S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+), unless you also plan to include one with the gift.

6. Sphero BB-8 – $150


Arguably the best toy of the season (and probably the only exception to 100% utilitarian on this list), Sphero’s version of Star Wars’ newest astromech droid aptly recreates the swift, rolling motions of its movie counterpart, all while coming in at a size that’s ideal for playing on both floors and tabletops. Not only can you drive it from a smartphone like an RC car, it can also respond to voice commands and explore the surroundings autonomously, making for genuinely fun and interactive play. Of course, it comes with a whole slew of sound effects, too, livening up quiet mornings with bleeps and bloops like any proper robot would. Hands down, one of the most fun toys we played with this year.

7. TCL Roku Smart TV – starts at $180


It’s not the best entry-level line of TVs when it comes to picture quality and range of image controls (it’s great, although not quite on Vizio’s level), but TCL’s Roku TV brings the simplest and most comprehensive smart TV experience right out of the box compared to, practically, anything else in the market. That’s because it comes with Roku’s full functionality onboard, giving you instant access to over 1,700 online channels and a healthy selection of games, all of them accessible using Roku’s familiar, easy-to-use interface.

8. Ring WiFi-Enabled Doorbell – $199


This connected doorbell comes with an onboard mic, speaker, and camera, allowing you to see who’s at the door from the accompanying app, as well as engage in a two-way communication. It can be hooked up to your existing doorbell wiring for power, although it also packs a rechargeable battery for fully-untethered operation. Features include night vision, an integrated motion sensor that alerts you whenever there’s someone outside, and the ability to pair with an unlimited number of devices simultaneously, so all your phones and tablet can chime in unison whenever someone rings the doorbell.

9. Canary All-In-One Home Security – $199


A versatile standalone home security system, the Canary combines a wide-angle, 1080p camera that streams real-time video of your home, with a 90-decibel siren that sounds off when unauthorized activity is detected via the onboard motion sensors. Features include high-quality audio streaming/recording, automatic night vision, and additional sensors for monitoring a variety of conditions (air quality, temperature, and humidity) that can affect your home’s living conditions.

10. Singlecue Gesture Control – $199


A Kinect-like contraption that sits on top of your TV, this device lets you change channels on the cable box, adjust volume on the TV, and switch to a different line on the AV receiver using nothing but simple hand gestures. It can work with most any AV device with an IR interface, making for a functional replacement to a standard universal remote. Aside from IR devices, it can also control a variety of smart home devices using the integrated WiFi, so you can manage a whole lot of devices in the living room with neither a remote nor a smartphone nearby.

11. Google OnHub – $200


Designed to make getting the most out of your router a less-complicated affair, the Google-designed device packs 13 antennas to ensure reliable Wi-Fi coverage, automated channel and frequency adjustment to ensure efficient network connection, automated bandwidth prioritizing depending on a device’s internet requirements, and an accompanying app that makes changing settings a whole lot simpler than traditional router software.   It also looks less like a router and more like a mobile speaker, making it easier on the eyes when laid out in the open anywhere in the house.

12. Philips Hue White and Color Starter Kit – $200


The perfect introduction to smart home products, this kit contains three 800-lumen white and color ambience Hue bulbs, along with a communication bridge, so you can set up a trio of smart lighting products that you can control from a phone. Once set up, you can individually control the brightness and colors of each bulb from the accompanying app, as well as sync them with your media (e.g. have them change in tune with whatever music is playing) and program various settings.

13. Nest Thermostat 3rd Gen – $246


Slimmer and sleeker with a larger display, the latest version of Nest’s learning thermostat no longer requires any programming, as it’s perfectly capable of shutting off when there’s nobody at home, learning your schedule, and programming itself to accommodate your routines. As with the previous iterations, the accompanying app functions as a handy remote for quickly adjusting the temperature, with full setup and installation taking no more than half an hour.

14. Microsoft Band 2 – $250


The second-generation of Microsoft’s fitness band brings a more vibrant AMOLED screen, an improved build quality, and a more striking appearance than last year’s original. As with its predecessor, it can track a variety of fitness metrics including calories burned, heart rate, and UV emissions exposure for a variety of activities (including running, cycling, and golf), as well as provide you with notifications from a paired iOS, Android, or Windows smartphone. Do note, it comes in three sizes, so make sure to pick out one that will properly fit your recipient.

15. DJI Osmo – $645


A supercharged selfie stick, DJI’s handheld camera combines an ergonomic handle with the Zen Muse X3 camera and gimbal, allowing you to shoot stabilized 12-megapixel stills and smooth 4K videos at 24 fps. All basic controls for the camera and gimbal, including a joystick for tilting and panning, are available directly on the handle, with an integrated dock that lets you use a smartphone as an onboard monitor. Want to use it remotely? Not a problem, as it also comes with built-in WiFi that lets you operate the camera from a mobile app from up to 85 feet away.

16. Nikon D5500 – $697


While it lacks the kind of features a professional photographer will probably want, Nikon’s entry-level DSLR has everything novices and amateur hobbyists can ask for. That includes a light and compact body, excellent photo quality, a fully articulated 3.2-inch touchscreen, and built-in WiFi for instant connectivity. Along with 1080p video recording at 60 fps, it’s a solid, general-purpose DSLR that’s perfect for everyday photography needs.

17. DJI Phantom 3 Professional – $1,225

Combining a refined flying experience and superior video quality than most of the competition, the latest version of DJI’s flagship consumer model just might be the best drone in the block. This time around, they’re reinforcing the drone’s sophisticated flight capabilities with 4K video recording that’s fully-stabilized by an integrated three-axis gimbal, improved streaming technology that allows it to transmit 720p videos to the accompanying app in real time, and the impressive ability to be piloted safely even while indoors.

18. Boosted Board Dual Drive+ – $1,499

It’s not the only motorized longboard in the market, but it’s, arguably, the finest of the lot, boasting a whopping 2,000 watts of power that allows you to skate at speeds of up to 22 mph. Not only that, it packs some serious torque, allowing you to ride up any sloped terrain at satisfying speeds. It features regenerative braking, a handheld Bluetooth remote for easy operation, and a lithium-ion battery that can traverse up to seven miles of roads before requiring a recharge. Oh yeah, the whole thing weighs just 15 pounds, too, so while it’s not entirely lightweight, it won’t require serious feats of strength to carry during those times you need to take the subway with the board in tow.

19. Microsoft Surface Book – starts at $1,499

Microsoft cut no corners with their convertible Surface laptop, turning out a device with powerful hardware, beautiful aesthetics, and uncompromising function, all while remaining reasonably portable at just 3.5 pounds. If you want to give the gift of the best Windows 10 productivity machine available, it’s hard to do better than this 13.5-inch laptop and tablet hybrid. There’s a wide swath of ways you could go to, by the way, from the base Core i5 with 8GB of RAM to the full-fledged Core i7 with 16GB of RAM and discrete Nvidia graphics.

20. Vizio Reference UHD TV – starts at $6,000


Vizio is still the TV brand name that’s synonymous with value. That doesn’t mean they can’t occasionally veer from the budget path and that’s exactly what they’re doing with the Reference Series UHD, a pair of premium TVs with a matching premium price tag. With support for both 4K and HDR content, the collection boasts 800 nits of brightness, 384 active LED zones, and powerful processors to ensure impeccable picture quality. An integrated 5.1-channel sound bar and a wireless 10-inch woofer complements those gorgeous visuals with equally powerful sound.