We found the best TVs, speakers, headphones, accessories and more for this holiday season.
GoPro Hero 4 Black, $500
To really capture the adrenaline rush of careening down a mountain or parachuting over a canyon, do it in 4k resolution, at 30 frames per second. That’s the top-notch recording possible with the latest action cam from GoPro, which can be controlled via wi-fi and Bluetooth (assuming you have a free hand).
Want to turn your hand into a touchscreen? The table beneath your hand? The walls around you? That’s all possible with the TouchPico’s, a projector that turns any surface into a stylus-sensitive touchscreen. Think of it as allowing any flat surface to run Android: Play Angry Birds in life size on a wall; turn that wall into an 80-inch whiteboard. Or just use the TouchPico as a regular projector, streaming content from a computer or via HDMI.
Dodocase VR cardboard toolkit, $25
Google Cardboard seemed like a joke at first, like something the company would have announced on April Fools’ Day. But it’s real: With a few pieces of cardboard, some lenses, a magnet, and a few other odds and ends, you can make a DIY version of the Oculus Rift, a $350 device made by Oculus VR, which was acquired by Facebook for $2 billion in Marsh. Google offers templates and instructions for the device, but we suggest the instant gratification route in the form of this toolkit from Dodocase, maker of hipster iPhone and iPad cases that disguise your device as a Moleskine notebook. All it takes to get to the virtual-reality promised land is ten minutes of setup and a smartphone.
Ploom Pax, $250
The Pax is the vaporizer of the future. It makes enjoying your favorite leaf a little healthier and a lot more discreet. Seal your goods inside with a magnetic lid, choose one of three temperatures, and in 45 seconds, you’re ready to go. Should you perhaps forget that you’ve turned the Pax on, that’s fine; an accelerometer within detects when it’s in motion and puts it to standby when it’s at rest.
Since Dick Tracy first wore his “2-way wrist radio” in 1946, it’s been a dream to have a tricked out wristwatch. And though the smartwatch field has exploded in the last year, nothing has lived up to the capable, suave, and fictional original. Until now, that is. The Apple Watch is posed to do for smartwatches what the iPhone did for smartphones: Make them cool, useful, and, somehow, necessary. (If the watch doesn’t launch in time for the holidays, we suggest a low-tech IOU.)
Kindle Voyage, $200
There’s no improving on books. But there is improving on e-readers, which is just what Amazon has done with its new Voyage, the best e-reader out there. First of all, it’s an e-reader—and nothing else. The backlight, which illuminates a 300 ppi E Ink touchscreen, is whiter and brighter than in previous models and for the first time adjusts automatically based on ambient light. Try telling a piece of paper to do that!
Dorkfood DSV, $100
For the most tender steak, don’t put it on a grill or pan or in an oven—seal it in a plastic bag. Then cook it in water set to stay at a constant, precise temperature, and let the juiciness develop. Usually that kind of cooking—sous-vide—requires a dedicated, expensive contraption, but now all you need is this unassuming temperature controller, a slow-cooker, and some heavy-duty Ziploc bags. The DSV turns the cooker on and off to keep the water temperature constant and the flavor—all of it!—intact.
Roku 3, $100
The Roku3 is the best streaming gadget out there for a simple yet important reason: It has by far more channels by far—over 1800—than any competitor. And right now, that’s what matters most in streaming TV. But on top of that, it’s also one of the more pleasant devices to use, with a straightforward interface, search that looks across all those channels, and a headphone jack built into the remote for more “polite” tv-watching.
LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt SSD, $300
LaCie’s latest Rugged drive may very well be the most durable high-capacity drive out there. A built-in Thunderbolt cable hides on the side of the familiar orange rubberized case, which adds water resistance and protects the innards during falls from up to four feet. And the fact that it’s a solid-state drive with no moving parts helps a lot too, since there’s less to get jiggled out of place.
Cubify Cube 3, $1000
The compact yet versatile Cube 3 is the happy medium of 3d printers, with some of the capabilities of higher end professional models in a size—and price range—for those of us who don’t have “prototype designer” in our job titles. The Cube is all about options: Dual jets allow the Cube to simultaneously print in any two of the 20 colors available; you can choose materials, too, using either recyclable ABS or compostable PLA; and you can print from either your computer or a mobile app.
Bowers and Wilkins P5 Series 2, $300
These headphones look, sound, and feel beautiful. Strong yet measured bass is balanced against clean mid-tones and crisp treble. Listening is comfortable, too: The sheep’s leather earpads are luxuriously soft and perfectly placed, fitting snugly enough to block out outside sound without crunching your head.
