Can it really be that time again? Leaves are falling, Christmas lights are going up, and that chill in the air says yet another holiday season is upon us. And you know what that means: It’s time to make those gift lists and get shopping!
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The mere thought of holiday buying can send a chill down your spine if you fear long lines and sold-out merchandise. Never fear: if you’re in the market for the coolest tech toys of the season, you’ve come to the right place.
Whether it’s just for the kiddos, the precocious teenager in the family, or adults who are still big kids at heart, this guide is stuffed with fun, engaging and all-around awesome tech toys to give this holiday season.
- Need more gift ideas? Here's great tech for under $100/£150 (opens in new tab)
Tech toys for kids
Where little ones are concerned, there’s only one mashup better than peanut butter and jelly, and that’s the holidays and presents. You don’t have to be a parent to know just how bonkers youngsters become when they see those wrapped-up gifts, and the more toys, the better!
MOTA Jetjat Ultra Drone
Drones are all the rage these days, so it was just a matter of time before someone designed one expressly for the littlest members of the family.
This is an affordable model that features one-touch takeoff and landing, as well as auto-pilot mode to ease youngsters into taking flight.
It’s also smartphone-ready for shooting photos or videos, as the lucky lad or lass who receives this drone sends it soaring to the skies.
Skylanders Imaginators for PlayStation 4
Although it’s a somewhat niche item since a PlayStation 4 is required, this is one epic new adventure, and especially perfect if you're also planning to purchase a new Sony console (opens in new tab) for your little ones.
Skylanders Imaginators follows the exploits of Eon, who must call upon all Portal Masters and the greatest mystic warriors in Skyland to combat Kaos. Players can create an ultimate team of over 30 Skylanders, enlisting 10 different battle class types to defeat Kaos.
The starter pack includes Master King Pen and Golden Queen figurines, as well as the Creation Crystal that will truly bring kids' imaginations to life.
Barbie Hello Dreamhouse
Arriving just in time for the 2016 holiday season, Mattel is taking the classic Barbie Dreamhouse we know and love and ushering it into the technology age with a modern makeover.
Although the asking price may sound steep, this high-tech dollhouse connects to your home’s Wi-Fi to enable Siri-style speech recognition, allowing your little one to speak more than 100 commands.
Open the door, raise the elevator, even change the stairs into a fun slide – there are six rooms and 15 total locations around the Dreamhouse to customize, and you can even record new sounds to greet Barbie for different occasions.
New Nintendo 3DS XL
If your kid is even a casual fan of Pokemon, Mario, or other Nintendo favorites and doesn’t already own one of these games, there’s a good chance it’s on their wish list this year.
Faster than the original model, the New Nintendo 3DS XL is equipped with face-tracking 3D and offers built-in support for games that take advantage of amiibo and NFC.
The handheld also includes enhanced C Stick control for shifting the in-game camera, giving players more options of how they view the game unfolding before their eyes. This is the perfect toy to keep kids occupied with Nintendo classics for hours – good for you and them.
Tech toys for teens
It’s often hard to know what to buy the teenagers in your life, but thankfully, this one’s easy, as teens love technology. There are plenty of great gadgets to put a smile on even the dourest of juveniles.
XYZprinting da Vinci miniMaker 3D Printer
Now this is the kind of thing that makes us wish we could go back and relive our younger years all over again!
With non-toxic PLA filament and a child-safe print bed that doesn’t use heat, this compact 3D printer will spark your teenager’s imagination like never before. Not only is it affordable, but the manufacturer offers a ton of free resources including design software, a gallery of ready-to-print 3D objects, and an educational curriculum your teen's school can also participate in.
3Doodler Create 3D Pen
If you have an early teen who loves to draw, they’ll go absolutely out of their minds when they see how fun and easy it is to use this 3D printing pen.
Available in a rainbow of five different colors, the 3Doodler Create is kind of like a hot glue gun on steroids, but with the precision to draw vertically, horizontally, or right off the page.
