Christmas 2018 gift guide
‘Tis the season to get shopping with Christmas just round the corner. At TechRadar, we understand that finding the perfect gift for your loved ones can be hard. So we're here to help you find options that go beyond advent calendars, perfumes and wine.
If you want to make an impression and watch those grins erupt on the faces of your loved ones when they finally rip off the wrapping, you'll want something that lasts. And the latest gadget can do just that.
Technology is evolving so quickly that if you decided on a gizmo last year, there's always something new to choose from this year. And we understand it can be quite overwhelming to find a gadget that makes for a great gift at this time of year.
To help you find the gift that will make your friends and family wonder if you've been intercepting their mail to Santa, we went a-hunting and found some of the best tech gift ideas that will make you the best person this Christmas.
And there's something for everyone in our gift ideas – presents that would suit every budget, from e-readers to connected toys, smart home products to gaming gear.
To make it easy for you, we've divided our gift ideas into sections. If you've got a particular budget in mind, then jump right to the section you need and take a gander at the options we have for you.
Gifts under $100
Fujifilm Instax Mini 9
Got a teenager who loves taking pictures? The Instax Mini 9 is a new addition to Fujifilm's instant camera range, and this little compact bundle makes taking pictures a whole load o' fun. There’s a selfie mirror to ensure framing is right, there’s a close-up lens attachment for shooting up to 35cm away and the brightness can be adjusted to your satisfaction. There’s a few bright colours to choose from and the Instax Mini 9 is available from various retailers for less than $100.
Google Home Mini smart speaker
Has a loved one been talking about smart home gadgets all year? Gift them the Google Home Mini – the bite-sized smart speaker from Google – so they can get help with organising their day, keeping up with the news or even doing the little chores like switching lights on and off. It’s the roommate that will not encroach on personal space.
This nifty little gadget is one of our favourite streaming devices and it’s the best way to watch your favourite shows on Netflix or Stan, streaming direct to your non-smart TV. The Google Chromecast isn't capable of streaming in 4K, for that you'll need the Chromecast Ultra, which is also available for under $100.
Amazon Echo Dot (3rd gen)
Google isn't the only big tech company to offer smart home products on a budget. Amazon's Alexa is here to help too, with the latest 2018 range of Echo smart speakers. The puck-like Echo Dot is the smallest of Amazon's Echo range and can help you keep up with the news, listen to music, control your smart lights and much more, all with voice commands.
Tile (Mate & Pro)
Know someone who keeps misplacing their keys or wallet? Consider giving them a Tile Bluetooth tracker, a white square puck that will audibly let you know its location via Bluetooth as long as you’re within a 100 feet radius of it. While there are different Tile trackers to suit everyone, the latest range is the 2018 Mate and Pro trackers that come with replaceable batteries.
Beyerdynamic Byron in-ear headphones
These unassuming wired in-ear 'buds are a great budget option for someone looking for good sound for a low price. With surprisingly spacious and clear sound, the Byron has punchy bass and lively mid-to-upper frequencies that flatters most genres you can throw at it. Chuck in a carry pouch and three sizes of ear-tips and you'll be struggling to find a better way to drop $59.
TechLife and APC magazine subscriptions
Got a loved one who enjoys tech? Gift them the ability to stay up to date with the latest tech news and reviews with a subscription to one of Australia's best-selling tech mags. You can pick up 12 issues of TechLife or APC for just $69 – that's a saving of 42% on the regular cover price! And with TechRadar's Australian team contributing to both mags, we can guarantee that they're great reads!
Gifts under $300
This very affordable drone threatens to be educational while being fun. Made in partnership between Ryze Robotics and DJI, the quadcopter has a 720p camera which shoots reasonable footage and takes acceptable photos that are full of colour and life. The drone can flip, capture rotating shots and long rising ones. The Tello is primed for those who want to learn how to code with Scratch or an SDK – a terrific initiative and a big reason to gift one.
This budget action cam is easy to use, comes with voice control and produces excellent Full HD footage. It's got a refined design and polished controls, and although it's not as feature-packed as GoPro's other action cameras, it's perfect for the novice user or the budget-conscious.
