Thursday 13 December 2018

Adrian Weckler's top technology gifts for this Christmas

Having looked at hundreds of devices during 2018, technology editor Adrian Weckler rounds up some of the very best gadgets to bring you the ultimate tech gift guide

Stock image
Stock image
Surface Go
Motorola G6 Play
Apple AirPods
Fujifilm X-T3
BlackBerry Key2
Samsung Gear S3 Frontier
Xiaomi Mi electric scooter
Fujifilm Instax SQ20
Garmin Fenix 5 Plus
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Hybrid laptop

Surface Go (8GB)

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Surface Go

If you’re looking for a really light, portable touchscreen tablet-laptop hybrid, Microsoft’s new 10-inch Surface Go is terrific. It’s the same size and weight as an iPad but runs Windows. From a design perspective, Microsoft has mostly gotten it right. It’s simple and elegant, with a very effective (and variable) kickstand. One tip: avoid the basic model (4GB/64GB storage), as it’s too weak and slow. (€718 including keyboard for 128GB/8GB Ram)

Big battery phone

Motorola G6 Play

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Motorola G6 Play

Motorola’s G6 Play is on this list for one reason: it’s the only budget smartphone on the market with amazing battery life. There is little chance that you’ll run out of juice with the 4,000mAh battery on this 5.7-inch Android smartphone. Other than this, its specs and features are modest but fine: it has a 13-megapixel camera, rear fingerprint sensor and 32GB of storage memory. It would make a brilliant second phone. (€177 from Littlewoods)

Photo printer

HP Sprocket 200

HP Sprocket 200
HP Sprocket 200
Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen)
Nokia 8110
Panasonic Lumix FT7
Apple iPad 32GB
Sony 1000-XM3
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HP Sprocket 200

Printing photos is a bit of a pain, whether it’s a trip to the pharmacy machine or trying to hook up a home printer. HP’s Sprocket goes one further than an ‘instant’ camera – it’s a pocket printer that prints directly from your phone’s camera library. The 2x3 photos can also be printed directly from your Instagram or Facebook accounts. The prints (which come in packs of 20 for €12.99) also have peel-off backs to make them into stickers. (€129 from Currys)

Smart speaker

Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen)

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Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen)

As a do-it-all smart speaker, this is the best overall budget model I’ve ever tested. The audio quality is amazing for its size. It’s enough for casual music or high-quality radio in a kitchen or bedroom and can absolutely hold its own in a study or home office, too. As an Alexa-powered device, it responds to voice commands. It needs to be plugged in: it doesn’t have a residual battery. (€60 in Currys but €35 on sale from Amazon)

Festival phone

Nokia 8110

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Nokia 8110

Nokia’s new 8110 4G phone is cool and cute in equal proportions. It’s also cheap, making it a decent gift. The handset, which comes in yellow or black, is reminiscent of the classic ‘Matrix’ phone, with a small colour screen and button operation. You’ll only need to charge this once every three or four days. With basic internet and a very basic camera, it can also use a very limited version of Facebook, with a handful of other apps on the way. (€79 from Carphone Warehouse.)

Adventure lens

Panasonic Lumix FT7

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Panasonic Lumix FT7

For someone who takes climbing or watersports seriously, this is a good bet. The Lumix FT7 is geared toward tough outdoor conditions and underwater action. Its main feature is that it’s waterproof to 100 feet. That means you can take it diving (within reason) or mess around with it in the pool. The 20-megapixel, 4K camera, which has a 4x zoom, is also shockproof, meaning it easily handles falls of up to two metres. (€449 from Conns Cameras)

Home tablet

Apple iPad 32GB

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Apple iPad 32GB

While its ‘Pro’ cousins got a lot of attention this year, the basic iPad got some nice upgrades and a price cut. It now works with an Apple Pencil, too. The 9.7-inch device has a ‘Retina’ screen, which isn’t as high-end as the Pro models but is still absolutely grand. Its speakers work well and the iPad is still the default device that gets most of the new tablet-specific apps. The base model has 32GB of storage, which is enough for typical home use. (€349 from DID Electrical)

Best headphones

Sony 1000-XM3

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Sony 1000-XM3

Forget Bose. The best noise-cancelling headphones you can get for under €500 are made by Sony. The 1000-XM3 headphones have softer leather, are lighter and sport better noise insulation than the (excellent) predecessor XM2 model, which is still on sale (for an absolute bargain price of €219). They also have superior active noice cancellation. These are the headphones I would personally buy. (€399 from Harvey Norman.)

