Want to treat yourself this Christmas? Check out these top tech gifts
Published 01/12/2016 | 02:30
Thinking of rewarding yourself after a hard year's work? Our technology editor has picked out his top recommendations for executives from the many phones, laptops, tablets and smartwatches tested by the Irish Independent over the last 12 months
LAPTOPS / TABLETS
Laptops aren't typical gifts, but many use Christmas as a chance to upgrade if it's a crossover work-life tool.
1 iPad Pro
Price: from €579 Compare Prices
Reason: The iPad Pro is simply the best portable machine you can buy. It's the one I now turn to by default for all work and leisure activity. The reasons include its portability, add-on keyboard, new split screen multitasking for work, extra power and superb battery life (including the ability to recharge it with a normal phone charger). It's also fantastic in an age of Netflix, Spotify and Facebook. Both the 10-inch and 13-inch models are brilliant but the larger one has the edge.
2 Lenovo Yoga 900S
Price: €1,349 Compare Prices
Reason: This is the slimmest 'convertible' touchscreen laptop on the market, making it very easy to pick up and plop into a bag or a case. Its gold or dark metallic grey case adds to some beautiful styling, taking it beyond what most laptops offer aesthetically. The touchscreen flips right around to back on to the keyboard, turning it into a large tablet. The only compromise is the modest Intel chip. Otherwise, this is fantastic.
3 MacBook Pro 13
Price: €1,750 Compare Prices
Reason: Although hard to say whether anyone really needs a 'touchbar', the new MacBook Pro has one other big advantage: it's much more compact than it used to be. In fact, it's smaller and slimmer than the 13-inch MacBook Air (and about the same weight). It's also packed with power and has a superb screen. Its main drawback is price, but that rarely holds Apple users back.
A proper smartwatch is more than just a fitness tracker: it's a communications tool. Here are the best two on the market.
1 Apple Watch Series 2
Price: €449 Compare Prices
Reason: This is still my favourite smartwatch because of its comfort and range of straps. Apple's new upgraded model is doubling down on fitness with GPS and waterproof casing. The screen on the new watch, which still comes in 38mm or 42mm models, is also brighter than the old model while battery life is improved. If you aren't bothered by GPS or waterproof features, the original Watch has been beefed up and is €100 cheaper than Series 2.
2 Tag Heuer Connected
Price: €1,400 Compare Prices
Reason: Unlike some of the plasticky, gadgety looking Android Wear smartwatches out there (I am looking at you, Huawei), Tag Heuer's offering is put together in a way that makes you feel you've got a bit of luxury. The 46mm screen has a titanium bezel and lugs keeping it together, allowing you to receive and send messages, check social media, get directions and keep all your health tracking activity up to date in a bit of style. The device is also splashproof and fairly robust.
Headphones and earphones are more important as executive tools than you'd think. Here are the three best options.
1 Sony MDR-1000x
Price: €449 Compare Prices
Reason: If your main purpose for headphones is good audio, comfort and the ability to block out external sounds, these are the ones to get. With the active noise-cancelling on, they're incredibly quiet: say goodbye to colleagues nattering, traffic noise and other annoyances. Other features include touch- sensitive controls, high-res audio compatibility and a microphone for hands-free calls.
2 Sennheiser Momentum 2.0
Price: €399 Compare Prices
Reason: These headphones' physical styling is the best on the market with just the right amount of understated fashion mixed with excellent performance. They're pretty comfortable and the audio quality is excellent. They also have active noise cancelling tech built in, meaning a break from external distractions. There are track controls as well as a microphone. And they fold up for convenient transport.
3 Apple Airpods
Price: €179 Compare Prices
Reason: They offer just about the best, most practical in-ear headphone experience for the wireless era. They're dead easy to set up (with any phone or Bluetooth device) and have a microphone built in for hands-free calls. They come with their own small carry case which recharges them any time they're placed in it: the box itself needs to be recharged once a week or so.
Samsung's Note 7 was destined for this list until the whole explosion thing happened. Here are the phones I'd personally recommend for an upgrade or for gifting.
1 iPhone 7 Plus
Price: from €879 Compare Prices
Reason: It's all about the camera. This is the best phone on the market because it has two cameras, giving it an effective zoom function. That means you'll get pictures with it you simply can't with other handsets. It's also an excellent 5.5-inch smartphone in its own right, being waterproof and ultra powerful.
2 OnePlus 3T
Reason: This is the best phone you can get for under €500. In truth, it compares well even to the superphones at the €700-plus tier (Samsung S7, iPhone 7 and the rest). The 5.5-inch phone has magnificent (3,400mAh) battery life.The slim styling is superb and it comes with 64GB or 128GB of storage. It also has a a pair of good 16-megapixel cameras (front and back).
3 Huawei P9
Price: €500 Compare Prices
Reason: If you want some great camera action at a mid-tier handset price, this is the phone to get. The 5.2-inch model has twin 12-megapixel Leica lenses that let you create superb portrait shots. It's also no slouch as a phone, with a lot of power, and 32GB of storage along with a good 3,000mAh battery.
THE BEST, HASSLE-FREE CAMERA
Our phones are now our cameras. But if you're looking for the next level up without having to mess around with lens changes and camera bags, these are the three best cameras out there now.
1 Leica Q
Price: €4,190 Compare Prices
Reason: Released this year, Leica's Q is arguably the best digital camera ever made. The 24-megapixel snapper's results are stunning: I fell in love with the quality of its shots instantly. Leica's incredible (fixed) 28mm lens, together with a full frame sensor that maximises light quality, is a killer combination that virtually nothing else can match. It's just about small enough to throw into (large) pockets, too.
2 Sony RX1r2
Price: €3,239 Compare Prices
Reason: This is special because of its 35mm full frame sensor, which is matched only by Leica's Q for quality. But this is smaller (and almost €1,000 cheaper) than the Leica camera, making it easier to drop into pockets and more affordable. It also has a higher resolution count with 42 megapixels: this means you can crop the fixed lens 35mm shots (as an artificial 'zoom') and still have amazing quality photos.
3 Fujifilm X100T
Price: €1,199 Compare Prices
Reason: I bought one of these for its fantastic portability and relatively excellent photo quality. The bonus is that it's great fun to use. It has a fixed 35mm (equivalent) and an APS-C sensor (the best you can get short of the full frame variants in much pricier cameras) that produce superb shots. It has a fantastic viewfinder and is completely silent, meaning it's incredibly discreet to use.