Tech Gifts for Christmas
Marian is joined by Adrian Weckler who is Technology Editor, Irish Independent.
BEST BUDGET TABLET & LAPTOP
TABLET: Lenovo Tab 3 Essential 16GB - €69, Argos
- Front and rear cameras, enough storage for basics
- Very portable, ideal for kids' video screens
LAPTOP: Lenovo IdeaPad 320 (€349, PC World)
- good for use as a home PC as it has unusually large amount of storage (1,000GB)
- 14-inch screen, great size for movies and keyboard
- powerful enough to do any ordinary activities
TOP BUDGET GADGET GIFTS
Tile Mate Bluetooth tracker (€25 from PC World)
finds your keys, your wallet or your phone if you misplace them
Star Wars Darth Vader virtual reality viewer (€4.50, Argos)
- lets you get a taste of virtual reality by slotting your phone into it
Adidas smartphone gloves (€20, various shops)
Winter is a pain for smartphone use; screens don’t work through gloves. These Adidas mits have special thread in the fingertips to electrically connect your fingers to the screen’s controls.
PHONES - GOOD BUDGET OPTIONS COSTING UNDER €200
Vodafone Smart V8 (€199 from Vodafone stores or Vodafone.ie)
- Great 5.5-inch screen, 16-megapixel camera, fingerprint reader (for security) and a decent 32GB of storage, which is considerably more than you’d get with some other budget phones.
Moto G5 (€179, Argos)
Fingerprint scanner, decent 13-megapixel rear camera and a pretty nice five-inch 1080p screen. Where it cuts corners is on the sameness of the design and just 16GB of storage. However, there’s MicroSD expansion built in and battery life is fine.
Nokia 3310 (€70, Littlewoods.ie)
Same old-fashioned phone you remember from 2005 with a few minor style tweaks. It has the familiar physical number pad and a small colour screen. There’s no 3G or 4G and its camera has a modest two megapixels. Battery life is amazing, though: you can go a full week between charges.
FITNESS AND OUTDOORS
Sony WS413 (€90 from PC World)
If you prefer downloading songs to streaming them (for example when you go running without a phone) Sony’s waterproof, wireless sports MP3 earphones are worth looking at. With 4GB of internal storage, you can hold a few hundred songs in almost any format. Tucked into your ear, they can withstand all manner of moisture, including full immersion to two metres.
Fitbit Ionic (€339 from PC World)
Fitbit, which many know from the health-tracker wristbands that are so prevalent, has a new fancy smartwatch called the Ionic. With a swipeable touchscreen, it has GPS, water resistance to 50 metres and can play music.
DJI Spark (€599 from Argos)
DJI’s smallest drone is easily the best sub-1kg drone you can buy. The footage (1080p ‘full HD’ rather than 4K ‘ultra HD’) is superb. Its drawbacks are that it’s slower than bigger drones and has a small battery life (around 12 minutes).
HOME TECH GIFTS
Roberts Stream 93i digital and internet radio (€189, Harvey Norman)
Roberts Stream 93i is a decent FM, DAB and internet radio that also connects directly to Spotify and external audio sources wirelessly or over cable. The sound quality, for a radio, is excellent with a three-way speaker system and a bass sub-woofer.
Kobo Aura One eReader (€250 from Argos)
The problem with many eReader devices such as the Kindle -- their universal six-inch screens are too small for some people with wavering eyesight. This means you either have to increase the font size so that you're swiping between pages every few sentences or you're left squinting at the device. At eight inches across, Kobo’s Aura One is about 50pc bigger than a standard Kindle screen. And if you're worrying about ebook choices, don't; outside the US, Kobo is now the only real mainstream competitor to the Kindle, so there are plenty of ebooks.
Apple TV 4K (€199 from CompuB)
Ever wish you could get Netflix on your telly but didn't know where to start? Apple's TV set top box makes it brilliantly simple. You just plug it in to your telly and follow its instructions. It connects to your home wifi and lets you use a number of apps, including Netflix. The newest version supports 'ultra high definition' (or '4K') for watching movies and TV series in the best possible resolution. This is the easiest way to get into online 'streaming' apps on your telly.
Sky Soundbox (€299/€349 to Sky subscribers)
The best TV speaker of the year is Sky's Soundbox (made by Devialet), which is about the same length as a DVD player and about three times as tall. It delivers beautiful, balanced, warm audio. As a bonus, it's a very tidy rectangular box so there are few messy cables.
GREAT MUSIC TECH GIFTS
Sony X300 USB turntable (€169 from Harvey Norman)
- Works as a normal turntable for vinyl records (45 and 33)
- Also has an MP3 recording facility if you want to transfer vinyl tunes into digital to listen on your phone
Apple Airpods €179
- Apple’s in-ear AirPods are surprisingly firm in your ear. I’ve gone walking and jogging in them without any issue. The AirPods are a very good (and reasonably priced) alternative to some wireless in-ear rivals.
Sony MDR1000X noise-cancelling headphones (€269 from PC World)
These wireless noise-cancelling headphones are brilliant. They completely block out at least 80pc of all external noise, especially loud hums or whirs.
Fuji Instax mini 9 (€80 from Conn's Cameras)
Thought Polaroids were dead? Think again. The instant-printing camera category has made a serious comeback. The Instax Mini 9's prints are 2.1 inches by 3.5 inches and it’s fairly idiot-proof to use. Replacement photos cost around €10 for a pack of 10.
Panasonic Lumix GX800 (€469 with 12-32mm lens)
For a good quality camera system that won't break the bank, this is the best affordable model. The Lumix GX800 has the same basic optical technology (via its 16-megapixel sensor) seen in much more expensive models. It also has really handy flip-up touchscreen, while photos are sharp and detailed. There are around 70 different lenses available to the system.
HP Sprocket (€149 from PC World)
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 makes the whole thing good fun. It's a pocket photo printer that prints 2x3 photos directly from your phone. If you prefer, you can get it to print 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.
THINGS TO AVOID
Amazon Fire tablet (€70-€80
- Cheap device that doesn't have access to proper App Store; fine if you're 'techie' and can get around it, but for most people is a real let down
Buying any TV
Prices are now high before Christmas, most will come down at 20pc the day after Christmas.
Any laptop under €300
- They tend to be very flimsy, break easily, put you off using laptops; false economy