If you thought smartwatches are expensive, think again. This Android Wear smartwatch has all the essentials anyone needs on their wrist at a very affordable price. It may not be the best-looking wearable either, but it sure is great value for money.
Another example of how affordable smartwatches can be. The Ticwatch S has a lot more features than the Ticwatch E, and yet comes in well below the $300 mark. It exceeds expectation for something at this price range – it's well designed, a joy to use and feature-packed. And although the Ticwatches run on Wear OS, they're compatible with iOS as well.
Smart speakers are fast becoming mainstream but Google's Home are still popular, and pocket friendly too. It's perfect for anyone looking to set up home automation as well as get a speaker with decent sound. And with Google Assistant at your beck and call (literally), controlling a smart-home setup is easy as.
Amazon Echo Plus (2nd gen)
The Echo Dot's bigger brother also has a 2018 model. If you want big sound from a smart speaker without spending too much money, then this one is for you. And with Alexa built in, you can easily control your smart home, check the weather, have an audiobook read out to you, and so much more.
Sonos One smart speaker
This is Sonos' first first Wi-Fi speaker with Amazon Alexa built in and it comes at a price that is far more approachable than previous offerings. Sonos is able to play the field a little bit with the company's CEO hinting that the already smart speaker would be adding Google Assistant support soon.
Nvidia Shield TV 4K media player
If someone you love is craving a do-all media player, the Nvidia Shield TV is our top pick. It's a tad more expensive than basic media players, but it runs Android TV OS, meaning there's heaps of apps available. Plus its Tegra X1 processor gives it heaps of grunt for running even the most demanding games.
Philips Hue smart lighting systems
Setting up a voice- or app-controlled smart lighting system is easy with the Philips Hue starter kits. You not only get a couple of bulbs, you also get the all-important Hue Bridge, without which your lights won't work. If you think your loved one would like additional bulbs to add to the house, they're easily available. You can get the Philips Hue in White Ambiance – you can change the light temperature across the white to yellow range – and in White and Colour Ambiance – change not just the temperature, but the colour to suit your mood.
UE Boom 2 portable speaker
While this has been superseded by the Boom 3, the second-generation speakers are still one of our favourite Bluetooth options. It's also affordable, comes in some fun colour options and can keep the party rocking for hours together. And it's not afraid of water either, so take it to the pool or the beach and carry on listening.
Jabra Elite 65t true wireless headphones
These absolutely-no-cables headphones are a perfect balance of usability, features, and sound quality. The long battery life means you won't be fishing for the charging case as often as the competition, and are one of the first examples of the true wireless format doing almost everything right, including the warm audio profile and the ability to activate ambient sound mode.
Fitbit Charge 3
The Fitbit Charge range has traditionally provided all the fitness metrics the average person needs for as little money as possible. Building on the achievements of its predecessors, the Charge 3 adds 5ATM water resistance, and now includes the useful Fitbit Pay hardware so you can leave your wallet at home. And the screen is now bigger too, thanks to smaller bezels.
Kindle Paperwhite (2018)
Got a lover of books in the family? Instead of finding them shelf space for their growing library, get them an e-reader that won’t burn a hole in your pocket. The latest Kindle Paperwhite is still one of the best Kindle options in the market, with a combination of a sharp screen, improved typography, waterproofing and an affordable price.
Kobo Clara HD
With one of the most responsive screens on a basic model of an ereader, the Kobo Clara HD takes reading to the next level, especially for those on a budget. The Clara HD’s 6-inch front-lit display integrates a blue-light filter which uses your timezone to automatically change screen brightness at night to reduce your exposure to sleep-disrupting blue light. The Clara HD also introduces a new ‘rapid page turn’ engine which allows you to quickly move forward in an ebook by holding down on the bottom-left corner of the screen.
Google Daydream View VR headset
An affordable option for exploring the wonders of VR is Google Daydream. This headset is light, durable and features smart sensors that track movements and gestures. Currently the headset is compatible with just Google’s flagship phones, but is poised to work with many more Android smartphones in the future.
