The holidays are almost here. Still looking for last-minute gifts? Our tech reporters have spent the past year experimenting with various gizmos, gadgets and games. From the priciest to the cheapest, here are our favourites. (All prices are for reference only.) 1. MacBook Air - US$999 Some of us are dedicated Windows and Android users, not Apple fans. That includes one of our editors . But this year’s new Apple laptop has won him over: “I have only ever owned two Apple products – a MacBook Pro and iPad Pro – until the new M1 MacBooks were announced. After reading a deluge of incredible reviews, I picked up the baseline M1 MacBook Air the weekend after it came out. Having used it for about three weeks now, I can confidently say the hype is real. It’s hard to imagine getting this much value out of any other machine at this price. But the real winner here for me is battery life. Laptop companies often make claims of 10-hour battery life, Apple included. Some people swear they get that, but I’ve never had a laptop last that long with my million Chrome tabs open as I try to get real work done. Some of us aren’t just playing videos on loop with the Wi-fi off. But the M1 really will keep you powered all day. I can end a workday with 35 per cent battery left, sometimes more. That is about eight hours of straight work, mostly in Chrome, but also sometimes in programs that are not yet optimised for the M1 chip, like Evernote. I’m impressed that programs designed for Intel chips run so well through Apple’s Rosetta 2 emulation software. This is something that Microsoft could not even get right on Windows.” 2. AirPods Pro - US$249 On the other hand, some of us has a soft spot for the AirPods Pro. That includes our technology desk editor : “I’ll admit I’m an Apple fanboy. Our family has used iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and Apple Watches exclusively for many years. The thing that keeps us coming back is the tight integration and the ease of use. This is doubly true of the AirPods Pro. When the first AirPods came out, I was quite sceptical. Bluetooth audio wasn’t actually that great and my experience with in-ear audio wasn’t amazing. After trying them, however, I was converted. They just worked with my iPhone and were extremely portable. Still, they fell out of my ears easily and I never got great bass out of them because the seal wasn’t that good. I fixed this with some foam covers and got by. So when the Pro was announced, I knew I had to get them. Not only are the ear tips designed to stick in your ear, but the noise cancellation is pretty great. The transparency setting also works really well when you need to be able to hear what’s around you. And now that the firmware has been updated, there is almost seamless handoff between my MacBook, iPhone, and iPad. It detects that I have the Pro in my ears and switches the audio source depending on what I’m using. That means I can go from my music to my Zoom meeting and back again easily. Totally worth it.” 3. Surface Go Type Cover - US$129.99 Laptops are great for a year when we’ve all been spending long hours at home furiously typing away and making Zoom calls. But if we had to carry one around in a bag all day, it might have been just a little too heavy. Yes, a tablet would be more portable. But let’s be real: Typing on a screen just doesn’t feel very satisfying. Our solution? The Surface Go Type Cover. Not only does it give you a typing experience unmatched by virtual keyboards, it still weighs less than a Surface Laptop even when combined with the Surface Go tablet. One university student told us it would make the perfect Christmas gift for her, pandemic or not. 4. Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 - US$99.99 This little portable Bluetooth speaker is meant for party animals. The Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 is loud enough to heat up any social gathering (though it does not protect you from Covid-19). And for your especially rowdy guests, it’s also stupid-proof: It can supposedly withstand dust, sand, 1.5-metre falls and can be submerged under water for 30 minutes. What we like best, however, is probably the battery life, which technically can reach 13 hours though in real life it can be somewhat shorter. While sound purists may want to stick to wired speakers, we found this little gadget so light and easy to use that one of our reporters now takes it everywhere with her: “In the kitchen when I cook, in the shower so the sound can cover up my dreadful singing, and in bed when I hook it up to a laptop and binge on TV shows.” If you are into voice assistants, however, you may be disappointed as the Wonderboom 2 does not have an integrated microphone. Another design oversight may be using a microUSB input for charging instead of the increasingly common USB C-type charger. But for us, the unicorn colour makes up for everything. 5. Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch - US$99.99 If your friend or loved one is frustrated about not having enough storage on their laptop, a portable SSD could make for a practical gift. Yes, cloud services exist and are easily accessible. But as one of our reporters pointed out, not everyone lives in a place where they can trust that cloud servers are safe from the prying eyes of unwanted third parties. The entry level Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch (phew, that is a mouthful!) provides 500GB of storage and faster file transfer than a typical hard drive. For those who are especially privacy-minded, you can protect the SSD with either fingerprint recognition or a password. 6. The Last of Us Part II - US$59.99 The Last of Us Part II on the PlayStation 4 is not only the favourite game of one of our reporters but also one of his favourite entertainment products this year: “A perfect sequel to the masterpiece that was The Last of Us , this action adventure game by Naughty Dog is a literary work that pushes the boundaries of storytelling in the digital and interactive form. Sure, some may be shocked by the violence and the grimness of the game. But it is ultimately a story about love and relationships while the fighting and the adventure are mechanics by which you get to understand and viscerally experience the world and the emotions of the characters. By the end of the story, not only did I find myself crying like a baby, but I also came away with a rejuvenated belief that interactive storytelling is expanding the scope of literature, just like film and TV have. Games such as The Last of Us Part II do not come along often. It is also Sony’s swan song for the outgoing PlayStation 4. Storytelling aside, the motion capture, the sound design and the environmental physics in this game are something tech enthusiasts are likely to spend years marvelling at.” 7. Logitech K380 Multi-device Bluetooth Keyboard - US$39.99 As part of her work-from-home set-up, one of our reporters started using the Logitech K380 wireless keyboard earlier this year. It turned out to be her favourite tech purchase this year: “Its earthy pink colour was the main draw at first, but the keyboard did not disappoint. It’s simple and light but solidly built. It lets you smoothly toggle among up to three devices, and it’s small and compact enough to easily carry around. It’s also comfortable to type on — the round keys weren’t hard to get used to. All that makes for a great all-round wireless keyboard, especially given its low price tag.” 8. Ikea Nordmarke Wireless Charger - US$17.99 Yes, it’s the cheapest thing on this list but it’s not the price that counts but the thought, right? The main reason we like this is: you do not have to be a gadget nerd to appreciate it. Got a smartphone that charges wirelessly? Just lay it on the circular disc and it’s ready to pump right away. Is it the fastest wireless charger you can get? No. Can you plug it into a USB port? No. Does it charge if you don’t place it on the exact right spot? No (there’s a sweet spot on the pad that you have to hit to get the juice flowing). Still, the Nordmarke Wireless Charger is never going to break your bank. Extra bonus: if you do end up giving this to one of your more technologically-challenged relatives, even they will likely never have to call you later for tech support. Saves you precious minutes (and money) that you can now spend on playing with the fun gadget you bought for yourself instead.