Wireless in-ear

Apple AirPods

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Apple AirPods

What once seemed a novelty are now everywhere. Apple’s wireless in-ear AirPods are surprisingly firm in your ear. That means, from my experience, that there isn’t really a problem if you go walking or jogging with them. What’s unexpected is that their audio quality beats almost all rivals under €200. And their clear microphone also makes them a superb hands-free kit. They’ll work with Android phones, but you’ll get more from them with an iPhone. (€179 from general retailers)

Best camera

Fujifilm X-T3

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Fujifilm X-T3

It’s been a big, big year for cameras, with DSLRs starting to be phased out. For the money, the best overall mirrorless camera around is arguably Fujifilm’s new X-T3. The 26-megapixel device combines superb photo quality with the most attractive physical body design on the market. Despite its retro design, it has lots of excellent features, like 4K video. The Fujifilm lenses, across the board, are also brilliant. It’s currently outdoing Canon and Nikon. (€1,499 from any camera store)

Future shock

BlackBerry Key2

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BlackBerry Key2

BlackBerry is back with a hybrid device that is very impressive in some regards. Using Android, it has a 4.5-inch touchscreen and a dual 12-megapixel camera lens at the back. But the most important bit is that Qwerty physical keyboard. If you know someone who still pines for one, this could well be their gift phone. There’s no shortage of battery (3,500mAh), power (6GB) or storage (128GB). (128GB variant, €700 from Amazon)

Smartwatch

Samsung Gear S3 Frontier

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Samsung Gear S3 Frontier

Samsung’s Gear S3 Frontier is a circular smartwatch with a clever way of navigating through features. The front-facing rim of the watch rotates to control certain things. It’s a very intuitive way of getting around the watch and is unique to Samsung when it comes to the main smartwatch brands. It also has an always-on display and will cover most of the bases (via Samsung’s S Health) when it comes to sports and fitness. It’s a natural fit for Samsung phone owners. (€289 from Harvey Norman)

E-scooter

Xiaomi Mi electric scooter

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Xiaomi Mi electric scooter

If you know someone who commutes to work over a couple of kilometres within a city, an electric scooter might make a nice gift. One to look at is Xiaomi’s Mi model. It’s affordably priced, travels at up to 25km an hour and is capable of lasting around 20km on a single charge, with a recharge taking about five hours from a normal socket. Typically used in a cycle lane, it folds up nicely when you get to work. The device requires a manual push start like an electric bicycle. (€449 from Three)

Instant photos

Fujifilm Instax SQ20

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Fujifilm Instax SQ20

Fujifilm dominates the instant camera market. Its latest Instax Square SQ20 is a handsome device that spits out 2.1- by 3.5-inch prints with a square photo in the middle. It’s somewhat turbocharged in that it has an LCD screen that lets you check the photo (or add filters) before you actually print it: you can even print one from a short video taken on the device. Replacement photos cost around €12 for a pack of 10. (€200 from several retailers)

Sports watch

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus

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Garmin Fenix 5 Plus

For a real fitness nerd, the best smartwatch you can get is Garmin’s Fenix 5 Plus. This tracks just about any kind of sport you can think of. It even does a good job of assessing off-kilter activities, such as yoga. It’s especially good for running. The data it feeds back is unparalleled – everything from pace and distance and elevation to things like cadence. It gives you an overall indication of whether your body is capable of your training routine. (€717 from Harvey Norman)

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