PlayStation 4 Slim
If you have to shop for a gamer and your budget allows for it, you could consider a gaming console. The PS4 Slim effectively replaced the original PS4 when it launched in September 2016. This smaller, lighter and more power efficient model also ends up being cheaper than the model it replaced. You can snag a 500GB console for under $450, while the 1TB model, with a game included, could be found under the $500 mark as well.
Xbox One S
Sony’s console isn’t the only option there is when it comes to gaming consoles. Microsoft is in the game too. At once more elegant and more powerful, the slimmed-down design of the Xbox One S ditches the external power brick and chunky looks of the original Xbox One. More importantly, it comes kitted out with 4K visual support meaning you'll be able to watch specialised Blu-Ray and Netflix content in 4K. And with the latest Xbox One X already flooding the market, the price for the older model has fallen.
Gifts under $500
Apple Watch Series 3
If someone you care about has been craving a bite of an Apple Watch but has been put off by the cost, then the Apple Watch 3 will make a great gift. For under $500 you can get the GPS version of the Watch in either the 38mm or 42mm sizes and in a variety of band options. And it can go for a swim too.
Kobo Aura One
For readers who want the best, Kobo’s latest offering is a great gift, albeit premium. With a 7.8-inch screen designed to keep sleep patterns intact and a waterproof body, it’s a great travel companion that can store a heck of a lot of books.
The Switch is versatile – it can be used as a handheld device for taking along on boring commutes or can be used as a tethered console for home use. It’s got a premium feel that matches its premium price tag, but it’s one heck of a console with plenty of fun games, retailing at around the $460 mark.
Sony WH-1000XM3 wireless noise-cancelling headphones
These cans are the epitome of the wireless headphone realm right now. They have a comfortable comfortable lead over its competition (we're looking at you Bose QC35) and the settings deep-dive you into an app that makes for a truly formidable bet beast. The audio out of the box is warm, organic and flattering across the board, and with the premium construction and style to match, it's hard to recommend anything else.
ViewSonic M1 mini projector
The small size and reliance on battery power usually means portable projectors can only offer so much when it comes to brightness and screen size. Despite those restrictions, this LED unit from ViewSonic shines with a top brightness of just 250 lumens and resolution of 854 x 480. If that doesn't sound too bad, this makes for a great gift for someone who loves showing off family movies during Christmas.
Lenovo Smart Display (10-inch)
It's smart displays like this that will soon make the likes of Google Home and Amazon Alexa obsolete. Although there are two sizes available, the bigger 10-inch option is not only great for videos, it also brings with it big sound. And with a Google Assistant visual and voice interface available, any smart-home setup can easily be controlled. That display also means recipes are right where you want them!
Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.5 (2018)
Sharing the same screen size and 7,300mAh battery as the higher tier Galaxy Tab S4, Samsung's 10.5-inch Tab A is terrific value for money for those who want a good quality tablet experience without breaking the bank. It's got a 1080p LCD display, a mid-tier Snapdragon 450 processor, 32GB of onboard storage and 32GB of system memory, which is pretty decent when you consider its astonishingly affordable price tag.
Gifts under $1,000
If someone you love is keen on photography and wants to get more creative with the art, this little DSLR is a good starting point. It replaces the very popular D3400, bringing a remarkable long battery life and excellent image quality to an already reliable snapper. There's also a handy guide mode added to the D3500 which will walk a beginner through the steps of using the camera.
GoPro Hero7 Black action camera
While it may share many of the headline features that its predecessor boasted, the Hero7 Black comes with a bunch of improvements as well. The addition of the all-new HyperSmooth image stabilisation is the most significant one, which delivers gimbal-smooth footage. The TimeWarp feature allows combining time-lapse footage with stabilised hyperlapse. So if money is no object, this is the best action camera you can buy today.
Xbox One X
While not technically a 'next-gen' console, the Xbox One X is still a powerful upgrade over the current Xbox One lineup. The target audience is gamers with a 4K HDR TV who want to squeeze the best graphical performance possible out of their console. The Xbox One X comes in just the 1TB flavour, however.
