Christmas Gift Guide 2015: gadgets and tech

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Interactive BB-8 by Sphero


Kylo-Ren and Phasma are scoring all the cool points, but we all know that, like Artoo before him, BB-8 will end up stealing the show. As such, this app-controllable version of the rotund little Astromech should be number one on fans’ Christmas lists. Powered by Sphero, he’s entirely pilotable via smartphone app with the added benefit of being able to play and record holo messages and even patrol the area for First Order incursions (or, more likely, chairs and such). With a variety of adorable mannerisms and a vocabulary of bloops and bleeps, this is the only pet you’ll ever need. Just remember: a droid is for life, not just for Christmas.

Disney Store

iPad Pro

iPad Pro


The iPad Pro is one of those things that, like the original iPad, you don’t really know you want until you have one. Then you wonder how you ever survived without it. As big as you think it is, the iPad Pro is bigger, with a stunning 12.9” screen that dwarfs the iPad’s and brings movies on the move to life like never before. Almost as revelatory for the cinematically inclined is the inclusion of four stereo speakers, allowing for an impressive (if slightly treble-heavy) sound field without the need for headphones. The smart keyboard (sold separately) is both roomy and tactile, allowing the iPad Pro to all but replace your laptop in a way that its predecessor never managed. The luxury item of choice this Christmas.

Apple Store


Synology DS216Play Network Attached Storage


Streaming services may be the future, but for those with an abundance of digital media, a decent NAS remains the lynchpin of a solid home entertainment setup – and you can’t get much more solid than the DS216play. Far more than just a file dump and aimed squarely at the home cinema enthusiast, this beastly little box is a transcoding monster, able to crunch 4K video on-the-fly without breaking a sweat. Synology’s best-in-class software make set-up a breeze, and while there are limitations (Plex support is still pending), those looking for a powerful, 4K-ready NAS that won’t break the bank need hunt no further than this magnificent little powerhouse.



Smartrax S5 Airboard


They’re illegal to use on either pavement or road and you'll no doubt be mocked pitilessly, but there’s something strangely alluring about gliding around the office on one of these. Largely the domain of rap artists and Justin Bieber, Airboards are essentially mini Segways, which use gyroscopes to keep you upright and foot sensors to let you steer. It’s not quite the hoverboard Robert Zemeckis promised us, but until such things emerge, this may be the next best thing.



Yamaha YSP-5600


It’s far from cheap but this tidy little soundbar may finally render home cinema speaker systems obsolete. The world’s first single unit, Dolby Atmos speaker, the 5600 contains 44 separate speakers, which bounce sound beams off surfaces to simulate an immersive, full speaker set-up. Not content with standard 5.1 audio, it aims to pass for a full 7.1.2 setup (3 front, 2 side, 2 rear and 2 in the ceiling) to fully immerse the viewer in whatever they’re watching. For anyone unwilling to fill their viewing space with little black boxes, this is by far the neatest way to bringing the multiplex to your living room.



Kindle Paperwhite


With the need to turn ‘pages’ and carry bits of pulped tree around in your pocket, books often seem like a quaint little relic from the days of yore. E-readers are the way forward, and Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite is the book-beater of choice. The latest iteration features an easy-on-the-eye 300 ppi display and boasts Amazon’s new Bookerly font, which helps readability significantly. The battery lasts for weeks, the backlight makes low-light read a joy and it weighs less than even the sveltest of paperbacks.


Apple Watch

Apple Watch


Wearable tech is undeniably cool but it wasn’t until the Apple Watch that it became stylish as well. Check your emails, read the news, get directions and talk to Siri, all with a flick of the wrist. Not to mention the fact that you can finally make phone calls like Michael Knight, which we've all been dreaming of since 1982. Best thought of as an extension of your iPhone than a device in its own right (it requires an iPhone to function), the Apple Watch represents a subtle, yet important revolution in the way you relate to your handset.

Apple Store

Elite Controller

Xbox One Elite Controller


If you routinely find yourself on the receiving end of a battle rifle to the head, then Microsoft may just have the perfect helping hand. Developed in collaboration with pro-level gamers, the Elite controller rolls all the fancy add-ons commonly found on tricked-out custom controllers into an officially licensed package. Adjustable thumbstick height, mappable buttons, twitch-happy paddles on the rear and a smooth, all-direction d-pad all place this head-and-shoulders above the standard controller. It’s not substitute for hours of practice but if you want a quick and easy way to up your game then this is a solid bet.

Microsoft Store

Spectrum Vega

Spectrum Vega


Sinclair’s ZX Spectrum was the hottest thing in 1982. A gaming juggernaut, it spawned such iconic titles as Atic Atac, Jet Set Willy, Jet Pack and many, many more. Thirty years on and you can play all those classic Speccy titles in one retro-styled box. Officially sanctioned by Sir Clive Sinclair himself, the Spectrum Vega packs more than 1000 titles into its svelte, rainbow adorned frame, allowing you to live the gaming heyday of your youth once more. Worth picking up for Skool Daze, Sabre Wulf and Horace Goes Skiing alone.

Vega Store

iPhone 6S

iPhone 6S


It’s a claim that can be made every year but the latest iPhone is, quite simply, the best Apple has ever produced. Maintaining the slick form-factor of the iPhone 6, the S bumps the camera up to 12 megapixels, hugely improves the response time on the Touch ID sensor, cranks performance up 70 percent and introduces the new iPhone killer app: 3D Touch. The latter adds layers of sensitivity to the touch screen, adding an entirely new way to interact with the handset. Beyond its application in games (Warhammer 40,000 Freeblade makes good use of the function), its integration into native apps like Messages and Mail are huge timesavers, letting you preview messages with a moderate press and ‘pop’ them to full screen with a harder one. Immediately indispensible.

Apple Store

Nvidia Shield

Nvidia Shield


Streaming set-top boxes are a dime a dozen these days but Nvidia’s Shield has more under the hood than your average Netflix portal. Among the most powerful of its ilk, the Shield has enough grunt to output 4K signals with ease, letting you play the very highest quality streams – assuming you have a 4K display to make the most of it, that is. The Shield, however, is primarily positioned as a gaming platform and, bundled with a high-quality controller, is arguably the best available way to enjoy Android games, not to mention GeForce NOW, Nvidia's Netflix for games, which enables you to stream PC titles to the box for a monthly fee. And if you’ve a hankering for the good old days of yore, it makes a superlative emulation platform for retro gaming, too.


Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6


A serious step up for Samsung, the Galaxy S6 represents the pinnacle of Android handsets and is a thing of beauty by any standard. Gone are the days when Galaxies were seen as budget iPhone alternatives; with a metal-enclosed, premium design and real power under the hood, this is a flagship phone, make no mistake. The Super AMOLED screen is stunning and at 577 PPI is the sharpest display available – a good job too, as the phone’s 16 megapixel camera takes the kind of pictures that really make the most of it. Battery life is a weakness but if you’re looking for a ‘Droid then this is the one to get.