Best Tech Gifts 2017

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This holiday shopping season, don’t just throw money at things because they’re marked down. Instead, buy gifts that retain value. Here are the gadgets we’ve lived with and loved over the past year.

Apple iPhone X

There’s no shortage of iPhones to choose from this year, but in our testing we found good reason to pay… X-tra. The X takes all the goodness of the 8 Plus—roomier screen, dual cameras—and puts it in a phone that’s closer in the size to the iPhone 8. It also has a gorgeous OLED screen and a much improved selfie camera. And while the home button is gone, Face ID has proven to be fast, reliable and secure. $1,000 and up, apple.com

Read our review »

Roku Streaming Stick+

If you bought a TV in the past couple years, it’s probably a 4K set. But that doesn’t mean it has the best interface. Roku’s latest stick not only brings more cable-cutting and cable-on-demand apps than most smart TVs, it also highlights a good number of 4K programs, despite the still-limited number of titles out there. With snappier response and better Wi-Fi, it’s the best way to upgrade your TV on the cheap. $70, roku.com

Google Pixelbook Chromebook

A $1,000 Chromebook?! No way. Uh-uh. That’s what we thought—until we started using the Pixelbook. The 2.4-pound, supersvelte laptop has a beautiful, high-resolution screen, comfortable keyboard and more than 7 hours of battery life. And it does double duty as a tablet: Flip the screen around to launch your favorite Android apps. Its secret weapon? Bark “OK Google” to summon the Google Assistant. $1,000, store.google.com

Ring Video Doorbell 2

Turn your doorbell into a smart camera and two-way intercom, with less home-improvement know-how than it takes to change a light switch. Ring’s app lets you talk to whoever comes to the door or scare off anyone creeping where they shouldn’t be—even if you’re 1,000 miles from home. This year, Ring also introduced a camera-equipped floodlight and outdoor cameras for extra protection of your property. $200, ring.com

Netgear Orbi

How do you show your loved ones they deserve it all—even Wi-Fi everywhere? By giving them a mesh router system, like our current favorite, Netgear’s Orbi. Kits are scalable to your home size: Place the main router in the center of the home and satellites throughout the house. Orbi routers are bigger than some competitors, but we found they provide faster speeds, even to those deep dead zones. $300 and up, netgear.com

Sony Cyber-shot RX100 V Camera

You may gasp at the $1,000 price tag on this point-and-shoot camera, but it’s a pocket-size wonder, capable of taking shots as well as or better than many neck-straining digital SLR cameras. With lightning-fast autofocus and 24-frame-per-second shooting, it will keep up with you wherever life takes you. If you feel like using it to shoot a feature film in 4K, you can do that too. $1,000, sony.com

Read our review »

Piper Computer-Building Kit

It’s a modern-day take on the old build-your-own-electronics kit. First, children construct Piper’s wooden box, then install a screen and the brains, a Raspberry Pi computer. An on-screen Minecraft-powered tutorial takes over, showing how to wire up buttons, switches and other controls for different in-game effects. Thanks to the Minecraft, this is a guaranteed (if expensive) way to trick children into learning. $300, buildpiper.com

Motiv Ring Fitness Tracker

Why wear fitness bands or even smartwatches when the key components now fit inside a stylish, understated ring? The waterproof Motiv tracker—available in slate gray or rose gold and a range of sizes—can track heart rate and motion. It measures calories burned, distance, resting heart rate, even sleep duration. And you really can sleep with it: The battery lasts three days and charges in 90 minutes. $200, mymotiv.com

Read our review »

Tovala Oven and Meal Service

For people who don’t have time to cook but are tired of takeout and microwavable fare, Tovala sells the steam oven—an impressive cooking machine in its own right—and ships a weekly box of $12 meals. The constantly changing menu, ranging from Thai turkey meatballs to pork tomatillo stew to perfect miso salmon, is a step above meal kits. Worried about the commitment? There’s a 180-day full-refund trial period. $200 to $400 depending on meal commitment, plus 3-meal ($36) and 6-meal ($72) weekly plans, tovala.com

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Sphero Mini Remote-Controlled Ball

Sometimes life’s pleasures are simple—like this ping-pong ball you can drive around using a phone app. Sphero had a big year, introducing a talking Spider-Man, a highly realistic R2-D2, even a Lightning McQueen race car, but it’s this little guy that caught our eye. Like most other Sphero robots, it is compatible with the Sphero Edu app, which lets you learn to code by programming step-by-step moves. $50, sphero.com

Sonos One Smart Speaker

The original wireless-speaker pioneer is getting friendly with virtual assistants: The Sonos One speaker comes with Amazon’s Alexa built in, and will soon be compatible with Google Assistant. (It also gets Apple AirPlay 2 in 2018.) With Sonos One sounding better than any Echo or Google Home, you can listen to it by itself or paired for richer stereo sound. While Alexa voice-compatible music services are somewhat limited, you can stream dozens more through the app. $200, sonos.com

Read our review »

Power Trio: Anker Charging Brick, Cable and Battery Pack

With three gadgets from Anker, our current favorite accessory maker, you can create the ultimate gadget power pack on the cheap. Start with the PowerPort Elite 2 to charge two gadgets simultaneously at high speed. Throw in a sturdy nylon braided PowerLine+ cord (for iPhone or Android phones) to replace those worn-out cables. Finally, get the lipstick-size PowerCore+ Mini battery to charge up when there’s no outlet nearby. $11 for PowerPort Elite 2; $10 and up for PowerLine+; $15 for PowerCore+ Mini, anker.com

