Finding the phone for you
Our pick of the best handsets available to buy right now:
Apple iPhone 7 Plus
Apple’s iPhone is still the king of smartphones, thanks to its combination of super fast innards, intuitive software, beautiful design and untouchable camera. This year the larger 7 Plus has the edge as its camera has not one but two lenses which actually let you zoom in on a subject without any image loss, much like a traditional (much larger) camera. There’s just one catch: as you may have heard, there’s no standard headphone jack this year, which means you’ll have to make do with the EarPods included in the box, or get used to carrying around an adaptor with you wherever you go. From US$749.
Moto G4 Plus
The Moto G series remains the best bargain smartphone series on the planet with its latest edition. For around a third of the price of a new iPhone, the G4 Plus gets you a super fast Android smartphone with a lavish 5.5-inch full HD screen, while an eight-core processor helps you power through any of the millions of apps and games on the Google Play store. The 16 megapixel camera meanwhile is great for taking holiday snaps to upload to Instagram and Facebook. From US$249.
Google Nexus 5X
If you want to stay on the bleeding edge of Android, look no further than the Google Nexus 5X, a powerful LG smartphone with a fingerprint sensor for added security. As it’s now a year old, you can pick it up SIM-free for around US$350, but it’s still worth every penny; as an official Google phone, it’s the first to receive the very latest Android 7.0 software upgrade.
A treat that’s music to your ears:
The Echo is no ordinary music speaker (or Internet-connected speaker, for that matter). Sure, it can play all your music from services like Spotify and Pandora. But it’s also got Amazon’s Alexa artificial intelligence baked in, so you can actually talk to it, with no need for a remote. You can line up tracks by requesting them, turn on and control your smart home appliances or even order pizza or an Uber cab through it, while relaxing on the sofa. This alone would make the Echo worth the US$180 price tag; the excellent acoustics certainly don’t hurt either.
The best smartwatch:
Apple Watch Series 2
Smartwatches haven’t quite set the world ablaze in the same way that smartphones and tablets have before them, but they’re far from failures. Apple’s watch OS software has been refined and improved in the two years since the first Apple Watch launched, and now at last we have a true sequel. The Series 2 models sport a brighter display and a better battery life, but it’s the fitness additions that make it a must-have for joggers, swimmers and cyclists. This time around, GPS is built-in so that you can log distance and speed without needing to carry your iPhone paired by Bluetooth in your pocket, and it’s water resistant to the point that Apple is encouraging you to swim with it. Perfect for logging your cardio sessions when the post-Christmas feasting guilt sets in.
Amazon’s entry level Kindle e-reader starts at under US$80, but for the very best experience without paper, you’ll be wanting the new Kindle Oasis. Its 6-inch screen is incredibly sharp, with a 300 pixels per inch resolution that makes the glare-free display seemingly indistinguishable from printed text on paper. There’s a backlight for night-time reading and two batteries, one in the device and one in the slick leather case, meaning it’ll run for months on end without a charge. Who needs paperbacks now?
Google Pixel C
Once upon a time the Apple iPad was the only tablet computer truly worth your attention, but that’s no longer the case. Google’s own iPad rival is its equal in almost every regard. This US$499 slate is beautifully crafted from polished aluminium, with a dazzling 10.2-inch screen to run all your favourite apps on. It runs the very latest, feature-stuffed version of Google’s Android operating system, and better still, comes with its own keyboard dock to turn it into a true laptop competitor. The perfect device for working on that report in a coffee shop, while secretly distracting yourself with videos on YouTube.
Find the right laptop for you
Not all laptops are born equal – here we pick out the one right for you…
On a budget: HP Chromebook 11
While Google’s Chrome operating system is little more than the Chrome web browser (meaning you can’t run full apps like games or Adobe Photoshop as you can on a traditional Windows laptop) there’s really very little else this cheap as chips, intuitive platform can’t do. HP’s tiny little machine costs just US$160, but includes a free word processing suite in the form of Google Docs and at 11 inches it is super portable, meaning you can quite comfortably take it on the road (or train) with you to pound through emails.
