Holiday Gift Guide

It’s gift-giving season again, and iDB is back with its annual Holiday Gift Guide. So for those of you panicking because you still haven’t figured out what to get that special someone, never fear, we have come up with some excellent suggestions for you.

I personally tend to do a lot of research when buying things for myself, to ensure that I get the best value for my money, and this is definitely reflected in my gift-giving. Below, you’ll find a list of a few things I think would make excellent gifts this year.

Apple TV

apple tv

I’ve selected the Apple TV for my holiday gift guide 3 years in a row, but I have to say that this time, it barely made the cut. Last updated in 2012, the set top box is really beginning to fall behind newer players from Amazon and Roku in terms of features.

That being said, I believe the ATV is still the best option for most people. It’s easy to setup and operate, offers quick access to iTunes content and services like Netflix, and thanks to Apple’s AirPlay tech, it can stream photos, videos and games from iPhones and iPads. It’s still very much worth its $99 price tag (Amazon has it on sale right now for $89).

Alternatively, if the person you’re buying for doesn’t own an iPhone or iPad, you might be better off with the Roku 3. The third-generation device offers a lot more content than the Apple TV, comes with a much better remote control, and its beautiful menu system makes it easy to navigate. The Roku 3 retails for $99, but you can typically find it for around $80.

iPad mini 2

four iPad mini retina display

For me, a tablet is one of the best gifts you can give to a close friend or family member that doesn’t already have one. They can be used to play games, read books, watch movies, and pretty much anything else you can think of. And with over 600,000 tablet-specific apps, and the mighty iTunes ecosystem, I think the iPad is (by far) the best tablet available.

Choosing which iPad model to buy is a little more subjective—things like price and screen size come into play—but for me, the iPad mini 2 offers the best bang for your buck. Priced at $299, the mini 2 features a powerful A7 processor and gorgeous Retina display, and it’s both portable and easy to hold in one hand. Yes, Apple released a new mini this fall, but it’s essentially the exact same tablet with Touch ID, and that isn’t worth the extra $100.

Garmin Vivofit

vivofit

I don’t typically recommend giving fitness-related gifts, but wearables are an extremely popular item this holiday season. As you’d expect, there are dozens of models to choose from, but for this guide I’m recommending Garmin’s affable Vivofit. It doesn’t have push notifications, sweat analysis or any other high-end smart watch features, but it does offer accurate activity-tracking and best-in-class battery life. Where other fitness bands last 3-7 days, the Vivofit can last up to one year—that’s right, 365 days— before its watch-style batteries need replacing.

Additionally, the band has an always-on display that shows the time, your steps for the day, and a progress bar that motivates you to move. It’s also water resistant, and comfortable to wear by most accounts, meaning users will be less likely to want to take it off—a notable issue with other trackers. The Garmin Vivofit retails for $130, but Amazon currently has it priced at $76.

Logitech UE MINI BOOM

ue mini boom

Bluetooth speakers are another item I love giving because they dramatically enhance the smartphone or tablet experience, and fall in that $100-ish sweet spot (not too cheap, not too extravagant) for loved ones. In the past I have recommended Jambox models from Jawbone because they’re beautifully designed and easy to use, but this year I’m going with the Logitech UE Mini Boom.

The Mini Boom isn’t as pretty as the Jambox, but it’s not ugly either. A metal grill protects two 1.5-inch drivers, and the whole thing is wrapped in a rubberized shell that feels both well-made and durable. The speaker is small enough to fit in a jacket pocket, but it’s capable of pumping out 86 dB—enough to clearly fill a room with warm sound and handily beat the in-class competition. Other benefits of the Mini Boom include large, idiot-proof buttons for syncing and volume control, a battery that offers up to 10 hours of playback, and a crystal-clear speakerphone mode.

Again, the Jambox is still a good product, and seems to go on sale quite frequently these days, but for my money the Logitech UE Mini Boom is currently the best sub-$100 portable Bluetooth speaker. It retails for $99, but Best Buy has it right now for $69.