Insignia Vehicle Mount

Stop that person in your life from driving with a phone in their lap—or worse, in their hand. We like Best Buy’s $20 Insignia smartphone mount. It can attach to a windshield, but since that’s illegal in many states, it also comes with an air-vent mount. A rubber holder keeps even big-screen iPhone Plus or Galaxy Note models secure. If you really want to be loved, throw in a car charger and cable. $20, bestbuy.com

Fingerlings Toy Robots

These finger-friendly robots, with built-in sound, touch and motion sensors, respond and interact with adorable sounds and movements of their eyes and heads. At $15, they represent all that’s awesome about today’s toys. But the first batch sold out, and price gougers have moved in. Maker WowWee said, through a spokeswoman, it is “working closely with retailers” and shipments will continue into December. Don’t overpay! $15, wowwee.com

Apple AirPods

AirPods are a repeat from our 2016 guide since this year you can actually, you know, buy them. Even if Apple had left the headphone jack in iPhones, we’d still recommend these completely wireless earbuds for their simple setup, ease of use and multi-day battery life. They don’t sound any better than the regular white earbuds, but not feeling like a marionette when out on a run is a wonderful thing. $160, apple.com

Read our review »

Amazon Kindle Oasis E-Reader

Considering how Amazon markets Kindles as perfect for beaches and pools, it was high time the company made one that was waterproof (and sandproof). The Oasis isn’t just impervious to elements; it’s also roomier, with a 7-inch screen, and has built-in Bluetooth for streaming Audible books through a speaker, sold separately. A $350 deluxe version has 32GB of storage and a lifetime of 4G LTE connectivity. $250 and up, amazon.com

Read our review »

Spotify Gift Card

Because gift-wrapping your favorite CD is no longer an option, Spotify offers a gift card. Why Spotify? It’s the streaming-music service you can use on the most systems, from Amazon’s Echo to Apple’s CarPlay. No, it doesn’t have the new Taylor Swift (yet) but it does have over 30 million songs, plus the awesome personalized Discover playlist. Gift cards apply to new and current subscribers. $30 for 3 months, $60 for 6 months, spotify.com

Lego Boost Programmable Building Kit

This combination of Lego bricks and coding lessons is hard for parents and kids alike to resist. Children can use the app to build one of five creations—a robot, a guitar, a rover, a factory and a (flatulent) cat—and also to build foundations to animate and program their other Lego sets. The big surprise was the sense of humor: Who knew fart jokes could play a role in the learning process? $150, lego.com

Read our review »

Hestan Cue Smart Cooktop and Pan

For novices who want to learn cooking, as well as seasoned cooks who’d love an at-home master class, the Cue is your guide to preparing a restaurant-quality dinner. Follow the app’s step-by-step videos while the system adjusts temperature and keeps track of time. Cooktop precision also means no more sacrificial pancakes or overcooked steaks. Cue’s base kit comes with a wireless frying pan; a $300 chef’s pot is good for larger dishes. $500, hestancue.com

Read our review »

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Of all the Android phones released this year, the Galaxy Note 8 impressed us most. By thinning the frame around the screen, Samsung stuffed a mega 6.3-inch display in a phone the size of an XL Hershey Bar. It’s got everything you’d want from a 2017 phone: a multi-lens camera for zoom and depth effects, wireless charging, even an animated GIF maker. And it turns into a desktop computer with a $150 dock. $950, samsung.com

Read our review »

Apple 10.5-Inch iPad Pro

It’s 2017, the year the iPad became a real computer. The new 10.5-inch tablet’s larger, brighter screen and speedier A10X chip bring out the best in iOS 11’s iPad productivity tricks: a new dock for switching between apps, a real file system and improved split-screen features. With Apple’s $160 Smart Keyboard Cover, you can really replace a laptop. For the artist in your life, don’t forget Apple’s $100 Pencil. $650, apple.com

Read our review »

Game Consoles: Nintendo Switch, Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro

The most interesting game console out this year is Nintendo’s Switch, which plugs into a TV but can also go completely portable, with its own touch screen. What Nintendo gains in novelty, it loses in third-party titles: The biggest franchises are going all out with 4K gaming on Microsoft’s all-new Xbox One X and last fall’s Sony PlayStation 4 Pro. If you like Mario or need portability, pick Nintendo. If you have a 4K set and want to step up your games, visually, try the new Xbox or PS4. Nintendo Switch, $300, nintendo.com; PlayStation 4 Pro, $400, playstation.com; Xbox One X, $500, xbox.com.

Dashlane Subscription

This holiday season, teach a friend or family member who uses the same password everywhere to be smarter. Our favorite password manager, Dashlane, costs $40 a year for a multidevice plan—but its maker doesn’t sell gift cards. So put $40 on a Visa or Amex gift card and play Tech Support. Explain how usernames and passwords go into a digital vault—the only password left to memorize is Dashlane’s. $40/year, dashlane.com

Bloxels Game Maker

For parents who don’t want to deprive their children of fun iPad games but also don’t want them to fry their brains, Bloxels puts game design into the hands of its young players. The original version let them visualize many aspects of a game, from characters to rewards; a newer Star Wars-themed version puts familiar characters into player-designed levels. The fun is scalable, from simple to insanely complex. $50, bloxelsbuilder.com

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