A record-breaking nearly 8 in-10 people plan to buy gadgets and tech tools as gifts this holiday season. Top picks include laptops, smartphones, headphones, streaming services and toys. Lots and lots of toys. But where do you start, and how do you know you’re getting the best price available for that hot device?
These are questions people ask me all the time throughout the year, but they ramp up by the hundreds the month leading up to Christmas. Here are a few hard and fast “rules” for buying great gadget gifts for other people, along with a few of my top picks for this year:
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What do they already own?
If someone has a newish Samsung Galaxy phone, don’t rush out to buy them an Apple Watch, and visa versa. Instead, choose a device that plays nice in the sandbox with gadgets they already use. If they’re used to Macs, there’s a bigger learning curve switching to Windows. Or if they have a bevy of Amazon Echo smart speakers, an Apple HomePod Mini could totally miss the mark.
Another point to make here includes finding just right accessories for gadgets they already own. This is a great tip, especially when it comes to gamers. For instance, if you’re shopping for someone who owns a Nintendo Switch, check out the new Fortnite SanDisk microSD card (which starts at $24 for 128 GB). It solves a huge problem – people’s device storage fills up with just a few games. This little tool lets people store more games so theycan play anytime, anywhere, and it works with all Nintendo Switch systems.
Good gaming headsets – I’m partial to the LucidSound LS100X wireless headphones – are another great go-to for gamers. I like this set because for less than $100, you get up to 130 hours on a single charge. That’s more than five days of continuous play! Can you imagine getting that from your current earbuds? No, not even close.
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Know where the pros go
Fashion experts know how and where to shop to get the best items at the best price, and we tech-obsessed are no different. When it comes to buying photo and video gear, I always start at MPB. It’s the largest global platform to buy, sell or trade used photo and video gear. What I appreciate about them is that they buy gear directly, and their team of expert product specialists evaluates the quality of all items before reselling them. Everything you buy comes with a six-month warranty, and they’re incredibly helpful if you have any problems or questions.
I, and a lot of people I know, also look to refurbished tech to score great products at bargain-basement prices. I mainly use eBay for this because they also inspect everything before they resell it, and it comes with an eBay Money Back Guarantee.
When it comes to big holiday sales, it’s hard to find any better than Lenovo’s laptops and hybrid devices right now. Just about every electronics maker is having some kind of deal, but we haven’t seen any better than Lenovo’s Cyber Monday offerings of new devices up to 65% off.
I just picked up an IdeaPad Duet 5 touch-screen 2-in-1 tablet. It’s ultra portable, super versatile, and totally solid for work or streaming your favorite content. I also appreciate the 11-hour-plus battery life and feel like it’s a great find at a solid midrange price.
Tech toy trends
I’ve gone hands-on with hundreds of the top tech toys this year, and one of the biggest trends is for toys to have a physical and digital presence. This gives kids hands-on play in real life and online action in the form of an app or video game.
One of my favorites in this space is Pixicade Pets ($20). It comes with special markers and a booklet that teaches kids how to draw various animals, from dogs and cats to more fantastical options like unicorns and dragons. Kids can draw anything they can imagine on paper, then snap a photo and watch their artwork magically come to life in a video game through the Pixicade app on a mobile device. Kids can also draw eggs for their creations to hatch out of, toys, and food and create endless gameplay.
I have a gift for picking out the hottest products before they hit the market, and this next toy is one of those. I first covered My Avastars earlier this year, and now they’re one of the hottest toys of the season and a 2022 TTPM Most Wanted Toys winner. (Nailed it!)
Like Pixicade Pets, kids can play with the My Avastars ($25) in real life and on screen. Each physical doll comes with a form that looks like an avatar and a handful of outfits, reusable stickers and clothing decals. It’s kind of like a modern version of paper dolls. Kids dress the dolls up with their signature look, then scan an included code, and can build the same doll online and then play My Avastars Fashion Game. This toy has especially taken TikTok by storm, with millions of views and positive reviews.
When the screens need to turn off, but kids still need some interactive entertainment, Toniebox remains one of my favorite finds. The Peppa Pig Toniebox Starter Set ($100) is a screen-free entertainment system. Kids need a Tonie, a little figurine they place on top of a box-like speaker, and away they go. The Toniebox plays kids’ favorite songs, stories and other activities. They can collect and use all kinds of other Tonie figures with each Toniebox, including new Plush Tonies that just came out last week.
Also trending this year is the term “Social Emotional Learning,” or SEL, and one of my top tech toy picks is all about it. Pawz The Calming Pup by hand2mind is a toy, a nightlight, and a way to teach kids ages three and older SEL skills. Touch Pawz’s little foot and auto-adjusting lights guide children through breathing exercises. “Inhale when the light gets brighter and exhale as the light fades” is how a company spokesperson explained it to me. It’s a great way to help preschoolers manage their own emotions, a skill that’s becoming more important every day.
There are so many awesome gadgets out these days, it’s easy to snag a few that are sure to make everyone on your list really, really happy. This includes not-too-expensive drones, instant cameras, gadget chargers, smart home gadgets, pet gadgets and so much more. USA Today TODAY and Reviewed totally have us covered with extensive gift guides, but these are the two most life-changing gadgets I picked up this year.
The Husqvarna Automower 450XH ($4,000) successfully mowed more than three acres of lawn for us for two straight summer months without us having to touch a single blade of grass. This is a big splurge, but it’s a similar price to the riding lawnmower that our property’s previous owner used – and that riding lawnmower was constantly in need of repair and regular maintenance. Considering that similarly featured riding lawnmowers are in the $3,000 range and that both riding and push-mowers typically require a fair amount of upkeep, robot lawnmowers might be next on your list of smart-home must-haves.
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The same goes for Hunter Douglas smart blinds with PowerView automation. I wrote about these earlier this year, in a story about smart home gadgets that can save money on heating and cooling costs. These let you press a single button and use a voice-enabled helper such as Alexa or app to set a schedule to keep your house warm when winter weather blows in. The price varies depending on the materials you choose and the specifics of your particular windows. We’ve lowered our energy bill by more than 50% since putting these in.
What are your most life-changing (in a good way) gadgets of the year? Be sure to share in the comments section across our social media channels!