Teens need just turn it on, insert one of 50 included plastic strands (there are more than 65 color shades in a variety of material types, also sold separately), and start doodling whatever their imagination allows.
Bachmann Blue Lightning Train Set
There was a time not so long ago when every teen wanted a train under the tree, a hobby that often continued into a full-blown adult obsession usually relegated to a garage or basement.
Like just about everything else, train sets have made the high-tech transition, and this Bluetooth-equipped locomotive offers wireless control over speed, direction, lighting, and sound using an iOS or Android device from up to 100 feet away.
This HO scale electric train set is ready to run out of the box, with four cars and enough track to encircle even the largest Yuletide timber.
Numark Party Mix
Your teen may not know what a turntable is, but they most certainly know what a DJ does.
Now they can get the party going with this easy-to-use starter controller that includes all the basics, including a light show built directly into the back of the unit. Affordably priced, the compact chassis features dual scratch platters and slider controls, as well as eight multi-function pads for loops or samples.
Using the built-in sound card, would-be DJs can practice alone with headphones, or connect to external speakers to really pump up the jams.
Tech toys for grown-ups
Why should kids have all the fun? We’ll cap off our tech toy holiday guide with a look at some of the best stuff you can wrap up for a loved one (or yourself wink wink) this holiday season.
Ehang GHOSTDRONE 2.0 VR
This one is for the gadget lover in the family who has everything. Ehang’s latest unmanned aerial vehicle isn’t exactly an impulse buy, but it does shoot 4K video with a 93-degree wide angle field of view.
If that’s not enough, this drone also wirelessly transmits a first-person virtual reality view to the included VR goggles, allowing the wearer to see what’s being shot in real-time, as well as providing a way to control the camera angle by moving their head.
It’s so easy to use that you’ll be out of the box and up in the air in less than five minutes, but, to be honest, most of that time will probably be spent installing the free control app on the recepient's iOS or Android device.
Sony PlayStation 4 Pro or Microsoft Xbox One S
- PS4 Pro: $399 on Amazon (opens in new tab)/£332.49 on Amazon UK (opens in new tab)
- Xbox One S: $399 on Amazon (opens in new tab)/£239.99 FIFA bundle on Amazon UK (opens in new tab)
For decades now, game consoles have brought tears of joy to children all over the world – and more than a few adults as well. Since the Nintendo Switch won’t be making its debut until next spring, your choices this year are similar to last.
Sony’s PlayStation Pro delivers faster frame rates and super-sharp action combined with a full terabyte of internal storage.
Not to be outdone, Microsoft’s updated Xbox One S hits the same price point or less in the UK, but doubles the internal storage to 2TB, and can even play Ultra HD Blu-rays in stunning 4K quality.
Whichever console you choose, you can assure someone's holiday will be well spent.
Virtual reality is gradually spilling over into the mainstream, and something tells us there will be more VR headsets unwrapped this holiday season that ever before.
Our pick of the litter is the HTC Vive, which offers gamers an exhaustive catalog of more than 500 titles on SteamVR to become totally immersed in.
This is room-scale VR at its best – the front-facing camera keeps the real world close at hand, along with notifications from a connected compatible smartphone.
The headset, wireless controllers and base stations are all included, so all anyone needs is a compatible Windows computer to bring this gift to life.
Litiholo Hologram Kit
Although technically marketed to a younger crowd, the mere mention of something as futuristic as holograms is sure to spark the interest of tech-minded adults who own everything else.
This kit uses 'Instant Hologram' film to create 3D laser holograms in an hour or less using step-by-step instructions. One kit is equipped to make up to 20 different bright, clear holograms using self-developing plates that don’t require chemicals or traditional processing – and the fun doesn’t have to stop there, as refills are sold separately.
This article is the second of several, part of our ongoing holiday shopping coverage for 2016. Be sure to follow TechRadar throughout the season for advice regarding the top tech deals during the holidays, culminating in our epic guide to the absolute best Black Friday deals.