With the holiday season around the corner, here are a few things ‘Santa’ should be sending down the chimney.
CAN you hear it? The faint jingling sound?
It’s either the sound of sleigh bells signalling the arrival of Christmas or your coin purse as you pace up and down from shop to shop trying to find the perfect gift.
Well, never fear, if you’re at a loss about what to buy for your tech-savvy loved ones, we have a number of recommendations, ranging from budget-friendly items to high-end products.
This year was a very good one for tech – we got a really good mix of different products for a wide variety of interests so we will try to give you (wherever possible) a number of options at different price points to fit your budget.
So without much further ado, here’s our recommendations.
Smartphones are a very personal thing and we debated whether we should be including them since there are so many to choose from.
However, if you want a gift that will really get your loved one excited, there’s really nothing better than a smartphone.
Due to limited space, we picked only the high-end ones as they are almost impossible to resist.
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
There’s no denying that when it comes to Android devices, Samsung is almost always one of the top choices. And if you are planning to get a Samsung smartphone why not get the company’s best model, the Galaxy S7 Edge.
Sporting a beautiful design with a display that curves on both sides, the S7 Edge not only looks great but feels good in the hand too.
The hardware specifications are top notch – the S7 Edge runs on an octa-core Exynos processor, has 4GB RAM, 32GB of internal storage and microSD card slot for adding even more space.
The S7 Edge also has one of the better cameras in its class, a 12-megapixel image sensor with a f/1.7 aperture.
From now until Dec 18, every purchase of an S7 Edge also comes with a free Samsung Gear VR headset (limited to 5,000 units).
Huawei Mate 9
Huawei is fast becoming an Android smartphone maker to reckon with, as its smartphones have been rising in popularity lately.
The company’s latest smartphone, the Mate 9, comes with a second generation Leica Dual Camera system with a 12-megapixel RGB sensor and a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor which work together to produce sharper, lower-noise images.
Additionally, the dual cameras also allow the Mate 9 to produce images with a shallow depth of field effect.
However, the smartphone is not for those with small hands, as it has a massive 5.9in (1080p) display.
If you’re looking for a similar but more affordable dual-camera phone, try the Honor 8, which also comes with twin cameras on the back but with a smaller 5.2in (1080p) screen.
iPhone 7 Plus
Price: From RM3,799
For iOS fans, the iPhone 7 Plus is the phone to get – despite a design that hasn’t changed much, Apple has updated the internals quite a bit, offering one of the fastest processors on the market and a dual-camera setup on the back.
While Apple is by no means the first to go for a dual-camera system, its implementation is a little different – the two cameras have different focal lengths, namely a standard wide-angle lens and a second, short telephoto lens.
Similar to other dual-camera smartphones, the iPhone 7 Plus can also shoot photos with blurry-background effect – Apple calls it Portrait mode.
The downside, though, is that Apple has also seen fit to remove the earphone jack, but this isn’t a big deal even if you don’t own Bluetooth earphones because Apple includes a little dongle that will allow you to still use regular earphones with the 3.5mm jack.
The iPhone 7 Plus is firmly in the high-end segment when it comes to pricing so if you’re on a tight budget then consider the smaller iPhone 7 (priced from RM3,199) – it has all the same features but only one camera on the back.
Despite the fact that they’ve been around for a few years now, smartwatches are still a very new category of electronics – no one particular brand or model has been selling in the numbers we associate with smartphones today.
So if you don’t want to get something as common as a smartphone then smartwatches is the way to go.
Samsung Gear S3
The very latest in smartwatches that look like “real” watches, the Samsung Gear S3 comes with a lot of features built into a nice metal body.
Available in two versions – a rugged Frontier version and Classic model – the Gear S3 runs on Samsung’s own Tizen operating system that will work with most new Android smartphones.
The highlight of the Gear S3 is that it has a rotating bezel which can be used to navigate the menu, making it easier to access the smartwatch functions.
The much-awaited Gear S3 models are only expected to hit store shelves in the first week of December.
Price: RM1,799 (steel), RM1,999 (black)
If you want a pure Android Wear experience as envisioned by Google, then the Huawei Watch is the one to go for.
While there are many Android Wear models on the market, the Huawei Watch is one of the best, boasting a better design, large 1.4in display with a high resolution of 400 x 400 pixels and long battery life.
It is also one of the first Android Wear to boast an always-on screen so the watch face is always visible.
As it runs on Android Wear, you get a good selection of third-party apps for the smartwatch.
Price: RM1,199 - RM5,699
If you’re an iPhone user, your choice of smartwatch is pretty much limited to the Apple Watch and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
If you don’t mind the rectangular shape, the Apple Watch has a lot to offer – the Series 2 edition has a GPS, is water resistant up to 50m and has a much faster dual-core processor. It can also track a variety of sports.
The Series 2 comes in two sizes and a variety of finishes with the price ranging from RM1,649 to RM5,699.
If your loved one is not into sports, you can opt for the Series 1 models instead, which comes in cheaper at RM1,199. It does away with the GPS and is only water resistant enough to withstand rain and washing your hands.
In this category we wanted to look away from the usual gaming PCs and pick out a few devices that would be fun, useful and could conceivably be stuffed into a (large) stocking.