DJI Phantom FC40 Quadcopter

dji fc40

Quadcopters have outgrown their once-niche place among hobbyists and are quickly going mainstream. Equipped with onboard cameras, these drones can be used to take stunning aerial photographs and photos, and thanks to their easy-to use controls, they’re a joy to fly. DJI is one of the most respected names in consumer drones, and is particularly well known for its Phantom series. And while it’s not the top model, I recommend getting the FC40 because it strikes a good balance between cost and features.

The FC40 comes ready (sans AA batteries) to fly within minutes from the factory, and includes a built-in 720p HD video camera that can stream live video to a companion Android or iOS app. Other features include self-tightening propellers, and a return-to-home option that will automatically land the drone in the event its pilot gets into trouble. The FC40 retails for $650, but it’s not hard to find it for under $500. That’s quite a bit pricier than my other gift suggestions, but for me it falls into the “what to get for the gadget lover that has everything” category.

If you’re looking for a cheaper drone option, the Syma X5C has a built-in HD camera (though it won’t live stream video) and is well-liked by reviewers. It has a 4.5 star rating on Amazon, where it sells for $63.

Ray Ban Wayfarer

rayban sun

Gadgets aren’t for everyone, so for my final gift suggestion I’m recommending Ray Ban’s classic Wayfarer sunglasses. I like them because they aren’t really gender or age-specific—the iconic accessory has been around since the 1950s—and they fall in the same $100 sweet spot that I mentioned above. Plus, most everyone wears sunglasses. Pricing will vary depending on size and color combination, but you can find a standard pair on Amazon for around $80.

Gifts under $30

stocking stuffer

Since everything I mentioned above is fairly pricey, I’ve listed some more affordable suggestions below.

Streamlight MicroStream LED Key Light – for me, flashlights are one of those things that a person can never have “too many” of, and my favorite one right now in this price range is the Streamlight MicroStream. It’s small, measuring just under 4-inches, and has everything you’d want in such a tool, including a waterproof body and unbreakable polycarbonate lens. The lightbulb itself is super bright, runs on AAA batteries, and thanks to its tailcap switch, it can be easily operated with one hand. The Streetlight has a 4.5 star rating on Amazon, where it sells for $18.

Leatherman Wingman Multi Tool – a multitool is another item that always comes in handy, so of course it makes for a great gift. There are several to choose from in this price range, but I’m recommending the Leatherman Wingman. It’s not Leatherman’s top model by any means, but it should beat out most of the other options in its class. Obviously, it would take a while to name all of the tools it offers, just know that all of the staples are there—knife, pliers, screwdrivers, and bottle opener. Amazon has the Leatherman Wingman for $29.99 right now.

Field Notes Kraft Ruled 3-Pack – in an increasingly paperless world, I think you’d be surprise how far notepads will go as gifts. They’re perfect for jotting down reminders, taking notes, or drawing out plans for the next hit iPhone app. Any small-to-medium notepad will do, but I really like Field Notes’ highly regarded Kraft Ruled line. The book has great dimensions (about the size of a passport) and a simple design, and its popularity means you’ll have no problem finding covers and other accessories. You can grab a 3-Pack of Kraft Ruled notebooks on Amazon for $9.95.

RAVPower 13000mAh External Battery Pack – since it’s almost 2015, I shouldn’t have to sell you on why an external battery pack would make a great gift, so let’s just jump right into the pick: the RAVPower 3rd gen deluxe 13000mAh. Admittedly, I’m compromising here since some of the better packs (like this Limefuel) are on backorder right now, but the RAVPower is still a solid choice. It features dual USB ports (each capable of the faster 2.4A charging), a built-in flashlight, and an LED status bar. The pack has a 5-star rating on Amazon (user reviews are particularly worth reading in this category), and is currently on sale for $29.99.

iTunes Gift Cards – gift cards for iTunes also need little explaining in this day and age. These cards can be purchased in virtually any denomination between $15 and $100, and they work in any iTunes Store, meaning they can be used to purchase apps, games, books, music and movies.

Google Chromecast – even though I’ve already mentioned a few media streamers, I’d be remiss not to mention Google’s Chromecast in the under $30 section. It’s not as capable as the Apple TV or Roku, but what it does for its price tag is nothing short of impressive. Whether you own an iOS or Android device, you’ll find a slew of apps in your app store that support the stick, allowing you to stream movies, music and games to your HDTV. We use ours to play multiplayer trivia games with friends and watch Boardwalk Empire on HBO GO. Like I said, it’s an impressive device at just $30.

