Ben Sillis takes a look at the top tech for under the tree this Christmas
Apple iPhone 5c
This autumn, Apple launched not one but two new iPhones – and it’s actually the lesser of the two I’m more taken with. The powerful iPhone 5s is only a minor improvement on last year’s iPhone 5, and indeed, under the hood the 5c is identical to it, but its colourful new design makes it feel like a whole new experience. The bright and friendly hues and thin, firm plastic casing feel much more inviting than the cold, delicate metal and glass of the 5s, especially if, like me, you’re known to drop your phone now and again.
RRP – US$549
Google Nexus 7
Forget the iPad mini. If you’re after a small- scale tablet to slip in your bag and read on the go, the new Google Nexus 7 is the only sensible choice. Its seven-inch screen is a sight to behold: its full HD 1920×1080 resolution display is stunningly sharp, making images and text look crisper than crisp. It’s powerful enough to plug into your telly and watch videos on when you get home too, making it a clever smart TV accessory on top. And because it’s made by Google, it’s guaranteed to get the latest Android software updates first.
RRP – US$229
Acer C7 Chromebook
For quite literally decades, if you wanted a low price, easy-to-use PC or laptop, your only choice was Windows. It’s finally time to stop paying the Microsoft tax: now, at last we have a choice, and it’s a great one. Acer’s 11.6-inch, US$200 laptop runs Google’s easy-to-use Chrome OS and packs plenty of storage with a speedy 16GB solid state drive on board. Sure, Chrome OS lacks some of the apps of Windows, but with Google Drive for word processing and web apps for every-thing else, you will probably find that you don’t need much more.
RRP – US$199.99
Fitness gizmos were once for hardcore cyclists and runners only, but now a new breed of wrist computers is taking over – and they’re for everyone. Like many of its rivals, the Fitbit Flex wristband logs your steps and eggs you on to meet your target each day. Unlike many of its rivals, it also syncs with your smartphone and PC wirelessly, so your stats are always up to date and available anywhere. It even monitors your sleep so you can log the quality of rest you get throughout the week.
RRP – US$99
GoPro Hero 3: Black Edition
Tiny action cameras aren’t just for sports nuts, given the stunning quality of the footage they grab these days. While they can capture amazing bike runs and freefalls from a point- of-view perspective, they can also be used for beautiful time-lapse photography, and even just finding out what your pets get up to at home all day. The Black Edition GoPro Hero 3 is the greatest action camera of them all: it fits in the palm of your hand, films in unbelievably detailed 4K resolution, can shoot 12 megapixel still images in a 30 frame per second burst mode, and can be controlled from afar with a remote or your smartphone.
RRP – US$329.99
It’s a new console, but not as you know it. While Microsoft and Sony are locked in a graphical arms race, the Ouya is all about casual, immediate fun on the cheap. It’s powered by Android, Google’s smartphone operating system, so it runs the games you know and love on your mobile – just on a big screen with a traditional gaming controller. It’s the best of both worlds, and, even better, it can run other Android apps too, making it a great gift for tech tinkerers.
RRP – US$99
It’s just about the cheapest computer on the planet, but that doesn’t mean it’s the least powerful. Far from it. Plug this little board into a TV screen and the Internet and you can programme it to do just about anything – from streaming video to acting as a robot brain for toys and even serving your cat’s food on time when you’re away. There’s a huge community of Pi owners out there ready and waiting to help you unlock its potential. It’s the ultimate gift for hobbyists, hackers and anyone who wants to learn about code
RRP – US$42
Huge DSLR cameras used to be the only way to guarantee a great shot anywhere, but they cost the earth and require the strength of ten men to carry around. Sony’s solved that with its NEX-line of mirrorless lens cameras, which manage to fit DSLR-sized sensors inside tiny shells – and in the case of the NEX-3N, with a tiny price tag too. You can still switch out the lenses to get the perfect picture, you just won’t break the bank doing so. It’s easy to grab top notch photos and HD video with the 16.1 megapixel sensor, and view them back with the handy flip-out LCD screen on the back.
RRP – US$329.99
For hardcore gamers the world over, this is the new benchmark. Microsoft’s new console has been years in the making, and packs the latest hardware under the bonnet – and comes bundled with the company’s motion-sensing and voice-controlled Kinect camera so you can even play games without a controller. It’s not just about better graphics, however: with its Internet smarts, the Xbox One can stream video, multitask with two apps on screen at once and even make TV interactive. You can also record your gameplay footage, making it easy to share that amazing goal or killshot. It’s a social experience, in other words – something you can’t usually say about games consoles.
RRP – US$499.99
Nokia Lumia 520
Smartphones don’t have to cost the earth. All you really need is the Internet, a touchscreen – and an easy interface. The Nokia Lumia 520 certainly has that, courtesy of Microsoft’s Windows Phone. It’s the ideal operating system for first-time smartphone owners, with colourful, bright tiles, and an emphasis on friends, not features. It marries perfectly with the phone’s vivid colouring, and the four-inch display (the same size as the iPhone 5c’s) is spacious and easy to type on. At just US$99.99, it’s a bargain.