Google Chromecast 2
Google’s Chromecast device does one thing well and that’s streaming content from a PC or mobile device to a TV.
The device has no actual interface of its own – you just plug it in, configure it using the Google Home app, connect to your WiFi network and you’re done.
So how do you play videos on it? If you have a compatible app such as YouTube, Netflix or iflix, the support is already built in. When you play video on your mobile device, you’ll see a little Cast icon on the app screen.
Tap on this icon and the video will start playing via the Chromecast on your TV.
Asus VivoMini UN65
Almost everybody needs a PC at home but for many of us a big desktop is less than ideal if all we need it for is simple word processing and watching videos.
Asus has the perfect solution for you in the VivoMini UN65 PC which is not much bigger than the latest Apple TV. It even comes with a mounting plate for attaching it to the back of your monitor or TV.
This tiny Windows 10 computer isn’t a slouch either – it runs on the latest Intel sixth generation Core i5 processor and has 1TB hard disk drive, many USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports, WiFi and Bluetooth.
While not a gaming machine, the VivoMini works great as a home entertainment centre as it can easily handle 4K videos.
Nintendo NES Classic Edition
Price: US$59.99 (about RM265)
It’s fair to say that the original Nintendo NES heralded the era of console gaming and many of its games, from Super Mario Bros to Metroid, have become classics.
Recently Nintendo introduced the NES Classic Edition, a cute miniature replica of the NES that fits in the palm of your hand.
It comes preloaded with a bunch of classic NES games and a controller for a very reasonable price.
The NES Classic Edition has proven to be so popular that it’s in short supply but you can still find them here and there.
PlayStation 4 Pro
Sony’s updated version of its PlayStation 4 gaming console, the PlayStation 4 Pro, is probably the most sought after gaming console for the holidays.
As it has more powerful hardware under the hood, games that support the PlayStation 4 Pro will look better on it.
Unfortunately, the PS Pro was snapped up on the release day so it’s very difficult to get at the moment.
It’s expected to be available again next month so if you are planning to get one it’s better to pre-order it. Or if you are in a hurry the PlayStation 4 Slim is also a good option.
Video on the go
In the past when it came to cameras we tended to recommend mirrorless camera system or DSLR if you wanted to shoot video, but in the last year or so, our video options have expanded greatly.
Here are a couple of options worth considering.
GoPro Hero 5 Black
The company that popularised the use of action cameras has just released its latest flagship model, the Hero 5 Black.
Unlike previous models, the Hero 5 Black is built to be water resistant without any special casing so you can take it to the beach or in the rain without having to buy an additional waterproof casing.
DJI Mavic Pro
You might balk at the price of the DJI Mavic Pro, but for what it can do, the drone is actually priced rather reasonably.
It has all the functions of most modern DJI drones – it can shoot 4K videos and features sensors that allow the drone to automatically avoid obstacles.
It also features a newly-designed controller which is not only smaller but is a bit more user-friendly.
However, the Mavic Pro’s biggest feature is that it folds up into a unit that is only slightly larger than a 500ml bottle of mineral water, which means that unlike other drones which require a suitcase to be packed away, the Mavic Pro can be stowed into a small camera bag or backpack.
Suffice to say, there are loads of options for Bluetooth speakers – the market for portable wireless speakers has never been more saturated than it is today.
We have picked a couple that will make good gifts without you having to break the bank.
The Logitech X50 is a nifty little Bluetooth speaker with reasonable sound quality.
The rechargeable battery lasts up to five hours on a single charge and, interestingly, it’s one of the few Bluetooth models that has an auxiliary 3.5mm stereo input so you can hook up non-Bluetooth devices to it.
Ultimate Ears Roll 2
Higher up the price range is the Roll 2 from Ultimate Ears. While this speaker is quite a bit larger than the Logitech model, the audio quality is also better and louder.
However, what makes the UE Roll 2 stand out from the rest is that it’s waterproof – it has an IPX7 rating so it can be completely submerged in water (up to 1m) for up to 30 minutes. In other words, it’s ideal for a party by the swimming pool. It even comes bundled with a little blow-up flotation device so you can make the speaker float in the pool. Quite nifty!
The speaker also comes with a bungee cord on the back so you can easily attach it to almost anything.
The reality of modern digital life is such that we always seem to be in need of storage space for our photos and videos, so these products make good gifts.
Western Digital MyPassport 2TB
Let’s face it, most portable hard disk drives are the same – they mostly vary in speed and capacity.
However, apart from speed and capacity, the new MyPassport models have a nice design that eschews the industrial look of most portable drives for a brightly coloured and textured finish.
Sandisk Extreme Pro 64GB
If you have a family member who has a digital camera, chances are they’ll always appreciate a storage card as a gift.
The price of SD cards keeps dropping every year and despite our weakening currency, large capacity SD cards are still relatively affordable.
Last we checked on the official Lazada SanDisk store, the 64GB Extreme Pro SDXC cards are now going for just RM158.
There are cheaper cards but in the case of digital cameras, speed is an important consideration as it allows the camera to continue shooting in burst mode for much longer.
Need a gift for a Luddite? Fret not, Star2 has you covered. Check out our cover story this Sunday for more gift ideas.