Marshall Stanmore, $400
What do AC/DC, Fallout Boy, Iron Maiden, and the Black Keys have in common? Marshall amps. The powerful sound, known as the Marshall “crunch,” now comes in speaker form too. The Stanmore gets much louder—without distorting—than other Bluetooth speakers, and it has treble and bass knobs for amp-like adjustments.
Apple iPad Air 2, $500 (and up)
The best tablet out there keeps getting better with each iteration. The latest iPad has a faster processor, a much-appreciated anti-reflective screen, and the same Touch ID fingerprint sensor that the iPhone got last year. Plus, it’s even thinner, at just 6.1 mm. (And no, it won’t bend.)
Smartphone projector, $40
This kit is probably the easiest and cheapest way to beam your smartphone’s screen onto the wall. How it works is simple: Your phone goes in a dark cardboard box, and a lens at the front of the box enlarges and projects whatever’s on the screen. Sometimes, digital and analog get along just fine.
Canoe 3 in 1 Hand Warmer, $34
It’s a flashlight that’s also a hand warmer that’s also a phone charger. In other words, it’s all you really need to get through the winter. In five minutes, the aluminum tube hits 106 degrees and can stay that way for three hours.
Tivoli Model One, $150
A kitchen is not complete without a radio, no matter how many Bluetooth speakers you have. And this radio, cased in black ash, means what you’re listening to will probably sound better than anything coming from comparably sized Bluetooth speakers anyway; its sound is crisp, even at high volumes, and the radio comes in clear thanks to a fine-tuning dial that can find even the weakest stations.
Goji Play, $100
Until now, the only way to make indoor cardio fitness interesting was to hope your elliptical was looking out onto the world’s most interesting sidewalk. Now there’s Goji Play, which turns cardio machines like ellipticals and stationary bikes into video-game rigs. The two controllers clip onto the handlebars and control games on a tablet or smartphone. And, lest you forget you’re not *really *at the gym just to play videogames, the system also includes a fitness-tracking activity sensor.
Amazon Echo, $200 ($100 for Prime members)
The Echo is a voice-controlled digital assistant disguised as a voice-controlled speaker disguised as just another regular speaker. At its most basic, it can connect via Bluetooth to your phone and act as a wireless speaker. Or you can tell the speaker what to play, and it’ll pull the song from Amazon Music, Prime Music, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn. Better yet, tell the Echo what to play and then tell it to give you some background on the artist; it’ll give you the Wikipedia rundown. The only caveat is getting over how uncanny it feels to talk to an inanimate object that goes by the name “Alexa.”
When it comes to making art on tablets, this stylus is the closest you’ll get to feeling like you’re using an actual pencil. Or pen, or paintbrush, or charcoal, for that matter; combined with the accompanying Paper app, the Pencil can mimic real-world drawing implements—including an eraser on the end opposite the tip.
Mujjo Wallet Case for iPhone 6, $41
It’s a shame that we have to cover up our new iPhones as soon as we lay eyes on them, but face it: We’re clumsy. You can feel good hiding your phone in this smooth leather case, though, and efficient, thanks to the slim credit-card pocket that makes it easy to go wallet-free (especially if Apple Pay really catches on).
Dyson DC59 Animal, $500
It turns out vacuum cleaning can be luxurious. The cordless, lightweight DC59, run by V6 motor, is super powerful on carpets and hardwood floors alike (and couches too). In classic Dyson form, the head is on a pivoting ball for easy maneuvering into tight crumb-filled corners.
Pro-ject Debut Carbon, $400
This beautiful turntable brings a touch of modern design to a, shall we say, classic piece of technology. It’s not just good looks; it’s also great sound. The stiff carbon tone arm, usually found only on pricier models, cuts down on resonance so music comes through as untouched as possible.
DJI Phantom 2 Vision+, $800
Sometimes, a drone can be just fun and games (with some videography thrown in). The Phantom 2 Vision+ is the best consumer drone out there, with a camera that takes 14-megapixel stills and shoos full HD video—video that’s stabilized via a GPS system that can hold the craft at a constant altitude or position.
LG 55EC9300 OLED TV, $3500
If you’re going to splurge on a TV, make it an OLED TV. The 30-pound screen is so thin it’s as if it takes up space in only two dimensions—while its picture, on the other hand, feels very three-dimensional, with ultra-deep blacks and ultra-bright whites (and ultra-accurate colors in between).
Kodiak 6000 mAh USB Power Bank, $50
The worst thing about smartphones is their battery life. Instead of pretending your battery will last the day even though it never has, get an extra battery. Kodiak’s power bank won’t let you down; not only does the little box hold a whopping 6000 milliamps, but it can also withstand the elements and won’t die even after 30 minutes under water.