PlayStation 4 Pro
Like the Xbox One X, the PS4 Pro is for 4K gaming. HDR, or High Dynamic Range is another buzzword to be excited about as the PS4 Pro will allow for extra detail to be seen on a range of games and also a wider range of colours not usually displayed by traditional HD TVs.
While the Spark may not be the most powerful drone available today, this palm-sized quadcopter makes flying a drone and taking aerial footage plenty of fun for everyone, no matter their proficiency in flying drones. While it launched with a price tag of $859 last year, you can find the DJI Spark for much less now.
Canon EOS 200D
This new DSLR from Canon is compact, lightweight and a great gift for anyone wanting to step into the world of DSLR photography. For the kids beginning their photographer dreams or for the grown-ups who want to know more, the 200D has a touchscreen display with a guided menu which is very useful to have. It’s very easy to use and has reliable picture quality too.
Apple Watch Series 4
Featuring a new and more efficient S4 chipset, a 30% bigger screen, a haptic crown dial, 'walkie-talkie' messaging, 16GB of onboard storage and more advanced fitness tracking than ever before, the Apple Watch 4 is a serious upgrade. It's neat to get six hours of independent GPS fitness tracking and LTE music streaming straight to your Bluetooth headset.
Microsoft Surface Go
Microsoft's new Surface Go takes a lot of the best elements from the Surface Pro line and repackages them into a budget 2-in-1. What, perhaps, is the killer feature of the Surface Go is Windows 10S, which allows the Windows Store-only operating system to run really well on CPUs that about half as powerful as a 2-in-1 running a Core i5 processor.
Asus Chromebook Flip
Although Chromebooks are still a little bit foreign to Aussie shores, the Chromebook Flip from Asus is the unit to beat. It's definitely worthy of its premium stature with a gorgeous screen, tactile keyboard and a classy design that's equally as comfortable to use in tablet mode or as a traditional laptop. If you're willing to drop a few extra dollars on a gift that will go the distance, the Chromebook Flip is the way to go.
Gifts over $1,000
Willing to go the distance and gift someone you love something expensive? Then think out of the box and get them one of our choices for the best techy Christmas gifts.
Apple iPhone XR
If you've got an Apple fan in the family who needs a new phone, then the iPhone XR, while expensive, offers a relatively cheaper way to get the latest flagship without having to pay the eye-watering prices of the other two. Available in a multitude of colours, along with an excellent battery life, this is our choice for the best new iPhone.
Google Pixel 3 / Pixel 3 XL
For the best smartphone camera in town, you can't think beyond Google's latest flagships. While the regular sized Pixel 3 is a great camera phone in its own stead, the larger Pixel 3 XL will suit anyone who prefers a phablet. And the night-time photos taken on the Google Pixel 3 handsets will be well worth the money spent on them.
DJI Mavic Air
It's hard not to love this premium foldable drone that captures stead 4K video at 60fps, yet fits into a backpack or a jacket pocket. It's currently the best consumer drone available on the market today and perfect for any aerial photography/videography enthusiast.
Huawei MateBook X Pro
Rarely does a laptop arrive that completely blows everything else out of the water. This year, that’s the Huawei MateBook Pro X. It doesn’t do anything altogether new, but it perfects elements from competitors to produce one of the best laptops ever. It’s a perfect gift for anyone that needs a laptop this season.
Asus Zenbook 14 UX433
Most modern laptops don't feature a number pad, yet Asus has found a way to bring back the num pad in a most ingenious way in the ZenBook UX433 – it's on the track pad. This 14-inch laptop also has a NanoEdge display that has thin bezels, giving you plenty of screen real estate. And not only is it a marvel to look at, it also performs just as beautifully.
Asus ROG Strix Scar II GL704
Take the gamer in your life close to where the action is with the ROG Strix Scar II GL704 gaming laptop. With really narrow bezels, the 17-inch screen gives the player a bigger stage, while the latest generation Intel's Core i CPUs and Nvidia's GeFroce GTX 1060 graphics chips give it plenty of grunt to take on the toughest adventures.