Zojirushi Travel Mug – like the multi tool and flashlight, a travel mug is never a bad gift idea, but it can be a really good one. There are dozens of reasons why a person would want a mug to keep their beverages hot or cold for long periods of time, and if you give them a Zojirush Travel Mug, they’ll reach for yours every time. I could go into detail about its stainless steel vacuum tech, or some of the other features, but all you need to know is that the Zojirush will keep your drinks either scalding hot or ice cold for up to 6 hours. That may seem impossible, but reading through the 1,500+ reviews on Amazon, this mug is capable of that and more. Get it here for $27.

Hopefully these suggestions have given you a few ideas. I [obviously] have an affinity for gadgets and other tech-related things, but I tried to diversify my gift guide to cover a wider spectrum. Of course if none of my picks strike your fancy, that’s ok too, Sebastien and the rest of the iDB crew will be along shortly with their own recommendations. And as always, feel free to leave your own gift ideas and other feedback down in the comments section below.

Be on the lookout for more gift guides from all iDB editors:

  • Great Scott

    Chromecast – $24

    Does Apple TV let you stream your own content or is it still limited to whatever is in your iTunes?

    • John Wickham

      Oh no, anything and everything with AirPlay. Not to mention the tons of apps that come with it now.

    • Dean Johnson

      You can stream everything that is on your iDevice onto your Apple TV, if that’s what you mean

    • nonchalont

      Can you stream anything with chromecast from an android phone? Like AirPlay with Appletv.

    • Can the Chromecast do anything except for be a brick without another Android or iOS device? At least the Apple TV can function without an iOS or Android device. With the PlexConnect hack you can even stream any media from a Plex Media Server. I’d prefer an Amazon Fire TV or the Amazon Fire TV stick over a Chromecast any day…

      • Eni

        Yeah but you can root the chromecast and pretty mych do every thing

      • You can root the Amazon Fire TV too and it’s an awful lot more powerful than a Chromecast…

        There’s literally no purpose to the Chromecast at all oter than I have “X” on my phone and want to quickly fling it to my TV…

      • Eni

        You can stream from you’re pc/mac too

      • George

        Stop defending the shiity apple tv

      • Sorry if it seemed that way I was simply pointing out that the Apple TV is better than the Google Chromecast. For the record:

        Apple TV > Chromecast

        Amazon Fire TV > Apple TV and Chromecast

        As an Apple fan I regrettably say this:

        If I was in the market for a media streaming device right now I most definitely would not be buying an Apple TV. I’d more than likely be buying an Amazon Fire TV, a Roku device of some kind or an ARM powered device of some kind that runs XBMC…

        In the year 2014 going into 2015 as an Apple fan I don’t think I’d ever recommend anyone to buy the Apple TV with it being in its current state. Despite Apple selling as many units as they have they still treat it as a hobby.

      • Andy

        The Apple TV is indeed better than the Chromecast. But that’s not saying much, considering they’re pretty much near the bottom of the list compared to similar devices. Right now, Apple could either keep the Apple TV in limbo (like the iPod touch 5th gen) or release a massively revamped and upgraded model that can make it compete with rivals.

    • jack

      chromecast is worthless without an android/ios device STORING the media… with aTV I use my 2TB hardrive to play movies on my TV

      • WonkieInc

        How do you play off USB wat

  • Gleesh

    Look at these fanboys cry like bitchboys after 1 chromecast mention LOL

    • Dani Hayes

      People losing it because he asked a question. Lmao.

  • AnoNymouz

    What ppl are missing here is that there is good tech all around us. Cody did mention a chromecast only bc it is under $30 right now. Amazon Fire is over this. I own 2 Apple TV and 4 chromcast. ATV for movies and chromcast for music.

  • Chocolatewe

    this looks cool

  • Andy

    I would get an Apple TV, but I have a feeling that Apple is going to release a new one next year simply because the current model uses the A5 chip which will no longer be supported next year (for iOS anyway).