10 best gadgets to give to friends and loved ones for Christmas 2015
From a new iPad to electric unicycles and robot drones, there was no shortage of cool and innovative gadgets coming to market this year. Here’s our guide to the ten best of 2015
This has been a great year for gadget geeks. Apple released a number of new products to keep its legion of fans happy; a tidal wave of Android smartphones that cater to various tastes swept across the market; there are robotic toys that snoop and make funny noises; and 2015 also saw an array of stylish wearables that do a lot more than just keep you punctual.
So if you are still stuck for ideas on what to get your friends (or yourself) this Christmas (too many choices, right?), here are 10 that will not disappoint.
With Star Wars: The Force Awakens opening on December 17, this is thedroid to have.
Have fun with this app- and voice-controlled BB-8 as you put it in either drive mode (let it race around your flat) or watch it curiously explore in patrol mode while it barks in its cute robotic voice. Despite its simple design (two scoops of ice cream comes to mind), the tilting of its head, especially when it is on the move, makes BB-8 looks surprisingly expressive. You can also play with its holographic messaging feature.It is hard to explain exactly how it works, but it allows you to record a video message and then have BB-8 project it as a hologram on your smartphone or other mobile digital devices. Very cool stuff.
Forget about those lightweight uni-wheels that run out of juice after just an hour on the road. This new Gotway model is quite the workhorse, with a battery capacity of 680Wh, someone weighing up to 70kg can ride on it – on flat ground – for up to 70km on a single charge. Whether anyone can control a uni-wheel for that distance is another question. But with the latest craze over these electric unicycles sweeping across the region and Europe, this is one of the most coveted toys for grown-ups. According to local uni-wheel hobbyist group, HKwheel, Hong Kong road legislation applies to vehicles with two wheels or more, so anything running on one wheel falls into a legal grey area. However, the group advises users to exercise common sense and not to ride them in crowded areas. They weigh in at 14.5kg and some models come with a retractable pulling handle. Hiking will never be the same again.
Nespresso Pixie Clips
You should be no stranger to Nespresso machines by now. They’re one of the most convenient ways to enjoy high quality coffee without touching beans, grinder or filter. All you’re required to do is buy a Nespresso, choose your favourite capsules and you’ve got a cup of great coffee. The newly released Pixie Clips is one of the most compact machines yet. As is the trend these days, it’s all about style, and here you get to customise your own colours and patterns.
Tag Heuer Connected
Tag Heuer, the first Swiss watchmaker to cater to the smartwatch craze, has released an Android-powered beauty. As far as the smart features are concerned, it isn’t so different from most other offerings and, in fact, lacks a heart-rate sensor. But it more than makes up for that with build quality and materials – sapphire crystal scratch-resistant display, titanium lugs and bezel – and fine craftsmanship. What’s more, if you feel you want to go back to mechanical, you’re given the choice to trade in the Connected after two years of ownership for a another (heavily discounted) Tag Heuer. Despite its initial hefty price tag, this still sounds like a pretty good deal.
The iPad just keeps getting bigger. Apple’s latest is a 12.9 inch (up from the original 9.7in) monstrosity. The larger screen obviously means more immersive web browsing and a video watching experience, but what Apple is trying to achieve is appeal to the artistic and creative crowd. To do so, they’ve introduced a stylus (which Steve Jobs once condemned) dubbed the Pencil that offers the most precise drawing and writing experience on tablet yet. And with four built-in speakers offering stereo sound, this is a multimedia powerhouse.
Price: HK$6,088 and up
Philips Hue 2.0
You might already know about its mobile app-controlled energy efficient multicoloured LED light bulbs, but Philips has released a 2015 version that you can now control the lights via Siri on your iPhone. With the iPhone 6S’s always-on voice command, you wouldn’t haveto touch a single button. All you have to do is say “Hey Siri, turn on the lights” and – voila – let there be light. Other features include something called “geolocation”, which turns lights on or off depending on your location; uses the lights as a light alarm; and changes colours depending on the weather conditions. If you already own the original Hue, you can upgrade with the new bridge instead of buying another starter pack.
Price: HK$1,998 for starter pack; HK$498 for the bridge-only upgrade
Pebble Time Round
Pebble is having a great run making smartwatches that are different. The 2015 Kickstarter campaign for its second generation offering blew every other campaign out of the water. Now, based on the Pebble Time, the Pebble Time Round improves upon minor gripes with the square first gen and will now have you mistaking it for any regular watch with a thin profile and a round face. Although it doesn’t offer the Time’s insane 10-day battery life, the Round still gets through two days per charge and that’s already more than any other smartwatch can claim.
Why release just one mini-drone when you can unleash three in 13 different colours? That’s exactly what happened this summer when Parrot announced its “second generation of miniature robots” that can be piloted with a smartphone or a tablet via a free app. These new models all have names and colour variants: Hydrofoil “New Z” (HK$1,238) and Airborn Cargo “Travis” (HK$788) come in two colours, while the Airborne Night “Blaze” (HK$988), Jumping Race “Jett” (HK$1,498) and Jumping Night “Diesel” (HK$1,498) all have three colour choices. They are divided into different types, with some performing better at night, and others that can glide on water. All promise more powerful motors, better energy management and an improved autopilot mode. As the name suggests, these are smaller drones that won’t carry a Go-Pro camera. For that you must buy the larger models.
Samsung Galaxy Note 5
The 2015 edition of Samsung’s phablet series won instant acclaim with its aluminium unibody design, Quad HD display, S-pen stylus and overall versatility. It’s missing an SD card slot, but with up to 64GB of storage, it shouldn’t be a problem. What seems a little odd is that Note 5 only comes in (officially) white, silver and gold. Whatever happened to black? But as far as Android phones go, you can’t go wrong with this multitasking unit.
Parrot Zik 3.0
How do you improve on the best sounding, most technologically advanced pair of wireless bluetooth headphones? By cramming in more technology - and that is what Parrot has done with its Zik 3.0 offering. That active noise cancellation feature? It’s now adaptive, meaning it’ll analyse and adapt to the noise wherever you are. Wireless Bluetooth music you say? Why not let it charge wirelessly as well. Touch controls ... this one’s not been improved, but if you buy the crocodile skin variety, you can certainly feel the grooves under your fingertips while you’re swiping through your music. Audiophiles will be able to pick up the subtle differences through the new 32-bit audio processor, accessible via a USB connection.