Playing games: Razr Blade
Gaming laptops have a bad reputation but that’s fast changing, as the Razr Blade proves you can have both power and portability after all. With an Intel Core i7 processor and powerful Nvidia GeForce graphics card, the Blade can handle all the latest 3D games all while being able to fold up and fit snugly into your backpack without breaking your shoulders. Price starts at US$1500, which is certainly more than a PlayStation 4 Pro, but unless you’re prepared to carry around a small TV and desk cabinet, the latter isn’t quite so portable.
On the go: Apple MacBook
We never thought we’d see the day something more convenient than a MacBook Air for working on the go arrived – unsurprisingly, it’s another Apple laptop that replaces it. The wafer thin MacBook is as beautiful as it is expensive (starting at US$1249), but it’s worth every penny or cent. Weighing in at just 3.24 pounds and only 13mm deep at its thickest point, it’s still managed to squeeze in a 10-hour battery and the latest version of Mac OS X software, so you can work all day away from the mains. Essential.
The must-have new consoles for gaming addicts this year…
Xbox One S
The new, slimmer Xbox One S is a third of the size of the old Xbox One and much quieter. Throw in support for 4K video and 4K Blu-rays (something even the PS4 Pro does not offer) and you’ve got yourself a bargain for US$299.
PlayStation 4 Pro
Unlike the Xbox One S, Sony’s brand new PlayStation 4 is less about space and cost saving, and more about raw horsepower. Upgraded innards mean this new PS4 is able to run the same games as existing PS4s, but with much sharper visuals (in crisp 4K resolution if you have a supported TV) and even smoother frame-rates, delivering an experience closer to that of a high-spec gaming PC. Not bad for US$399.99. Go to page 35 for a comparison of this with rival Xbox One S.
Nintendo Classic Mini
If you don’t want to fork out through the nose for a brand new console with the best graphics, you might just appreciate this new release from Nintendo instead. A US$50, miniaturised Nintendo Entertainment System that fits in the palm of your hand, the Nintendo Classic Mini lets you play 30 classic NES games including Final Fantasy and Metroid, works with all new HD TVs and even lets you enjoy multiplayer with two controllers. Retro gaming heaven.
Must play games
Pokémon Sun & Moon
Hit game Pokémon GO became the app of the summer on smartphones, but now Nintendo is back with a more traditional pair of adventure games for its 3DS handhelds. Expect more battles, more Pokémon and a whole new story.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
Activision continues to blur the boundaries between movies and games in its latest shooter slash blockbuster. This one’s set in space and stars Game of Thrones heartthrob Kit Harington alongside UFC superstar Conor McGregor.
Final Fantasy XV
Literally ten years in the making, Final Fantasy XV promises to be the biggest and boldest RPG (role-playing game) yet in the long running series from Japanese company Square Enix. It’s destined for both PS4 and Xbox One.
The ultimate drone
DJI Phantom 4 Quadcopter
Remote-controlled drones have come on leaps and bounds in the last few years. Leading the charge is Chinese drone manufacturer DJI, and its flagship quadcopter is one to watch. Literally. Attached to the centre is a 4K video, so you can record and view a live stream of the aerial view while you fly it. With GPS technology built in, it can even return home automatically, reducing that awful nagging fear of you losing it up a tree or beyond a tall building. At US$1099.99, the Phantom 4 does not come cheap, but what price do you pay for a device that is revolutionising photography?
The best activity tracker
We’ve always been fans of Misfit’s well-priced fitness trackers and their epic battery life (typically measured in months rather than hours). The US$99.99 Misfit Ray doesn’t really add any new features to its Shine series models – it still pairs with your smartphone, logs your steps, calculates calories burned and monitors your sleep quality – but its narrow, wristband-style design makes it a tracker that you can comfortably wear on the same wrist, alongside your watch. Rolex owners no longer have an excuse not to get out and count the miles with the rest of us.
The best action camera
GoPro HERO Session
As if GoPro’s Hero line of action cameras weren’t compact enough, the US$199 Hero Session streamlines the concept even further. This tiny cube weighing 74g has just one button to instantly start recording and taking videos. Its 8 megapixel sensor is great for still imagery, but it’s the super sharp HD video that really sparkles – and since it’s waterproof, you really can use it just about anywhere…