Amazon Prime has saved my skin more than once, but don’t forget there’s also bricks and motar stores out there that need your patronage.
Gadgety gifts Christmas 2017
Every year tech is becoming the norm. Most of us don’t leave the house without a small computer, video and stills camera, music player, communication device and GPS. Granted, we call these phones these days but practically everything we use now is ‘smart’. There’s artificial intelligence (AI) to be found in toys, kettles, lights, and more.
You can have a fridge networked that will order food when you are getting low on something. Lights can be controlled by voice commands, as can your plug sockets.
So, the range of tech you can wrap as a gift can be overwhelming. So, here’s some of our top choices from this year.
The Motion is the one that will feel most familiar to Android users. It’s a regular 5.5-inch touchscreen phone with added BlackBerry-ness such as security, business applications and shortcuts. Many shortcuts. However, not as many shortcuts as you can create with their other phone, the KEYone. The KEYone is more reminiscent of the BlackBerrys before complete with a great QWERTY keyboard. Each one of these type keys can be assigned a shortcut too! Bonkers but handier than you think.
I am actually using this new mid-ranger from Honor and it has already garnered praise from my colleagues. The Honor 7X looks and feels a lot more expensive than it is. The dual camera lenses (6-megapixel sensor accompanied by a 2-megapixel sensor) helps but also the great fit and finish of the device. The 5.93-inch HD+ screen is vibrant and bright and everything moves along smoothly thanks to its Kirin 659 paired with 4GB of RAM.
Review to come soon.
Motorola Z2 Play
Looking to go modular? The Z2 Play is another mid-range 5.5-inch screen mobile but it strength comes from its easy-to-add modules, or Mods. Powering the Z2 Play is a Snapdragon 626 mated with 4GB RAM, so it’s no slouch. However, the option of fitting a 360 camera, a Hasselblad camera, or JBL speakers, just to mention a few, Mods gives the Z2 Play special powers.
This is by far one of the most endearing droids we have had the pleasure of looking after. Cozmo is packed so full of kit it’s difficult to see how Anki fitted it all in to this little bot.
Anki is now known for its AI toys and Cozmo is no exception. He learns to recognise people’s faces, he learns from his mistakes and even plays with you intelligently.
The best thing is, Cozmo is sure to keep people interested as he can teach coding and will receive regular updates. I want one!
Do you love R2-D2 but looking for a droid with a bit more edge? R2-Q5 will interact with other Sphero droids from the Star Wars universe and will even react to scenes in the Star Wars movies. It’s app controlled, of course, and that app also includes augmented reality features that place this R2 droid in to settings, including the Death Star.
R2-Q5 – £199.99 from John Lewis
Neato Botvac D3 Connected
The Neato Botvac range are pretty great and cleaning up after its humans. We’ve had the D7 do our bidding and, more recently, the D3.
These clever domestic droids will happily vacuum your room or rooms (as long as all on the same floor – they can’t do stairs yet). Their intelligent mapping means the more they work, the better they become. Also, they will spot when they get to the top of the stairs and stop themselves from hurtling down them. If it should run out of charge midway through a clean, it will scuttle back to its charging station. Once full of juice again, it will pick up from where it left off.
JJRC H47 Elfie Plus
This neat little drone only costs £35 and you can even get it discounted using the code below. The Elfie Plus folds up to be stored in its own carrying case. You can either use its G-sensor controller or a smartphone app. The 720p camera is decent enough too. It is also equipped with features generally only seen on more expensive models, such as one key takeoff/land, altitude hold and real time image transmission.
Plus use code: JJRCH47UK for a discount (limited numbers).
Propel Star Wars drones
The experience starts right at the unboxing with audio clips from the movies triggered as soon as the lid comes off. More sound effects during fitting the battery and actually flying the drone keep you immersed.
They were £199 each but now they’re even better value!
Amazon Echo and Echo Dot
Let’s kick off with Amazon’s Echo family. I use an Echo Dot every day and Alexa not only reads me the news and tells me how gnarly the London transport system is each morning, but it also controls my living room lights and smart plugs.
Voice commands become second-nature in no time and the Dot is easily hidden away should you want to.
The Echo is larger but does pack a decent speaker. The all-new Echo smart speaker has had a recent design refresh, boasts improved audio and a lower price point.
Alexa has added ‘Routines’, ‘Groups’, as wells as Alexa calling and messaging.
Smart bulbs are all very well but most require a hub of some sort. Not the ones from Wiz though.
Simply screw them in to your regular ceiling fitting (they offer bayonet or threaded options) and through the app, hook them up to your Wi-Fi.
Once that’s done you can even add in their Alexa Skill which means you can control your lights by voice. State “Alexa, living room on” and there is light. “Alexa, Living room off”, and the lights switch off. You can also control dimming without the need for fitting a dimming switch. “Alexa, living room 27.5% (or whatever level you fancy)” and the LED lights dim together to that setting. OK, so I have to take Alexa’s word that they are actually dimmed by that gradient, but it seems close enough to me.
Furthermore, there are settings on the app such as Daylight, Cozy, Relax, Sunset, Forest, Fireplace and much more. Each one of these changes the colour scheme with the ‘Dynamic’ ones, such as Fireplace and Ocean, adding flickering and/or colour cycles in to the mix.
LightwaveRF hub and smart plugs
Over-doing it on the Christmas feast can make reaching plugs an issue. Why not tell your plugs to switch on and off? Thanks to the LightwaveRF smart plugs, mine do just that.
The kit comes with a neat little hub and allows the use of a multi-buttoned remote, but that’s old school. Hook it up with the Alexa skill and you have voice-controlled… well, whatever you plug in to the smart plug. Personally, I use it for a desklamp and some other spot lighting.
No more bending down to turn of the Christmas lights. Bliss.
Well, we hope that little lot has helped you out.
Naturally, we have reviewed plenty more than that this year – we’ve not even mentioned Hi-Fi, TVs and Monitors, Wearables or Laptops – we just felt that the list above were more likely to be within the gifting zone. We could be wrong though, of course.
Anyho-ho-ho-ho, have a very merry Christmas, a cool Yule and an awesome holiday!